It’s no secret that a drysuit isn’t a small investment. However, that investment often pays for itself in added comfort and an extended dive season. Going beyond the initial investment in your drysuit, undergarments, and added options, there is the ongoing cost of maintaining your suit and keeping it diveable. With that in mind, there are ways to stretch your maintenance dollar and ensure that your drysuit doesn’t let you down when you are itching for a dive.
Drysuit Zippers Aren’t Cheap
I always say that if a drysuit were a car, then the zipper would be the transmission. Why do I say this? Well first off, it’s a key component to staying dry. If your zipper isn’t holding a seal, then your suit leaks and it negates the whole concept of a drysuit. Secondly, there is a significant cost involved in replacing a zipper, usually around 300 dollars. Bear in mind, if you keep your drysuit for years and dive it often, a zipper replacement is inevitable. Whether you have to replace it yearly, or after 3-5 years is up to how you maintain it.
Keep Your Drysuit Zipper Clean
The first key to maintaining a drysuit zipper is to keep it clean and clear of any debris, sand, or silt. A great tool for cleaning a drysuit zipper is a soft bristled toothbrush. Just give your zipper a good brushing and rinse with fresh water and allow it to dry before you store it. Drysuit zippers are impregnated with a rubber flap that creates the seal. This rubber, after time produces “danglies”, short strands of string that pull loose from the rubber flap. When these occur, you can cut them off gently with scissors(use caution not to cut the rubber itself). Some say to score them with a lighter, while I don’t recommend this simply because I’ve never done it before and can’t attest to its effectiveness, some swear by it. If you decide to use this method, enlist an experienced drysuit diver who has done it before to show you how.
Use Zipper Wax To Lubricate Your Drysuit Zipper
The second key to maintaining a drysuit zipper is to keep it lubricated. While many say that different types of wax are good for this purpose, I say use a wax that’s actually designed for drysuit zippers. They are specially formulated to provide lubrication and conditioning and won’t “gunk up” the teeth and keep cleaning simple. The best bet is a light coating prior to donning the suit.
Don’t Be Too Hard On Your Drysuit Zipper
Another consideration is when you don or doff the suit. Don’t tug on the zipper more than is needed. Also, make sure that the zipper’s path isn’t impeded by your undergarments or the suit’s material. In the event that the zipper gets jammed, gently and slowly back it off, clear the jam and reattempt to zip the suit up. Get a buddy to help you, especially if you have a rear entry suit.
Store Your Suit Properly To Make The Zipper Last Longer
While there are as many opinions on this as models of drysuits on the market, I’ll tell you how I store my suit for the long term in order to ensure my zipper lasts. First, I clean and dry my zipper and suit. Then, with the zipper open, I roll my suit up starting with the boots. Once my suit is rolled(not too tightly), I store it in a mesh bag inside of my house. If you don’t want to keep your suit inside your home, make sure that it is stored in a clean and climate controlled environment(not your garage). Why? Because extreme temperatures and fumes from vehicle exhaust and chemicals will degrade the seals and other materials of your suit.
Reduce the Use
One final tip for making your zipper last longer is to reduce the number of times you “cycle” the zipper. While diving less is just plain wrong and out of the question, there are ways that you can limit the cycles on your zipper. First would be to have a pee valve installed. That way you don’t have to remove the suit to relieve yourself on short surface intervals, just go during the dive! Secondly, if the air temperature is cool and the surface interval isn’t too long, just keep your suit on. It’ll keep you warm and you don’t have to worry about re donning the suit for the next dive!
While a drysuit zipper replacement is almost inevitable if you dive regularly and keep the same suit for a number of years(who wouldn’t?), I know I would rather spend my money on diving and not yearly zipper replacements. Through using the above tips, I often get 300 to 400 dives out of a single zipper! Of course, when you do need a zipper, give us a shout…we’ll get you set up with the stuff you need or you can have one of our experienced technicians do it for you!