In order to have an enjoyable and safe experience while scuba diving it is important to stay warm using some type of thermal protection. There are actually two different choices available – drysuits and wetsuits. If you are just new to scuba diving you may just assume that a drysuit and wetsuit are the exact same thing with different names. However, there are many differences and the choice you make is not just about the temperature of the water.
With the following post, we wanted, as Ocean Scuba Dive to help you understand what makes drysuits and wetsuits different from one another as well as the pros and cons of each. We hope this can help you make the right decision when choosing the best wetsuits for diving.
What is the Difference between a Wetsuit and a Drysuit?
In summary of the below, the difference between a wetsuit and a drysuit is that wetsuits let water into your suit and are best used in warmer water temperatures. Drysuits actually have seals and heavier insulating materials which keep the water from entering the suit, therefore keep the diver dry and are best used in cold water conditions.
In order to determine in more detail the difference between a wetsuit and a drysuit and also which is best for you, let’s first try to understand how wetsuits and drysuits actually work.
How do Wetsuits Work?
Wetsuits are designed to trap a thin layer of water that sits against your skin while limiting the water flow in and out of it. It is then the heat from your body that warms the water up so that it is almost the same as your body temperature, making a protective barrier for your body of warm water. The insulation in the suit comes from the neoprene.
Neoprene is a material that is very similar to foam that traps thousands of little bubbles of air, and it’s these spaces that provide the insulation. The rule of thumb is that the greater the thickness of the neoprene in the suit is, the warmer and more insulated it will be. If you’ve ever wondered why you only need a 2mm wetsuit for tropical waters but need to use a 7mm or even as much as 14mm in colder water – that is why.
Drysuits, on the other hand, work in a completely different way. They are fully watertight and have seals around your ankles and wrists. This means that you are completely dry under your suit and wrapped inside a protective layer of air. However, drysuits generally do not provide any warmth or insulation and therefore, you have to wear undergarments inside your suit to keep yourself warm
Another major difference between a wetsuit and a drysuit is that while wetsuits are made with neoprene, drysuits can be made from trilaminate materials or neoprene.
Wetsuit Advantages and Disadvantages
- Wetsuits are widely available and if you choose wisely, you can use your wetsuit in most diving spots around the world.
- There is a wide array of styles and options out there, and you will find wetsuits in just about every diving center on the planet as an important piece of rental equipment.
- They are easy to maintain – you just need to rinse the suit in fresh water after each dive and hang it up to dry.
- They also tend to have much lower price tags than drysuits.
- Wetsuits are generally not the best option for colder waters. Even when diving in warmer waters you can still get cold if it’s a particularly long dive.
- Putting a wetsuit on that’s already wet is not a particularly pleasant or enjoyable experience. In can be a real struggle for a scuba diver! That is why you will find that many seasoned divers take along two suits that they can switch between for different dives.
- You lose more thermal insulation as you dive deeper. This is perhaps the biggest downside to wetsuits. Especially if you enjoy diving deep, because the neoprene becomes more and more compressed, losing the air bubbles that keep you warm.
Drysuit Advantages and Disadvantages
- Drysuits are incredibly warm. So, if you are interested in diving into chilly waters, you should always pack a drysuit.
- Putting on and taking off a drysuit is very easy in cold climates, as you do not have to struggle and wrestle with a clammy, wet and cold suit.
- Drysuits can actually improve your diving because they help you to keep and maintain a more slick and aerodynamic body shape under the water. This is one of the various reasons why most technical divers wear drysuits instead of wetsuits.
- Drysuits are pricier than wetsuits. Even the most basic and entry-level drysuits can be relatively expensive at a few hundred dollars, while the higher-end, better spec models can cost a few thousand dollars.
- They are not as easy to use in the beginning and you will need proper training, patience and time to hone your skills diving with a drysuit. Drysuits differ from wetsuits in that they need to be inflated while you are diving, similarly to a BCD, to prevent them from squeezing you. This means that you have lots more work to do while diving than you may have expected because you have to use the BCD and suit to control your buoyancy.
- They need a lot more maintenance after every dive and on a seasonal basis. You need to ensure that the zipper is kept well-lubricated to prevent it from breaking and you need to protect the suit’s seals if it is not going to be used for a long period of time.
What are Semi-DrySuits?
Semi-dry suits are essentially wetsuits that are just a lot thicker and have improved seals at the ankles, neck, and wrists. They keep the circulation of water to an absolute minimum. Although they will provide you with more warmth than wetsuits of similar thicknesses, they still get you wet.
They generally cost a lot more money than wetsuits. However, they are an ideal option if you would like the warmth a drysuit provides, without having to pay the steeper price tag or attend special training in using one.
When is it Best to Use Each Suit?
Water temperature is the key factor that determines which suit you should be wearing. We have provided a brief guide below to which suit you should be using in which temperature.
Although this is helpful, you should also keep in mind your own tolerance to the cold and comfort when making your final decision.
80-degrees Fahrenheit/26-degrees Celsius – Wetsuit 2mm
68 to 79-degrees Fahrenheit/20 to 26-degrees Celsius – Wetsuit, 7mm
58 to 58-degrees Fahrenheit/14 to 20-degrees Celsius – Double Layer Wetsuit, 7mm, full drysuit or semi-drysuit
-58-degrees Fahrenheit/14-degrees Celsius – Full drysuit
So, there you have it, you now know the difference between drysuits and wetsuits. We hope this guide helps you make the right choice when buying clothing for your next dive.