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Thread: Drysuits - Introduction to Drysuit Diving, Tips and Tricks

  1. #1
    Shark snagel's Avatar
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    Drysuits - Introduction to Drysuit Diving, Tips and Tricks

    It's that time of year (winter) and if you are diving in the US, you are most likely drysuit diving or you are wanting to dive and want to know what this drysuit thing is all about. I've been getting a lot of questions asking about drysuit diving and thought it would make a great thread. Calling on all those experts out there to wage in on this for those that might be new to drysuit diving or considering getting into it. What is your advice and/or tidbits of knowledge you can pass along.

    Why Drysuit Diving? Well, it's supposed to be a lot warmer because instead of water as an insulate, air is the insulate property. Air maintains heat better than water assuming you can stay dry. The trick is having the correct undergarments and not leaking any water into the suit.

    The first thing to understand is that learning to dive dry for many is like learning to dive all over again. Don't be afraid of it, take on the challenge, but be safe about it. My experience was that it took me several dives to start to feel comfortable with it. Some get frustrated and give it up. Understand that there is a learning curve because you are having to control another bubble and at first it does not feel natural.

    Drysuit Fitting - This is the key and probably one of the most important aspects. The suit has to fit you comfortably with a layer of undergarments. Too tight and you cannot move and this can be dangerous. Too loose and it can become very hard to control the air bubble inside the suit, again this can be dangerous.

    Undergarments? You need something under the drysuit that will wick the sweat away from your body and also give you a layer of warmth. Sweat trapped against the body will give you a cold feeling. This could and has been a thread discussion in itself. I'm sure others will weigh in on this later in this thread.

    Do I need to take a class? Technically, to rent a drysuit you have to have a drysuit certification. However, you don't need a drysuit certification to buy a suit. You are not going to get a ticket from the Scuba Police if you don't have the certification. However, you really need to have some formal training. I personally took the class and got the certification and I did learn from the class. Could you learn this stuff on your own, probably. The important thing is you need to have somebody that knows drysuit diving to work with you and mentor you even beyond the class. The class was one day and one dive. Was I an expert drysuit diver after the class - no. But, I understood the basics and what can get me in trouble.

    DUI Dog Days - If you are interested in drysuit diving I urge you to attend one of the DUI events. They travel all around and it is a fun time. You do not need the certification for this. They will set you up with everything you need to make a dive. You will be escorted during the dive by a staff member who is showing you the basics and helping to keep you out of trouble. It is a good opportunity to experience drysuit diving and to see if it is something for you and you get to spend the weekend with other divers....what could be a better weekend of diving.

    What is the technique of diving dry? The discussion is how do you really use the drysuit? You have the BCD that you are use to using to control your buoyancy by entering air into the BCD and taking it out. Now you have another air bladder in the suit that you enter air into. The trick is controlling both these air bubbles. Honestly, I forget what PADI recommends for this - maybe somebody can chime in on this. I think most will tell you they insert just enough air into the drysuit to take the squeeze off the suit and then use the BCD to control buoyancy. Others will tell you they use the suit to control buoyancy and only use the BCD when on the surface. Again, this can be a thread in itself.

    What is this Squeeze? Hopefully, you know that air will expand and contract with your depth. As you go deeper or even you get in the water you will feel the suit squeezing your body. Pumping air into the suit removes this squeeze, but again creates an air bubble you have to control. The air is what helps to keep you warm....you get the idea of this balancing act?

    What is this Feet Up issue I hear about? What can happen is that if the air bubble in your suit travels to your feet it can cause your feet to float up. In severe cases you could get into a situation where you cannot get your feet back under you. There are techniques that you learn to fix this if it ever happens. I personally have never had this happen, but it could.

    Okay, this is starting to get pretty long so I think I will stop here to allow others to chime in. Again, I'm hoping others will post some information on drysuit diving to provide information to all those out there that are new to the aspect or thinking about doing it. We really need the input from a lot of people to get the whole perspective.

    Snagel

  2. #2
    TadPole Asting's Avatar
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    This is good timing as I've been bidding on suits lately to give this a try.

  3. #3
    Shark snagel's Avatar
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    Great! Any specific questions you might have about all this?

    I'm sure you have been looking at all kinds of suits and suit manufacturers. Who is the best? Well, that is like Chevy vs. Ford and I'm sure many will give an opinion on that. For me, it depends on the fit. I guess it would be a good time to talk about types of suits. The biggies are Trilaminate and Crushed Neoprene. Trilams are a lot thinner, less bulk, and don't provide as much insulation as the crushed neoprene. It's all about undergarments. Many like the Trilams because they are lighter and do dryout out a lot quicker. The crushed neoprene is typically used by the serious cold water divers and does provide a little more insulation than trilams, but again undergarments are needed as well.

    Snagel

  4. #4
    Grouper
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    Thanks Snagel, there is some good information in this thread. PADI does teach to use your drysuit buoyancy, but I found that the exhaust valve on my drysuit lets air out a lot slower than my BC, and makes it harder to control your ascent. For that reason I do like you mentioned about just enough air to keep the squeeze off, and use the BC. It takes several dives to get used to diving in a drysuit and changes whenever you change your undergarments. But I enjoy diving with a drysuit a lot more than with my 7mm. I stay much warmer and when you get out and the weather is chilly, which usually is this time of the year, you are dry and warm. I would tell anyone getting started with a drysuit, start shallow and have fun. Last year the only month I didn't dive was December, and that is because I am a UPS driver I had to work every weekend.
    Tulsa Aquanauts
    www.tulsaaquanauts.com

  5. #5
    Shark snagel's Avatar
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    A couple more thoughts......

    Cotton is not your friend. Cotton captures wetness (sweat). You need a material that will wick away the moisture. There's a lot of products out there specifically for drysuit diving and many hit up the hunting supply stores for materials that will wick away moisture.

    Don't leave your drysuit in a hot car or trunk. I learned this one the hard way....wrist and neck seals literally melted.

    Snagel

  6. #6
    TadPole Asting's Avatar
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    Thanks for your insight. I'm on a shoestring budget so I have been looking used at both neoprene and trilam suits. The DIY aspect interests me, and I expect to have to replace the seals. I'm hoping to do some pool sessions before hitting some quarries.

    I actually bought some wicking compression pants and shirt, and bought some polartec. I may add as needed.

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    Shark snagel's Avatar
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    So many options. My first suit was a used SeaSoft crushed neoprene - still have it. Nice suit and warm. Only issue is that it is a tad small and takes a ton of weight. I eventually bought a 2nd suit from ScubaToys - Pinnical Evo II. I really like the suit. It's not really trilam and not crushed neoprene...I think they call it Cordola or something like that.

    I typically still use the standard wetsuit for summer diving and the drysuit for winter or cold water diving. I like the drysuit, but in the summer in the Midwest it gets very hot just putting it on. Also, don't have to carry the extra bag of undergarments.

    Snagel

  8. #8
    A simple tip to help with the prevention of overheating in a drysuit on warm days, after you suit up just go and jump in the water. Once the suit is wet it will help keep you cooler when in the sunshine.

  9. #9
    TadPole Asting's Avatar
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    Hm. I'm looking to spend under $300 or so on a used suit, which seems doable but they're a rare item on ebay. It seems like when I look at completed listings there are tons that sell in that price range, but not much going now (in my size at 6'1" and 170lbs).

    I'm half tempted to wait for my W-2 to file my tax return and just blow $600 on a cheap Aquasport/USIA drysuit but I don't think they'll be any better than what I can pick up used. Until then I do have a 7mm FJ and my buddy doesn't like to dive cold anyway. It's something I hope I can get into, but it's not a buy right this minute type of endeavor so I'm trying to be patient in my search. I already bought one suit ( a used seatec), which ended up being slightly too small. There was no size listed but there were measurements from the zipper to other parts of the suit. I ended up losing about $15 on the resale, so it was worth it to hop on a bargain and pray. I know the deals are out there now and then.

  10. #10
    Grouper
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    I picked up a used DUI compressed neoprene suit on Scuba Board for 300.00 a couple of years ago. I had to spend another $150.00 for new seals. For under $500.00 dollars total I got an excellent suit. I started out with some old fleece under garments I used when hunting. They worked well down to around 48 degree water. This year I found a good used DUI polartec 300 undergarment for $130.00. I have dove it in 42 degree water and was warm. If you are patient and diligent and not a hard size to fit. You can find some good deals.
    Tulsa Aquanauts
    www.tulsaaquanauts.com

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