Looking to find the best wetsuit for your underwater needs?
Different activities require different gear, and you will need a good diving wetsuit for your own safety and comfort when diving. (Not to mention to avoid having to deal with the hassle of rental suits!)
Obviously, while you will need different gear for different diving activities, from scuba diving to snorkeling with your kids and spearfishing, you must always have dependable diving wetsuit, but which one is the right one for you?
In this article, we will share the facts and tell you what things to keep in mind when shopping for your diving wetsuit.
So, read on to find out about the perfect diving wetsuit for all your scuba diving, snorkeling, and spearfishing needs!
Why do You Need a Wetsuit?
What’s the point of wearing a suit if you are going to be wet anyway?
Well, while wetsuits allow water to come into contact with your skin, they are crucial for maintaining your body temperature, give you added buoyancy to counter the weight of your gear, and protect you from the sun, as well as all sorts of scrapes, bruises, cuts and stings that might otherwise spoil your underwater fun.
When choosing the right wetsuit, you have to take lots of things into account, but the right combination of thickness, fit and style will be your main consideration.
Let’s’ dive’ into these parameters below.
The colder the water you’ll be diving into, the thicker your wetsuit must be to keep you warm.
When talking about wetsuit thickness, we are essentially talking about neoprene thickness, as wetsuits are made from neoprene, a flexible synthetic rubber with a surprising range of applications. Obviously, as your wetsuit gets thicker, you sacrifice flexibility for warmth.
Typically, ‘light’ wetsuits come in 2-3mm neoprene thickness and are ideal for warm water diving and snorkeling. This thickness offers freedom of movement but only slight insulation, along with protection from sharp objects and the sun.
5mm-thick neoprene wetsuits are good both for divers with low tolerance to cold, as well as those planning diving excursions in late spring / early summer. A 5mm suit offers significantly more insulation at the expense of mobility.
7mm and 8mm-thick wetsuits are heavy and designed for cold-weather diving. These wetsuits offer robust insulation thanks to the numerous air bubbles that capture heat. However, as you get deeper and water pressure compresses your suit, it will lose some of its insulating capacity, effectively becoming thinner.
However, as you get deeper and water pressure compresses your suit, it will lose some of its insulating capacity, effectively becoming thinner.
So, you should aim to match your wetsuit’s thickness to the water temperature, while also taking into consideration a few other parameters, including number of dives, how deep you plan to dive, how long you will stay, and topside conditions for when coming out of the water.
And don’t forget that, your own tolerance to cold plays a major role here as well!
As there are so many things to consider, consulting with a wetsuit (and drysuit) comfort zone chart to find the ideal thickness for your wetsuit is a good idea.
Wetsuits come in three main styles: shortie (sometimes also spelled shorty), one-piece and Farmer John (or Farmer Jane for women) suits.
Each style has its own distinct advantages, as we will see below:
Shorties, as their name implies, are short wetsuits that allow you maximum mobility and give you basic protection and warmth. Shorties are typically short-sleeved and are cut just above the knee, covering your whole torso, and part of your arms and legs.
Snorkelers often favor shorties, as well as divers who only dive in warm climates. They are comfortable to put on and dive with, and usually zip in the back, making it easy to take off when you are done diving.
The ‘traditional’ wetsuit (often called jumpsuit), one-pieces offers warmth and protects your arms and legs from rocks, corals, and jellyfish that might bump onto you under the waves.
These diving wetsuits are the most versatile and commonly used by cold-water divers and are typically easy to put on, even for inexperienced divers.
One-piece jumpsuits often come with a tall collar or a full hood that protects the diver’s neck and head from the cold. However, these suits somewhat restrict the range of motion.
Farmer John (or Farmer Jane)
The Farmer John/Farmer Jane wetsuit is your go-to choice for full cold-weather diving, as it offers extra insulation around the torso.
Farmer John suits come in two pieces, the bottom covering the torso and legs, and the top covering the torso and the arms. Therefore, by double-layering the torso, the Farmer John keeps the diver’s core body warm.
A Farmer John allows for some extra mobility around the shoulders, making them a favorite for free divers (compared to one-piece suits.)
Does it fit?
Your wetsuit needs to fit perfectly. Period.
Different types of suits fit in different ways, and after deciding thickness and style, it’s time to determine which type of suit will fit you the best.
If it’s too tight, it will be uncomfortable (or just outright unusable), and if it’s too loose, it won’t keep you warm. You might have to check out several wetsuits to find the one that fits perfectly, but it’s totally worth it.
If the suit pinches you at your joints or if you feel numb after wearing it for a few minutes when trying it out, then it’s too small. You should only feel pressure when taking a really deep breath, otherwise you might have to choose a larger size.
To make sure your suit fits perfectly and it’s not too large, check yourself in a full-body mirror and perhaps enlist the help of an experienced friend as well. Look out for any bulges and flaps that will indicate it’s too large for you.
Now, if your suit is ‘almost’ perfect, you might want to ask your supplier about adjustments or seek out professionals that offer wetsuit repairs and tailoring.
Getting Into It
To put on a long-legged one-piece suit, roll each leg into a doughnut, fit your foot through and roll the leg up to your knee, making sure you work each leg together until the suit is fit snuggly around your waist. NEVER force your feet through the legs as it will put an unnecessary strain on the material and reduce the life of your wetsuit.
Then, raise the suit around your torso, and fit your arms one by one through the sleeves, before zipping the suit. You’re done!
If you are putting on shorties, you just put your feet through the holes, work the suit up around your body, slip your arms through the holes and zip up. That was easy, right?
Now, to get into a two-piece wetsuit, you have to start with the bottom section. Again, roll each leg into a doughnut and roll up to your waist. Put on the second piece as you would with a shortie before fastening the two pieces together. Different two-piece suits have different fastening or zipping mechanisms, so you’ll have to consult your user’s manual.
In addition to the above ‘major’ considerations, there is a number of other details to keep in mind.
Gender-Specific or Sports Suits
Lots of suits come in men’s and women’s versions, which are meant to fit better to the specific gender.
While unisex suits fit both sexes decently enough, wearing a suit made for the opposite gender is NOT recommended as it will be loose in all the wrong places.
Also, if you’re planning to compete in a triathlon, you have to get a gendered suit and ask for it specifically.
Stitching, Zips, and Coating
There are lots of different technical terms here, and when reading wetsuit manufacturers’ sites, you might feel overwhelmed by terms such as flatlock, GBS, overlock, steam tapes and more.
Unless you are an expert, you don’t really need to concern yourself with the different types of stitching and coating, and as far as zipping goes, your main concern should be how easy it is to put your wetsuit by yourself.
Finally, one blindingly obvious consideration is how much money you are willing to pay for your new diving wetsuit. Decide on a budget and get started!