Diving, this challenging activity that takes us to the depths of the oceans, is made possible by one key piece of equipment: the wetsuit.
This snug, form-fitting garment is designed to insulate our bodies from the cold water and help us stay comfortable during our dives.
Here’s a question that has puzzled humans since the dawn of time, or at least since we started venturing into the water in less-than-ideal conditions: do wetsuits keep you warm?
I’m here to set the record straight once and for all. Let’s dive in (pun absolutely intended).
Do Wetsuits Keep You Warm?
So, do wetsuits really keep you warm? The answer is yes…and no.
Wetsuits will certainly help to keep you warm in cold water, but they’re not going to turn a freezing ocean into a tropical paradise. You’ll still feel the cold, especially if you’re in water below 60 degrees Fahrenheit or so.
That being said, a wetsuit will absolutely help to take the edge off and make diving in cold water much more bearable.
How Much Do Wet Suits Keep You Warm?
So how much does a wetsuit actually keep you warm? That depends on a few factors, including:
The type of neoprene used in the wetsuit
There are two types of neoprene, closed-cell and open-cell.
Closed-cell neoprene is more dense and contains tiny gas bubbles that are trapped within the material.
Open-cell neoprene is less dense and contains larger gas bubbles. Closed-cell neoprene is better at trapping heat, while open-cell neoprene is more flexible.
Most wetsuits are made from a mix of both types of neoprene, with closed-cell neoprene on the inside and open-cell neoprene on the outside.
The thickness of the neoprene
The thicker the neoprene, the warmer you’ll be. A 3mm wetsuit will keep you much warmer than a 2mm wetsuit, for example.
However, thicker neoprene is also more buoyant, so it’s not always the best choice for scuba diving.
It’s important to strike a balance between warmth and buoyancy when choosing a wetsuit for diving.
The fit of the wetsuit
A well-fitting wetsuit will always be warmer than an ill-fitting one.
Wetsuits should be snug but not too tight. They should feel like a second skin. If you can’t move freely in your wetsuit, it’s too tight.
On the other hand, if your wetsuit is too loose, water will be able to circulate freely inside it and you’ll lose heat much more quickly.
How well the wetsuit is sealed
If your wetsuit doesn’t fit well or isn’t properly sealed, water will be able to circulate freely inside it and you’ll lose heat quickly.
A good way to test the fit of your wetsuit is to jump into a pool and see how much water gets in. If you’re leaking a lot of water, you need to adjust the fit of your wetsuit or get a new one.
Your Body Type
Some people are just naturally warmer than others. If you tend to get cold easily, you’ll need a thicker wetsuit or one made from a material that’s better at trapping heat.
On the other hand, if you tend to get too hot easily, you might be better off with a thinner wetsuit or one made from a more breathable material.
And the body fat percentage also plays an important role. The more body fat you have, the warmer you’ll be in the water.
How Do Wetsuits work?
At their core, wetsuits are nothing more than an insulating layer between you and the water.
One of the most common misperceptions about wetsuits is that they are designed to keep you dry. In actuality, wetsuits are meant to do the opposite: they are designed to let water in.
They work by trapping a thin layer of water next to your skin and using your body heat to warm that water up.
The theory behind this design is simple. Your body is naturally warm, and the water inside a wetsuit will quickly reach body temperature.
That might sound counterintuitive (why would you want to trap water next to your skin?), but it’s quite effective.
The neoprene material from which most wetsuits are also quite good at retaining heat, which helps keep you warm.
Wetsuits are a vital piece of gear for anyone looking to extend their diving season into colder months or waters.
While they’re not going to make freezing water feel like a day at the beach, they will help to take the edge off and make diving in cold conditions much more tolerable.
So, if you’re thinking about taking the plunge this winter, be sure to pick up a wetsuit first! Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.