What to look for when buying a drysuitDecember 15, 2022
Do you shiver while diving in certain coldwater spots? …It might be time to invest in a drysuit! Providing thermal insulation and stopping cold water from getting to your skin; drysuits keep you warmer for longer when scuba diving. If you are ready to purchase your first drysuit and make cold water dives a lot more enjoyable, we are here to help you choose the perfect one.
We have put together a guide of what to look for when buying a drysuit, as well as our top drysuit recommendation on the market right now.
The dangers of being cold while scuba diving
A water temperature of 86˚F/30˚C feels colder than an air temperature of the same amount. That is because water is a better heat conductor than air is. Water draws heat away from the body almost 25 times more efficiently than air does. So even when you dive in warm, tropical waters, you may find that you start to feel cold quite quickly.
So let us take a look at the reasons why it is so important to not get too cold while diving:
- It is uncomfortable: Shivering your way through a dive is not a pleasant experience. Your fingers and toes might start to feel numb, and you can’t enjoy your dive or focus on the beautiful scenery. If you are not relaxed you might find that you go through your air tank a lot faster, too, which will of course cut your dive short.
- You might become more likely to experience decompression sickness (DCS): Dive tables and computers that are designed to help divers to avoid decompression sickness were developed under the assumption that our blood is pumping around our body at the same rate throughout the whole dive. As we get colder, however, we receive less circulation of blood to the extremities. This could affect the rate in which the nitrogen we have accumulated while diving is off-gassed, and this may cause us to experience decompression sickness.
- You risk getting hypothermia: When body temperatures drop too low, it becomes difficult to replenish the heat that’s needed to maintain normal bodily functions. Hypothermia is potentially deadly and is not a risk we want to take while diving. If you or your buddy starts to experience strong shivering or/and become numb, this could be the first step of hypothermia. End the dive and exit the water.
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How to choose the right drysuit for you
So now we know why it is important to stay warm while scuba diving, you might be starting to think about purchasing your first dive suit. But what makes a good drysuit? There are a few things to consider before you buy:
1.What you will be using your drysuit for: Drysuits are suitable for cold water diving, and/or tech diving. If you are a tech diver then you might be underwater for longer than recreational divers are, and therefore will become cold due to the length of time at depth. If you are a coldwater diver, you will be exposing your body to temperatures lower than what is perhaps suitable for just a wetsuit. Everyone has their own limits for how cold the water must become before switching from a wetsuit to a drysuit, but as a rough rule of thumb, you might decide to switch if you are diving in temperatures lower than around 60°F/15°C for recreational diving. If you are a technical diver who plans to be underwater for over an hour at a time, then maybe even a few degrees warmer.
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2. Drysuits are different to wetsuits: Wetsuits are designed to fit your body very tightly, but they still allow a little water to get inside and touch your skin. This water sits in the small gap between you and the wetsuit and becomes naturally heated by your body temperature, this acts as insulation to help keep you warm. Drysuits work differently; they are designed to keep you completely dry while you are scuba diving by having watertight zips, and seals on the wrists, ankles, and neck. The drysuit will also connect to your tank, so that you can add a little air to the suit to make up for the increasing compression as you descend. Adjusting your buoyancy when using a drysuit can take some practice but you soon get the hang of it… and it is more than worth it to stay warm!
3. Find the perfect fit: Finding a drysuit that fits you well is very important, if the drysuit is too big it might cause drag, or even leak. If the drysuit is too small it will feel tight and squeeze you as you dive. Taking a dry suit diving speciality allows you the opportunity to try out different sizes and find your perfect fit. You will also learn how to control your buoyancy wearing the drysuit and allow you to practice using the suit under the supervision of a dive professional who can guide you and be there for you if you need help.
4. There are two main types of drysuits: The two most common types of drysuit are membrane/laminate drysuits, and neoprene drysuits. The membrane suits are thin and designed just to keep you dry, they don’t offer much insulation. Undergarments can be worn underneath to stop you from getting cold while underwater. Neoprene drysuits are more like very thick wetsuits. They are warmer and a lot heavier than membrane drysuits, and are more streamline. Both types of drysuit have watertight zips and seals to keep the water out and keep you dry.
5. Added features: You might also want to think about how many pockets you might need in your new drysuit, and where they are located on the suit, zipper placement could also be a factor if you are likely to have little help getting into it, and if you plan to be under the water for an extended period of time, you might require a P-valve in your drysuit which allows you to pee underwater.
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Our top choice for drysuit:
There are many drysuits on the market and it is important to shop around and find the perfect one that suits all your needs. Here is our recommendation for a great drysuit you might want to consider:
XR3 NEOPRENE LATEX DRY SUIT: This neoprene drysuit from Mares features sturdy and stretchy, 4mm neoprene with watertight seals and drain valves. It also has a large zipper pocket on the right leg, a smooth watertight hood for extra warmth, and its new and improved design allows for maximum flexibility. Coming in a range of sizes from XS to 3XL, you can easily find your perfect fit to stay warm and look great underwater.