Scuba divers, surfers, sailors, kite surfers, water skiers, cavers and swimmers are often exposed to many elements in the water and need to wear protective clothing. Many of them utilize diving suits, which are garments or devices designed to protect the wearer from the underwater environment. There are two main types of diving suits: soft diving suits, also known as ambient pressure suits; and hard diving suits, also known as atmospheric pressure suits. The preferred diving suit usually depends on the activities being done, the water temperature and the underwater depth.
Ambient pressure suits are designed to protect the wearer from cold water as well as provide defense from sharp objects, such as coral reefs. They usually are made of neoprene or PVC, and they provide buoyancy, which means that they typically are worn with weight belts. This type of diving suit can come in several different forms, such as dive skins, wetsuits, dry suits, semi-dry suits and hot water suits.
Dive skins are made of spandex or lycra and are commonly worn when diving in water temperatures above 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius). They are sometimes called “Stinger Suits” because they protect the wearer from jellyfish stings, abrasions and sun exposure. Wetsuits are made from neoprene and are commonly worn in water temperatures between 50 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 25 degrees Celsius). They are supposed to be worn tightly to prevent excess body heat loss, and they often are custom-tailored to fit the diver’s body.
When a person plans to dive or swim in very cold water, a dry diving suit usually is worn. This type of diving suit prevents water from entering the suit by using seals at the wrists and neck areas, and it is commonly worn in water temperatures between 28 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-2 to 15 degrees Celsius). It is made of Neoprene and air-containing fabric to provide protective pockets of air between the body and the frigid water. Semi-dry diving suits allow the wearer to get wet, but they limit the amount of water entering and leaving the diving suit. They can come in single pieces or two pieces and usually are worn in water temperatures between 50 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 20 degrees Celsius).
Hot water diving suits and atmospheric pressure suits usually are worn for extremely deep dives and in freezing water. Both types of suits provide exteriors that protect the wearer from low temperatures and typically prevent decompression or atmospheric pressure. Dry suits usually incorporate a backup air supply using helium mixed with oxygen.