A 7mm Wetsuit For The Tropics
You might be forgiven for thinking that a 7 mm wetsuit is only needed in artic waters, or for swimming with the penguins below the Antarctic Circle, but even in warm tropical waters, this can be a life-saving part of your scuba diving kit. Not only do the waters in warmer regions get colder as you go deeper, but the rate at which the temperature can drop will astound most people who aren't used to that kind of shocking information. A thick protective covering like a 5 mm or 7 mm wetsuit will keep your body's core temperature where it's supposed to be â in the high 90s.
What's It Made Of
A typical wetsuit is made of a foam-like rubber called neoprene, with gas bubbles trapped in the foam that help achieve temperature insulation. In combination with a snug fit that forms an effective seal at possible entry points for water â wrists, ankles and neck for a full-body version â wetsuits provide the kind of thermal protection that is vital under water. On either side of the neoprene is Nylon lining; the outer lining provides protection for the neoprene while the inner is essential from a comfort perspective. Certain models may have no inner lining, but a smoother surface that provides a skin-tight feel but the disadvantage is the difficulty in putting one of these on and taking it off.
What's With The Neo?
With newer developments in neoprene technology come the more elastic neoprene suits that give the best of fit, comfort and flexibility when wearing it. This is especially true of the heavy 7 mm wetsuit that can be quite bulky otherwise. But even here there's a flip side to deal with: the stretchy material compresses with depth a lot quicker than traditional stiff neoprene suits. To counter this effect, makers use body-shaped panels that are then joined together with blind stitches (stitches that don't go all the way through the neoprene, rather just the surface layer) and sealed seams (typically sealed with neoprene cement and a combination of gluing and/or liquid sealing, or liquid taping as it's called) â this seems to take care of flexibility as well as fit to a great extent.
Baby Seals And Neck Seals
Because 7 mm wetsuits are primarily used to keep out the cold, neck seals are a very important aspect. If you plan to wear a separate hood then there will be a couple of things you want to keep in mind when wearing the hood. The often disputed merits of wearing the hood tucked into the wetsuit neck can be justified with a standard wetsuit. However, if the neck seal on the suit is extremely good, then you might want to consider wearing a dry-suit hood, which overlaps the neck seal instead of going under it. Some hoods will have a smooth-skin band around the neck portion. With such hoods, you can tuck the flap under the neck seal and then join the smooth-skin portions of the hood and the suit to form a natural seal that will effectively keep the water out, keeping you as warm as a baby seal hiding under his mamma's blubber.
Zipper Up Tight, Or She'll Blow
Zippers on a 7 mm wetsuit are an often overlooked feature. A zipper on the back is best for flexibility because it aligns well with the spine, making it a whole lot less uncomfortable that a front zipper. If you don't have a choice, opt for one that has a horizontal zipper across the front. Also, make sure that the seal is as watertight as possible. The type where two layers of rubber conceal the zipper is best, although you may have to settle for one where two strips of neoprene overlap each other on top of the zipper's track.
The Price Is Right (If The Seal Is Tight)
Though the price tag on a professional 7 mm wetsuit can be quite heavy, you should be able to get a suit, with jacket included, for under $200, like the Poseidon Diving Systems' Diving Suit 4. For a hundred bucks more, you'll find some like the Akona AKMS508 7mm wetsuit; the company is very big on high-quality wetsuits at affordable prices. No matter what brand of suit you finally end up buying, if it keeps you dry and warm in temperate to cold water, then it's worth the money you paid for it, no matter what that price might be.