Water makes up much of the earth, and much of the world's greatest biodiversity, history, and majesty. Life under the sea is intriguing, and one great way to experience it is through freediving. Whether for leisure, research, conservation, or to see your favorite sea life in their natural habitat, freediving could be a great opportunity! With the hobby comes some necessary knowledge and training, along with proper equipment. Freediving wetsuits are the primary piece. This article will discuss some distinguishing features of diving wetsuits to help determine the right gear for you! The following categories are helpful markers:
Styles of Wetsuits
There are several styles of wetsuits, each suitable for different environments, activities, climates, etc. Here is a short overview of a few of those styles:
Shorty--A wetsuit designed mainly for core protection and warm water dives. The suit covers the mid body, stopping at the elbows and knees.
Full Body-These cover the entirety of the body with the exception of the head, hands and feet. This wetsuit option is the most common and most versatile, as you can find them in a plethora of sizes as well as varied thickness. Full body wetsuits can also be categorized into one piece and two piece wetsuits.
Farmer John--A type of one piece wetsuit is known as a farmer john. A long john suit consists of a full leg length and sleeveless suit while a short john is made of short legs. Farmer johns are preferable due to the extra core protection and easy movement.
Skin--A skin suit is a thin layer of protection from debris or wildlife in the water. They are not made from neoprene, therefore not necessarily providing any added warmth. These can be a good option in warmer water.
One of the most important traits of a wetsuit is its thickness. Having a wetsuit with the proper thickness is very crucial to ensuring your safety and comfortability while diving. Thickness of the suit is measured in millimeters of neoprene, and determines things like mobility, buoyancy, and most importantly, body warmth. Typically the thicker the suit, the more of your body heat it holds in. Therefore, thicker suits should be used for colder dives, and thinner suits are used in warmer water temperatures. Here is a breakdown of some common wetsuit thicknesses:
Skin--as mentioned above, the skin is the thinnest option for an underwater suit. It does little for holding in body heat, but will protect skin from foreign elements like coral or jellyfish. It is ideal for warm dives with water temperatures of 85F or above.
1.5-2mm--For water temperatures of 77F or above, a 1.5mm or 2mm fully body or shorty wetsuit may be most appropriate. This suit offers some warmth, little buoyancy effect, and still a good deal of mobility.
3mm-wetsuits are great options for diving in cool water of 59F-77F.
5mm--A 5mm neoprene wetsuit is the intermediate option for water temps of 50-60F. Warmth will go up, but will cause more buoyancy and decreased mobility.
7mm--Typically the thickest and warmest option is a 7mm wetsuit, good for dives in cold water of less than 50F. Movement and buoyancy compensation can be more difficult in this thick of a suit, but it will offer the needed warmth for a chilly water dive.
What to Know about Neoprene
Neoprene is mainly the substance that makes up a wetsuit, and there are two main types of it: closed and open cell. By trapping a thin layer of water between your skin and suit and using your body to heat that thin layer, your body maintains warmth. Closed cell options are more durable but can be taxing on the skin and less comfortable, but are more common and affordable. Open cell suits are more expensive, but because they are porous and form fitting, offer more comfort. Both are viable options depending on your preferences.
Lastly, it may be helpful to look at various seams on wetsuits. Depending on the seams and stitching of the suit, you should be able to find what fits you best. Overlock stitching sits on the inside of the suit while flatlock sits on the outside, and both can allow for some water seepage. Overlock can also cause some discomfort due to its position. For the best freediving wetsuit option, one may want to consider a suit with a blind stitch, which offers a glue feature that adds extra leak protection.
All in all, there are several great freediving wetsuits on the market to choose from, each that have their own features tailored to your diving needs!
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