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Old 12-14-2010, 02:37 PM   #1
SBH20Man
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Dive/Surf Parka: review of the Heatlab "Surf-Fur"

A few months back, I posted a thread asking for recommendations on an after-dive parka to wear on the boat. http://www.spearboard.com/showthread.php?t=114231

Back in my SCUBA days, I had one of those old school ones with the big zipper down the front, and it was pretty good, but the zipper rusted out and it was not easy to keep clean. It also always felt cold, because the liner was smooth polyester. I wanted to find something to keep me warm aboard my RIB in the winter months, so windproof-ness was an important consideration.

Well, the folks over at Heatlab (Zenon Issel, a fellow SB member) saw my post and generously offered to send me their newest model (literally the first one from the factory of the latest design) so that I could try it out. The web site is http://www.surf-fur.com/

Full disclosure: I did not pay for the product, nor have I been asked to return the product after my review. Coincidentally, I also happen to be a “Vine” reviewer on Amazon.com where I receive free targeted products in exchange for my reviews (they can vary from books and software to treadmills, digital cameras, and stereo equipment). I take the reviewing process pretty seriously, and try to remain impartial even when I'm receiving "free stuff" in exchange. I'll tell it like it is...

OK, so on with the review:
The product retails for $119.00 and is available at some surf shops, or directly online from Heatlab. It comes packaged in a heavy plastic bag, and some cleverly designed labels and tags. I received a Large Surf Fur based on their recommendation for me (I am 5’ 10” and weigh about 160, with a 31” waist and 39” chest)

Upon opening the parka, I was immediately impressed with the "heft" of the fabric. It was obvious that top quality materials were used. The fleece has a very tight finish (not a loose pile) on the outside, similar to a good quality wool pea coat, and the fleece layer on the inside is still finished fairly tightly, but has a bit more plushness to it than the outside.

It felt pretty stiff and bulky, and I worried that the wind proof/waterproof membrane inside was causing this bulkiness. I read an email I'd received from Heatlab suggesting that I wash the parka before using it. The washing instructions weren't very clear (or non-existent - I don’t remember), so I just tossed it into our front-loading washer with regular liquid detergent and put it on the "permanent press" cycle (I intentionally didn't select "delicate" because I wanted to subject it to real world "abuse"). Then I threw it into the dryer on "permanent press" until it was dry, which took some time. I noticed that there was VERY LITTLE lint put off by the jacket – another indication of the quality of the fabric being used.

Wow, it was a different parka when it came out. My 14 year old daughter immediately confiscated it, wrapped herself with it, and snuggled up on the sofa with a book. The cat soon followed; the Surf Fur was a hit, and it hadn't even made it to the beach yet.

Some comments on fit and finish:
As mentioned, the fabric feels top-notch. You can read all the technical details about the wind proof membrane on the surf fur web site, so I won't go into them here, but I can tell you that it feels similar to a very expensive North Face fleece jacket I had (and left on an airplane) that I miss terribly because it was so durable and wind proof, but so comfortable to wear. The front placket is closed with button snaps instead of a zipper, which is less wind-proof, but has the advantage of not rusting out or snagging itself. It also makes it very convenient to button it partially and then have enough room inside to change into or out of a wetsuit.

The Surf Fur has a hood, which for me is cropped too short at the top - in other words, it doesn't come down far enough over the forehead for my preference. I like a hood that I can really pull down over my face, then cinch the draw string if it gets really cold out. If I cinch the draw strings on this hood while wearing the parka, I end up with my forehead poking out through the opening. The drawstring itself is an elastic cord with toggles at each end and while functional, doesn't feel quite up to the same quality as the rest of the parka. There are generous hand warming pockets, and a cool velcro-sealed wallet/iPhone/iPod type pocket in the front. The arm length is too generous (I have 33" sleeves and 16" neck), while the rest of the dimensions are pretty close to ideal (generously cut to fit over a wetsuit). I'm not very broad-shouldered, so this may be the reason. I have to fold the cuffs back about 3 to 4 inches, which is awkward because the fleece material is very thick. I'd like to be able to try one size smaller, but I’d be worried that the rest of the fit would be too snug and the hood problem would be worse.

Using the Surf Fur, I've been repeatedly impressed with it. First of all, it is extremely soft and COMFORTABLE, so I look forward to wearing it. A couple of weeks back when the weather was cold, I literally woke up in the mornings at home and put it on as a robe while I made my tea. (OK, it looks goofy walking around the house in a big black hooded robe, but man, it sure felt good.) Shortly after receiving the Surf Fur, I upgraded the RIB for a Parker (with pilothouse), so it only came out once with me on the RIB, and it was probably the warmest I’d ever been before a dive after cruising through the morning air at 25 mph up the coast. Since then, the Surf Fur has earned a permanent place in the cabin of the Parker – even on warm days (like yesterday) I put it on before a dive to “heat up” my core temp, and then I put it on between dives and even for a while after my last dive. The black fabric helps capture the sun's warmth. The material does not absorb water (unlike my old dive parka) so even after wearing it with a wet wetsuit, it doesn’t really get saturated. In fact, I’ll wear it right after getting out of the water, then pull my wetsuit off (while wearing the Surf Fur sometimes), and throw shorts and a t-shirt on under it without it getting my clothes noticeably wet. Another big bonus is that the Surf Fur is really easy to just throw into the washer and dryer to get it clean, and it looks like it will stand up to that very well.

Bottom line, I like the Surf Fur well enough that I bought one for my brother (who surfs and dives up in Nor Cal) and plan to buy one for my daughter, who is just learning to surf and does a sunrise swim with a group every Friday morning. If you dive or surf in anything but warm sunny conditions, or if you are a total wuss about being cold like me, regardless of how warm it is outside, I definitely recommend the Surf Fur. The price is amazing considering the quality, and I will bet that the problem with the short hood will get figured out pretty quickly and fixed. If they made a basic jacket (hoodie or collared) in the same fabric, I would buy one of those for wearing around with my “street” clothes without hesitation.
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Old 12-14-2010, 02:56 PM   #2
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Re: Dive/Surf Parka: review of the Heatlab "Surf-Fur"

Your experience writing reviews shows. Thanks for taking the time. I never would have considered buying a product like this, but after reading your review I'm kinda thinking about it. Seems like it'd be especially valuable for throwing on over your suit when moving from spot to spot to reduce the evaporative cooling effect and for using in lieu of a towel for the towel-change while shore diving... did you find that you had ample room to maneuver under it while changing? I'm thinking that it'd feel pretty nice to change under that after a 3 hour dive in 45 degree water, rather than standing in the 15 knot wind shivering my balls off...

Last edited by ApneaAddict; 12-14-2010 at 03:18 PM.
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Old 12-14-2010, 03:27 PM   #3
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Re: Dive/Surf Parka: review of the Heatlab "Surf-Fur"

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... did you find that you had ample room to maneuver under it while changing?
Yes - much easier than trying to change under a towel because #1, your chest is still nice and warm because its covered and #2, the Surf Fur drapes on the shoulders and you can pull your arms into the inside while changing out of your bottoms.
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Old 12-14-2010, 04:52 PM   #4
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Re: Dive/Surf Parka: review of the Heatlab "Surf-Fur"

It really does sound great. I have a Columbia extreme something or other and it's basically a packable shell and it pretty much sucks compared to this review

Thanks for the review. One question if I may. What would this thing do in a soaking swell w wind? Stay dry? Maintain thermal protection? Keep the wearer dry? I know you didn't experience it, but I hope you can guess from your experience w the parka

Thanks
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Old 12-14-2010, 05:00 PM   #5
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Re: Dive/Surf Parka: review of the Heatlab "Surf-Fur"

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One question if I may. What would this thing do in a soaking swell w wind? Stay dry? Maintain thermal protection? Keep the wearer dry? I know you didn't experience it, but I hope you can guess from your experience w the parka
According to their web site, "It is hydrophobic, holding less than 1% of its weight in water, it retains much of its insulating powers even when wet, and it is highly breathable. Made from 100% polyester, which is usually recycled materials, it is one of the most technical fabrics on the market. Surf-fur fleece gives the wearer maximum protection from blustery conditions in a lightweight packable fabric. These fabrics combine the warmth of fleece with a
100% windproof, waterproof, breathable
barrier, eliminating the need for a windbreaker or other additional shell. It is a good alternative to wool."


The Surf Fur that I have feels like it would behave very similarly to a good quality fleece jacket EXCEPT that it has a built-in waterproof membrane in the center, bonded between the two layers of fleece. That leads me to believe that if you were to wear it out in the rain and the outside became very wet, #1 it would not completely saturate, and #2, the water would not penetrate through to the inner fleece layer, thereby keeping you dry.

I have not tested this, though. Maybe I will on my next outing and report back. :-)
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Old 12-14-2010, 05:44 PM   #6
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Re: Dive/Surf Parka: review of the Heatlab "Surf-Fur"

I just ordered one! I got a cold a couple weeks ago, and I think this will help on those cold mornings on the boat and after dives.
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Old 12-14-2010, 05:51 PM   #7
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Re: Dive/Surf Parka: review of the Heatlab "Surf-Fur"

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I just ordered one! I got a cold a couple weeks ago, and I think this will help on those cold mornings on the boat and after dives.
Hey, this time of year you are supposed to ask for it for Christmas or Hanukah! (Assuming you celebrate one of those). My wife gets so pissed at me when I buy stuff for myself right before Christmas or my birthday!
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Old 12-15-2010, 01:41 AM   #8
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Re: Dive/Surf Parka: review of the Heatlab "Surf-Fur"

I'll add to the post that I dove with SBH20man on 12/13. After our second dive, I came back to the boat to find him wearing this parka. As I crawled out of the cold A** water, I took immediate notice to how jealous I was of how warm he seemed and it wasn't long after that when he said "Man, these parkas are the way to go."
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Old 12-15-2010, 06:16 AM   #9
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Re: Dive/Surf Parka: review of the Heatlab "Surf-Fur"

great stuff
as a spearo as a kayaker & boater
it is really nice
thanks for the info mate
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Old 12-15-2010, 06:09 PM   #10
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Re: Dive/Surf Parka: review of the Heatlab "Surf-Fur"

I think I need to get one.
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Old 12-15-2010, 06:33 PM   #11
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Re: Dive/Surf Parka: review of the Heatlab "Surf-Fur"

I just use my old waterpolo parka.
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Old 12-28-2010, 12:54 PM   #12
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Re: Dive/Surf Parka: review of the Heatlab "Surf-Fur"

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I just ordered one! I got a cold a couple weeks ago, and I think this will help on those cold mornings on the boat and after dives.
I got my surf fur and wanted to use it before posting a review.

It works great, and best thing it is real comfortable and warm. It fits easily over my suit and the fabric does not absorb water. I have used it on a couple dives now and really enjoyed it, esp with these cold days we have been having lately in South Florida.

I also use it as a coat when I leave the house and I dont want to change into something warmer like running to the store at night. You can just leave your shorts and teeshirt on and be nice and toasty.

Deff worth the money like I said the fabric is real comfortable and warm. Only complaint is I wish the hood had draw strings or something.
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Old 12-28-2010, 08:39 PM   #13
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Re: Dive/Surf Parka: review of the Heatlab "Surf-Fur"

I'm chuckling at the notion of needing to stay warm in south Florida...
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Old 02-09-2011, 02:33 PM   #14
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Re: Dive/Surf Parka: review of the Heatlab "Surf-Fur"

I just received my surf fur on Monday and I'm wondering if anyone has used theirs to keep their car seat from getting wet when moving between dive spots. Seems like it might work, but I'm hoping to hear from someone who has done it before I risk soaking my seat with salt.

Thanks.
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Old 02-12-2011, 12:27 PM   #15
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Re: Dive/Surf Parka: review of the Heatlab "Surf-Fur"

Does the size chart in ther website accurate? Is the fit good? Should you order it larger so it accounts for the wetsuit? Thanks. Great Review.
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