Last Updated: July 18, 2023
Are you an occasional scuba diver, boater, or water sports enthusiast who loves playing around cold water? You must be wondering how to protect yourself from the freezing waters while enjoying your favorite water activity.
The solution is a drysuit – a full body suit designed to insulate you from cold or even freezing water temperatures.
Keep reading to find out what drysuits are, how they work and the invaluable support they offer while scuba diving.
What is a Drysuit?
A drysuit is essentially a full-body suit that is designed to remain water-tight. It helps to keep you completely dry and prevents you from feeling cold.
A drysuit keeps the water out, so you can wear some insulating clothing like a rash guard, sweater or fleece. This ensures you get an additional layer of insulation. It will enable you to enjoy being underwater comfortably despite the freezing temperatures.
If the water you are getting in is less than 98 degrees, it will cool down your body immediately. Since water makes your body feel cold 25 times faster than air, you will find it difficult to enjoy the ocean without a bodysuit. That is why a drysuit is most commonly used by scuba divers that are diving in icy water.
How Does a Drysuit Work?
Drysuits enclose you in a layer of air making it 100% water-tight and completely dry. There is a rubber gasket or seal around your neck and wrist that enables this water-tight feature. The seal typically contains two parts.
- Inner seal
- Outer seal
Both the membranes contain a flexible rubber that will snugly fit around your skin. It is a flexible membrane that enables comfortable movement.
As for your feet, they get covered with socks that are attached to drysuits. These socks either get made like the wrist and neck seals, or they have a sock-like material. However, they still get made from the same fabric used to make the drysuit as well. This ensures no water enters your suit. Also, you wear special boots over the sock to prevent any tearing due to rocks in the ocean.
Drysuits differ from wetsuits as those will not keep you dry. A wetsuit works by letting some water in-between your skin and the suit. Your body heats up this thin layer of water, which in turn will then keep you warm. Wetsuits are more commonly used in warmer temperatures.
How Does a Semi Drysuit Work?
While a drysuit prevents water from entering, a semi-drysuit keeps a layer of water trapped. A semi-drysuit ensures you get insulated completely by keeping a layer of water trapped between your body and suit.
In a semi-drysuit, the layer of water ensures you keep warm. This occurs as it isolates the cold water present in your surrounding from your body. Moreover, the trapped water absorbs the warmth from your body and keeps your temperature stable.
The main difference between a dry suit and semi drysuit is that a drysuit traps air to keep you warm, whereas a semi drysuit traps water. Semi drysuits tend to be two pieces and help you in cool water temperatures. However, you can use it only for a single dive on a cold day.
Semi drysuits generally use a thick neoprene seal to ensure isolation from water.
How Does a Drysuit Zipper Work?
For ensuring your drysuit works flawlessly, it’s necessary to know how your drysuit’s zipper works.
Your drysuit will remain water-tight only when the zippers and seals or gaskets are undamaged and functioning correctly.
The zipper functions by pulling the slider to close and connect the inside teeth. This ensures your drysuit is sealed and completely water-tight.
Drysuits get made with metal or plastic zippers to ensure no water gets in. However, metal zips are preferable due to their longevity and durability. But they need proper maintenance to function optimally. You’ll need to wax your metal zipper frequently and treat your plastic zipper with silicone grease occasionally.
Note that you shouldn’t try to repair a damaged zipper on your own. You might end up damaging it further. It is best to get it fixed by a professional, or better yet, maintain your drysuit properly to avoid zipper damage. Lubricating your zipper, using proper techniques to fold your drysuit will prevent damage. Ensure you don’t crimp the zipper.
Desirable Features of Drysuits
Now that you know how drysuits work, there are some features you should look out for when purchasing a drysuit. These will ensure it functions the way it needs to.
While looking for a drysuit, you need to examine its fit. Snug, well-fitted drysuit that is not too bulky and oversized is perfect. Snug fit ensures it doesn’t leak.
You also need to make sure your drysuit isn’t too tight. It might constrict your neck, which can cause a carotid sinus reflex. This will cause dizziness and unconsciousness as your heartbeat slows down and there isn’t proper blood flow to your brain.
So, the drysuit should fit you optimally for cold water not to get in and to avoid other possible issues.
Buoyancy is pivotal for diving, especially with drysuits. A drysuit acts as a buoyancy device that compresses and expands as you go below and come up.
You must know the amount of air you need to add to your drysuit to enable proper descent without too much drysuit contract. When they contract too much, it causes drysuit squeeze, which can bruise you.
The material determines the level of warmth you get from your drysuit. It also determines the ease of wearing, removing, and storing. A neoprene drysuit provides you warmth with little to no thermal protection. In contrast, a membrane drysuit doesn’t give you warmth without thermal protection underneath.
So, you need to choose one based on the amount of warmth, flexibility, and storability you need.
Types of Drysuits
There are two types of drysuits based on the material they are made with.
Neoprene dry suits are the most common you can find. They are generally more affordable.
A neoprene drysuit can keep you warm with less to no thermal protection underneath. Of course, this depends on your suit’s thickness and the temperature conditions.
Moreover, they tend to be slightly rigid, dense, and bulky. They may be difficult to store, wear, and remove. However, neoprene suits provide you with excellent buoyancy.
Membrane drysuits are essentially shell drysuits. They do not offer any thermal protection and are merely water-tight shells.
You will need to wear thermal insulation underneath to keep you warm. Otherwise, you will freeze while wearing membrane drysuits.
There are two types of membrane drysuits:
- Tri-laminate Membrane Drysuit – This one is the most common after neoprene. They get made of rubber and nylon that are durable water-tight shells. They are slightly bigger, lightweight, and easy to pack, wear, and remove.
- Vulcanized Rubber Membrane Drysuit – This one is used in saturation diving. They get made of rubber and are tough. They aren’t as flexible but work well in rough terrains on the ocean’s floor.
Drysuits enable you to enjoy scuba diving in extremely cold temperatures. They work by sealing the air inside the suit to prevent water from entering. You must ensure your drysuit fits you properly to prevent water from entering.
If you choose to dive in less cold areas, you can wear a semi-dry suit. These are two-piece suits that use a layer of trapped water to keep you warm.
Drysuits are a magnificent invention to keep you warm and enable you to enjoy water activities in freezing conditions.
My unbounded love for the oceans and everything it has to offer motivated me to pursue my passion and become a professional scuba diving instructor.
I keep reading, exploring, and learning more about scuba diving and the underwater world all the time, so I’m excited to share my knowledge with fellow scuba enthusiasts and hopefully contribute a little to your development as a diver. I want people to fall in love with the oceans with as much passion as I have. Read more about me here.