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October 13, 2011 - 23:23

All the questions about drysuits you always wanted to know the answer to but never dared to ask: Why dive drysuits? Neoprene or membrane type? Purchasing a suit. Zippers and care. Getting the Bouyancy right. Diving the suits. Special training and tips.

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Not that I mind diving in wetsuits, which I often have to do whenever I go traveling with a limited luggage allowance, and I gladly admit that diving in wetsuits does tend to give you a more real experience of being in the wet element, whereas a drysuit does tend to isolate you, which, by the way, also has its advantages. Some would even say that this is the very point of using drysuits. My point is, aside from the range of obvious technical advantages over wetsuits, there is this unique feeling of diving the suit, almost as in driving a car and becoming one with it through the seat of your pants.

Diving the suit

My drysuit is a vehicle too. It can be finely controlled and maneuvered to the point where I can ultimately come to rest and relax totally outstretched as if I was lying on a mattress. I have, in fact, often amused myself by the thought that the suit was like a waterbed that was just wrapped around you. It is all about comfort.

Being comfortable may mean a lot of things and most of them applies to diving drysuits. It is about protection from the environment, thermal protection first of all, but also against abrasion from sharp rocks, jagged wrecks, spiky sea creatures. And it is about taking as much of the strain out of the dive as possible, making it a pleasurable excursion or exploration into the underwater realm.

As for the thermal protection, there is a lot to be said. As most are well aware, unlike wetsuits, which are almost solely manufactured in neoprene, drysuits comes in two main types (with some overlaps and cross breeds): Neoprene and membrane suits (such as tri-laminate, rubber or nylon). Membrane suits are sometimes also called shell suits. The main difference being that neoprene provides thermal insulation in itself whereas membrane suits require an undergarment worn underneath for thermal protection.

Entry level training taught us that the body loses heat 20 times more quickly in water than in air. This makes proper thermal protection priority-one in a good suit. Not only do we want to have a good time down below being cozy rather than cold and miserable, but once we get cooled off, our air consumption also goes up, risk of DCS increases, not to mention, dedicated hypothermia is dangerous and ultimately fatal. In all types of drysuits, air plays the dual role of both providing thermal protection and buoyancy, and fulfilling these two requirements simultaneously is the key.


Originally published

on page 71

X-Ray Mag #13

September 22, 2006 - 19:40

Travel: Bernardo Sambra and Jason Heller takes us on an adventure to amazing Galapagos, while Barb Roy guides around Vancouver Island. Drysuits! Dressing up right for fall diving: 13 packed spreads with (almost) everything you ever wanted to know about drysuit diving. And to cater for the after-diving, a Dive Fall Fashion section. There are some very cool watches too. As for side dishes we got plenty of News about people, training issues, Whales & Dolphins, Sharks and Turtles, New Books and oh... Did you know why Water is Blue? Also in the science section: Medicines from the Ocean. Cedric Vedier takes us down on a WW2 Japanese Battleship and as t he eye candy in the end some amazing paintings by Carlos Hiller