If you’re considering using a drysuit and asked the question is drysuit diving hard or easy, this post is for you.
When I first started diving in a drysuit I had already completed well over 100 dives. I was experienced and a very confidence scuba diver. This meant that after very quick lesson of about half an hour, I went diving for the very first time in a drysuit…and this was a decompression dive to 45 metres (148 feet).
I’m not suggesting that you do the same, but the point I am making is how easy it is to dive in a drysuit vs being hard. Let’s take a closer look…
Is drysuit diving hard or easy? Scuba diving in a drysuit isn’t hard at all. In fact drysuit diving is very easy. The first time you dive in a drysuit it might feel a bit strange, but after a few dives it’ll become like second nature. Using a drysuit in colder waters is much better than diving in a wetsuit. You’ll be pleased you made the switch.
7 things to consider about how hard or easy drysuit diving is vs wetsuit diving
For you to understand how easy or difficult drysuit diving is, let’s take a look at the additional considerations of drysuit diving vs wetsuit diving. These include:
- Your drysuit is an additional airspace to think about when considering buoyancy control on your dive – relatively easy.
- Learning to use the dump valves of your drysuit – relatively easy.
- Understanding how to use the inflator valve and connecting the inflation hose – very easy.
- Making sure to make sure your drysuit zip is completely closed! Very easy if you don’t forget.
- Drysuit squeeze is something you’ll need to be aware of – very easy and the water pressure will remind you anyway.
- You need an understanding of air migration throughout your drysuit and the possibility of a feet first ascent – Relatively easy.
- Preparing for the dive and putting your drysuit on will be new – easy to learn and becomes easier each time you do it.
How easy or difficult is using a drysuit for the first time?
Let’s now take a closer look at each of these points in turn.
1. Your drysuit is an additional airspace to think about when considering buoyancy control on your dive
I’m assuming for the purpose of this article that you understand buoyancy control and the use of a buoyancy control device (BCD). But for drysuit diving buoyancy control and achieving neutral buoyancy is different than it is when you’re diving in a wetsuit.
The reason for this is your drysuit is a very large airspace that will need managing as you go deeper, this is in addition to your BCD if you have air in both.
But one of the biggest questions asked is “do you use your drysuit for buoyancy or your buoyancy control device?” Depending on who you train with, the approach to teaching this will be different.
The PADI drysuit diver course for example teaches you to still use your buoyancy control device for buoyancy underwater. Whereas my training was with BSAC and I was taught to use my drysuit for buoyancy instead.
There’s no right or wrong here and they both work. But in my opinion using your drysuit for buoyancy control is better and easier. That’s not to say using your buoyancy control device is hard, but it takes a bit more thinking about. Plus you’re managing two airspaces instead of one.
My reasoning for this is if you use your buoyancy control device for buoyancy, you will still need to add air to your drysuit to avoid drysuit squeeze in any case (see below).
That means you have two air spaces to manage on the way down and on the way back to the surface. Whilst this isn’t a problem on a controlled dive without any problems. But if you introduce an emergency ascent into the equation, you now have to dump air from four devices, that’s a challenge and could become a problem.
Why four devices I hear you ask? Let’s take a look at the answer to this question.
An emergency ascent with a drysuit
If the emergency is such that you’re having to bring your buddy to the surface due to the fact they are unconscious, you not only have to manage your buoyancy (i.e. the air in your BCD and in your drysuit), but you will have to manage the air in your buddy’s BCD and drysuit also.
I’m not sure how many times you’ve had to do this exercise, or even if your training included this aspect, but believe me when I say this, it can be a challenge to do this when you’re simply managing two devices.
For this aspect of drysuit diving, you will need to decide which method you use. Either method isn;t difficult, but in my opinion using your drysuit for buoyancy is slightly easier.
2. Learning to use the dump valves of your drysuit
An important part of your new drysuit are the dump valves. You normally have two dump valves on a drysuit, one of your wrist cuff and the other is on your upper arm near to your shoulder.
These become important when you begin your ascent. You will need to release air from your dump valves as you ascend from your dive, just like you already do now with your BCD.
The release of air from your dump valves is automatic as they have an automatic pressure sensor.
You just need to make sure these dump valves are slightly raised, and usually so that your wrist is above your head level. This is to encourage the release of air as you ascend and the air inside your drysuit expands. This isn’t hard to do and just takes a bit of practice for the first few dives.
3. Understanding how to use the inflator valve and connecting the inflation hose
An addition to your diving equipment when you’re drysuit diving is your inflator hose. The drysuit inflator hose is is connected to a low pressure port on the first stage. This hose connects with your drysuit inflator valve.
If you forget to connect this when you’re getting ready to dive, you’ll soon discover it’s not connect when you first try to inflate your drysuit to alleviate drysuit squeeze (see below), or to slow your ascent if you’re using your drysuit for buoyancy control.
There’s nothing difficult about learning how to use the inflator hose of a drysuit. As with your training to use the inflator hose on a buoyancy control device, it’s about putting small amounts of air in your drysuit at a time.
4. Making sure to make sure your drysuit zip is completely closed
This is something you’ll only do once and you’ll learn the lesson. A drysuit is supposed to keep you dry. But if your zip isn’t closed tightly water will seep in and get you wet.
This isn’t a nice experience, and although this hasn’t happened to me I have dived in a drysuit with a leak. Getting wet in a drysuit isn’t a nice experience and it can make you cold.
Whilst a small leak isn’t a problem and is more of a nuisance than a danger, leaving your zip completely open could be a problem. So always get your buddy to check your zip before you put your BCD on.
The hardest part of this is remembering to make sure your zip is closed or remembering to ask your buddy to check it. Other than thant, this aspect is very easy to learn.
5. Drysuit squeeze is something you’ll need to be aware of
Earlier in this article I mentioned drysuit squeeze. This is something you’ll discover as you descend on your first dive in a drysuit. What happens is that as you descend and the pressure increases, the air in your drysuit contracts.
As a result of this your drysuit will start to squeeze you. This is more uncomfortable than dangerous and the way to rectify the problem is to add small amounts of air to re-expand the airspace around your body. The expansion of the airspace is what alleviates the drysuit squeeze.
There’s nothing hard about this aspect of drysuit diving, as you’ll be reminded of drysuit squeeze when your suit begin to squeeze you if you forget on your way down in any case.
6. You need an understanding of air migration throughout your drysuit and the possibility of a feet first ascent
I probably don’t need to tell you that air will always migrate to the top of any object it occupies. For example, the air in a bottle will always be at the top of the bottle.
The same is true of the air in your drysuit. If you are upright, the air will be predominantly at the top region of the drysuit. However, if you were to invert yourself, which means your feet were pointing towards the surface, the air would predominantly be at your feet and legs.
This can be a problem for inexperienced divers and can lead to what’s termed a feet first ascent. What can happen if your feet go above the horizontal, the air will begin to migrate towards your feet.
If this goes unchecked, the air migration will continue and you may end up completely inverted and you could end up in a dangerous drysuit feet first ascent.
The reason why this is a problem is that your dump valves are on your shoulder and wrist. If all the air is in your legs and feet, none of it can be dumped from the dump valves that are pointing down.
This isn’t hard to get to grips with, you just have to remember to not to let your feet go too far above the horizontal. But also and probably more importantly, learn how to get yourself out of the problem of a feet first ascent.
7. Preparing for the dive and putting your drysuit on will be new
When you’re preparing to dive in a drysuit for the first time this can be a bit daunting for some. But if you follow the training this won’t be difficult. Every other aspect of the dive will be the same as before.
You need to make sure you know how to put the drysuit on correctly, whilst making sure to wear the correct undergarments to keep you warm. Make sure to connect up your extra air hose as discussed above to the inflator valve on your drysuit and you’re good to go.
One other thing you will need to work out is the different amount of weights you’ll need when your getting ready to dive. This may end up being a bit of trial and error to start with.
But make sure not to overweight yourself, as this can inadvertently be the cause of the feet first ascent because the an excessive amount of air in your drysuit to compensate for too much weight.
None of this is difficult and it’s like learning anything new, it can be a bit daunting to begin with, but after a while everything becomes second nature.
I hope you enjoyed this article about is drysuit diving hard or easy
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Have fun and be safe!