Dive Weights & Lead - What You Should Know?
>> Salt or fresh water – Depending on which water environment you will be diving in will determine the amount of weights you will need. Salt water has a higher density making you a lot more buoyant compared to being in fresh water with a low density. You will therefore need more weights while diving in salt water in order to reach neutral buoyancy.
>> Wetsuit Thickness – The thicker your wetsuit, the more weights you are going to need because the spongy neoprene material that makes up a wetsuit, has millions of air bubbles causing it to be super buoyant.
>> Styles – There are different types of weights; ones which sit on a weight belt around your waist and others integrated into your BCD. It is usually down to personal preference as there are advantages and disadvantages to each.
>> Hard or Soft – There are hard and soft weights; hard weights tend to be more uncomfortable as they do not sit flush against the body causing them to dig in whereas the soft weights are more flexible and can mould around the shape of your body. Another positive note for the soft weight is you don’t damage it if you drop it on a hard surface whereas a hard lead weight can easily be damaged when dropped.
>> Steel & Aluminium Cylinders – Generally all cylinders start negatively buoyant however, Steel cylinders become neutrally buoyant when used and Aluminium cylinders become positively buoyant when used.
Estimated Weight Guide (kg)
- 6-8mm Wetsuit = 8-15kg
- 4-5mm Wetsuit = 4-10kg
- 1-3mm Wetsuit= 2-6kg
Please note: This is a rough guide and should be used as an example only. Each individual person, wetsuit and environment is different. Weighting should always be determined via a neutral buoyancy test before every dive.
Why bother with dive weights and lead?
Wetsuits are made out of neoprene which is a material full of bubbles that help reduce heat loss around the body. These bubbles make you super buoyant and so require more weights in order to achieve neutral buoyancy. The thicker the wetsuit, the more bubbles there are, making you more and more buoyant. For example; you may find 4kg weights are perfect while you are in a 3mm wetsuit however, if you wear a 5mm wetsuit you have increased your positive buoyancy and therefore will need additional weights to achieve neutral buoyancy again.
Weights have other uses
Weights especially hard weights are used to anchor a number of things down underwater. For example; divers completing coral or marine surveys can weigh down underwater survey equipment especially when current and swells are changeable. Dive Instructors also use weights to anchor equipment down.
Are you naturally neutrally buoyant?
We don’t have to tell you that every single person is different but did you know that some of us are in fact naturally buoyant and there are those that aren’t?
You are naturally buoyant if you are able to hold a full breath and float with your head out of the water. When breathing out and leaving no air in your lungs, you should find that you begin to sink.
You are more buoyant if you perform the same test however, when you release the air from your lungs your body will sink so your eyes are at water level but no deeper.