Divers wear exposure suits to protect against jellyfish stings, sunburn, scrapes, scratches, and uncomfortable temperatures. Despite the fact that most types of exposure suits serve the same general purpose, different diving conditions require different levels of protection. This quick guide will help you understand the difference between the three major types of exposure suits so you know which is right for your first underwater excursion.
An Explanation Of Exposure Suit Categories
Wetsuits, dry suits, and skin suits each fill a different niche – exposure suits are easier to understand once you know the unique purpose and functionality of each.
Wetsuits trap a layer of water between the suit and body. This water quickly warms to body temperature, providing effective insulation against the cold. Fit is very important; too tight and the suit cannot trap enough water, too loose and the water circulates faster than it can warm up. These suits are available in a variety of thicknesses for various climates.
Most wetsuits cover the entire body but you can find shorts-style wetsuits as well. The most versatile wetsuits are of the “farmer john” variety, left sleeveless so that divers can wear other types of exposure protection over top.
2. Dry Suit
These exposure suits are true to their name. Dry suits seal at the neck, wrists, and ankles to block water from entering. The dry suit (also called a “shell”) often has very little insulation of its own and divers instead wear insulated layers underneath. The bulkiness of the suit makes layering easier. Of course, some divers still wear their dry suits in temperate waters to prolong their diving sessions.
Make sure to invest in a high quality dry suit – sealing against water requires precision manufacturing, and any little leak will work against the suit’s intended purpose.
3. Skin Suit
Skin suits often do not provide any thermal insulation but still protect against stings, scrapes, and sunburn. These are the thinnest and most flexible type of exposure suit. These are perfect for warm water exploration and many divers choose to keep a pair on hand at all time to use as an under-layer for wetsuits and dry suits. Skin suits are supposed to fit tight (hence the name) so fit is extremely important when purchasing.
Compliment your suit with the right accessories. Exposure suit accessories like gloves, booties, hoods, and hoodies serve very important purposes – and all are available with low and high levels of insulation to meet various needs.
Accessories serve a variety of needs besides insulation and protection from stings and scrapes. Gloves help to improve grip, booties can reduce fin-chafing, hoods and hoodies can protect the sensitive ears and neck from sunburn. Some divers will use these accessories as a way to make a low-insulation exposure suit work better in colder temperatures.
Quick Tips: Sizing And Buying For Beginners
Are you unsure about where to begin? Unless you are familiar with the seasonal air and water temperature of your diving destination, you may not want to invest in a bunch of expensive equipment at risk of ending up with the wrong gear. The good news is that most modern diving supplies retailers have experienced staff on hand to help you choose.
Make sure to buy your first round of equipment from a dive shop with a pool so you can test for fit and comfort. Avoid ordinary sporting goods stores unless you already know how to size a particular brand. Fit tends to vary from brand to brand, and from style to style.
If you are booking your diving experience with a beginner-friendly tour company, you should have no problem obtaining high quality rentals. If your tour company does not provide rentals, ask for local recommendations. Beginners who are planning to dive in Hawaii may want to check out the Oahu-Scuba.com packages – this company provides all the equipment a beginner could need, from dive mask to regulator to exposure suit and BCD.
Exposure suits may seem like simple diving apparel at first, but they are just as important to diving safety and comfort as the fins or goggles. It’s important to have the right exposure suit for the climate and environment you wish to explore and we hope this guide has helped to guide you in the right direction.
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