Are you actually mad?? As an instructor in Egypt, I wore a dry suit from December through to April. Whilst the water was positively boiling compared to our UK quarries, it was mainly to protect from wind chill on exiting the water and the inability to dry a wetsuit in milder temperatures. Thanks to new technology, wetsuit companies can now combine materials to give better thermal properties. Akin to more advanced manufacturing processes, diving wet in the UK doesn’t actually sound like such a crazy idea!
See our list below of reasons to (wo)man up and suit up in some toasty neoprene:
- Wetsuits are really versatile and can be used for a variety of other water sports
- They are kind to your wallet!
- They require less care and maintenance than a drysuit
- They are less restrictive and more comfortable than drysuits
- You don’t need to do a course or learn new skills to wear one
- You usually need less weight than you do with a drysuit
- You don’t require an additional undersuit
- You can pee in them…..
A wetsuit traps a layer of water between your body and the wetsuit material. It is your body heat that actually keeps that water warm. A loose or poorly fitting wetsuit is bad because the water continues to flush in, making your body work harder by trying to reheat it. The duration of immersion can be a deciding factor for diving wet or dry, as can the overall temperature. Our tolerance to cold water varies and of course we are all physiologically different.
Most wetsuits are made of closed cell neoprene which has nylon on both the outside and inside. This makes it very strong with good insulating properties. A freediving wetsuit is made from open cell neoprene which doesn’t have a layer of nylon on the inside. This then forms a seal by sucking onto the skin, reducing water moving around inside it. This makes freediving suits much harder to get on, but they are more hydrodynamic and keep the wearer warmer. They are expensive in comparison however and are more prone to tearing.
Some of today’s thick wetsuits are made from the following:
- Stretch neoprene – the 10% nylon in stretch neoprene’s makeup makes these wetsuits easy to get on and off, despite a snug fit. It is also quick drying. The Fourth Element Xenos 7mm is made from this material and is recommended for waters between 12 and 22C.
- 100% microcell CR neoprene – this is quite expensive but has excellent durability and insulation. The Waterproof W4 7mm Wetsuit is made from this type of fabric.
- UltraFlex neoprene – this high stretch nylon/spandex and neoprene combo makes the suit easy to get on and off. It is stretchy and The Waterproof W80 8mm Wetsuit is made from this synthetic material.
- X Foam - made from limestone (not petroleum) neoprene, X Foam is more environmentally friendly, but it goes through quite an expensive production process. It is also very durable. The Scubapro Everflex 7/5mm and Scubapro Nova-Scotia 7.5mm Semi-Dry Wetsuits (rated for water temperatures ranging from 7C to 12C) are made with Everflex neoprene, which is an X Foam formulation.
Here is a (not exhaustive) list of features and tips that add to the effectiveness of a warm wetsuit:
- Tapered, blind stitched or rubber welded seams let in less water
- Ring or Glideskin seals at the wrists and ankles reduce water intrusion as they seal around the moving parts of your body
- Plush interior linings add to the thermal properties at your body’s core
- Velcro closures at the neck reduce water ingress
- Added zip panels, bibs or flaps minimise flush-through
- Dry Zips are designed to keep water out
- Always use the size guide provided. A size large from one manufacturer might be the same as a medium from another.
- Layer up! There are so many options for base layers on the market today. We love the Sharkskin You can also add a lycra suit. The Fourth Element X-Core Vest is as good as a heated vest but without the wires!
- Combine with gloves and a hood to keep your extremities warmer.
- Invest in a windproof poncho for surface intervals.
Gone are the days of filling your booties with warm water or shoving a hot water bottle down the front of your wetsuit (don’t try this at home!). Today’s thicker wetsuits are quite suitable for the less icy months in UK waters. Mike's Dive store has access to lots of size charts to help you find the best suit for your shape. If you want a bit of extra reading to help choose which wetsuit is for you, have a read of our blog Best Wetsuits for Scuba Diving 2020 or call us for advice.