Most often divers overlook the need to replace their wetsuit when getting equipment ready for a new dive trip or season. The common thinking is that if it isn’t ripped or has huge gaping holes in it that it’s still in condition to be used for effective exposure protection. Of course, there is more to assessing whether or not your wetsuit is still useable and provides adequate protection from the elements. So let’s start off with a little list of indicators that clue you in on whether or not you should start shopping for a new suit.
- It Stinks-Face it, a wetsuit is subjected to some gross stuff. The obvious sweat along with other bodily fluids are only a small part of the equation. Most often microorganisms from the places we dive hitch a ride in and on the suit and only serve to add to the stench as well as further degrade the material. While enzyme cleaners do a great job, they will only delay the inevitable.
- It has been worn for a good chunk of the dives in your logbook-Neoprene is simply rubber that is impregnated with tiny air bubbles and after a while the repeated compression from depth collapses the air bubbles. This reduces the insulating capabilities of the neoprene. Soon a 7 mil suit starts feeling like a 5 mil and so on.
- The neoprene feels stiff and “crumbly” to the touch-This is a sure sign that the material is starting to break down and it will won’t be very long at all until it begins to pull apart and tear.
- You rub the suit and salt crystals fall off-For those of that dive in salt water we are taught to wash out or gear completely after a day’s diving. Even so, you’ll almost never get all of the salt out of the gear and it will eventually crystallize. This will speed the breakdown of the neoprene.
- It just doesn’t fit the same-Face it, we all gain and lose weight…it’s normal. With a wetsuit, fit is an important component of it’s effectiveness. Too loose and it won’t be able to hold that layer of warm water in, too tight and mobility is affected.
While wetsuits aren’t the most inexpensive piece of equipment in your dive bag, it is the one that should be replaced at regular intervals. A good wetsuit not only keeps you warm in cooler waters, it also acts as a protective skin from things like coral, rocks, and the rusty metal ever present on shipwrecks. So with that in mind, the wetsuit is one piece of equipment that should be looked at with a good amount of scrutiny when going over the gear in your dive bag. If in looking at your wetsuit you find that it is indeed time to replace that crumbling, smelly, yet faithful piece of equipment just remember that DRIS has an awesome selection of replacement wetsuits at competitive prices! The last thing you need is for it to fail you on that amazing dive adventure!