Xcel Drylock Review – the ultimate cold-water wetsuit for 2021?

by Oliver Sander

Xcel Drylock Wetsuit

$399
9

Warmth

9.5/10

Flex

9.0/10

Durability

8.5/10

The good bits

  • One of the warmest wetsuits on the market today
  • Really flexible upper
  • Fantastic for frequent winter surfers
  • Semi-waterproof zipper

The bad bits

  • It's not the cheapest you can go for
  • Some features missing that are in the Drylock X

Looking for a solid, all-round winter suit that won’t leave you shivering after long sessions? This Xcel Drylock review has plenty of reasons why you might just have found the perfect thing…

Xcel Drylock review intro

The Xcel Drylock range has been one of the flagship stars from this upper-end wetsuit manufacturer for some years now. We remember back to a particularly hardy 2016/17 season when we pushed one of these bad boys to the limit on some icy Welsh and Irish waves throughout December and January. There was rarely a moment when we were left too cold to be able to pull off the gloves. We were also pleasantly surprised at how long sessions lasted without risking the old chilblains.

The overall aim of the Xcel wetsuits Drylock series is, unequivocally, warmth. They achieve that with some pretty nifty tech that also means the products sit at the higher end of the budget spectrum. You’re talking price points of $400+, which really makes this the suit of choice for more serious surfers looking to paddle out in chillier waters if you ask us.

We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

Xcel Drylock key tech to watch out for

  • Celliant Black TDC – A multi-fiber stitch interior that has some super insulation powers.
  • Channel Flex – A new way of stitching the outside of the neoprene to allow for full movement in thicker suits.
  • Semi waterproof zipper – A magnetic seal and extra insulation along the zip are one of the hallmarks of the Drylock. They help reduce water flow through the important chest zip, keeping temperatures up.

How warm is the Xcel Drylock?

Xcel Drylock review - a winter wetsuit

Well…Xcel don’t hold back on this one. They claim that the Drylock will be the responsible for the “warmest wetsuit you’ll ever own”. It’s certainly true that warmth is key to the range, and we don’t think there’s any Xcel Drylock review that could seriously say it ain’t a toasty piece of kit.

The key feature is that Celliant Black lining. It’s the trademark inner that covers the chest of the Drylock range (more on the advanced Drylock X). Made from “high pile hollow fibre” that works to trap air bubbles in the suit between your skin and the outer membrane, it acts as a sort of natural insulator.

However, there’s an ace up the sleeve of the Celliant Black from Xcel. This material actively works to increase blood flow in key areas around the body, which quickly raises temperature of those trapped air particles to fight off the cold before you’ve even got your hair wet.

The take home: The Xcel Drylock isn’t just the warmest of the Xcel wetsuits range, it also uses your natural body heat to warm up very quickly.

How flexible is the Xcel Drylock?

Striking the right balance between warmth and flex has been arguably problem numero uno among wetsuit manufacturers ever since the first Navy frogmen donned their flash diving kits in the 1950s. Every modern surf make has it’s own way around this, but the pay offs are still roughly the same – AKA a 5mm is never going to leave you doing star jumps after a two-hour session.

Think all that high-fiber Celliant smart material and all the warmth that goes with it would present the same issue in the Drylock? Think again! We reckon Xcel have done a majestic job of mitigating the extra wieght that comes with more insulation.

Part of that is down to the nature of the Celliant Black lining itself. Being multiple fiber clusters as opposed to a simple thick membrane means it’s altogether lighter and more efficient. (That’s similar to the principle of polar bear fur).

In addition, you get the benefit of Channel Flex tech on the exterior of the upper body. That’s actually the main reason you’ll feel more like your wearing a 3/2 in the 4/3, only with the same warmth. It’s a new way of weaving the outer surface of the neoprene that allows for a reduction in fibre width (and therefore weight). It’s also all 100% hydrophobic, so you won’t be left feeling like your two Christmas puddings down after just an hour in the water.

The take home: Fiber-based insulation and the Channel Flex technology help to give a thick Drylock the feel of a wetsuit one notch down. We found a 4/3 had the feel of a usual 3/2. That’s excellent news!

Durability in the Xcel Drylock

Xcel Drylock review - a durable winter choice

The sad truth is that many a surfer has become resigned to buying a new wetty every year these days. Some say it’s down to the increase in eco materials. (But, hey, better save the planet and risk wetsuit shopping than not, right?). Others think it’s a symptom of mass-produced wetsuit manufacturing in the modern age.

We’re glad to say it’s not a debate that we feel needs to be had in this Xcel Drylock review. Why? These guys are well known for being pretty hardy customers. The one we had back in the 16/17 season managed at least three years of pretty demanding surf conditions. Yes, it picked up the usual bout of scratches an tears. But there were never any problems that we thought would compromise the suit.

Of course, wear and tear is hard to gauge in a review alone. It all comes down to how you surf, how often you surf, where you surf – loads of things. The point is that there are some nice features in the Xcel Drylock that help maximize the lifespan of the suit. They include the blind-stitched seams and multiple gluing on the foam edges. Most important, though, you get strong, heat-fired FusionX tape sealant on the joins.

The take home: Xcel Drylock come with multi-glued foam, XTape covers, and blind stitching. that all helps minimize risk of wear and tear. AKA: It’s a solid suit that should last a few seasons.

Xcel Drylock – the fit

As always, we’d say it’s pretty important to try before you buy when it comes to wetsuits. (One make’s MT is another’s ML – it’s a nightmare.) If you’re absolutely certain of what you are, then great! Otherwise, think about ordering multiple sizes with the option to send one back. Problem solved.

Generally speaking, the Xcel Drylock range fits pretty standard. There’s none of the surprising over-generous interiors we get with Patagonia suits, for example, and we slid right into the MT that we usually go for when we last whacked one on. Perhaps the only thing of note is that some users report a tighter chest area than on other comparable wetsuits. That’s probably down to the XTape seals and the waterproof additions to the zip.

The take home: Xcel comes up as a standard fit with a slightly tighter chest zone, but that’s to be expected with all the extra tech there.

Xcel Drylock – the downsides

We’re perhaps a little disappointed to see that the all-important Celliant Black TDC fabric is limited to the chest pane on the basic Drylock model. Then again, it is on offer down the upper leg and upper arms in the Drylock X, but that’ll cost you another $100. In addition, the Drylock is given only a semi-waterproof zip seam compared to 100% waterproof in the X. It seems like the sort of tech you should get as standard in a wetty with this name.

Of course, the price point is hardly appetizing at this top-of-the-range end of the Xcel brand. But it’s also not astronomical at $400 a pop, and is what you can expect to pay for a seriously warm and reliable piece of kit in 2021.

The take home: The more expensive Drylock X has some features we’d like to see in this model considering the price

Our Xcel Drylock review final thoughts

We’re pretty darn impressed with the Xcel Drylock overall. But then this is the upper end of the market from one of the world’s leading wetsuit makers, so that’s hardly a surprise.

Warmth is the standout feature. In a 4/3 it should be toasty enough to handle common cold-water surf destinations, from North California to wintertime Japan. It’s also a pleasure to see a wetsuit that finally makes a serious attempt to mitigate the extra weight from inner membranes. The Drylock succeeds on that count with flying colors. Bravo!

We’d actually say it’s perhaps the wetty we’d recommend to advanced and upper-intermediate surfers for frequent winter sessions. It’s also a corker for surfers who travel a lot to cold water destinations. That’s mainly because you can get away with the lighter 4/3 instead of a full 5 mil.


We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

This review is based on the thoughts and subjective opinions of the author alone. We always try our best to give a balanced and fair review of a product, and won’t recommend anything we don’t think will do the job. The presence of a product review doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ve actively sampled the product itself. We reserve the right to alter and change review at any time.

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