Wetsuits are an important part of any diver's gear, as they provide warmth and protection from the elements. While many brand-new divers rent their wetsuits, it's worth buying your own as you start to dive more. This guide can help you consider your options and choose the best wetsuit for your needs.
Buying Vs Renting
Before discussing what factors you should consider when purchasing a wetsuit, it's helpful to understand why you would want to buy one in the first place as opposed to simply renting one for any dives.
Here are a few reasons:
- Cost: Renting a wetsuit for a one-off dive is relatively inexpensive. However, if you're diving semi-frequently, your investment will pay for itself fairly quickly.
- Hygiene: Although rental wetsuits are thoroughly sanitized and cleaned, many people still prefer to have their own for hygiene reasons.
- Fit: By purchasing a wetsuit, you can find the perfect fit for your needs.
- Options: Different diving conditions require different wetsuit thickness. Having wetsuits of the thickness that supports your particular diving adventures will ensure you stay warm and comfortable, no matter the conditions.
Factors To Consider
There are various general types of wetsuits that you'll choose from based on your needs.
- Shorty wetsuits, or spring suits, end above the knees and elbows. These are only suitable for warm water dives. They'll keep your core warm but don't provide full-body coverage.
- Long John/Jane suits have two pieces: the full legs connected to a sleeveless top, and a jacket. This layering provides excellent insulation around the core and also gives you more mobility around your shoulders.
- Full-Body suits are the most common option and cover you from the neck down, all the way to your wrists and ankles. These provide insulation and protection from the environment.
The size of your wetsuit is of utmost importance. If it's too tight, you won't be able to move around properly. On the other hand, if it's too big, it will be essentially useless. The sweet spot in the middle, where you have some freedom of movement with a snug fit, is where you want to aim.
What exactly does the perfect fit look like? Essentially, the suit should be tight across your whole body, with no loose areas. It will stretch as water gets in, so it should feel fairly snug when you're out of the water. However, it should not restrict your breathing or make it impossible to move around.
Each manufacturer will have a different size chart that you can use to guide your search. Be sure to use this for your measurements rather than just guessing at the correct size.
The thickness of your suit determines how warm it'll keep you. Water temperature for your dives is the biggest factor in deciding on the best thickness; the cooler your dives, the thicker your suit should be. Air temperatures, winds, and your personal preference can also impact this decision.
Here are some general guidelines for wetsuit thickness based on water temperature:
- 85 ºF And Up: Many divers won't even need a wetsuit in these temperatures, but if you're sensitive to the cold, you may want a 2mm to 1mm shorty.
- 80-85 ºF: 2 mm to 1 mm, either a shorty or a full suit depending on your sensitivity
- 73-79 ºF: 2 mm to 5 mm
- 66-72ºF: 3 mm to 7 mm
- 50-65 ºF: 7 mm for a wetsuit, or consider a semi-dry or drysuit
- Below 50 ºF: 8/7 mm semi-dry or drysuit
Wetsuits have different types of seals and sealing, which offer different benefits.
Note, however, that every individual tolerates the cold differently. If you tend to run cold, then you’ll want to increase the thickness at each of the above temperature ranges, for example.
It’s always a good idea to discuss your own tolerance and needs with an experienced dive professional to help make the best choice.
Here are the types to consider:
- Flatlock: With these suits, the parts overlap. This gives you more flexibility but does let in more water, so it's not ideal for colder dives.
- Glued and Blind Stitched (GBS): Parts are glued and sewn from the inside, resulting in low water permeability. This is better for cooler waters.
- Taped: This is a good option for both water impermeability and freedom of movement and these suits are created by bonding elastic tapes to the inner seam.
- Sealed: This option uses sealing agents in liquid form and provides maximum water and air resistance.
Shop Wetsuits At Paragon Dive Group
We stock the best wetsuits across a variety of brands. Whether you're looking for a beginner-friendly option or a high-end suit for cold water dives, we have what you need – and dry suits too!.