Buyer’s Guide: Best Scuba Wetsuit
If you’re recently looking at getting into scuba diving as a hobby, you’re likely wondering about wetsuits. Specifically, you’re interested in their purpose, their designs, and how to find the best scuba suit to fit your future needs.
New hobbies can be overwhelming. We get it. You’re trying your best, but when faced with such a massive amount of information online, you can’t make heads or tails of what you’re looking for.
We’re here to help.
Below, we will discuss wetsuits, why you need them, and how to choose the best one for your personal needs.
Do You Need a Wetsuit?
In short, yes. You need a wetsuit. Underwater, you lose body heat at an over 25% faster rate than you do above ground. Even worse, the deeper you dive, the colder the water is.
If you aren’t careful, you’ll find yourself floating in ice cold surroundings – and that can lead to hypothermia, frostbite, and even death. The wetsuit allows a small amount of water to enter and get close to your body. You heat that water, and then the warmed water acts as a barrier between you and the freezing atmosphere you are exploring.
Additionally a wetsuit will protect your body from any dangers you might encounter underwater. The ocean is full of sharp, jagged edges and nibbly creatures.
Best Scuba Wetsuit Features
Wetsuits are sort of a genius design. They might seem kind of cut and dry when you’re thinking about them, but a lot of thought and science goes into creating a wetsuit that is going to be effective and safe for the diver who wears it.
In order to understand what you need from a wetsuit, you first have to explore how the different parts of the wetsuit work and which parts of the suit are going to be most beneficial for you, dependent on the bodies of water you look forward to exploring.
The temperature of the water you wish to explore will be the deciding factor in the thickness of the scuba wetsuit that will be best designed for you. Obviously, the thicker a suit is, the warmer it will feel when you are wearing it.
If you are going to be exploring cold water (anything below 65 degrees F), you’ll need at least 7 mm of neoprene.
Mid temperature waters (65-75 degrees) will require between 5.5 mm and 7mm of neoprene.
Finally, warm water (anything higher than 75 degrees) required only about 3mm neoprene. This is also suitable weather for a shorty suit, which we will discuss more later on.
You’re probably wondering what, exactly, neoprene even is. Neoprene is a polymer rubber filling that has nitrogen air bubbles throughout it. This is the layer of the suit that traps water between the suit and your skin to help you stay warm during your dive.
Neoprene has been used for many years by scuba divers and has proven to be an effective barrier against the cold. Some divers might call it their “blubber” as a fun nickname.
Neoprene comes in two types:
Closed Cell Neoprene
Closed cell neoprene is what is featured in most scuba wetsuits. It is a stiff feeling texture and lasts longer than open cell neoprene. These wetsuits are very effective at insulating the body and guarding the diver against dangerous edges and creatures that exist underwater.
Unfortunately, the wetsuits are also very hard to maneuver in. They are very stiff and can be hard to move in. These scuba wetsuits are best for shorter dives because the material can eventually begin to rub against the skin causing it to chafe.
Open Cell Neoprene
Open cell neoprene is very porous. This makes the suit fit more closely to the body. Because it fits so tightly, divers actually have to lube up before they put the suit on.
Because the suit is more flexible, it is less durable. Open cell neoprene wetsuits don’t tend to last as long as closed cell suits because they wear out considerably faster. They are still a favorite among divers, though, because they are more comfortable to wear and easier to maneuver through the water in.
Most new scuba divers, though, find that the best first wetsuits are often closed cell neoprene. Not only are they less expensive, but they offer an extra layer of protection when you are first navigating deep waters.
A wetsuit should not fit too tightly or too loose. A tight wetsuit can restrict your movement as well as your breathing. This can be a dangerous issue to conquer when underwater.
A loose fitting suit will let in too much cold air and you will not stay warm enough to enjoy your dive safely.
When you try on a wetsuit, you should always do a few stretches to make sure that you are able to move comfortable in it. Next, you’ll want to check for any air pockets that have resulted or folds where the fabric hangs loose. This is where cold water will leak in and create problems for you.
A wetsuit should feel like a second skin. If the arms or legs are too long, they can be taken in or rolled up, but everything else should fit perfectly.
This might seem silly, but you will always want to purchase the correct wetsuit for your gender.
Because women and men are shaped differently, their wetsuits are also cut differently. The best wetsuit for your next scuba adventure doesn’t necessarily have to be pastel pink or blue, but it should cover the appropriate curves as snugly as possible without constricting.
Unisex wetsuits are available, but they, too, should be tried on and tested before you commit. Finding the correct fit for a wetsuit is crucial in ensuring not only your comfort, but also your safety.
As you get more comfortable in diving and work with a variety of wetsuits, you will likely find that you have a preferred seam.
Wetsuit manufacturers love to advertise their seam capabilities. To people unfamiliar with diving, this might seem like unimportant information, however you will find that it is actually very important in ensuring your comfort and safety.
Certain seams are better for cold water, while others work best in warm water. Additionally, certain seams are more comfortable for certain people depending on body shape.
Overlock stitches are stitches that are found on the inside of the suit. They are not very effective at keeping the water out, so they should not be used on suits that will be worn in cold waters.
Many prefer this stitch type because it allows them to move more freely. They like that it is less constricting and that they are able to swim at the pace they like without feeling held back by the stitching of their suit.
However, because the seams are found on the inside, there are also a number of people who say that they chafe and make the diving experience wholly unenjoyable. This is something you’ll have to try out for yourself to determine how it will affect you personally.
Blind stitching is the best kind of stitching for scuba wetsuits. In this type of stitching, the material is glued together to give an extra hold and then stitched on the inside. This allows for all the movement freedom of overlock stitching, but also added waterproofing.
The glue also forms a smoothing barrier between the stitching and the skin, reducing the risk of chafing.
Double Blind Stitching
Double blind stitching is pretty much the same as blind stitching, except an extra layer of stitching is added to the outside. This does restrict movement, somewhat, but it adds in an extra barrier against the cold.
This type of stitching is ideal for new scuba divers who are learning to navigate colder waters, but still need the best movement capabilities possible.
You will often find double blind stitching on scuba suits that are rented at resorts or during guided dives at popular vacation spots. They are considered the most comfortable and safe among the stitching options without going overboard.
Blind Stitching with a Seal
In this type of stitching, the seams are covered with tape. This prevents water from leaking in, which helps keep the body warm. It also helps to reinforce the strength of the stitching.
Very little water passes through blind stitches with seals. In fact, some more expensive suits have proven that their seams don’t allow any water in at all and any water that is absorbed is absorbed through the neoprene as it should be.
This type of stitching can be very expensive, so it isn’t often the best choice for a new scuba diver when purchasing a first wetsuit.
A flatlock stitch is one that runs along the outside of the scuba wetsuit. The material is actually stitched in a pattern that resembles somewhat of a train railroad. Inside the suit, the seaming is completely flat and rests comfortably against the skin.
Wetsuits with flatlock stitching do well at maintaining body temperature and comfort, but sometimes tend to rip easily along the seams because there isn’t much reinforcement. Be wary of this when you are purchasing your scuba wetsuit and make sure the stitching is the best quality that it can be.
Don’t be afraid to give it a stretch and test it out for yourself.
The Best Scuba Wetsuits Come in a Variety of Styles
We all like to look our best, no matter what we are doing. Scuba divers are no different.
The best scuba wetsuits come in a variety of styles that serve both functional and aesthetic purposes. Whether you are looking for a suit that is going to keep you extra warm in cold waters or hoping to show off your legs, odds are your perfect scuba suit is out there waiting to be discovered.
Before you dive into the options at the local scuba shop, though, take a moment to read up on what each of these styles do.
Semi drysuits are different from other more traditional wetsuits in that they don’t allow much water inside at all. In fact, they will often only allow 30% of the regular amount of water to pass through that normal wetsuits would. These suits have seals at the neck, wrists, ankles, and the back closes up water tight.
These are great suits if diving in cold waters because they stay warmer than most. The downside is that they will require some assistance to put on because you are not able to seal yourself in fully without a little extra help.
A drysuit doesn’t allow in any water. Like the semi drysuit, it seals in all the trouble areas to ensure that no water can come inside. Some drysuits allow in an extra layer of air instead of the usual water layer.
Because the inside stays bone dry, you can wear clothes underneath and they, too, will stay dry. Some scuba divers wear thermal underwear or other protective clothing underneath these wetsuits to add extra insulation and keep them warmer.
Drysuits are a favorite for divers who spend most of their time diving in extremely cold conditions. You will also find this type of suit in the supply closet of your local search and rescue.
They come in four types:
Membrane or Trilaminate suits have three different layers of laminated material inside of them. They all work together to keep the driver completely dry on the inside.
These suits do not provide any extra insulation, so they are the ones that you will definitely want to layer up with warm clothing underneath.
They do, however, clean very easily and dry fast, so they can last for decades if they are properly maintained. Because they lack insulation, they can be used just as easily in warm water as in cold, so many divers who travel often prefer to keep this type of suit onhand.
Neoprene Drysuits are warmer than membrane suits. They also weigh more. They have added insulation, so they work in much the same way a thick fuzzy sock would. You stay dry on the inside, but you are surrounded by materials that are keeping you warm.
This makes for a comfortable dive in deep, cold water, but a miserable dive if the water is warm. Most divers choose not to own neoprene drysuits because they are not versatile enough to be used in a variety of waters.
A shorty suit, sometimes called a spring suit, cuts off at the elbows and knees. They also usually have a very thin neoprene lining. As such, these suits are not suitable for cold water diving. You will often see them in only the most tropical of locales.
The upside of these suits is that they give the diver more freedom to move naturally, however they don’t offer much insulation nor do they offer much protection. Many new divers with shorty suits wind up with injuries because they aren’t prepared to maneuver around the dangerous, sharp edges that are often found underwater.
Finally, a Farmer John (or Farmer Jane) suit is a two piece wetsuit. The first piece of the suit is full legs connected to a sleeveless top. The second piece looks more like a jacket.
This design adds double insulation, so it is an excellent cold water suit option. It’s also a great option because the jacket style of the top provides added mobility around the shoulders.
If you are not venturing into cold water, you can actually ditch the jacket and keep your arms uncovered (as long as you know how to avoid injury). Many divers say that the versatility of the Farmer John is a big drawing point in their desire to have one for themselves.
Don’t Forget to Stay Warm!
We cannot stress this enough – you must always have your safety in mind and the number one safety concern in purchasing a wetsuit is that you need to stay warm.
Research the places you intend to dive and find out what the temperature reads at different depths. This is crucial information to acquire before you make your purchase.
Best Scuba Wetsuits – In Review
There are a variety of wetsuits available on the market to fit any body type and need.
While there is not a one-size-fits-all option for purchasing the perfect wetsuit, there are factors that must be considered when choosing the wetsuit design and style that will work best for you.
With proper research and by taking your time, you’ll find what you’re looking for and be so glad you thought ahead.