08 April, 2009

Nothing More Personal than a Wetsuit

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When my partner started diving and got her OW certification we were looking into buying some personal scubagear.
At this stage we really didn’t know where diving would take her and how she would take on living but we knew that the purchase of a wetsuit would be a responsible expense as wetsuits are multi use items; swimming, snorkeling, surfing etc. A good wetsuit lasts a long way and diving in the winter in a bad fitting rental suit can put you off for a long time…

Two the most important things when it comes to wetsuits are warmth and fit. Warmth is determent by the thickness of the neoprene. Are you going swimming, snorkeling and diving in the tropics or will you go somewhere where the water is really cold? The other thing is the fit. If your wetsuit is to big it won’t keep you warm no matter what, so the right fit is essential.
To make the right purchase you need to understand how a wet suit works.
Wet suits are basically made from neoprene, which is a highly porous material that contains millions of tiny little bubbles. Neoprene uses the nitrogen bubbles to create a barrier of insulating gas between the water around you and your body. A thin layer of water enters this barrier and warms up by your body temperature. As you reach greater depths, the suit starts getting thinner as the bubbles compress. Your buoyancy becomes more negative and the exchange between water trapped between your skin and your wetsuit exchanges more easy with the water outside as the wetsuit becomes thinner and therefore loses some of the tight fit.

Water temperatures vary around the world. And they change with the seasons. It really depends on the location you choose as well as the time of the year. Your choice of wet suit will also depend on whether you are a man or a woman.
The difference between men and women wetsuits is the shape. In general women should get thicker and warmer wetsuits because a women body has more surface area than man and therefore cools down faster. And generally speaking it is always better to have a wetsuit that is warmer since if you are too warm you can let some cold water in by pulling your neck seal but if you are cold you will soon have to leave the water.
A two-piece wetsuit is likely to keep you warmer than a one-piece wet suit. A two-piece wet suit has the benefit of double insulation around the groin and chest area. However, double the insulation also leads to greater restriction in movement and greater buoyancy, which would require you to carry more weight.

After you’ve determent the right kind of suit, look for one that fits your body like a glove. Better a bit to tight than void area’s that fill up with water and work like bellows when moving.

I personally dive in a combination of wetsuits. In the winter I wear the combination of 2 Scubapro Everflex 3 mill tight fitting suits with a 2 mill hooded vest in between. During spring and fall I wear 1 Everflex with the hooded vest underneath and in the summer a single Everflex keeps me warm and comfortable during several dives a day.
When wearing the full winter combination the suits sit uncomfortably tight at the surface but while diving the neoprene gets squeezed, loses some of its tightness and the combo feels great.

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