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christos nicolaou

Hunter Bierce
Scuba Instructor

PRODUCT REVIEW

BARE Sports ExoWear Hooded Vest

BARE Sports has a long presence in the dive industry, but their BARE ExoWear is a relatively recent arrival to the scene. Touted as a lightweight and packable alternative to traditional wetsuits, Bare’s ExoWear products are versatile garments meant to be worn on their own or used as an additional layer underneath your heavier wetsuit or drysuit. We had the chance to take a closer look at the ExoWear Hooded Vest, perhaps the most versatile out of the whole lineup. To find out more about ExoWear, take a look at BARE’s comprehensive infographic, and for more of what BARE has to offer, please look at our product page for a closer look at their entire catalog.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

5

Reasons to buy

  • Omnired Tech converts your hard work into heat
  • Good as a base for your wetsuit or a standalone layer
  • Very warm for its weight
  • Inner fleece is quite nice on the skin
  • Membrane layer keeps the vest windproof
  • Antimicrobial treatment on the fleece cuts down on the smell
  • Works great for all water sports on top of scuba

Reasons NOT to buy

  • Not warm enough to replace a wetsuit
  • Double-check the sizing; some people have issues getting it to fit

Protection and Heat Retention

It should go without saying that the ExoWear Hooded Vest isn’t any replacement for your 7mm full-body wetsuit. But that doesn’t mean it won’t keep you warm. BARE employs three different layers that work in unison to retain your body heat and keep the elements out.

The outer layer is a UV-resistant, hydrophobic protective shield pretty standard among wetsuit designs. Mineral-coated threads are woven through the fabric, BARE’s take on FAR infrared technology called OMNIRED, but more on that later.

The middle membrane between the fleece liner and the outer neoprene gives the vest a notable boost in resilience and versatility. This membrane works similarly to Gore-Tex in other outdoor gear. Windproof and breathable, For paddleboarders, kayakers, and surfers, this gives you a way to keep the wind from cutting straight through your soaked wetsuit and chilling you.

The open-armed vest is quite nice when paddling, giving you the same mobility you have bare-chested with just a pfd on. But the hood is less ideal.

In terms of warmth in the water, the ExoWear Vest on its own is a great option for warm water diving. It’s also great for high-exertion sports where you need a little bit of protection because you can easily open up the collar to let some water in to cool down in a hurry. If you’re headed toward colder climates or need a little extra heat retention, the ExoWear vest is fully modular and can be either paired with a set of bottoms or worn underneath your regular wetsuit to keep your core warm.

Bare Sports Exowear Hooded Vest Back View

BARE Sports ExoWear Hooded Vest: Key Specifications

  • OMNIRED Thermal Technology
  • Three Layer Fabric Construction
  • 3D Anatomical Fit
  • 2mm Elastek Full Stretch Neoprene Face Seal
  • 4-Way Stretch Fabric
  • Flat Seam Stitching
  • Fully Modular and Layerable
  • Extra Large Arm Holes

Where to Buy:

How does OMNIRED work?

OmniRed tech is the secret to what makes the ExoWear line so light while retaining its insulative properties. OMNIRED is a way of making a suit’s thin fabric give more insulation to make the hood retain heat as a thicker suit would. This is achieved by taking your ambient body heat and converting it into infrared light reflected back at you. Before we get deeper into what it does, let’s see what BARE has to say about the tech.

“OMNIRED Technology is the next generation of infrared technology, proven to deliver thermal warmth, protection, and faster recovery. OMNIRED’s 13-thermo reactive minerals are embedded in the fabric of material. They convert outbound body heat into thermal energy and reflect it back to the body…”

Based on the copy, this sounds really complicated. But the principles behind the technology are more intuitive than you would think. To start, it’s not altogether uncommon for modern wetsuits to include some kind of mineral-enhanced fiber. Mares, for example, use graphene in their “Graph-flex” models to achieve approximately the same result.

While the idea of converting your body heat into infrared light sounds like an intensely involved and scientific process, it’s no different from why a filament in a lightbulb illuminates a room or why a piece of iron glows after being left in the fire. Turning heat into light by employing conduction is simple. Your body heat is absorbed by the minerals embedded in the suit and then is reflected as warm IR light. This low-length radiation has been proven to penetrate the skin to improve circulation and stimulate cell growth, in addition to actually generating heat.

No matter the description behind the concept, the result seems to confirm some truth to the science as the vest punched above its weight (or thickness). To find out more about ExoWear and OMNIRED, take a look at BARE’s extended information page.

Bare Sports Exowear Hooded Vest Close Up

Comfort and Fit

Being a relatively thin sleeveless vest, the ExoWear Hooded Vest circumvents many comfort issues commonly found in wetsuits. It’s not often that you’ll find anything that’s skin-tight and made of neoprene that allows for as much range of motion as the ExoWear Vest. The 4-Way Stretch neoprene lets you twist and turn with no restrictions.

The trunk coverage and hood allow you to stay warmer, longer and get more out of your cold water activity of choice. Combining these two aspects is the biggest selling point of the vest. It’s the ability to provide a solid degree of warmth without restricting your movement. This feature is a must for anyone looking to exert themselves, paddleboarders, surfers, and kiteboarders alike.

The material of the vest also lends itself toward an all-day comfort fit. Starting with the inner fleece, you can trust the soft and plush liner to be comfortable throughout the course of the day. The fleece’s quick-dry and antimicrobial properties really add to the whole package, especially making a difference when not submerging in the water.

The aforementioned breathable layer is great for keeping you cool when you start to really exert yourself.

Bare Sports Exowear Hooded Vest Fit

Durability

The sheer fact that the ExoWear Hooded Vest doesn’t have legs, arms, or a zipper adds much to its potential durability. Being an adaptable base layer, you should expect to get a lot of use out of the vest. Avoiding the critical points of failure caused by more seams, even if by merit of design, should add quite a bit of resilience.

But there are some weak points in the design, namely the seams. The flat seam stitching on the ExoWear series is the same that you’ll see on many entry-level wetsuits. Although this type of stitching is durable and flexible, it’s prone to let more water in through the seams than higher-end alternatives.

The only other problem point is the seal around the hood. It’s thin and lightweight in keeping with the overall theme of the ExoWear series. But again, just by the fault of its purpose, the 2mm thick neoprene of the seal is prone to wear and tear, particularly if it’s constantly being pulled by another layer of wetsuit being put on and taken off.

I have to comment on the quick-dry and antimicrobial properties of the suit here as well. Keeping water from staying soaked in the neoprene will help lengthen the lifespan of the suit, regardless of how good a job you do rinsing it out after use. Particularly with warm-water things that are designed to be packable and likely forgotten until your next destination dive trip, keeping funk and mold from building up can only benefit you in the long run.

Bare Sports Exowear Hooded Vest Durability

Who is it for?

This is an interesting question to posit about the ExoWear line as a whole. It’s a relatively thin chest and hood piece, so most of its in-water utility will be during the summer unless you plan on using it as a base layer for your wetsuit or drysuit.

As a base layer, it’s perfect for keeping the blood moving around your head and core. The low-profile design and lack of zippers make it much easier to layer underneath your dedicated cold water suit than another entire wetsuit.

It can easily be paired with some ExoWear bottoms as well, so you can have an entirely modular kit, adaptable to any conditions or water temperature.

I think it’s perfect for something like stand-up paddle boarding, ocean kayaking, or other sports where partial submersion is likely. The thinness and quick dry properties of the fabric, coupled with the windproof layer integrated into the middle of the fabric, lend themselves to situations where you want equal protection from the water and the wind. If it’s anywhere near cold out, you’ll want something that requires a little bit of vigorous activity to keep yourself warm.

BARE Sports

With nearly 50 years of specialization in the frigid coastal waters of
Canada’s British Columbia, BARE Sports knows a thing or two about keeping you warm. Though their initial focus was primarily on the drysuit front, BARE has maintained a full fleet of innovative dive and watersport exposure suits suitable for conditions around the world.

Their development-intensive company focus is coupled with an eye for craftsmanship that has been honed through trial and error. Bare is truly one of those brands founded to serve a niche-community, in this case of cold water enthusiasts. Their products and subsequent developments have mostly been centered around how to make your products last longer.

With one of the leading industry warranty policies on their drysuits, it’s clear that BARE has a vested interest in keeping consumers in the water and out of the shop.

What We Like

  • Omnired Tech converts your hard work into heat
  • Good as a base for your wetsuit or a standalone layer
  • Very warm for its weight
  • Inner fleece is quite nice on the skin
  • Membrane layer keeps the vest windproof
  • Antimicrobial treatment on the fleece cuts down on the smell
  • Works great for all water sports on top of scuba

What We Don’t Like

  • Not warm enough to replace a wetsuit
  • Double-check the sizing; some people have issues getting it to fit

Where to Buy:

Where to Buy:

FAQ – Frequently asked questions about BARE Sports ExoWear Hooded Vest

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    Are BARE Sports wetsuits any good?

    Although BARE’s reputation has been forged primarily through the drysuit community, their fleet of wetsuits has also made a notable splash in the dive community with innovations such as their ExoWear & Ultrawarmth series. To check out one of our favorites from the ExoWear line, here’s our in-depth review of the Hooded Vest. Visit our brand overview page more on BARE and a breakdown of their entire collection.

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    What is BARE Sports ExoWear?

    BARE’s ExoWear line is somewhere between a wetsuit and a rash guard. Conceptually, ExoWear products are built to be layerable, lightweight, and neutrally buoyant. ExoWear can be worn as an additional layer underneath your wetsuit or drysuit and used on its own as a lightweight action sports protective garment for activities such as stand-up paddleboarding, surfing, and ocean kayaking.

    Sold both as full suits and as modular pieces, you can customize your ExoWear to meet your exposure needs regardless of your preferred sport. Check out our writeup of the highly versatile Hooded Vest, or our BARE brand overview page for a closer look at their wide selection of wetsuits, drysuits, and more. To learn even more about ExoWear, BARE’s extended information page can give you all the details you need.

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    How to clean a BARE Wetsuit?

    Properly caring for your wetsuit, regardless of brand or make, is the key to ensuring a long life. Cleaning your wetsuit can be broken down into a few simple steps.

    How to clean your BARE Wetsuit:

    • Fill a tub or large basin with cold water and wetsuit cleaner
    • Open the zippers, turn the wetsuit inside out, and submerge
    • Work the cleaner into the suit and allow to soak
    • Rinse thoroughly and hang dry
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    Where are BARE wetsuits made?

    BARE’s original drysuits were originally made in their small coastal warehouse in British Columbia. Now, a significant portion of their drysuit manufacturing is done at their factory in Malta, while their headquarters is still located in Burnaby, BC. For more on Bare and their line of products, check out our brand overview page.

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    How to take measurements for BARE wetsuits?

    To size yourself for your BARE wetsuit or ExoWear piece, first make sure you’re wearing minimal clothing and grab someone to help. There are four measurements that you need:

    • Around the thickest part of your chest
    • Around the narrowest portion of your waist
    • From the top of the shoulder to the crotch
    • From the crotch to the floor

    Compare these measurements to the size chart to find the right suit for you. For more on measurements and for a women’s guide, see Bare’s size charts to help you along the way.

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