Since you have landed on this page you have probably already discovered the beauty of dry suit diving and are now in the stage where you’d like to own your own suit or have at least made the decision to learn more about dry suits. In this article, I’ll give you more information on what materials dry suits are made off and what to watch out for.
As you more than likely guessed, there are many types of dry suits which are made out of different materials. The one that is best for you fully depends on what sort of diving you will do and where. According to PADI, the main material categories of dry suits are: trilaminate, coated fabric, crushed neoprene, neoprene foam, vulcanized rubber and composite. First thing to remember about all of the different materials is that higher price is tied to higher quality of the dry suit, so choose wisely.
1) Trilaminate dry suits are very light weight, consist of three layers which are laminated together, dry very fast. However, they do not provide much insulation and on a durability scale, they are somewhere in the middle of all the materials listed above. The trilaminate dry suits are also not very flexible, so they will not stretch and should fit fairly loosely on your body. Trilaminate dry suits are mainly used with cave divers.
2) Coated fabric dry suits are made out of nylon or similar fabric which is coated with urethane, polyurethane or other waterproofing chemical. Coated fabric suits are light weight, so are easy to transport. As in the trilaminate suits, they dry fairly quickly, have very limited insulation and they do not stretch much, so loose fit is a must. The more expensive the suit, the better is the waterproof coating material, so the cheap suits’ waterproof material will separate from the fabric sooner, thus making your dry suit unusable and unrepairable.
3) Neoprene foam dry suits are almost like regular wet suit with the difference that they of course do not let any water inside. The biggest advantage of this suit is that it insulates your body, so you do not need any undergarments when diving in a shallower water. As it is custom for neoprene suits, they stretch and are quite comfortable. The negative aspect of the neoprene dry suit is that you will have to wear more weights to counter the buoyancy characteristic of the neoprene. Also, as you go deeper, neoprene suits loose their buoyancy and insulation, so remember that when making your decision about a dry suit purchase.
4) Crushed neoprene suits are probably the most common suit out there and many diving schools opt into renting out these type of suits to their students. Reason being the high durability of these suits. So tears and punctures are less likely to occur on ongoing basis. As the name suggests, it is composed of neoprene which is crushed to eliminate buoyancy. Unfortunately, the crushed neoprene suits are also very expensive as oppose to the other suits described above, so you do get what you paid for. Furthermore, the suit takes forever to dry and is very heavy. These suits are popular with wreck diving do to its toughness.
5) Vulcanized rubber suits are the most durable suits which are used mainly in commercial diving. They are composed of synthetic or natural rubber, so they dry very fast and do not cause any evaporative cooling when at the surface. Unfortunately, the durability comes with a price, the suits are extremely heavy and are also very expensive. However, since the suit lasts a long time, the cost per dive is probably quite low if the suit is maintained properly.
6) Composite dry suits are, as the name suggests, made out of more than one type of material which is described above. One material is used from the chest up and a different one for the chest, so this way a diver can choose what materials are best for each part of his body. For example, you can buy durable pants from crushed neoprene, so when you kneel down, you do not rupture the suit and for the waist up use the trilaminate suit as it is very light. The downside here is that each material requires a different repair technique, so you will have to have two repair kits and be familiar with the repari procedures for all materials you use.
So as you can see, there are many options to choose from when choosing a dry suit. Since this is a more costly endeavor than buying fins or a mask, be sure to spend some time doing research and fit testing for the suits and analyze what conditions you will be diving in. There are a few more things to consider when buying a dry suits, but I’ll leave that until next time. Happy diving and stay warm.