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Wetsuits are certainly the most essential piece of equipment needed for scuba diving. But, you might be surprised to find that these suits can get quite expensive—some as high as four digits! So why are wetsuits so expensive?
Let’s dive deep into this to further understand what makes wetsuits vary in price.
What Factors Affect the Cost of a Wetsuit?
Purchasing a wetsuit is an investment! Wetsuits are designed to protect you by keeping you as warm as possible, no matter the climate you’re in.
Many factors can affect the cost of a wetsuit, including its intended use, the materials used to make it, and its durability.
First, let’s understand the different styles of wetsuits available. There are essentially two kinds—spring suits and full suits.
Spring suits (or “shorties”) have short sleeves that end before the elbow and above the knee. These suits are typically meant for moderate to warm climates.
Full suits cover the entire body down to the wrists and ankles. These are usually more suitable for colder climates.
Needless to say, full suits are more expensive than spring suits because they use more material. Additionally, smaller-sized suits (or children’s suits) are more affordable as well.
There are also partial wetsuits available that have just the top half or the bottom half. Since they cover only half the body, these are also meant for warmer climates and are more budget-friendly.
The most common material used to make wetsuits is neoprene.
Neoprene is a synthetic rubber that provides fairly good insulation and flexibility for the diver. You’ll find most entry-level wetsuits are made of neoprene and are reasonably priced.
Mid-range suits can be made of spandex or lycra. Both are types of lightweight, synthetic fiber, and they provide good flexibility and range of motion. Typically, spandex works best for diving, while most manufacturers go for lycra when making surfing wetsuits.
Higher-end wetsuits get a bit more technical with titanium, which is a thin metallic alloy coating over the neoprene layer. These suits provide superior insulation and are the most durable.
The thickness of the suit is one of the deciding factors for how divers choose their wetsuits. The thicker the suit, the more insulation it provides, and—as you guessed—the pricier it is!
There are a few factors to consider when choosing the thickness of a wetsuit. These include the presence of potentially harmful sea creatures, the depth of your dive, or what part of the country you live in.
In addition to a wetsuit preventing you from catching hypothermia, a thick suit could also protect you from jellyfish stings!
Most wetsuits go between 3 mm to 5 mm thick, but you can find some as thin as 1 mm or as thick as 7 mm.
You might also find wetsuits with measurements that look like a fraction. For example, a wetsuit with a measurement of 4/3 means the torso is 4mm thick while the limbs are 3mm. The reason for this is to provide more mobility for the arms and legs.
As temperatures get colder the deeper you dive (some places going below 45°F), you would need a full suit with at least 6 mm of thickness plus a hood, booties, and gloves. This is a considerable price difference from a diver snorkeling just a few feet below a warm surface.
Quality / Seal
The waterproofness (or seal) of a wetsuit also contributes to its cost.
The seal is found around the neck, wrist, and ankle areas. A tight seal helps to keep water out and prevent heat loss, successively keeping you warm longer in the water.
The most common type of seal is the flatlock stitch, which has neoprene panels laid over each other and stitched through both layers. The downside to this results in a lot of tiny holes, allowing a bit of water to seep in. This is usually found in entry-level 3/2mm full suits and shorties and is ideal for warmer climates.
A stronger method of sealing is GBS (or Glued and Blind-Stitched). This process begins with gluing the neoprene together and then stitching it afterward, resulting in a more durable, longer-lasting suit.
You can find these seals in thicker suits measured between 3 mm and 5 mm thick.
The strongest but most expensive seal is the GBS Liquid Seal, where the neoprene is glued, stitched, then sealed with a special fluid that makes it watertight. You can find this variety in suits that are 5 mm or thicker.
As scuba divers start to level up, they may require some extra features and accessories added to their suits. This will also contribute to a costly wetsuit.
Some features are built-in hooks for attaching small items to the suit, such as a knife, flashlight, or camera. These might come in handy when exploring wreckage or caves underwater.
There are also different options of closures for the suit, such as zippers, zipperless, and velcro. Preferring one over the other is a matter of being able to quickly get in and out of the suit, which could be advantageous for some divers.
Going zipperless is the pricier option here.
As you dive deeper into colder depths, you might also consider adding special wetsuit boots, gloves, and a hood.
How to Get an Affordable Wetsuit?
Not yet ready to take the plunge? If you plan on waiting before committing to a hefty purchase, you always have the option of renting!
This lets you test which style and quality of wetsuit are most appropriate for you. Wetsuits can be rented on a daily or weekly basis and can run you between $15 and $50 per day.
You may also find second-hand wetsuits at a reduced price.
Summing It Up
Wetsuits tend to be expensive, but there’s a good reason for their high price. To maintain their quality and performance, they must incorporate top-quality materials to achieve that goal.
Other factors that make wetsuits pricey include any extra accessories or features built into them, the type of seals they have, their style, and how thick they are.