The Expert Review: Arena Carbon Duo

2020 Feb | By

Editor's Note: The arena Carbon Duo ($345 total price) is one of the most unique suits on the market, designed as a two-piece racing suit for women with separate one-piece top and jammer that are purchased separately but designed to be worn together. The suit hit the market in mid-2019 and given it's one-of-a-kind design, we asked our 2020 tech suit reviewers to size up the suit and run it through their own wear test in January. Here's what they had to say:

Cammile Adams: I was a little skeptical of a two-piece racing suit at first. However, once I put the suit on, I was completely amazed. I really liked this suit and it will be great for females that have trouble finding a suit they like on the top AND bottom. For example, if you like more compression in the legs and less in the top, you are able to purchase two separate sizes. Another note about this suit, this is the first two-piece tech suit on the market that is FINA approved. When competing in this suit, they must be worn together, per FINA rules. You also would not want to wear just the top portion of this suit, as the back is see-through. When trying on this suit, put the bottom on first, then the top.

Julie Stupp: The Arena Carbon Duo is an interesting take on a new type of tech suit. It reminds me a lot of a track uniform or a triathlon race suit where the suit is broken up into two pieces that perform different functions.

Size & Fit

Cammile Adams: This suit fit very true to size for me. I like more compression in the legs, and I also have bigger hips. So I liked that I could get a 32 in the bottom and a 30 in the top. This suit takes little to no effort to put on. It took me 10 minutes the first time and 5 minutes the second time. When trying the suit on, make sure the bottoms are pulled up a little over the belly button. That will ensure they are in the right place before putting the top on. I like that you can take the top part of this suit off between races and change into a shirt/sweatshirt. It would have a similar feel of taking the straps down off your shoulders in a one-piece tech suit.

Julie Stupp: The shorts or bottom fit super snug because of the compressive Carbon cage technology that holds the muscles together, while the top or main body of the suit is more flexible and not as tight. The suit takes some time to put on and some time to get used to because arena is thinking outside the box of the traditional tech suit. The Duo is genius because it is much harder to rip since it is two smaller pieces to put on vs. one long piece of fabric that is easy to over-stress and tear. You have to put the shorts on first and they take time just like any tech suit since they are compressive and have to slide over your hips. They fit really well, but I would love to see them come up just a touch higher in the waist, they are more like a low-rise jean fit. Since compression helps to make you more hydrodynamic a high-rise jean cut would be more to my liking. Once the shorts are in place, you put on the top of the suit which slips on easier since it is a more lightweight material without legs. The shoulder and back straps sit lower on the back but securely in place around the lats. The butt portion of the top suit is a little loose and moves around, I wish it had the super-sticky inner seams to lock it in place. Overall the size 28 was a perfect fit for me.


Material

Cammile Adams: While in the box, the suit may seem odd a bit “out of the box," but give this suit a chance and I think you will really like it. I like the fact that you can choose the color of the top and the bottom of this suit. I was wearing the black bottoms and red top. For me, I would probably stick with an all black suit to make it look as if the suit was one piece. This suit bottom also comes in blue and green. The top of the suit comes in black, red and pink. The legs of the Carbon Duo are the flex fabric or the carbon cage, similar to the Carbon Core. The silicon bands on the bottom of the top piece lock the suit in place. The top of the suit is made of the lightweight Carbon Air2 fabric, you can see the horizontal carbon in the suit, especially the red. I actually really liked that this suit had two separate pieces since I am someone that prefers to have more compression on the bottom and less on the top and shoulders. The two-panel lining in the top also made it easy to breath.

Julie Stupp: Like its name, the Carbon Duo has two defining materials: compression and flexibility. This two-piece suit almost poetically breaks up the different materials by creating a compressive and lightweight layer that perfectly blend together when worn as one race suit. Their functionalities are very different the bottom shorts are meant to compress the muscles, help to flush lactic acid while racing and lift the hips in the water. Meanwhile the top suit is meant to allow for comfortable and unobstructed movement in the upper body. I really liked the paneling in the chest, it was the same design as the Carbon Glide, but was more compressive and supportive for my taste. The Carbon Duo has great durability because of the high-tech fabrics and treatments arena is known for especially in the hydrophobic coating that could be seen after several wear tests.


Performance

Cammile Adams: Overall, I really liked this suit and I think it will be great for those female swimmers that struggle to find a suit that fits their needs on the top and the bottom. I think this suit will also be great for someone that gets frustrated putting tech suits on as this suit is very easy to get on and once on, feels like a one-piece tech suit. I really liked the compression in the legs and liked that the straps were not too tight on my shoulders, since I would usually race 2-3 times each session/day at a meet. I think this suit would be good for someone that is a sprinter or mid-distance swimmer. Personally, I thought the bottom feels very similar to the Carbon Core. However, the top feels similar to the Carbon Air2 or the Carbon Glide. The straps are very comfortable and can be worn for long periods of time.


Julie Stupp:  The Carbon Duo performed really well in the pool because it captures some of the best qualities of the other Carbon series suits reviewed in 2020. The lightweight top layer like the Glide was great for rotation and breathability in the rib cage, while also having the necessary flexible compression. I loved the way the top portion of the Duo allowed me to reach and get the most distance per stroke on each lap. The shoulder straps were also very comfortable yet well-constructed and can be worn for long races or long meet sessions. And the Carbon Duo bottom was super-compressive like the Carbon Core FX. I felt really supported in my hips and felt a nice lift every time I pushed off the wall. The Carbon Duo is a great suit for any Freestylers, Backstrokers or sprinters who solely rely on their rotation and feel for the water.

Fit – 4
Design – 4
Comfort – 5
Materials – 4.5
Compression – 4.5
Performance – 4.5

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