We Review Aquasphere’s Lightweight, Stretchy Phantom Wetsuit
Aquasphere’s top-of-the-line neoprene is heavy on features, but light on material. We take a look at what works and what doesn’t on this $750 suit.
Super flexible, high-end neoprene, balanced-but-effective floatation, and some quirky features make this suit a mixed bag.
- Amazing shoulder flexibility
- Great, accurate fit
- Easy on and off
- Interesting core stabilization feature
- Bad neckline
- Moderate floatation (could be a selling point for some)
- Reverse zipper nightmare
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Aquasphere has been in the tri wetsuit business for well over a decade, but it’s one of those brands that you might not hear that much about. They quietly put out solid, if not often unassuming, wetsuits and have lately focused much more on the mid- to high-end triathlete than entry level. Right now, they offer a $350 suit, a $550 suit, and a $750 suit. This third iteration of their high-end suit, the Phantom, has a few upgrades from the previous model, as well as Yamamoto 40 neoprene—1mm in the shoulders, arms, and collar—and a “core power system” with strategically-placed bubbly Aerodome rubber.
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Aquasphere Phantom V3 Review: The Good
As you’d expect with a $750 wetsuit, the flexibility on the Phantom is about as good as you can get without creating a suit that’s too fragile and wholly unusable (we won’t name names here). That said, durability is fine, but this is still a suit you’ll want to treat carefully if you want to use it for more than one season.
The shoulders/upper torso girdle are incredibly flexible—thanks to the super-thin 1mm Yamamoto rubber—and elsewhere there’s a balanced floatation with 5mm panels where needed. The scant, flexy rubber (with 5mm panels across sections of the legs and torso) also keeps this as a lightweight suit, unlike some of the more buoyancy-focused offerings from other brands—the Roka Maverick MX, for example. On that same note, this suit is incredibly easy to get on and off, due to the thin material on the wrists and ankles.
And much like many high-end suits, there are lots of cool details and features—with varying degrees of usefulness. I do appreciate the key pocket with lanyard (why all suits don’t have this, I’ll never understand), and the many panels of stitched neoprene make this a well-fitting suit. The most visually apparent feature on this suit—if you’re looking at it inside out—is the “core power system.” This feature is meant to stabilize your core if you’re one of the many swimmers who “snake” as you swim (me included) or struggle to generate power from your hips outward. Aquasphere uses a small girdle sewn and taped into the lower abdomen area with grippy silicone printed in a criss-cross pattern. It’s a great idea, and you can feel it a slight bit, but for those with bad snaking issues (me again), it might not be enough. More on that below.
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Aquasphere Phantom V3 Review: The OK
As we teased above, the “core power system” is a great concept, but at best it only provides moderate support for a very real issue with lots of swimmers. It’s an attempt to prevent snaking in the water, and likely to help drive power from the hips out to the arms and the legs for a more connected stroke. Roka’s Maverick X series, for example, attempts to do the same thing with what amounts to Kinesio tape embedded into the inside of the suit in an “X” shape. In Roka’s suit, you can really feel the difference; in the Aquasphere, less so.
Elsewhere, it’s just little details that we’d probably ignore if this wasn’t such a pricey suit: Though Aquasphere makes a big deal about the design around their neckline, we found it bulky and surprisingly fickle to get just right without chafing. And it’s tough to ignore the reverse zipper that might save you a second or two in unzipping (but of course, you’d likely be running at the same time anyway, so very little time saved at all), but really can’t be zipped up by yourself. Not a big deal at a race when you have 1,000 potential friends to help you out; a very big deal when you’re on a lonely, chilly beach, trying to wrestle this suit on and screaming profanities into the blustery wind. Trust me.
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Aquasphere Phantom V3 Review: Conclusions
If this was a $400-500 suit, we’d probably give it four stars, but at the über-premium price range, it’s tough to ignore the little issues (that could become big ones) and the big selling points are tough to quantify. Yes, the rubber on this suit is excellent, very-well placed, and the fit and flexibility are definitely in the upper tier, but sometimes the devil is in the details. That said, if you are a moderately experienced swimmer (in other words, you don’t need a ton of placed float) looking for a good all around suit, and this fits you better than other suits in this price range, then I’d say buy.