Wetsuit — equipment that protects the swimmer from hypothermia and injuries to the skin. The wetsuit is used for various types of water sports, including spearfishing, diving, freediving, windsurfing, as well as for diving work.
Choosing a wetsuit should be with a mandatory fitting. It should fit exactly to the size and fit snugly to the body, like a second skin. In a suit that is too loose, heat is poorly retained; in a suit that is too tight, it will be difficult to breathe, which will lead to rapid fatigue of the swimmer.
In doing so, you can be guided by the following criteria:
- neck area — the suit should sit tight, but not pinch;
- armpits — small gaps are allowed;
- crotch — tight fit;
- lower back — loose fit, taking into account the curvature of the spine;
- ankles and wrists — a snug fit (water most often enters through them).
- there should not be a swollen air bubble on the back, otherwise too much water will enter the suit and it will not be effective;
- to feel how comfortable a wetsuit is, you can lie on your stomach, bend your legs to your back and try to simulate swimming. At the same time, the movements should be free, and the suit itself should not crash into the body;
- shoes are recommended to be measured together with a thermal sock.
To minimize the ingress of water from the outside are used obturators – special seals that ensure a snug fit of the suit to the body. They are placed along the edge of the hood, in the cuffs in the area of the hands and on the ankles.
Important: some wetsuits, for example, without internal duplication, are put on with a special gel or talcum powder. You can also use soap and shampoo for this purpose.
- Combination wetsuit
- Long wetsuit
- Short wetsuit
Wet — the most common type, allows some water to pass through the zippers and loose parts of the wetsuit. This water, heated to the temperature of the swimmer’s body, becomes a heat insulator and prevents the penetration of cold water from the outside. Thus, a wetsuit is similar in principle to a thermos. However, over time, cold water still penetrates, and the swimmer loses heat.
Dry – does not allow water to enter the wetsuit, which means that it ensures the preservation of heat generated by the body. The tightness of the suit is achieved thanks to seals on the arms and neck, waterproof zippers and sewn-in or glued-in special socks/boots.
The dry suit has valve, with the help of which air is supplied (inflating) or pumped out (bleeding) from the suit. Due to the relatively large thickness, such equipment hinders the movement of the swimmer.
The price of a dry suit is much higher than that of a wet suit. A dry suit is the best option for prolonged exposure to cold water (12°C and below) — diving or diving work, as well as with little swimmer activity.
semi-dry – intermediate version: like dry, it is equipped with seals and a sealed zipper, but lets a little water through (maximum 200-250 g). Keeps warm better than wet. It can often include a sewn-in helmet and an additional neoprene jersey. Thermal insulation is achieved due to the thickness of the neoprene and due to the water between the wetsuit and the body.
- Dry suit
The vast majority of wetsuits are made of waterproof material — neoprene (foam rubber). It has two main options:
- compression resistance / recovery — the ability of neoprene to restore its thickness after the swimmer ascends to the surface: it slows down the thinning of neoprene, and hence the deterioration of the thermal insulation of the suit;
- elasticity — allows the wetsuit to fit snugly around the body to avoid heat loss due to the circulation of water inside it.
This material is found in several forms:
- SL — smooth («rubber out»), most often has a dark color; it is a warm material, but sensitive to mechanical stress and UV rays, as a result of which such a suit fails faster;
- DL — consists of three layers (fabric + neoprene + fabric): such material is much stronger and less sensitive to UV rays; however, «DL» is colder than «SL»; neoprene «SL» with a thickness of 3 mm is equal in thermal properties to 4 mm «DL» neoprene.
It should be noted that there is a new modification of neoprene «DL», which is equal in warmth to «SL» neoprene, but is more expensive.
There are also wetsuits made of the combined material “D / LS / L” (chest, sleeves, back — “S / L”, the rest — “D / L”).
Wetsuits for freediving and spearfishing are made from open cell neoprene. Such neoprene is cut in a special way so that it adheres well to the skin with its “open” bubbles.
Dry Wetsuits can be made from these materials:
- trilaminate (rubber-nylon) — almost does not retain heat, so it is recommended to use it together with thermal underwear;
- pressed neoprene — perfectly fits the body and warms in cold water, but such a suit is quite massive, not too resistant to wear, it freezes quickly when it goes out in the cold, and it is expensive;
- crushed neoprene — in terms of properties, it approaches the previous suit, but is much more resistant to mechanical damage and compression under water; the most durable material.
The thickness of the suit must be selected depending on the temperature of the water and the time spent at depth. The lower the water temperature and the longer the time, the thicker the wetsuit should be.
In warm water, a suit 3-5 mm thick is most often used, in cold water — 7-11 mm.
The dependence of the suit thickness on the water temperature can be represented as the following relationship:
- 30°C and above — 2 mm suit (wet);
- 25-30°C – 3 mm suit;
- 23-25°С – 3 mm + hood;
- 21-23°С — 3 mm + hood + vest or wetsuit 6 mm thick;
- 12-18°C — 6-7 mm;
- below 12°С — dry suit
The greater the thickness of the wetsuit, the less its elasticity, so the thickness can be combined: under the knees, on the elbows, in the armpits and in other places associated with active movement, there are inserts of a thinner material. In this case, the minimum and maximum thickness of the suit is indicated, for example, 2/3 mm or 3/4 mm.
Important: if necessary, the wetsuit can be supplemented with insulation, which is worn on top like a jacket. In this case, the thickness of the wetsuit increases. Sometimes such a heater has a built-in helmet.
In order to increase strength, thermal insulation qualities, as well as to improve donning in wetsuits, neoprene is often duplicated with the following materials:
- plush (PL)as a rule, the inner side of the suit is duplicated, which greatly facilitates putting it on and taking it off;
- nylon (N) both the inner and outer side of the suit are duplicated; with internal duplication, the wetsuit can be put on without the use of shampoo and gel, and with external duplication, the strength of the suit is significantly increased;
- stretch (XTend) increases the elasticity of the suit, which makes diving more comfortable;
- titanium sputtering (Ti) improves the thermal insulation of the suit due to the heat-reflecting properties of the metal. Single-sided spraying reduces heat loss by 20-25%, double-sided — up to 30%.
Wet There are several types of costume.
Not dubbed («naked») — soft, thin, elastic, providing maximum freedom of movement for the swimmer. However, such a wetsuit has low thermal insulation properties and is sensitive to the slightest damage — it is easily torn or pierced.
With one-sided duplication — occurs in two varieties:
- dubbed from within – The wetsuit is easy to put on, but the fabric promotes water circulation, which leads to heat loss; the suit is sensitive to mechanical damage (vulnerabilities — elbows, knees, head);
- dubbed on the outside («sticky») — much tighter and stronger than the previous wetsuit, but difficult to put on (only using gel, soap, shampoo).
Double sided — has the advantages of the two previous types. Such suits are the most durable and reliable, but very rigid, which means they limit the swimmer’s freedom of movement under water.
- Combined — combines the qualities of various wetsuits. For example, a jacket or trousers made of rubber to the body, and in some areas have internal inserts made of duplicating material, which leads to the circulation of water over the skin.
Diving – the best option is a double-sided wet suit with long sleeves, but without a helmet. For more severe conditions, you can wear a thermal vest. A dry suit may be used. It is important that the costume be in bright colors: the swimmer can better fit into the underwater world and not scare away its inhabitants.
freediving – a wet “naked” suit is perfect, allowing you to dive to great depths as quickly and easily as possible, as well as move freely under water. Due to the insufficient heat-insulating properties of the suit, it is insulated with a coating of biothermal ceramics and titanium. Spraying allows you to put on a suit without gel, but the risk of tearing it increases.
Spearfishing – a good choice would be a wet one-sided doubled wetsuit with a special Kevlar insert to rest the gun when reloading. The outer layer of the fabric protects the suit from mechanical influences, and the dark or spotty colors well mask the hunter in the aquatic environment.
Important: suits with double-sided duplication for hunting are not suitable, as they hinder the hunter’s movements, and during long swimming, heat loss increases due to the circulation of water inside the suit.
Windsurfing – a wet or semi-dry suit (short arms/legs or short arms/long legs) will do. Such models are usually rubberized at the knees for additional protection of the suit.
Important: in addition to a wetsuit, it is recommended to use neoprene socks, mittens and gloves that protect against hypothermia, bites and scratches. If you are planning a long dive at low temperatures, then neoprene T-shirts will be a good addition.
Short – short arms and legs (shorts). These suits are always wet.
Suit with long legs and short arms / detachable sleeves — wet suit.
Long — Fully long arms and legs: both dry and wet suits.
One-piece suit — overalls, usually with a helmet, covering the entire body of the swimmer. Does not violate the natural stability (buoyancy) of a person in water.
Separated — overalls with straps + jacket with a helmet and sleeves. This suit is comfortable to put on, warmer than a monosuit, because it consists of a double layer of neoprene.
Combined — consists of several elements: a monosuit, a jacket and a helmet. Their various combinations allow you to choose the best version of the costume for each occasion.
The zipper makes it much easier to put on and take off the wetsuit, but water gets in through it. Sometimes, to protect against water ingress, the zipper is equipped with a special flap valve.
Lightning can be located:
- on the chest — it is conveniently fastened and unfastened, but sometimes it can bristle; it’s good if the zipper is equipped with a double slider — this will allow you to fasten / unfasten it from above and below;
- on the back — the wetsuit does not bulge when bending, but such a zipper is inconvenient to fasten and unfasten;
- on the neck — the worst option, because it is located in the zone of greatest activity and causes great inconvenience.
The zipper on the chest should be fastened with little effort. If it is difficult to fasten it, then you should choose a suit one size larger, if it is too easy to fasten, then one size smaller.
The strength of the connection of the parts of the wetsuit depends on the type of seams, therefore, its durability and efficiency.
Glue and tape — economical, but not very durable type of seam.
Zigzag stitch — found in colored inserts on the neck, hood and other places that have a small load.
Seam Mauser – wide and durable seam without gluing. However, if the threads do not withstand the load, then the seam will disperse.
Blind seam — the most durable, reliable and at the same time flexible seam — first it is glued, and then stitched in a special way.
Rinse your wetsuit in fresh water after a dive, as the salt crystals will damage the rubber as they dry.
Do not dry the suit in direct sunlight, or near heating devices.
During storage and transportation of the suit, permanent folds, kinks or stretching should not be allowed.
In a dry suit, it is recommended to lubricate the sealed zipper with silicone grease before diving. If the suit will not be used for a long time, the inflating and bleed valves should be thoroughly rinsed with clean water.
Among diving and spearfishing enthusiasts, the most reputable brands are aqua lung, Bare, Beuchat, I grew, Mares and SeacSub. Each of them guarantees the quality of their products: the best neoprene, tailoring, suit fit, that is, its anatomical features. In all brands, you can find both budget models for beginner divers and wetsuits for professional athletes or hunters.
Russian and Ukrainian manufacturers can be singled out as a separate group BS Diver, Marlin, Sargan and Scorpena. These are young and developing brands: good quality of tailoring and neoprene, but in some cases there may be problems with seams. These brands are less popular, dealer networks are much smaller, but the range of products is for any level and budget. It should be noted that there is practically no difference in pricing policy between foreign and local brands.