Equipment: Exoposure Suits

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    The Wetsuit:

The ultimate wetsuit is the one that allows the least amount of water flow into the suit. The wetsuit must accordingly fit tightly, but not to tight so that it cuts of the blood flow to the different bodyparts. The best advice is to try the suit on before purchase or rental and ensure that the suit fits tightly all over. Certain suits can be custom made to ensure correct fit all over. This however increases the price of the suit quite dramatically.

The wetsuits main function is to protect the diver against heat loss even in relatively warm water. The suit additionally protects the diver against cuts and abrasions. The suit can also supply emergency buoyancy when weights are not used.

 Wetsuits are mainly made of closed cell foam neoprene rubber and the thickness varies between 1,2,3,5,7 and 10mm. For the majority of dive sites in SA a 5 mm suit would be adequate. As optional extras hoods or chicken vests may  be used together with wetsuits to supply increased insulation.

Three main styles of wetsuits are available: the farmer john and jacket (or pants and jacket ) type, the one piece and the “shorty”. The suits use should be determined before choosing one of the different styles. Shorty's are mainly used in warm water were minimum thermal protection is required. The one piece wetsuit gives moderate protection from the cold and can be used in warm as well as moderately cold water. The Farmer john and jacket is ideal for diving in relatively cold and warm water. The diver can dive with only the jacket or only the pants if the water is warm. For extra protection in cold water the suit provides thicker insulation around the chest.

My recommendation is to go for a 5 mm farmer john and jacket because then you are covered for warm water and Relatively cold water ( e.g. west of cape town) diving. Be sure to get more advise from your local dive shop about what is best for you.

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Updated on: 02/02/2001