Purpose of a Dry Suit
Dry suits provide maximum thermal protection. Although primarily used in cooler water, in temperate water they let you make more dives and longer dives even if you could use a wetsuit. Dry suits get their name because they keep you dry, except for (typically) your head and hands, over which you wear neoprene wetsuit hoods and gloves.
Also known as : dry suit, shell suit, neoprene suit
All dry suits cover the entire body. Neoprene dry suits are made of the same material as wet suits, except they exclude water. The neoprene provides insulation. Shell dry suits consist of two pieces. The first is a shell suit, made of one of many materials (crushed neoprene, trilaminate, urethane, vulcanized rubber), that keeps you dry. The second is the undergarment, also of several materials (bunting, open foam, ThinsulateTM), that provides the insulation. Suits used in the coldest water have dry hoods and dry gloves or mitts.
Watertight zipper. Special watertight zippers are what make dry suits possible. Although robust and durable, they’re the most expensive part of a dry suit.
Wrist/neck seals. Made of neoprene or latex rubber, these need to exclude water yet be comfortable.
Inflator and exhaust valves. Because you’re surrounded by air, dry suits have to have valves so you can add air as you descend or release it as you come up. This accommodates the pressure change.
Hood and gloves. Cool water diving requires head and hand protection, though you may choose your preference of dry hood and gloves or wetsuit versions.
Undergarment. Except for neoprene suits, you must have an undergarment to provide insulation. Different undergarments have different cost and insulation characteristics.
Self don design. Some suits require the assistance of another person to get in and out of, but others are designed so you can dress and undress independently.
Knee pads. Knees are high-wear areas, so these extend suit life substantially.
Relief systems. Especially for tec divers, these systems route urine out of the suit through valves to accommodate long dives.
Thigh pocket. Dry suits tend to be bulky, making a large thigh pocket one of the easiest to reach and use.
How to choose a dry suit.
Unlike a wetsuit, a somewhat loose fit is normal in a dry suit. Your local PADI Dive Shop or Resort can help you choose a suit, but your choice will be based more on features and cost than finding the right size.
- Unless you have a very unusual physique, an off-the-shelf suit is likely to fit appropriately.
- Some manufacturers offer “semicustom” suits, which are often the best value. These are usually upper end models you order with the features you want. Your retailer measures you (much like a custom suit), and the manufacturer makes your suit based on one of many stock patterns that is closest to your measurements. This gives you the features you want with an optimum fit. Some times you can choose any fabric pattern you want and have your dry suit custom designed using the fabric of your choice.
- Choose your undergarment when choosing your dry suit.
- Be prepared to invest more than for a comparable wetsuit. However, dry suits last substantially longer (10 years or more is not unusual) and when you consider the additional dive time they give, they pay for themselves.
- Dry suits are a great choice even when the water’s fairly warm if the air temperature is cool because you’re not wet when you get out of your suit after the dive.
- Take the PADI Dry Suit Diver course. Not only do you learn some special techniques, but you learn more about choosing, using and caring for dry suits.