SCUBA GUIDE: CHEST ZIP OR BACK ZIP WETSUIT?
The point of entry into your scuba diving wetsuit is referred to as the entry system and is an integral part of the efficiency of a wetsuit. There are two main types of entry systems: the chest zip and the back zip. Zippers are an important element of a wetsuit entry system. They come in different qualities, and usually a stronger and efficient zipper will cost you more than an inferior one.
Importance of Zips to Your Wetsuit
Before comparing the two types of zips, it is vital to know why zips are significant to your scuba wetsuit and the function they perform. The wetsuit material (neoprene) is elastic and tough hence making it perfect for water sports. The material is semi-porous which allows little water to penetrate and form a thin layer between your skin and the wetsuit interior. Since water is a poor conductor, this layer will insulate you from cold temperatures. If the zip doesn't close your wetsuit properly, the wetsuit will be either too loose or too tight. This will result into flushing (too much water) or little water inside your suit and thus reducing the insulation properties of the suit.
Benefits of a Chest Zip Wetsuit
If the wetsuit fits well there will be fewer gaps in the suit hence less flushing.
The back of the wetsuit is in one piece because there are few panels. The chest zip wetsuit is therefore more flexible which makes maneuvering and paddling to be less tiring. This flexibility makes front zips to be the preference of water sports professionals.
In case the zip jams you will not need any assistance because you can easily tackle the problem from the front.
There is less constriction around your spine and back.
There is no Velcro around the neck that would cause a rash.
There is a swag element: they are considered cool and hence a favorite for professionals.
Draw Backs of a Chest Zip Wetsuit
For people with broad shoulders it is harder to put on because it has a smaller hole to get into a chest zip wetsuit.
It is comparatively more expensive than a back zip suit.
There will be flushing if the suit does not fit well.
It has no Velcro: a poor fit will result into restriction around the neck.
Benefits of a Back Zip Wetsuit
It has less restriction around the neck
It is easier to put on because it has a bigger hole to get into.
The adjustable Velcro strap results into an enhanced seal around your neck.
Compared to a front zip suit, a back zip wetsuit is tough and durable.
Draw Backs of a Back Zip Wetsuit
The Velcro strap rubs against your neck and can cause rash.
There is tendency of water to flush because of the bat wing
In case the zip malfunctions, you will require assistance to unzip it.
The suit is less flexible thus it makes maneuvering and paddling to be more tiring.
Tips on Zip Care
Kinks that occur next to your zip might cause snagging when you open or close it. In case this happens, don't attempt to force the zip because it may pull the slider off the teeth and even tear the neoprene material.
Regularly clean your zips after use to prevent accumulation of salt deposits which will accelerate their rusting.
Lubricate the zips to reduce friction between the slider and teeth: use bee or candle wax.
Which Suit to Select?
For learners at a scuba center, a back zip wetsuit is the best choice for diving lessons because it is more tough and durable than a chest zip which would be torn by inexperienced scuba divers. Intermediate and professional surfers should go for chest zip wetsuits, because its flexibility is suitable for extreme water sports.
Each scuba wetsuit having many advantages, the buck stops with you to weigh the pros and cons of both before deciding which one is perfect for your scuba diving requirements.