What to consider when buying a Drysuit
The first thing to consider is whether you want a Membrane (Trilaminate) Suit or a Neoprene Suit - you can find out more about the difference between the two in our guide here.
Once you've brushed up on your knowledge of the different types of suits you'll want to consider the below to find a suit that matches your requirements.
Getting the right fit is important and it is better to be able to try on different sizes with the appropriate thermal clothing for the style of suit and the expected water temperature to ensure a comfortable fit.
There are essentially three options when it comes to sizing and fit:
- Off the peg – Standard sizes
- Customised – An off the peg size suit that usually can be modified slightly in the arms, legs and boots for a better fit.
- Made to measure – A tailor-made suit to your exact dimensions
Off the peg suits will typically offer a good list of features at a very reasonable price as they can be manufactured in bulk and stored ready for distribution and purchase. The disadvantage is that they must accommodate a range of size variations so might not fit perfectly compared to a customised or made to measure suit. If you want to change the valves, add extras or modify it from the original specification this may not be the option for you as any modifications may affect the warranty.
Customised suits provide the option of altering a standard off the peg size suit slightly to offer a better fit or perhaps change some of the components before it is finished such as swapping for a different seal system. The options available will depend entirely on what the manufacturer offers, will require extra time to finish the suit and may cost more than the standard price for the different components. As the suit has been customised for you there is the possibility that returning the suit may be difficult so it is important that you are sure about your choice and alterations.
Made to Measure suits offer the pinnacle of fit with the suit being made to your exact measurements. Made to measure suits are more expensive and will take time to complete so it is worth the effort of being expertly measured. You will typically be able to have much more say about the components and extras fitted to the suit such as thing pocket, etc as they can be accommodated during the manufacture.
All drysuits are fitted with a dry zip either across the back of the shoulders or diagonally across the front of the body but there are several different styles of zip.
The standard style of zip is made from a combination of brass teeth and rubber seal that zip together to create a waterproof seal. Brass zips are the cheapest option but are stiff, must be cleaned and lubricated to ensure correct zipper movement and can be prone to damage if bent the wrong way.
Another option is a composite zip which are entirely made from lightweight synthetic materials. These zips are highly flexible, are much thinner and easily to maintain but may cost a little more.
Where the zip is positioned can affect the flexibility of the suit and determine how self-sufficient you are when getting in and out of the suit. Suits that feature a brass zip are restricted by the rigidity of the zip so the suit will not be as flexible wherever it is placed. Rear zips traditionally offered better flexibility in the rest of the suit but require someone else to close and open the zip for you. Front diagonal zips allow you to close and open the zip yourself but traditional brass zips limit the movement of the suit. New composite zips significantly reduce the flexibility problems so front entry drysuits have become much more popular.
Seals fitted at the neck and wrists keep the suit watertight when in use with neoprene and membrane suits being fitted with different material seals as standard. Neoprene suits are typically fitted with neoprene seals and membrane suits get latex seals as standard.
Neoprene seals tend to be more comfortable but divers often comment about a little water entry whilst diving. Latex seals are stretchy but can feel very tight when new and can deteriorate over time, especially if not properly maintained.
Silicone seals offer the best of both worlds, the comfort and softness of neoprene but the flexibility and stretch of latex. Silicone seals cannot be directly fitted to the suit so require a mounting ring that is glued to the suit. Silicone seals need a little more care when getting the suit on and off but do not deteriorate as latex does over time. The ring system also allows for the replacement of a damaged seal in minutes rather than hours of preparation and glueing.
Valve design hasn’t changed in many years and there are only a few truly trusted manufacturing brands. Your choices will be whether you would like a swivelling or fixed orientation inflator valve and either a cuff dump, standard auto dump or low profile auto dump.
The inflator valve is what allows air to be injected into the suit to increase buoyancy and maintain that thermal barrier. A fixed orientation valve is simply fitted and pointed in the general direction of the inflator hose whereas a swivelling valve can be rotated to the best position by the diver.
Deflation valves allow the diver to vent air to reduce buoyancy. This can either be achieved via a manual cuff dump that is activated by raising the wrist sufficiently and lowering it to stop. The alternative is to use an automatic valve that works on internal air pressure to open and close the valve depending on the sensitivity set by rotating the valve. These are fitted to the shoulder as this is typically the highest point when ascending and are available in standard and low profile versions.
Drysuits either come with a heavy-duty rubber boot or neoprene socks, both of which are glued to the suit. The choice is personal but the advantage of a neoprene sock is that it allows you to pick the style of boot you put over the top of the sock.
The integrated boot is heavy duty with a thick sole, will have good tread for traction and usually incorporate a strap retainer on the heel. They do the job and mean it is something else you don’t have to remember to bring.
If you go for the neoprene sock option there is a wide choice of boots including the standard neoprene boots used for wetsuits which will offer an extra thermal layer over your feet or canvas style boots that are hard-wearing and offer excellent abrasion and puncture protection.
There is a lot to think about when choosing a drysuit and will typically have a big monetary value attached to it so it is important to weigh up all the options. We are available to answer any questions about the suits we offer or sizing queries. We have a wide range of suits available in store to try on so please contact us to arrange a fitting session with one of our specialists.