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Part 2 – Buying an exposure suit for SCUBA diving

Now that we have covered exposure suit basics, let’s talk about how to fit a wet suit. Fit is one of the most important considerations when shopping for a wet suit. A comfortable but snug fit is the key. An improperly fit wet suit will not keep the diver’s core warm while allowing proper range of motion. A wet suit should fit with no sagging or bunching. It is necessary to invest time in shopping for the right size, style, and thickness, to insure proper fit.

A good way to begin the search for a dive suit it to go to a search engine and type “wet suit” or “dry suit” into the search bar. A plethora of Google Ads for retailers and manufacturers will pop up. Start with the exposure suit manufacturers first, as they have brand specific size charts to assist shoppers with correct fitting. Manufacturers web sites also list thickness, seal type, manufacturing materials, warranty information, and authorised dealers. When you have a good idea of what type and brand suit you are interested in, surf online retailers for an idea of the price ranges. When you have narrowed your search a bit, and you have decided on the price range you are comfortable with, check to see if your LDS is an “authorised dealer”. You want an authorized dealer to sell you a new suit. If you are going to invest hard earned cash in a new exposure suit you want the warranty, and no authorized dealer means no warranty. Once you have found a few suits you want to try on. During fitting, you need to go thru the “fit checklist”.

Fit Checklist for wet and semi-dry suits

  1. There should be no excess room in the neck, torso, crotch, shoulders, arms, knees, or ankles.
  2. A proper fitting wetsuit will be hard to put on when dry, rash guards help.
  3. You should be able to lift your arms over your head, and stretch your arms behind you and in front of you.
  4. You should be able to bend forward, to squat, and bend your knees.
  5. There may be slight restriction in the movements, but there should be no pressure or discomfort.
  6. Front zips are easier to get into alone, back zips sometimes require assistance with zipping.

Wetsuit seam and seal information

Flat-lock Stitching

  1. Recommended for use in water that is above 62°.
  2. Will lie flat.
  3. Will let in water. 

Glued and blind-stitched 

  1. Recommended for use in water that is 55° and higher.
  2. Stitch panels are glued and then blind-stitched. Blind- stitching comes out the same side it went in, making it watertight. It does not pierce the neoprene.
  3. Will let in a little water.

Sealed and taped (glued, blind-stitched, and 100% taped)

  1. Recommended for use in water that is 55° and below.
  2. The stitch is glued and blind- stitched, but it is also taped. No water seeping.

Fit Checklist for a dry suit (when you try on the dry suit, wear the clothing underneath that you will dive in)

  1. It should be easy to step into the suit and pull it up above your waist.
  2. You might need assist with the seals, and the zipper, depending on the style of suit.
  3. The boots should be comfortable, not too loose or snug.
  4. The dry suit shell should fit equally loose throughout, to allow warm clothes underneath and air filling with diving.
  5. You should be able to easily move in all directions and reach all the valves.

Note: Every brand of exposure suit has a unique fit. And, dry suits fit much differently than wet and semi-dry suits. It would be helpful for you to take an experienced diver along to help you shop. Your LDS staff is specially trained to assist you in fitting all manner of diving gear. Fitting new and used exposure suits is essentially the same. And, if you are an experienced diver, fitting a used wet suit should be no biggy. However, if you are a younger diver, or new to the type of suit for which you are shopping, you should have your LDS check the fit and evaluate your knowledge level regarding the use, before you dive the suit.

-Dry suit fitting and use requires special training; they can be fatal if worn without proper fit and training. Don’t buy used without experience.

Price ranges for various types of new suits:

Price Range Guide (new):

Cost  Suit mm Suit Type
$15-$100 None – 0.5mm Bathing suit/rash guard
$100-$300 1mm – 2mm Wet suit shorty, shirt/shorts
$100-$400 1/2mm – 3mm Wet suit long sleeve/leg, Farmer John
$100-$660 2/3mm – 4mm Full wet/semi-dry/suit/gloves/boots
$100-$400 3/4mm – 5mm Full wet/semi-dry/suit/gloves/boots
$100-$800 5/7 mm – 7mm Full wet/semi-dry/suit/gloves/boots
$400- $5000 Dry suit Full dry suit/gloves/hood

If you are shopping for used exposure suits, the type and fitting is the same as shopping for new suits. In addition to the information provided thus far, you need to consider how many times the suit was used at depth. The more a wet or semi-dry suit is compressed and re-compressed, the less it bounces back. Eventually it stays compressed and provides very little exposure protection. If the suit was used in the pool it will probably be somewhat faded. Chlorine/bleach (pool use) breaks down neoprene and will reduce exposure protection, as does prolonged sun exposure (leaving gear out in the sun to dry). Loose stitching or worn tape and/or glue will increase water exchange and reduce exposure protection. Look for neoprene that is not thick and spongy. Look for fading material, worn material, repairs or torn areas, and for loose or failed seams.

I use the same rules with pricing suits as I do other dive gear. I find the year of purchase, and apply the MSRP for that time frame.  I start at 40% of MSRP at time of initial purchase, and deduct from there. I deduct an additional 5-20% based on age >5 years. Then I deduct for all the items listed in the paragraph as well. Remember, if the price seems too good to be true it usually is. Expect to pay no more than 35-40% of Circa MSRP for a nearly new suit, and no more than 20% for a repaired, worn, faded, and obviously well used suit. But, if it is faded, worn, and repaired, it will likely not provide you with the exposure protection you think you are paying for! If in doubt, your LDS should be able to help you with the assessment of the suit. An LDS wants you to buy their new gear though, so don’t be surprised if you get a cool response to a plea for assistance. You can look through my previous blogs for some assistance, as there is often crossover information between blog subjects. And as always, feel free to email blueorbsales@gmail.com with questions.

Authored by Lisa J Henry

“Be the sea”