Buying a wetsuit can be somewhat confusing. There are many different styles, thicknesses, qualities and price ranges to choose from. Trying on a wetsuit isn’t the most fun thing to do in the world either. However, it is a necessary evil if you want to keep warm on your dive.
So with that in mind, here are the items you should look for when buying a wetsuit:
The first thing you will have to decide is what style of wetsuit do you want.
Do you want a full wet suit or a shortie (has short arms (usually) and legs that end just above the knee)? Do you want a farmer john or jane (a two piece suit – one piece has long legs with a sleeveless top; it is usually worn with a covering jacket)? Do you need a hood?
A shortie is for warm water diving and is what I wear when I need more than a skin (mine is 2mm). It does leave your arms and legs exposed to the water so you have to decide if it will be warm enough for you.
A full scuba diving wet suit is probably the most common/popular and is what I see the most while diving in the Caribbean. This style is one piece and has long arms and legs.
Buying a wetsuit hood is not necessary (for most people) for diving in warm water. It is more for cold water diving. I can count on one hand the number of people I have seen wearing a hood while diving in the Caribbean.
The thickness is probably the most important factor that will determine your comfort underwater. Choose the thickness based on the type of water and diving you will be doing. For the Caribbean, a 3mm should be sufficient for most people.
* Quality of Construction
This will determine how long that scuba diving wet suit will last. Most importantly, you need to check the seams of the wet suit.
The cheapest and least strong is a glued stitch. It will sometimes have a piece of glued tape over the seams which will help with comfort. While it is adequate, it will probably give out the quickest of all the seams.
Another of the basic stitches found mostly in “bargain” and “cheap” wet suits is the over-lock stitch which joins the neoprene a the seam by stitching the edges together. The ridge is on the inside of the suit which can become uncomfortable. If this seam is stretched to its limit the seam may open up and let in some water.
At the other extreme of construction quality, is the blind stitch. Here the material is first glued and then stitched on one side. However, the stitch doesn’t pierce the material which would give an entry point for water. The same stitch is then done on the reverse side and interlocks with the first stitch. This gives the strongest seam. Of course, as you would guess, this type of construction is found on the more expensive scuba diving wet suit.
In between, is the flatlock stitching which you will find in many warm water wet suits (mine included). The two pieces of neoprene overlap and are joined together. Unlike the over-lock stitch, the seam lays flat making it more comfortable for the diver.
While water can sometimes seep through these seams when stretched, it will be much less than with an over-lock stitch. Taped seams, with any of these stitches, helps prevent water leaking through the seams. It also helps the comfort factor, making the scuba diving wet suit more comfortable against the skin.
The type of neoprene your scuba diving wet suit is made of affects the quality of the suit and, of course the price. Scuba diving wetsuits are made of neoprene which is a synthetic rubber foam.
The neoprene has thousands of tiny bubbles for insulation. The material is then typically laminated with a nylon based material. Once this elastic fabric dries, the neoprene becomes pliable and flexible. The type of neoprene your scuba diving wet suit is made of affects the quality of the suit and, of course the price.
The highest quality neoprene is gas blown and made with thousands of little bubbles of nitrogen gas. While it will compress and eventually wear out like all neoprene, it is the most durable type of neoprene. A chemical blown wetsuit feels softer but will not be as durable.
Hopefully this guide will make your purchase easier. I hope you have a nice warm dive.