1. Do I need a wetsuit or drysuit for scuba diving?
Water temperature will be the key consideration when you are deciding what scuba suit you need. Drysuits are essential for cold water conditions as they prevent water from conducting heat away from the body. If you are going to be diving in waters under 15 degrees centigrade you will need a drysuit to keep you warm. Wetsuits are suitable for most other water conditions.
2. What are pros and cons of drysuits for scuba diving?
Drysuits do not allow water to penetrate through the suit skin. This means these suits keep you much warmer than wetsuits and are ideal for cold water conditions. Another benefit of drysuits for scuba diving is that they keep you warm out of the water as well. This is because they can withstand wind chill. Drysuits are ideal if you are going to be spending a lot of time out of the water as well as diving in cooler conditions.
The main disadvantages of drysuits are that they are much more expensive than wetsuits and you will need additional training on how to use them properly.
3. How do scuba diving wetsuits work?
Wetsuits trap a fine layer of water against your skin. Your body heat will warm up this layer of water and this will help to keep you warm whilst you are diving. It only takes a few minutes for wetsuits to adjust to your body temperature (although the first flood of cold water can be a little uncomfortable!). Modern scuba wetsuits are made of neoprene and if you choose a good quality brand such as Cressi, Probe, Beuchat or Mares then thermal properties should be enough to keep you warm in most water conditions. If you are going to be diving in water conditions under 15 degrees centigrade you may need a drysuit as this is more effective as keeping you warm in colder temperatures.
4. How much should I spend on a scuba wetsuit?
Modern manufacturing techniques and new materials have made it easier to produce good quality scuba wetsuits for affordable prices. You do need to spend at least $250 as the cheaper neoprene suits have a much shorter working life and can rip and tear more easily. Good quality neoprene has more efficient thermal properties and should last a long time. To help make sure you choose a good quality wetsuit you will need to stick the leading brands such as Cressi, Probe, Beuchat or Mares.
5. Can I wear surfing wetsuits for scuba diving?
When you are diving you will be spending most of your time in the water fully submerged. This is the opposite of surfing and so wetsuits for each of these sports will have significant differences. Surfing wetsuits tend to have thinner arms and shoulder sections to allow more movement and flexibility. This means that they are less effective at retaining heat. This is a very important factor when you are diving as you will lose a lot more heat underwater. This means that you will be much warmer if you choose wetsuits designed specifically for scuba diving.
6. What style of wetsuit do I need for scuba diving?
The style of wetsuit you choose will depend on the water conditions you are diving in. Shorty wetsuits (only the main torso is fully covered) are fine for shallow diving in warm water conditions and offer flexibility and freedom of movement. However if you are going to be diving down below the thermocline then you are going to need something a bit warmer to keep your body temperature regular.
Full length steamers are full body suits that offer additional warmth for divers. The full body design also offers more protection against abrasion. These suits are ideal for wreck and reef diving to help prevent scrapes and cuts.
Layer systems are essentially semi-dry suits and involve several layers of neoprene which trap the water more effectively for improved thermal insulation. These suits are ideal for colder water conditions.
7. What thickness scuba suit should I buy?
Wetsuit thickness is a compromise between flexibility and warmth. The thicker the neoprene is the better the thermal insulation, but also the less movement there is in the material. Wetsuits are typically made in 3mm, 5mm and 7mm thicknesses. If you are going to be diving in the tropics then 3mm wetsuits are ideal as they offer plenty of flexibility and some protection against cooler waters as you dive down under the thermocline. If you are diving in areas such as the Red Sea then a 5mm steamer suit is suitable as this provides freedom of movement and warmth. If you are diving in the West of Europe in the summer then a 7mm suit might be more suitable as water temperatures can be as low as 15 degrees centigrade in some places.
8. How to I get the right fit for scuba wetsuits?
If you choose a wetsuit that is too baggy then water will pool in key areas and this can prevent your body heat from warming it properly. This means that the wetsuit will not be effective at keeping you warm. If the wetsuit is too tight then it will be uncomfortable and the water may be forced away from the skin. This also means that wetsuit will not be able to function properly to keep you warm.
When you are choosing a scuba wetsuit it should be snug fitting but not too tight. You should have to struggle a bit to get the wetsuit on, but it shouldn’t be so tight you have trouble doing it up. If you are buying online then you need to check the wetsuit sizing chart carefully before you make a purchase.
Scuba wetsuits are slightly easier to put on than other wetsuits as they have longer zips.
9. Should I order a custom scuba wetsuit?
Custom scuba wetsuits are more expensive than standard suits. Unfortunately there are only so many adjustments you can make to a wetsuit so even if you have a custom suit made there is no guarantee it will fit perfectly.
There are a number of really good quality pre-made wetsuits available from leading manufacturers such as Cressi, Probe, Beuchat or Mares. These are available in a good range of sizes and fits. However if you are one of those people who just cannot fit into standard size scuba wetsuits, or you have some very specific suit requirements then you could choose to pay more and have a custom suit made.
10. Do I need a lining in my scuba wetsuit?
Linings can be added to wetsuits to improve thermal properties. The theory is that they help to trap more water and improve insulation. This can be a good way of upgrading a thinner wetsuit if you are going to be diving in cooler waters than you are normally used to. Plush linings can also add a bit of luxury to your wetsuit as they create a very soft, comfortable feel.