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View Full Version : Is there an advantage to a 7mil wetsuit over a drysuit other than price?



aggie99
01-02-2008, 00:54
I am debating on buying a 7 mil wetsuit for cold diving but it seems that everyone that buys one keeps it for a season and then gets a drysuit. Is there any advantage, other than price, for a 7 mil wetsuit over a drysuit? And is flexibility and balancing your rig with a 7mil really bad as well? Thanks in advance...

CompuDude
01-02-2008, 02:04
1) Where are you diving? Your profile doesn't say where you're from, so it's hard to give location-specific advice. (might want to fill that in!)

2) It depends on how often you will dive said cold waters. And even then, there are other factors.

Here in SoCal you can dive dry year-round. Or you can dive wet... but you'll be mighty cold in the winter, or at least you'll need to cut your dives to shorter and fewer, if you're diving wet.

On the other hand, I really enjoy the summer dives when I can toss my wetsuit in the back of the car, and go hit the beach. Wetsuit diving is a little more carefree than drysuit diving, and personally, I feel a little more connected to the water. Suit compression does come into play a bit, certainly, but I learned to dive wet for many years before I went dry, so it's not unmanageable. In the summer, however, it's so much simpler to dive wet (and easier to clean up, especially for beach dives with lots of sand everywhere) that I prefer diving wet there, unless I'm going to be on a boat doing many long dives per day, and then I'll go ahead and dive dry anyway.

So the best option is to have both. If I could only have one, and I dove marginal waters it would be a tougher call. I might then start diving wet and slowly save up for a drysuit. Which, I suppose, is exactly what I did.

aggie99
01-02-2008, 02:35
1) Where are you diving? Your profile doesn't say where you're from, so it's hard to give location-specific advice. (might want to fill that in!)

2) It depends on how often you will dive said cold waters. And even then, there are other factors.

Here in SoCal you can dive dry year-round. Or you can dive wet... but you'll be mighty cold in the winter, or at least you'll need to cut your dives to shorter and fewer, if you're diving wet.

On the other hand, I really enjoy the summer dives when I can toss my wetsuit in the back of the car, and go hit the beach. Wetsuit diving is a little more carefree than drysuit diving, and personally, I feel a little more connected to the water. Suit compression does come into play a bit, certainly, but I learned to dive wet for many years before I went dry, so it's not unmanageable. In the summer, however, it's so much simpler to dive wet (and easier to clean up, especially for beach dives with lots of sand everywhere) that I prefer diving wet there, unless I'm going to be on a boat doing many long dives per day, and then I'll go ahead and dive dry anyway.

So the best option is to have both. If I could only have one, and I dove marginal waters it would be a tougher call. I might then start diving wet and slowly save up for a drysuit. Which, I suppose, is exactly what I did.


I live in Dallas but will be traveling all over to dive. Do you use a 7mil in the summer? I will still use my 3mil wetsuit for summer diving, I was just curious if a 7mil is worth buying as opposed to a drysuit. Plus I would think that a 7mil would be hard to sink as make you very light in the legs.

CompuDude
01-02-2008, 02:50
As I said, I sometimes use a 7mm in the summer, other times I use my drysuit. I prefer the wetsuit when conditions permit. SoCal waters never get warm enough to use less than a 7mm wetsuit for scuba.

A drysuit is a bit more flexible (in application), but the 7mm is easier and simpler... and harder to hurt. No fears of blown seals, no tears a little aqua seal can't fix, no fears of a mid-dive tear leading to a flooded suit.

Nothing makes you "lighter in the legs" than a drysuit, where a feet-first ascension is the biggest risk you learn to manage in a drysuit class. The buoyancy of the 7mm is spread all over your body, so you'll be no more leg-buoyant in a 7mm wetsuit than a 3mm wetsuit.

Lone Frogman
01-02-2008, 04:42
I don't think so.

fireflock
01-02-2008, 06:35
The wetsuit is more failproof, I guess. You won't bust a neck seal or something. The drysuit is going to require more maintenance too.

There's a reason that you've seen so many people buy a 7mm and then a drysuit the next season.

MSilvia
01-02-2008, 07:22
There are pros and cons for each.

7mm wetsuits aren't as warm as a drysuit with a good undergarment, but they're less expensive, simpler to use, have static buoyancy (meaning that the air in the suit doesn't shift around), and require relatively little maintainance.

Drysuits can keep you warm in lower temperatures, compensate for buoyancy lost at depth due to compression, and can function as redundant buoyancy in case of a BC failure. On the downside, they're expensive, need to be maintained, and require some getting used to before they can be used comfortably.

aggie99
01-02-2008, 09:19
thanks for the info!

Mtrewyn
01-02-2008, 10:06
I have been wondering the same things. Thanks for the help.

cummings66
01-02-2008, 11:21
I can see no reason to choose a 7mm over a drysuit, and I know the guy who dove with it yesterday wasn't a happy camper. I had ice forming on my drysuit yet was comfortable and in no hurry to get it off, in fact the zipper was frozen shut so I had to warm up anyways. The wetsuit guy was MISERABLE, but did like the dive.

A 7mm in the Summer for deeper dives can be nice, but to be honest I'd prefer to do it in a drysuit.

Here's the main reason I use a wetsuit, Project Aware. I don't care to pick up trash and sharp things in my drysuit, I'd rather use something that a hole in it wouldn't be bad.

CompuDude
01-02-2008, 11:39
I can see no reason to choose a 7mm over a drysuit, and I know the guy who dove with it yesterday wasn't a happy camper. I had ice forming on my drysuit yet was comfortable and in no hurry to get it off, in fact the zipper was frozen shut so I had to warm up anyways. The wetsuit guy was MISERABLE, but did like the dive.

A 7mm in the Summer for deeper dives can be nice, but to be honest I'd prefer to do it in a drysuit.

Here's the main reason I use a wetsuit, Project Aware. I don't care to pick up trash and sharp things in my drysuit, I'd rather use something that a hole in it wouldn't be bad.

Clearly, local conditions play a role in any decision. I'd feel the same way you did if I was dealing with ice forming on my suit in my local waters. Here in SoCal, that simply does not happen, even in the dead of winter, and the water temps hit the high 40s at the absolute coldest... above 50 is the norm. So here, it's something that could go either way. Moberly, MO, not so much. ;)

MSilvia
01-02-2008, 11:47
I can see no reason to choose a 7mm over a drysuit.
The biggest reasons I'm aware of are price and convenience. If you can't justify the expense of a drysuit and don't find yourself diving in water colder than 45 degrees F, a wetsuit can be a good option. If you want to dive year round in freezing conditions, it isn't.

I don't care to pick up trash and sharp things in my drysuit, I'd rather use something that a hole in it wouldn't be bad.
I got a trilam drysuit that's extremely puncture resistant, so a hole in the suit isn't something I ever worry about. After deliberately making a hole to install my p-valve, I'm confidant the risk of my suit suffering an accidental puncture is extremely low.

Kingpatzer
01-02-2008, 13:23
I can see no reason to choose a 7mm over a drysuit.
The biggest reasons I'm aware of are price and convenience.

Dry suits are, generally, LESS EXPENSIVE than wet suits. It is true that the up-front cost of a wet suit is lower than the up front cost for a dry suit. However, except for buying new seals every few years, dry suits basically can last for decades. Wet suits will not last that long. They will wear out in about 3 or so years with moderate diving, and sooner if you dive frequently.

If you calculate the cost per dive over a 20 year period, including adjusting for future value of dollars spent, etc., dry suits are alot less expensive than wet suits for most divers who dive more than infrequently.

Additionally, you will find that you can dive in a dry suit in any kind of water temps. Even in a 7mm, diving in 40 degree water, or under the ice, just doesn't cut the mustard for most people. So most people will find that they can dive a lot more with a dry suit over a 7mm.

In my mind, there are two kinds of water -- 3mm and dry suit weather.

aggie99
01-02-2008, 14:12
I can see no reason to choose a 7mm over a drysuit.


In my mind, there are two kinds of water -- 3mm and dry suit weather.

Ok, so what I am getting is that if it is cold enough for a 7mil wetsuit then you might as well dive a drysuit. There might be very specific instances where a wetsuit is advantageous (low maintenance and for sharp object environments and recovery) but otherwise dry is the way to go for anything colder than what a 3 mil would suffice for. If this is true then when you add in longevity of a drysuit and remove the need for a 5 mil wetsuit as well the price of a drysuit is even more appealing.

Kingpatzer
01-02-2008, 14:33
I can see no reason to choose a 7mm over a drysuit.


In my mind, there are two kinds of water -- 3mm and dry suit weather.

Ok, so what I am getting is that if it is cold enough for a 7mil wetsuit then you might as well dive a drysuit. There might be very specific instances where a wetsuit is advantageous (low maintenance and for sharp object environments and recovery) but otherwise dry is the way to go for anything colder than what a 3 mil would suffice for. If this is true then when you add in longevity of a drysuit and remove the need for a 5 mil wetsuit as well the price of a drysuit is even more appealing.

That's it. And frankly, even poorly made trilam suits these days are seriously hard to puncture, i'd pretty much have to be diving in razor blades awash with the mayo clinic's sharpie box waste before considering it a serious enough hazard to the suit to go wet.

Add in I dive with wool and synthetic under garmets that stay warm even if soaked, and I have a 95# wing and an emergency lift bag that can easily provide whatever bouyancy I might need should I flood, and there's really no reason at all I can see for a 7mm suit.

MSilvia
01-02-2008, 14:39
dry suits basically can last for decades. Wet suits will not last that long. They will wear out in about 3 or so years with moderate diving, and sooner if you dive frequently.
Interesting... I have a 2 piece wetsuit I bought in 1988 that has hundreds of dives on it including lots of beach, boulder, and wrecks, and aside from some pilling, a few loose threads I reinforced with a quick upholstery thread whip stitch, and some rust stains, it's in nearly as good a shape today as when I bought it. I hope you'll forgive me if I strongly disagree with your "3 year moderate diving" life expectancy, but it just doesn't mesh with my experience at all.

I dive dry now, but I only got the suit because of the benefit the additional thermal protection and redundant buoyancy for deep deco dives.

CompuDude
01-02-2008, 14:44
I can see no reason to choose a 7mm over a drysuit.


In my mind, there are two kinds of water -- 3mm and dry suit weather.

Ok, so what I am getting is that if it is cold enough for a 7mil wetsuit then you might as well dive a drysuit. There might be very specific instances where a wetsuit is advantageous (low maintenance and for sharp object environments and recovery) but otherwise dry is the way to go for anything colder than what a 3 mil would suffice for. If this is true then when you add in longevity of a drysuit and remove the need for a 5 mil wetsuit as well the price of a drysuit is even more appealing.

That's it. And frankly, even poorly made trilam suits these days are seriously hard to puncture, i'd pretty much have to be diving in razor blades awash with the mayo clinic's sharpie box waste before considering it a serious enough hazard to the suit to go wet.

Add in I dive with wool and synthetic under garmets that stay warm even if soaked, and I have a 95# wing and an emergency lift bag that can easily provide whatever bouyancy I might need should I flood, and there's really no reason at all I can see for a 7mm suit.

Do you dive much in surgey conditions, among rocks covered in spiny sea urchins? A buddy of mine recently referred to his drysuit as an ideal pasta strainer after a particularly adventuresome dive. Took hours of work with a tube of aquaseal to get it diveable again... and that only worked because he was diving a crushed neo suit. A trilam would have likely required actual patch material.

Also, lobster hunting is another reason to go 7mm. Digging your arm under sharp rocks is hell on your seals.

So it all depends on local conditions and the diving you're doing. If you're mostly diving lakes, you're dead on. Common SoCal conditions are a little more complex than your posts reflect.

CompuDude
01-02-2008, 14:47
dry suits basically can last for decades. Wet suits will not last that long. They will wear out in about 3 or so years with moderate diving, and sooner if you dive frequently.
Interesting... I have a 2 piece wetsuit I bought in 1988 that has hundreds of dives on it including lots of beach, boulder, and wrecks, and aside from some pilling, a few loose threads I reinforced with a quick upholstery thread whip stitch, and some rust stains, it's in nearly as good a shape today as when I bought it. I hope you'll forgive me if I strongly disagree with your "3 year moderate diving" life expectancy, but it just doesn't mesh with my experience at all.

I dive dry now, but I only got the suit because of the benefit the additional thermal protection and redundant buoyancy for deep deco dives.

There are some VERY well-made suits (particularly rubatex suits) from some time ago that were exceptionally well-made and still going strong today, but I think you can agree that for the average off-the rack commercially mass-produced suits being cranked out today, he's not far off. You can still get those great suits from companies like WetWear, but they are far from the normal suit someone buys when they first start looking for a wetsuit.

MSilvia
01-02-2008, 14:50
Do you dive much in surgey conditions, among rocks covered in spiny sea urchins? A buddy of mine recently referred to his drysuit as an ideal pasta strainer after a particularly adventuresome dive. Took hours of work with a tube of aquaseal to get it diveable again... and that only worked because he was diving a crushed neo suit. A trilam would have likely required actual patch material.
I do that pretty routinely, and honestly can't begin to imagine an urchin spine penetrating my trilam. With a brand new factory-sharpened punch, a heavy hammer, and a solid hardwood block under one layer of material, it took me 30 swings to put a hole through the suit, and I'm a big strong guy... I can drive a framing nail home in two easy swings. Even then, it wan't a clean hole, and I had to rough out the rest of it with a new x-acto blade before cleaning the edges with a hot soldiering iron so I could mount a p-valve. If an urchin gets through that, with only the force of my weight or surge, I'll pin a medal on the little bastard.


Also, lobster hunting is another reason to go 7mm. Digging your arm under sharp rocks is hell on your seals.
The gauntlets on my Akona kevlar gloves cover my seals, so I'm pretty well protected against that problem too.

mwhities
01-02-2008, 14:52
I have a 3mm Henderson gold core suit and a 3mm Henderson shortly. I used them together to dive in 45F water with the air temp at 32F. I was quit comfortable as long as I was swimming in the water. Once I stopped swimming, I became very cold. Then when I got out, I was even colder.

I recently bought a dry suit. I plan to not be cold again. :)

In Mississippi, I can dive all Summer and part of the Fall with no exposure suit to my 3mm Henderson Gold Core. Fall and Winter, I'll need at least my 3mm HGC and my 3mm shorty.

So I think it's good to have a wet suit and dry suit. (Not sure about people with two arms but, trying to get on a dry suit with one-arm is a PITA, I'd almost rather put on my two 3mm suits than muck with the dry suit. But, there is something better that the dry suit offers, you don't have to take it off on your SI. I guess the PITA it is to get on and off wuold be worth staying dry and warm through out the SI. :))

MSilvia
01-02-2008, 14:54
You can still get those great suits from companies like WetWear, but they are far from the normal suit someone buys when they first start looking for a wetsuit.
Well, I don't know about that, as I've never needed a replacement for it, but I'll offer this advice: it's worth spending the extra for a suit that will last. If you buy cheap crap, you shouldn't have high expectations.

For what it's worth, mine is an S.A.S. neoprene suit I had custom tailored.

ReefHound
01-02-2008, 15:14
Is there any advantage, other than price, for a 7 mil wetsuit over a drysuit? And is flexibility and balancing your rig with a 7mil really bad as well? Thanks in advance...

Getting on a 7mm wetsuit is a pain in the arse, I can't imagine getting one on *over* a drysuit. :smilie39:

aggie99
01-02-2008, 15:21
Ah, the Special Air Service boys! If that neporene can handle the British channel than it is a well built suit!

Kingpatzer
01-02-2008, 15:54
That's it. And frankly, even poorly made trilam suits these days are seriously hard to puncture, i'd pretty much have to be diving in razor blades awash with the mayo clinic's sharpie box waste before considering it a serious enough hazard to the suit to go wet.


Do you dive much in surgey conditions, among rocks covered in spiny sea urchins? A buddy of mine recently referred to his drysuit as an ideal pasta strainer after a particularly adventuresome dive. Took hours of work with a tube of aquaseal to get it diveable again... and that only worked because he was diving a crushed neo suit. A trilam would have likely required actual patch material.

I don't do lobster hunting, and I don't dive So. Cal, so I won't presume to say you're wrong. But, I have dove off off the north shore of Lake Superior, which has a few rocks and some the wrecks there come with sharp edges aplenty.

I'm not saying that dry suits never require maintenance, but I honestly can't see a sea urchin you bump into accidentally puncturing a trilam suit. As has been mentioned, it takes a good deal of work to do that intentionally.

MSilvia
01-02-2008, 16:25
Ah, the Special Air Service boys! If that neporene can handle the British channel than it is a well built suit!
Ah... no. It's a different SAS. I'm referring to Sub-Aquatic Systems. So far as I know, they haven't been in business since the 90s.

aggie99
01-02-2008, 17:35
Ah, the Special Air Service boys! If that neporene can handle the British channel than it is a well built suit!
Ah... no. It's a different SAS. I'm referring to Sub-Aquatic Systems. So far as I know, they haven't been in business since the 90s.

Ah well...that would have been cool if it was the neporene of the elite British forces!

Puffer Fish
01-02-2008, 23:19
Do you dive much in surgey conditions, among rocks covered in spiny sea urchins? A buddy of mine recently referred to his drysuit as an ideal pasta strainer after a particularly adventuresome dive. Took hours of work with a tube of aquaseal to get it diveable again... and that only worked because he was diving a crushed neo suit. A trilam would have likely required actual patch material.
I do that pretty routinely, and honestly can't begin to imagine an urchin spine penetrating my trilam. With a brand new factory-sharpened punch, a heavy hammer, and a solid hardwood block under one layer of material, it took me 30 swings to put a hole through the suit, and I'm a big strong guy... I can drive a framing nail home in two easy swings. Even then, it wan't a clean hole, and I had to rough out the rest of it with a new x-acto blade before cleaning the edges with a hot soldiering iron so I could mount a p-valve. If an urchin gets through that, with only the force of my weight or surge, I'll pin a medal on the little bastard.


Also, lobster hunting is another reason to go 7mm. Digging your arm under sharp rocks is hell on your seals.
The gauntlets on my Akona kevlar gloves cover my seals, so I'm pretty well protected against that problem too.


You be giving a lot of metals out... some urchins are amazingly sharp - and I have seen trilam with holes in it from them... but that also means that usually, they keep going.

Pretty easy to get a couple hundred pounds of force going in a surge.. far more than a hammer, even a heavy one.

But I don't think it is that common...and not something I would worry about.

RoyN
01-06-2008, 00:32
Nope, no advantage other then price. For me, the reason is clear. I'm poor so I gotta work with a wetsuit. Maybe someday I'll be able to afford a drysuit.

jeepbrew
02-25-2008, 10:54
I personally couldn't justify the expense of a drysuit if I lived in Dallas (as OP does). Same goes for living in Birmingham, AL (as I do). Even in the middle of winter the water only gets to about 44 degrees here, and I have no problems diving wet. Hell, even traveling to the Great Lakes and diving wet is not bad... definitely not worth buying a drysuit.

Skyjunky
02-25-2008, 10:58
You can get a nice used drysuit for the same price as a 7mil.

CompuDude
02-25-2008, 12:31
I personally couldn't justify the expense of a drysuit if I lived in Dallas (as OP does). Same goes for living in Birmingham, AL (as I do). Even in the middle of winter the water only gets to about 44 degrees here, and I have no problems diving wet. Hell, even traveling to the Great Lakes and diving wet is not bad... definitely not worth buying a drysuit.

44 degree water and you don't see the advantage of a drysuit? :smiley5:

How often do you do 4 dives in a day?

jeepbrew
02-25-2008, 22:16
I personally couldn't justify the expense of a drysuit if I lived in Dallas (as OP does). Same goes for living in Birmingham, AL (as I do). Even in the middle of winter the water only gets to about 44 degrees here, and I have no problems diving wet. Hell, even traveling to the Great Lakes and diving wet is not bad... definitely not worth buying a drysuit.

44 degree water and you don't see the advantage of a drysuit? :smiley5:

How often do you do 4 dives in a day?


First off, notice I didn't say that I don't see the advantage of a drysuit (as you commented), but rather, that I couldn't justify the expense of one.

How often do I do 4 dives a day in 44 degree water? Very rarely. There is not much to see down there (where it is that cold here - i.e. rock quarries). The other water around Alabama (Gulf of Mexico & Rivers) gets nowhere near that cold... that's why I couldn't justify the expense of going dry. For reference, temps on the Oriskany two weeks ago were 59 deg at the flight deck and 68 deg at the final safety stop (for those temps I dive a 3 mil farmer john, so it is 6 mil over the torso where they overlap). I can drive 3 hrs and be in the Gulf, so I have no need to dive the rock quarries and look at, ummm, rocks. Other than that, we dive the rivers for civil war artifacts, arrowheads, bottles, and sharks' teeth, but the rivers are usually in the 60s in the winter and upper 80s (sometimes even low 90s) in the summer.

I will be diving in Alaska this summer and I will do it wet. Now if I were considering diving Alaska in January (when the water is in the mid to low 30s), that would be another story.

Anyway, enough rambling... all I was saying is that in Birmingham I cannot justify the expense, and if I lived in Dallas (and travelled to dive, as OP does), I still would not buy a drysuit.

frankc420
02-26-2008, 09:21
I personally couldn't justify the expense of a drysuit if I lived in Dallas (as OP does). Same goes for living in Birmingham, AL (as I do). Even in the middle of winter the water only gets to about 44 degrees here, and I have no problems diving wet. Hell, even traveling to the Great Lakes and diving wet is not bad... definitely not worth buying a drysuit.

44 degree water and you don't see the advantage of a drysuit? :smiley5:

How often do you do 4 dives in a day?


First off, notice I didn't say that I don't see the advantage of a drysuit (as you commented), but rather, that I couldn't justify the expense of one.

How often do I do 4 dives a day in 44 degree water? Very rarely. There is not much to see down there (where it is that cold here - i.e. rock quarries). The other water around Alabama (Gulf of Mexico & Rivers) gets nowhere near that cold... that's why I couldn't justify the expense of going dry. For reference, temps on the Oriskany two weeks ago were 59 deg at the flight deck and 68 deg at the final safety stop (for those temps I dive a 3 mil farmer john, so it is 6 mil over the torso where they overlap). I can drive 3 hrs and be in the Gulf, so I have no need to dive the rock quarries and look at, ummm, rocks. Other than that, we dive the rivers for civil war artifacts, arrowheads, bottles, and sharks' teeth, but the rivers are usually in the 60s in the winter and upper 80s (sometimes even low 90s) in the summer.

I will be diving in Alaska this summer and I will do it wet. Now if I were considering diving Alaska in January (when the water is in the mid to low 30s), that would be another story.

Anyway, enough rambling... all I was saying is that in Birmingham I cannot justify the expense, and if I lived in Dallas (and travelled to dive, as OP does), I still would not buy a drysuit.

You must be well insulated? :smiley29:

jeepbrew
02-26-2008, 22:56
You must be well insulated? :smiley29:

I hope not. 6 ft & 185 lbs, semi-athletic build... so not too "insulated". I suppose I have always been warm natured though. Snow flurries are falling outside and I was just out there walking around in athletic pants, a t-shirt, and flip-flops and my neighbors thought I was crazy :smiley5: I just wanted to make sure there was indeed snow falling in Alabama... it's rare!

emcbride81
02-26-2008, 23:00
You must be well insulated? :smiley29:

I hope not. 6 ft & 185 lbs, semi-athletic build... so not too "insulated". I suppose I have always been warm natured though. Snow flurries are falling outside and I was just out there walking around in athletic pants, a t-shirt, and flip-flops and my neighbors thought I was crazy :smiley5: I just wanted to make sure there was indeed snow falling in Alabama... it's rare!


I am the same with the natural warmness...and I have dived 41 degree water wet with hood and gloves with no problem. Granted, I only did two dives each day and the air temps were in the mid 60's.

divenuts.net
03-03-2008, 14:01
Planning on diving Galapagos in mid-July. What's your opinion on wetsuit thickness and brand? HELP!

CompuDude
03-03-2008, 14:05
Planning on diving Galapagos in mid-July. What's your opinion on wetsuit thickness and brand? HELP!

I keep hearing from friends that it's COLD there. The deep water upwellings responsible for the absurd amount of life there do NOT originate from the tropics.

I'd say 7mm, no matter what someone else tries to tell you.