How to Buy a Wetsuit

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If you want to stay warm on your dive a scuba diving wetsuit may be necessary. Here is a guide to help make it easier.

Steps

  1. Choose the Proper Thickness - The thickness is probably the most important factor that will determine your comfort underwater. The thicker the wetsuit, the warmer you will be. Choose the thickness based on the type of water and diving you will be doing. Here is a general guide to help you determine what might be the proper thickness for your wetsuits:
    • 2 mm: Water temperatures above 85 F
    • 3 mm: Water temperatures between 70-85 F; this is usually the norm for scuba diving in the Caribbean
    • 5 mm: Water temperatures between 60-70 F
    • 6.5 mm Water temperatures between 50-70; at the lower end you are getting into drysuit territory.
  2. Pick Your Style - There are several choices to make here. Do you want a full wet suit or a shortie (has short arms (usually) and legs that end just above the knee)? Do you want a farmer john or jane (a two piece suit - one piece has long legs with a sleeveless top; it is usually worn with a covering jacket)? Do you need a hood? A shortie is for warm water diving.It does leave your arms and legs exposed to the water so you have to decide if it will be warm enough for you. A full scuba diving wet suit is probably the most common/popular.This style is one piece and has long arms and legs. Buying a wetsuit hood is not necessary (for most people) for diving in warm water. It is more for cold water diving.
  3. Check Quality of Construction - This will determine how long that wet suit will last. Most importantly, you need to check the seams of the wet suit. The cheapest and least strong is a glued stitch. It will sometimes have a piece of glued tape over the seams which will help with comfort. While it is adequate, it will probably give out the quickest of all the seams. Another of the basic stitches found mostly in "bargain" and "cheap" wet suits is the over-lock stitch which joins the neoprene a the seam by stitching the edges together. The ridge is on the inside of the suit which can become uncomfortable. If this seam is stretched to its limit the seam may open up and let in some water. At the other extreme of construction quality, is the blind stitch. Here the material is first glued and then stitched on one side. However, the stitch does not pierce the material which would give an entry point for water. The same stitch is then done on the reverse side and interlocks with the first stitch. This gives the strongest seam. This type of construction is found on the more expensive suits. In between, is the flatlock stitching which you will find in many warm water wet suits. The two pieces of neoprene overlap and are joined together. Unlike the over-lock stitch, the seam lays flat making it more comfortable for the diver. While water can sometimes seep through these seams when stretched, it will be much less than with an over-lock stitch. Taped seams, with any of these stitches, helps prevent water leaking through the seams. It also helps the comfort factor making the suit more comfortable against the skin.
  4. Get the Right Fit - If you have not worn a wetsuit before you will think you have the wrong size on. Scuba diving wetsuits feel snug on you and you will probably feel that you have a reduced range of motion. This is normal.Of course, the wetsuit fit shouldn not be so tight that you have trouble breathing or your movements are overly restricted. You also do not want your wetsuit fit to be too loose. This would let water flow freely through the suit and you would lose all the benefits of the trapped water being warmed by your body. For a correct wetsuit fit, your wrists and ankles should be snug. This is an area where water can easily seep in so these should not have gaps. The neck should also be snug but remember, you need to breathe! Not too tight. There should not be any large gaps in the underarm or crotch area. You will, however, probably have a gap at the small of the back. This is not unusual and you can always have it altered if it bothers you too much.
  5. Check Type of Neoprene - The type of neoprene your suit is made of affects the quality of the suit and the price. The highest quality neoprene is gas blown and made with thousands of little bubbles of nitrogen gas. While it will compress and eventually wear out like all neoprene, it is the most durable type of neoprene. A chemical blown wetsuit feels softer but will not be as durable.

Tips

  • Go with the wetsuit fit that you think is snug enough (probably a little too snug) without being overly restrictive.

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Sources and Citations

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