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Buying The Right Wetsuit|
Date:10/27/03 By SanDiegoDiving.com Editorial
Most recreational divers use wetsuits- they provide physical protection and help reduce the risk of hypothermia in most conditions (50-90 deg. F). Yet far too many divers buy wetsuits without considering their choices. Knowing what to look for is really important, because the right wetsuit adds to the diver's comfort more than any other piece of diving gear (see this article). There are hundreds of commercially available suits to choose from. Which is the best? It depends- one must at least consider the three Fs: Fit, Form and Function.
When shopping "off-the-rack", keep in mind that not every suit that's "your size" will fit. People are shaped differently- just look around, it's true. The wise buyer will try on as many suits as possible and use a buddy or a mirror to make sure it fits. The suit should fit comfortably and be snug, but not tight. Avoid bulges, gaps and tight spots that constrict movement or hinder circulation. If the suit fits, wear it.
Wetsuits come in many different styles- one piece, two piece, front-zip, back-zip, Farmer John, Farmer Jane...the list goes on.. Different cuts offer different benefits- the tradeoff is usually between comfort (or ease of entry) and warmth. For example, zippers help to get in and out of a suit, but they tend to leak. The key is to buy a suit that's comfortable to get on and off, but be careful to minimize spots where the water will flush through the suit. Zips should have flaps underneath and seals should close well. Consider a design that has a good seal or has overlapping material on the neck, where water tends to come in. Attached hoods and hooded vests work well to keep the cold water out.
Think about using different suit components for versatility. In San Diego, for example, where the water is many degrees cooler in winter months, divers can use the same suit year-round by adding a hooded vest underneath when the water is colder. Sometimes a surfing suit will double nicely as a diving suit in warmer waters. Likewise, a 7mm suit with an attached hood might get a little toasty when diving in 80+ degree water.
Lastly, the diver might consider optional features for specialized diving activities. Instructors and research divers often use wetsuit pockets to hold slates and accessories. To shore divers, a pocket inside the suit is a swell place to keep car keys. Zippers on the sleeves and legs are an attractive option for repetitive divers, because they make soaked wetsuits much easier to take on and off, plus they minimize wear and tear on the suit. Good knee and elbow pads are desirable for added exposure protection and durability at the joints. Overall, the best suit for the job is one that fits the diver and the job itself.
A good wetsuit becomes a good friend and allows for maximum comfort and enjoyment from every dive...even the cooler water ones. Shop wisely and don't try to save money by getting a less expensive suit that doesn't fit.
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