Warm as Toast
Arctic to Tropics
"Comfort and fit" Every equipment chapter of every book about diving, highlights the importance of gear that fits well and feels comfortable. To enjoy diving, wet suits must fit really well and be very comfortable. So lets look at the principles and priorities. Fit: While wearing a wet suit our #1 priority is breathing.Getting a full breath is the most important measure of a snug fit. #2 priority is good circulation. If after a few minutes your extremities are discolored (turning purple) the suit is too tight. A fit like skin (but not baggy like my skin) is desirable. Fit impacts both insulation and flexibility. The more snug the fit, the less water will intrude (yeah!) and the more likely we will be able to stretch more than the material, restricting our range of motion (boo!).
Comfort: The wetsuits #1 job is insulation, to keep us warm, to keep our heat from escaping into the cold, to form an insulating barrier between us and the ocean. Moisture will be present (that's why they are called "wet" suits). Most likely water will come in from the outside, if not you will perspire. The #2 job is flexibility, to allow us to get a full breath (hopefully more than one) and allow us a full range of motion, while keeping our heat in and the ocean out. Quite a tall order. Personally I've never worn a wet suit, rack or custom that I wasn't aware of in the first few minutes, but I have had them on all day with out ever noticing or thinking about the wet suit.
Layers: A way to maximize insulation and flexibility is to use layers of material. Competition spear-fishers, who dive to depths of 20-120 feet, in 50-55 degree water, for 6 hours, use layered wet suits. Thin layers underneath, protect core heat. Thicker layers to the outside allow for flexibility between layers, and more protective insulation. Minimal intruding water may find its way between the layers, but rarely finds the diver. The thinner material is more fragile, so it may not appear in rental inventories. It is not unusual to find divers with 3/4" or more thickness of wet suits.
Linings: Skin in, nylon, mesh, and plush linings are features of today's suits, the benefits may vary. "Skin in" is smooth neoprene inside. The benefit here is insulating value to the diver. More difficult to put on and more fragile, but warmer in the water. Nylon cloth is used extensively as a protective covering both inside and outside of wet suit fabric. It allows the suit to take the most abuse. Today's newer materials are much more flexible allowing both snugger fit and freedom of motion. Plush linings, designed to wick away moisture (really? where will it go? can it evaporate under water?)
Pantyhose: Two Benefits, both to the diver. Much easier to put the wet suit on. Protects the back of the divers knees. Wet suits tend to bunch-up behind the bend of the knee and become little or large alligators biting off what feels like huge chunks of flesh.
Sox: I have always worn soft, thick sox. Best for me have had Polyethylene terry cloth inside. They cushion your feet, and prevent abrasion and blisters from kicking fins.
Tropics: Warm water diving does not eliminate the need for a good wet suit. As we dive our bodies must maintain our 98.6, even in tropical water. Heating the ocean with our meager heat generators is a huge drain on our energy. It makes us very tired. A good 3 - 5 mil wet suit keeping us warm, helps to maintain our energy for more diving fun.
Investment: Most new divers are cautious about their budgets, and rightly so. Wanting more diving fun after the first ocean experience is normal and healthy. Wetsuit rental costs might be applied instead to the purchase of a quality wetsuit. Don't be cheap with this piece of gear. Be good to your self, you deserve it! Shop hard, know what you are buying. Start with good under-layers, hot pants, vest. Dive warm! Enjoy!
The "old salts" Diving tips
Published Spasmodically since 1974
Published Spasmodically since 1974