In the quest for a better and dry dive experience I have seen many divers wring their hands and obsess over what material their shiny new drysuit should be. In my efforts to attempt to guide them towards the best personal solution for them I often ask a number of questions. With the answers to questions like what temperature they will be diving in, will they travel extensively, personal dive habits, and sometimes embarrassing…their tendency to gain or lose weight. Most drysuit customers I assist often find the answer to their drysuit dilemma somewhere in the responses to these questions. To that end, let’s take a look at the main types of drysuit materials and their benefits as well as drawbacks.
A shell drysuit is exactly what the name implies…a shell. Within the category of the shell drysuit are bilaninate and trilaminate. Most often these type of drysuits carry no inherent insulation value. All insulation must come in the form of a quality undergarment. While this may seem like a negative, it gives the diver flexibility in what undergarment to use and the ability to dive the suit in a wide range of water temperatures. Another plus of the shell type suit is the material is thin, tough and forms well. This allows for ease of travel, although this quality may be negated if traveling to a cooler diving locale where thicker undergarments may be required. On the subject of travel, shell drysuits are often easy to repair with limited loss of time.
One downside to the shell drysuit is traditionally the material has little, if any ability to stretch. This could be a deal breaker for divers who tend to put on a few pounds during the off season and will find the suit has “shrunk” during those non diving months. Included in the category of shell type suits is the breathable membrane materials. These materials breathe and allow for moisture exchange to eliminate that “damp feeling” caused by mainly by perspiration throughout the dive. As a final plus for the fashion conscience divers, shell drysuits can often be had in a variety of colors and designs beyond the basic black.
The crushed neoprene drysuit is made from the same tried and true material as the wetsuit, with one exception. In a crushed neoprene drysuit the neoprene is compressed to eliminate that buoyancy shift common with just about every wetsuit out there. This creates a tough and insulating material. With the insulating qualities of crushed neoprene, many divers can dive a crushed neoprene suit in mild waters with as little as a baselayer underneath the suit. This is a distinct advantage over the shell type drysuit. However, this advantage becomes a disadvantage when traveling and space is at a premium as the crushed neoprene suit doesn’t pack as well as a shell type suit. However, if you’re primarily diving locally in cooler waters a crushed neoprene suit may be the way to go. In addition, a crushed neoprene suit has quite a bit more stretch than a shell type suit which makes it a good option for those who gain the “Holiday 10” each year only to lose it when the weather warms up. In addition there are drysuits that are made of non crushed neoprene. These type of suits provide outstanding inherent insulation value but also tend to be a bit on the bulky side.
So is a shell type or crushed neoprene drysuit the best option for you? The answer most often will lie in a close look at your personal diving and what you want out of your new suit. Of course the experienced drysuit sales and service team here at DRIS is just an email, chat, or phone call away to help!