The Complete Guide to Scuba Wetsuits

Everything you need to Know about Wetsuits

Wetsuits, especially for scuba diving, are not cheap. They are also an essential part of your scuba setup. Because of their importance, you must ask as many questions as you can. Luckily in this article, we will discuss everything that you need to know about wetsuits for scuba diving.

The thickness of a scuba wetsuit affects your buoyancy. So you need to adjust your weight belt accordingly. The way a wetsuit fits should be like a second skin. It should not restrict your movement, and it should not be too loose. If there are any rolls by any of the joints, it means that your suit is too loose.

There is only so much we can answer in that one paragraph.

I think it is time we take a deep dive into everything you need to know. This article will be in-depth and informative. I recommend that you bookmark this page to keep as a reference for when you go out to buy a wetsuit.

How Should a Wetsuit Fit?

There is no leeway for the way that a wetsuit fits. So, before you go out and buy a wetsuit for scuba diving, you want to make sure that you know how it should fit. If you are going to buy your wetsuit in person, here are a few things you should know.

How a Wetsuit Should Fit: The Fit

Remember, a wetsuit works by keeping a thin layer of water between you and the suit. If it is too tight, you won’t have enough water. If it is too loose, there will be too much water.

Goldilocks would have a great day if she was shopping for a wetsuit!

In terms of the fit, the wetsuit should be tight but not restrict movement. If the wetsuit is too tight, not only will it limit your movement, but it will not keep you as warm as it should. The same can be said if the wetsuit is too loose. You want to make sure that there are no rolls specifically close to your underarms, knees, elbows, and upper back.

You want the suit to feel almost like a second skin. Keep in mind, the thicker the suit, the tighter it will feel, even if they are the exact measurements.

How a Wetsuit Should Fit: Length

The wet suit should not be too short in terms of length, and it should not be too long. For a full suit, the wetsuit’s arms should rest by your wrist bone. For the legs, you do not want the suit to cover your ankles; instead, it should lie just above the ankle.

What about a shortie wetsuit?

For a spring suit (a shortie), the legs should be just above your knees. If it is too long, it could be uncomfortable for your knees. Likewise, the arms should cover your biceps and not be longer than your elbow. If it extends beyond your elbow, it could be uncomfortable.

A spring suit is different from a full suit. When it covers your knees or elbows, the suit tends to scrunch up.

How To Measure Yourself For a Wetsuit

Every wetsuit will display its measurements. Here is what you need to measure to know what to look out for if you decide to buy a wetsuit online.

So grab your measuring tape and remember, all measurements must get done against your skin.

  • Measure the broadest part of your chest.
  • Measure the broadest part of your neck.
  • Measure your waist.
  • Make sure you know your height.
  • Measure your inseam
  • Measure your reach.

Not all measurements will be used. The main three are your chest, height, and waist. However, it is best to be prepared with as many measurements as possible.

man and woman wearing wetsuits

Should You Wear anything under Your Scuba Wetsuit?

This question is a tricky one to answer. So often, you must rely on personal preference, and what you wear under your suit should depend on the activity you are doing.

However, we will not cover sports such as surfing for this article. Instead, we will stick with scuba diving.

When it comes to scuba diving, what you wear underneath your suit plays a massive role in your overall comfort. Of course, you could wear nothing at all, and many people do this. However, it is perfectly normal to wear a swimsuit underneath the wetsuit.

If you wear anything such as a swimsuit, you want to make sure that it is tight. If what you wear underneath this suit is too loose, it could become extremely uncomfortable during your dive, but it could also hinder how it works.

(Personally I usually wear board shorts under my wetsuit)

If you are doing cold water diving, you’ll probably want to wear a thermal vest underneath the suit (or a dry suit (see below)).

This will add an extra layer of protection which should keep you warm throughout your dive.

However, do not wear anything too thick because if your wetsuit already fits, wearing something too thick can make it too tight, and as we have already discussed, this is not good.

How Thick of a Wetsuit Do you Need?

There are four main types of wetsuits when discussing thickness.

These are 3mm, 5mm, 7mm, and drysuits. A drysuit is used in extreme conditions and should get used over your wetsuit. You would need to understand the temperature of where you are diving before deciding what thickness you would need.

Luckily, we have some advice for you.

Please read through this list as some sizes overlap. Also, your threshold is different from other people’s. Keep that in mind.

  • 3mm for tropical conditions: In temperatures that range between 73 to 79 Degrees (22 ºC) and 66 to 72 Degrees (18-21 ºC), a 3mm should be fine.
  • 5mm or 3mm for colder conditions: In water between 66 to 72 Degrees (18-21 ºC), a 5mm wetsuit should be fine. You could get away with a 3mm but rather stick to a 5mm.
  • 7mm for extreme conditions: For water between 50 to 65 Degrees (10-17 ºC), you need to start looking at 7mm wetsuits. At this point, you want to start also looking at using gloves, hoodies, and boots. On the colder side, you might consider a dry suit.
  • A drysuit is necessary for the most extreme conditions: Anything below 50 Degrees (Below 10 ºC) warrants using a drysuit with a hoodie, gloves, and boots. You also want to wear thermal gear underneath.

Do you need a Wetsuit?

There could be a variety of reasons why you would not want to wear a wetsuit.

One of them could be that you don’t want to carry it as your luggage when flying to a destination, and while you can get away with not wearing a scuba wetsuit in tropical conditions, there is one crucial thing you need to consider.

A wetsuit is more than just something to keep you warm during your dives.

It adds a layer of protection against certain risks. For example, while scuba diving, you will spend a lot of time close to the reef, sometimes going in and out of caves. So you want a wetsuit to help prevent cuts. 

Think about it, if you cut yourself on a rock and have 3 mm of protection, you are saving yourself from that extra 3 mm deep cut. So that 3mm can prevent a lot of damage.

At the same time, you have many creatures in the water, such as bluebottles and jellyfish.

A wetsuit could save you from getting stung. For example, you might have the tentacles of a jellyfish brush against your chest, and if you do not have a wetsuit, you will find yourself in quite a lot of pain.

On this issue you need to trust me! (2x urchin sting and a rather/extremely painful jellyfish sting).

Woman zipping up a wetsuit

Does A Scuba Wetsuit Contribute to your Buoyancy?

The thicker the wetsuit, the more buoyancy it has, and you will have to adjust your weights accordingly.

I say this because sometimes people buy a new wetsuit thicker than their old one and then try and use the same weight belt. They end up wondering why their buoyancy it’s so hard to manage all of a sudden.

The neoprene material that a wetsuit is made from holds air bubbles. The thicker the wetsuit, the more air bubbles that it will have.

So, when you buy a new wetsuit that is thicker than the last one, you want to make sure that you adjust your weight belt accordingly. Doing this might take some practice.

How Much is a Scuba Wetsuit?

This is my opinion based on years of experience.

A good quality scuba wetsuit is imperative to good diving sessions. Try your best not to cut corners when purchasing your wetsuit. Not only does it make your dives better and keep you safer, but a premium quality wetsuit will last longer, and you will save money in the long run.

For a great wetsuit that will last you a long time and keep you warm plus safe in the water, be prepared to spend between $400 to $500. Some excellent brands include:

In terms of safety, it’s not the neoprene material that you should worry about on a more budget-friendly wetsuit, but it is the seams and the zipper.

One of the last things you want to happen while scuba diving is for one of the wetsuits seems to come undone.

At the same time, you don’t want to send your wetsuit in to receive a new zipper constantly. Cheap and flimsy zippers can break while putting a wetsuit on, and it can come undone while in the water.

One way to ruin a good diving session is to have your wetsuit malfunction on you.

Don’t Forget Your Dive Insurance!

Before you go out on any dive trip or holiday, it is essential to make sure you have insurance that covers you if something goes wrong. Check out our dive insurance article for more information.

Or go straight to these dive insurance company websites:


Diver Alert Network (DAN)

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Final thoughts 

That brings us to the end of this article. You should now be comfortable enough to buy a wetsuit. If anything, you should now know what questions to ask when purchasing the wetsuit. Feel free to take a look at some of our other guides to scuba gear.

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Paul Fulbrook

Paul Fulbrook is a writer, scuba diver, ex-science teacher and marine biologist. He has a passion for coral reef biology, diving on coral reefs and writing about diving. He also loves cats and his children (sometimes).

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