Wetsuits provide insulation as well as protection, and can keep you comfortable in water as cool as 10ºC/50ºF to as warm as 32ºC/90ºF . Wetsuits get their name because even though they keep you warm, you get wet – they trap a small amount of water between the suit and your skin that your body quickly heats.
Also known as : wet suits, neoprene suits, farmer johns, back zip, two-piece suits, shorty, shorties.
Wetsuits are the most common and versatile exposure suits. This is because you can get different thicknesses depending upon how much insulation you want. Plus, you can use the parts of multi-piece designs independently or altogether depending upon the water temperature. Some styles allow you to put two layers over the trunk area for added thermal protection.
Proper fit : Wetsuits must be snug but fit comfortably. Loose areas that allow water to flow in and out negate the insulation.
Proper thickness and style : This is a matter of appropriate choices. For warm water, a thinner wetsuit with short sleeves and legs may be adequate, but would be inadequate for temperate water. Your PADI Dive Shop or Resort can help you choose a wetsuit based upon where you plan to use it.
Lining – Virtually all wet suits have material lining the neoprene on one or both sides. This makes the suit stronger, easier to get into, and makes it more attractive. Some divers find suits lined on the exterior only are warmer, though more difficult to put on.
Versatility – Some suit styles are more versatile than others. The farmer-john style is popular because you have double trunk insulation (two layers) in cooler water, or can wear only the jacket or pants in warmer water. Another option is a full body jumpsuit with a hooded neoprene vest for cooler water.
Wetsuit boots – Also called “booties,” wetsuit boots provide foot protection as well as warmth
Accessories – In cooler water, you may want a hood, hooded vest or gloves for added thermal protection.
Pockets and pads – A thigh pocket comes in handy for carrying things. A spine pad reduces water flow down your back and cushions your scuba cylinder. Knee pads reduce suit wear. These may be standard features or add-ons, depending upon the suit you choose.
How to choose a wetsuit
Fit is very important in a wetsuit. If you’re getting your first suit, the best bet is to have a professional at your local PADI Dive Shop or Resort help you.
- Custom suits are measured and made specifically for you. They cost a bit more, but fit best and come with all the features you choose. The more your physique varies from average, the more you’ll benefit from going custom.
- Try on your suit wearing the bathing suit and/or body suit you’ll use while diving.
- Give yourself plenty of time. Trying on wetsuits takes longer than regular clothes, so plan to spend an hour or more finding the right size. Don’t rush it, and don’t compromise. Get one that fits correctly!
- You get years of wear out of a wetsuit, but you’ll get even more if you save your old one when you buy a new one. Use the old one for warmer conditions that are hard on your suit, like diving in chlorinated water or climbing over rocks. When the old suit becomes thrashed, the newer one becomes the old one and you get the next one.
- No, you’re not getting fatter. Well, maybe you are, but it’s not just that. Wetsuits shrink a bit and lose their stretchiness with age as the neoprene cells collapse. However, don’t buy the suit big to account for this – instead, by higher quality suits. They’re more pliable and should have ample give to fit you over their life –assuming you don’t change too much!