Drysuit VS Wetsuit
Exposure suits, i.e., wetsuits and drysuits, are essential parts of gear for divers. Exposure suits are used for thermal insulation from cold, winter air and water temperatures. Some people use a particular type of exposure suit because it is required by the facility they are using. Some people have personal preferences, and they favour wetsuits over drysuits or vice versa.
What is an Exposure Suit?
Exposure suits are aimed to slow down the heat loss to maintain body temperature. As you dive into the water, the body heat is quickly lost, and you might go too cold to keep moving. Exposure suits are mainly available in two types: Wetsuit and Drysuit.
What is Wetsuit?
Wetsuits are made of foamed neoprene rubber. This material has millions of bubbles with trapped air or nitrogen gas. This trapped air space provides insulation by reducing the loss of your body heat to cold water. The wetsuits work on the principle of trapped moisture. When the diver jumps in the water, the wetsuit's design allows a thin layer of water to enter. This water is warmed by body heat and thus becomes a barrier for the outside water.
Wetsuits are reasonably inexpensive as compared to the drysuits. But then there are some limitations to wetsuits. They are damaged easily and have to be replaced. Also, it would be best if you had separate wetsuits for different temperatures and different weathers. So, if you are a frequent diver and keep doing dip in more than one area, you will need more than one wetsuits. However, if you like to feel the water on your skin, then wetsuits are for you.
What is Drysuit?
Drysuits are made of breathable nylon fabric with seals at the possible entry points of water like neck, wrists, and socks. They are made as one-piece outfits. Drysuits keep you dry except for the exposed hands and head. You may wear layers inside to increase insulation, depending on the weather.
Drysuits are more expensive exposure suits. Nevertheless, the longer lifespan of the drysuits makes up for the cost. A good quality drysuit can be used for fifteen or more years. You may also need some training to use drysuits because there is some mechanism to learn to use these suits as air pressure, buoyancy, and other settings.
If you are specifically looking for the differences and advantages vs disadvantages of any particular type, we present a detailed guide for that.
Key Differences Between Wetsuits and Drysuits
There are many differences between wetsuits and drysuits based on their usage and design.
1. Water Temperature
Your choice of either type of exposure suit may depend on the water temperature you will be diving in and your tolerance to it. As a principle, drysuits are associated with cold water diving because you can add layers of garments underneath it to keep you warm. While wetsuits are more frequently used for tropicals where the water temperature is on the higher side.
Nevertheless, this is dependent on your temperature tolerance as well. Some divers use 60° F/16° C as a threshold to switch to drysuits. Others go on with wetsuits even in the range of 50° F/10° C. This is your personal preference and tolerance eventually.
Drysuits have more buoyancy inherently because of their design as they have air trapped inside them. You can adjust the buoyancy by adding or releasing air from the suit. They do not compress with depth; therefore, they are easier to handle.
Wetsuits, on the other hand, compresses with depth. This compression results in loss of insulation as the wetsuit becomes thinner. This loss of buoyancy has to be managed by changing settings of weights or the gas in your Buoyancy Control Device (BCD).
Overweighting is a more severe issue with wetsuits rather than with drysuits. A diver can become seriously overweight with the higher compression as the diver jumps into the water. However, with a drysuit, the diver can increase or decrease the pressure by choice.
The cost of the exposure suits varies depending on many factors. However, the consensus is that drysuits are more expensive than wetsuits. More and more companies are entering the field of exposure suits manufacturing, and many new materials and designs are launching.
Nowadays, you can get an entry-level drysuit for the cost of a branded high-end wetsuit. Seasoned divers can purchase a few wetsuits in the same money they would spend buying a single drysuit.
However, the lifespan of drysuits makes up for the cost. A good quality drysuit is faithful to you for many years if maintained properly. Also, if you are a seasoned swimmer and diver and dip in different temperatures, you need several wetsuits of different thicknesses to adapt to different climates. In contrast, you can use the same Drysuit with varying layers of clothes for different temperatures.
The maintenance of wetsuits is comparatively simpler. You follow a few simple steps, and you are good to go.
- Properly rinse your wetsuitafter soaking in fresh water for at least 20 minutes.
- Air-dry the suit with zippers open.
- To prevent creases and damage to zippers, store in a flat-lying position, or hang in a cool, dry place.、
Drysuits have delicate parts like the seals and zippers. They need some tender care to be maintained.
- After every dip, rinse and wash your Drysuitboth inside and outside.
- Make sure you wash zippers and seals thoroughly and remove every bit of contamination.
- If using any detergent, use one made specifically for exposure suits without softeners and perfumes.
- Air dry your Drysuitand store in a cool and dry place, preferably in a hanger.
- To take care of seals and sippers, lubricate your zippers to prevent rust and any other damage. Also, apply talc on the seal to avoid perishing.
- Periodic replacement of zippers and seals is recommended to increase the lifespan of a dry suit.
If your Drysuit has latex gaskets, they require occasional conditional to prevent dry rotting and sun exposure damage due to ultraviolet rays. Even if any seal breaks or tears, these are replaceable using a kit containing the replacement seals and adhesive at home. Professional latex seal replacement services are also available for drysuits. Latex seals quickly go perfectly for three to five years, provided they are well cared for.
Exposure suits are not designed to keep you warm. They just slow down the loss of body heat through an insulation mechanism.
Wetsuits use the water trapped inside as a barrier for the cold water to enter. This trapped water gets warm by body heat and provides insulation.
On the other hand, the drysuits keep you dry and allow warm underclothes to keep the body warm. It also makes them adjustable to weather. You can use under clothes according to the weather.
Wetsuits have to fit you to keep you warm snuggly. In comparison, drysuits have some space for layers of garments, thus adding to the suit's bagginess.
The comfort and speed of the diver are affected by the suit they wear. While the second-skin fit of wetsuits gives comfort and speed to the diver but the same fit needs the diver to exert some effort for stretching. The material used for wetsuits has a role to play too. If it is thick neoprene, more effort is needed, and thus long diving exercises can be tiresome. However, with super-stretch neoprene, this problem is solved to a great degree.
Since drysuits are baggier, they are not preferred by high action swimmers. This bagginess is the reason drysuits are not the most suitable hydrodynamic outfits. They tend to get affected by the force of water.
Different companies have attempted to make spandex, ariaprene, neoprene, and yulex for wetsuits. But still, neoprene remains the only popular choice for wetsuits. Wetsuits are made of closed-cell neoprene, often with an inner and or outer nylon cover to improve snag resistance.
Drysuits are mainly of two types. One is neoprene and membrane drysuits. Membrane suits are made of many different materials, for example, Trilaminate plastice, Corduroy, rubber, and Lycra, etc. Even neoprene suits are made of different thicknesses and different compressions.
Drysuits and wetsuits also differ in the level of skills to use them. When the skill level need goes high, the amount of training needed to use the particular type of exposure suit increases.
Wetsuits are common to man's suits. They are easier to maintain, cheaper to purchase, and need no special training to use. You can just buy a wetsuit and go ahead without any particular skill specific to the use of your wetsuits.
Drysuits need the skill to control the level of buoyancy and weight. You can go on and probably learn by yourself, and there are certification courses for drysuit training. Many scuba diving facilities do not demand a certificate, but some can ask for it to be sure of your expertise. Newbies should invest their time and effort to gain some training and experience with drysuits before attempting to use them underwater. Because safety underwater is crucial, and the stacks are pretty different from a road safety incident. However, for more experienced and expert divers, this may be redundant.
Some people believe drysuits are for life. If not for life, they can efficiently deliver for up to 15-20 years with proper maintenance and care. At the same time, wetsuits are easily damaged by temperature and sun. Their lifespan and adaptability justify the higher price tag of Drysuit to different temperatures and weather.
11. Speed and Maneuverability
Drysuits are baggier to give some space for layers of clothes to keep the diver warm. While the wetsuits have a second skin fitting. The snug fit of a wetsuit favours more speed and more manoeuvrability. Wetsuits have seams, seals, and zippers to combat water intrusion. Though the thicker the neoprene used, the more effort it needs to be stretched.
People who love the wet feeling and contact with their environment prefer wetsuit to feel the water on their skin while swimming underwater. It's more of a touch and feels a concept that matters for some sensitive people.
Therefore, drysuits are trickier to use and to swim for a longer distance. The bulk and hydro-drag of drysuits force the diver to exert more force and energy to undo its effect.
12. Time to Gear up
Drysuits are mostly more flexible, and it is easier to put them on. However, there are more parts of the gear to put on. It has seals, and neck and wrist seals are to be done smoothly and carelessly to prevent ripping them off. Drysuits also take more time because you have to use the warm layers under the Drysuit as well.
Wetsuits are a little challenging to put on as they are more fitted and grab your skin. If your wetsuit is not dry properly, you can feel a kind of a cold shock to your skin. So, it is always recommended to dry your wetsuit entirely after taking it off.
What Should You Use? Wetsuit or Drysuit?
There is no one answer to this question. You can be a sensitive person and might want to feel the water on your skin while swimming, or you are a beginner and do not have the skill for a drysuit, or maybe you are low on budget and cannot afford a drysuit. In these conditions, wetsuits are your best bet.
Alternatively, you may be a person who gets attached to their possession and builds memories around them, or you are an experienced diver. You can also afford an expensive suit or go diving in many weather and different temperatures. In these conditions, drysuits should be your choice.
Generally speaking, When it's cold, wetsuits are suitable for surfing, wake surfing, river surfing, etc.
But when it's frigid, drysuits work better for kayaking, whitewater paddling, taking action photos in the water.
Whatever exposure suits you are using, make sure that you use a good quality suit that is well maintained, and every part, seals, zippers, and seams are perfect. There are no tears or zippers that are not stuck, and seals have not perished. It is important for your safety underwater.
For wetsuits, taped seams are preferable over stitched ones because they leak less, and a rubber-coated seam is the best. Exposed stitching, low quality, and dried out neoprene is discouraged because low-quality wetsuits can pose safety issues as well as skin rashes and discomfort while using them.
A perfect size is also important. Different brands may have different sizes, so always concentrate on actual measurements rather than just the size tag.
Wetsuit or Drysuit, you can decide on your preferences and your circumstances and expected use. Make a checklist of all the differences and then make the most informed decision. Good Luck!
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