Before we dive into answering the question “what are scuba diving wetsuits?”, I need to first explain what wetsuits are in general. Wetsuits are clothes worn in or on water by divers, windsurfers, surfers, canoeist and others water sports enthusiasts. They provide thermal insulation and protect divers from frictional wear and tear, ultra violet exposure and stings from sea creatures.
What Are Scuba Diving Wetsuits?
Scuba wetsuits are usually made from foamed neoprene combined with nylon or spandex. They could be also made from by products of neoprene such as titanium, hyperstretch, and thermoprene. Neoprene is permeable and can contain a large number of tiny nitrogen bubbles which are ideal for insulation. Wetsuits always keep you warm, whether you are jet skiing, scuba diving or surfing.
TYPES OF SCUBA DIVING WETSUITS
There are several types of scuba wetsuits. Each one is suitable for certain temperatures, different weathers and different activities.
WARM WATER SHORTY
A warm water shorty is a kind of scuba wetsuit that does not cover the legs and the leggings end at the knee. Warm water shorties are good for warm temperatures such as during the summer.
They give you free movement while still providing some warmth. In addition to not having pant legs, they also don’t have sleeves. So, all your limbs are free to move under water unrestricted.
WARM WATER WETSUITS
These are the longer versions of the aforementioned, they have legs and arms. Warm water wetsuits are great for temperatures from 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. They give better protection against the sting of water creatures and cold. They also protect you against sunburn and are generally comfortable.
COLD WATER WETSUITS
It is easy to know what this wetsuit is all about; the name says it all. Cold water wetsuits are used for water based activities during cold weathers and in temperatures as low as 45 degrees Fahrenheit, such as in winter.
These wetsuits protect you from hyperthermia while you are under water. Cold water wetsuits are particularly useful in regions such as Oregon, California, New York, and Washington. Some cold water wetsuits come with hoods to give you extra protection and retain more body heat. Further, you can get a hood if your wetsuit comes without one.
TEMPERATE WEATHER WETSUIT
This type of wetsuit is in between a warm water wetsuit and a cold water wetsuit. It is meant for cooler temperatures between 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It is suitable for places like Mexico. The perfect place for a temperate weather wetsuit is one that is not too cold.
HOW TO CHOOSE SCUBA WETSUITS
There are many factors to consider in choosing a scuba diving wetsuit. The following will give you insight regarding these issues so you can make a wise choice when you make your purchase.
A shorty is okay for spring or summer. However, you dare not use a shorty during the winter, for your own good. Shorties are made from thinner materials because they are intended to be worn in warmer climes or during warmer seasons.
Full suits will give you better protection during winter and in colder climates. but would make you seem overdressed during the winter and in warm climates. Wetsuits with thermal layering should also be considered for colder climates. So, choose your wetsuit according to your climate.
DURATION UNDER WATER
You do not want to be caught wearing short sleeved or no pant wetsuits when you have to stay under water for a long time. If you are swimming, skiing or diving for fun, you can get away with wetsuits made from thinner materials.
However, if you are in water to conduct a study, film sea life or conduct any lengthy activity, you should wear a full length suit to prevent the possibility of hypothermia.
It is important to understand that the deeper you go into water, the colder it becomes. This is because the deeper you go, the farther you are from the sun. The deeper you go, the more your wetsuit, which is made of neoprene, compresses and loses some degree of insulation.
A good number of wetsuits made from neoprene lose their insulation value at about 60 feet underneath the surface of water. Therefore, if you are going to dive deep then get a wetsuit of the appropriate thickness for the depth of your dive.
If you are like me, then you are tired of the old, traditional, diagonal back zipper which goes straight down from one end of the spine to the other. Thankfully there are modern, trendy and easy zippers which do not make you twist your arm each time you zip or unzip them.
These classy zippers are diagonally placed across the back, from the left hip to the right shoulder. They are easier to take off, anytime. You could also select a wetsuit with various patterns such as a floral pattern. You could also remain loyal to the old brands and plain suits. It is all up to you to either go for the regular designs or choose something more modern and comfortable.
Shorties are ideal for children in warm water activities because they keep them protected while allowing them room to move their limbs.
In most situations, price influence which goods are eventually bought. The price of a suit is influenced by its thickness and features. Wetsuits could go for between 100 dollars to 500 dollars or more, depending on thickness. Thicker wetsuits are usually blind stitched and glued which makes them more expensive because of the process and extra materials used to thicken them.
Lighter wetsuits, such as shorties, are cheaper because they undergo fewer processes and are made of fewer materials. If you want to have a great time doing your water sports, it is best you buy the best suit suitable for your activity.
The materials used to make wetsuits for men are the same with those used to make women’s wetsuits. The major difference is that men’s suits are broader in the shoulders than women’s. Women’s suits however have room in the chest area to accommodate larger breasts.
Also, women’s wetsuits are wider in the hips and thighs. There are also a range of colours and designs for women to appeal to their personal preference.
ACCESSORIES FOR SCUBA WETSUITS
There are several accessories that complement scuba wetsuits. These accessories contribute to making your stay under water comfortable and pleasurable. They include hoods, boots, gloves, rash guards and thermals.
Hoods are worn over the head to keep in body heat. They also protect the ears from water gushes and surfer’s ears. They are also made from neoprene and can be attached to the wetsuit. Just like suits, they come in various degrees of thickness.
Boots protect your feet from sharp stones under the water. They also keep you warm and prevent body heat from escaping through your feet. They come in two main types, split toe or heavy duty socks. Split toe has the big toe separated from the other toes, hence its name. It allows freer movement.
Frozen hands are a no-no, if you really want to enjoy your scuba expedition. Grab a pair of surf gloves which come in various degrees of thickness for different temperatures. Different types of gloves are available. They include: five-finger gloves as well as three-finger gloves and mitten gloves, which have wider surface areas which assist in paddling.
Rash guards also known as rash vest or rashie and are swim shirts used in warmer climates and paired with swimsuit bottoms or board shorts. They are less restrictive and provide protection from the sun. Therefore, they are great for hot days. Rash guards protect the skin from sticky surfboards. They also protect you from rashes caused by abrasion and sunburn from extended exposure to the sun.
Rash guards are made of light material and will not keep you warm under water. They are best worn during the summer. They could be worn alone or under wetsuits. Due to their light texture, rashies do not offer protection against the stings of jellyfishes.
A thermal is the best gift you could buy yourself and your loved one for some scuba diving under the cold, freezing ocean. They are made from polypropylene and protect you from extreme cold. Thermals also protect you from the wind.
They could be worn either as outer layer or inner layer, depending on how warm the water may be. Thermals come in different styles such as vests, shirts and shorts. They also come in various designs.
SCUBA WETSUIT MAINTAINENCE
These are a few basic steps towards maintaining your scuba wetsuit so it remains as good as new and maintains its insulation quality. Firstly, rinse off with fresh water. Never use hot or warm water to rinse off your wetsuit. This is because neoprene suits lose their flexibility in warm water.
Secondly, wash with wetsuit cleaner. Hang away from direct heat because sunlight makes neoprene lose flexibility. Store the suit on a wetsuit hanger or a heavy hanger. Do not fold your wetsuit so you don’t weaken the material.