You may be new to the idea of drysuit diving, and you maybe wondering what you should wear under your drysuit. But should you ever wear a wetsuit under your drysuit?
You could wear a wetsuit under a drysuit, but it’s not the best way to keep you warm. So you should wear an insulating under-suit that’s designed for wearing under a drysuit, which is designed to keep you warm instead.
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In the past, wetsuits have been worn under a drysuit. So please read on to understand why this was the case, but also why a wetsuit is perhaps not the best option.
Can you wear a wetsuit under a drysuit?
You can wear a wetsuit under a drysuit, but you are far better to wear undersuit materials that insulate you even if they get wet. The problem with wearing a wetsuit under a drysuit is that you will sweat. This sweat will lie under the wetsuit and will mean you stay wet, whereas a drysuit undergarment is designed to keep you dry, as it will “wick” your sweat.
What do you wear under a drysuit?
The best type of clothing to wear under a drysuit includes clothes that are made from a material that will insulate, even when it’s wet. This includes polypropylene, polyester, nylon, pile fleece and wool. But this does not include materials like cotton, as you’d get cold if this material gets wet.
Modern undersuits range from simple fleece type garments to advanced suits with anti-compression panels or even built in heating to keep you warm when colder water diving.
I had this only last week when I drysuit dived in a lake to fix some underwater pipes. This wasn’t perspiration, but was a drysuit leak. When you have a leaking drysuit this is quite uncomfortable, as the water entering the drysuit is usually cold. Bearing in mind I was in the later for nearly two hours, I got very wet.
Layering under drysuit
To stay warm when you dive in a drysuit, it’s about layering under your drysuit. This is no different to laying your clothes to keep warm on a cold day. To the extreme you may even wear thermals under your clothes, which is what you can also do under a drysuit.
You can use thermals as your drysuit base layer. Then choose an appropriate drysuit under-suit with the right thermal properties or ‘tog‘, depending on the temperature of the water you’re diving in. What layers you have under your drysuit, and which tog of undergarment you choose will also be impacted by your susceptibility to the cold. The colder the water, and the more you feel the cold, the higher the tog rating you will need.
When you discover that water transfers heat from the body up to 25 times faster than air, you will understand why scuba divers start to feel cold very quickly without protection, or should I say; without the right thermal protection.
Are there benefits of wearing a wetsuit under your drysuit if your drysuit leaks?
The benefit of wearing a wetsuit under your drysuit is that it doesn’t matter if a wetsuit gets wet, as it will still keep you warm. But I’m not so sure this will work well when you get to the surface on a cold windy day.
Drysuits are far better thermal protection than wetsuits in cold air temperatures, especially when it’s windy. But more importantly, when a wetsuit is wet, the wearer will get pretty cold out of the water when it’s cold and windy.
Drysuit undersuits provide thermal protection when diving by trapping air and maintaining body heat during the dive. This also applies between dives, and especially when the air temperature is cold. Even if your drysuit leaks, you should still stay reasonably warm with the right drysuit undergarment.
Super Tarzan wetsuits under a drysuit
Wearing a wetsuit under a drysuit is an old idea. This idea was promoted by Skooba “totes“, which was marketed as the World’s finest “dry” suits. In the marketing material, they explained “”For lengthy dives in cold water there is still nothing to beat a “dry” suit. A diver can wear as many sweaters underneath it as he wishes – or best of all a SUPER TARZAN as an undersuit.”.
But this was back in the early 1960’s. However, since then drysuit undergarments have come on significantly. This is to the extent where I’d suggest you don’t wear a wetsuit under a drysuit for scuba diving, but instead buy the correct under-suit instead. However, if on the other hand you are doing some other sport, like kayaking or a triathlon, you may wish to wear a wetsuit underneath to keep you warm.
Final thoughts about should you wear a wetsuit under a drysuit
The last thoughts in regarding to wearing a wetsuit under your drysuit for diving include the following:
- Buoyancy control. A wetsuit will make you more buoyant at the surface, and due to how it compresses with depth this will affect how buoyant to are as you go deeper. In other words, you will probably be less buoyant using a wetsuit than if you use a normal drysuit undergarment.
- The compression of the wetsuit at depth will also reduce its thermal insulation properties too.
- Having a wetsuit under your drysuit may become a bit restrictive on movement.
- Good drysuit undergarments tend to have “wicking” properties, which will take up any moisture from your perspiration. Whereas a wetsuit won’t do this.
- You may find you feel the cold more when you surface with a wetsuit as an undergarment for a drysuit, as a damp wetsuit will increase heat loss at the surface if there’s a layer of water under the wetsuit from sweating.
- Consider what you may smell like after a dive due to sweating so much. You may like to consider your dive buddy who’s the one to be undoing your drysuit zip!
You may now wish to read my article about the argument between “Drysuit or BCD for buoyancy control and which is the best.” I include information about why you should use your drysuit for buoyancy and then why you should use your BCD for buoyancy when drysuit diving.
I hope you enjoyed this article about should you ever wear a wetsuit under a drysuit
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If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions either about snorkeling or scuba diving (or specifically about scuba diving basics), please comment below with your questions.
There will also be many more articles about scuba and scuba diving safety tips (and on snorkeling too) for you to read and learn about this fabulous sport.
Have fun and be safe!