DIVE GEAR ESSENTIALS: WETSUITS
As your first line of defense against the elements, scuba wetsuits are one of your most important pieces of dive gear. It's vital for you to not only choose your wetsuit properly, but also to know how to care for it, ensuring that the suit will keep you safe and warm for years to come. The following tips offer helpful advice on getting the most out of these all-important second skins.
• A body loses heat in water almost 25 times faster than in air, so even in relatively warm water, wetsuits are a must.
• Scuba wetsuits work by trapping water between the body and the neoprene which is then warmed by body heat. The thicker the neoprene, the greater the insulation.
• Wetsuits are constructed in various densities, or thicknesses: The most common are 3, 5 and 7 millimeter, as well as .5 mm “skins” for abrasion protection in warm water.
• Some scuba wetsuits use combinations of densities: 3/2 mm, 5/3 mm or even 7/5/3 mm. Such wetsuits place the densest neoprene in the core areas to maintain warmth and use the thinner material in arms and legs to lessen the restriction of movement.
• Seals around wrists, ankles, the neck and zippers help prevent cold water from being forced inside the wetsuit and flushing out water warmed by the body.
• Wetsuits lose density over time. Each time a suit is taken to depth, the bubbles in the neoprene are compressed. That’s also why a brand-new wetsuit will usually require more weight than an old favorite.
FINDING THE RIGHT FIT
• Seek professional advice at your local PADI dive shop when buying your first scuba wetsuit. Staff can offer advice for your body type and protection needs.
• A properly fitting wetsuit should not be too difficult to don and should fit snugly, but not tight enough to restrict circulation.
• With the zipper fully engaged, you should be able to bend at the waist and touch your toes without feeling significant constriction at the neck.
CARING FOR YOUR SUIT
» Wash wetsuits thoroughly with cold, fresh water. Do it after every dive and limit use in chlorinated water.
» Dry out of direct sunlight. First hang it inside-out to dry the lining, then normally to finish.
» Store with care. Lay your suit flat on a shelf or bundle it loosely around cardboard tubes to avoid harmful creasing.
» Be cautious with Velcro Haphazard placement can snag neoprene, causing fraying or worse.
» Don and doff carefully. Try to limit stress on seams and neoprene by not tugging too forcefully — and be mindful of long fingernails.
» Repair by professional only. No good can come from home surgery.
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