Being cold takes the fun out of everything, including diving. Beyond this, serious heat loss leads to dangerous health threats, which is why it is important to wear an exposure suit for any kind of diving. In air, you lose body heat as it transfers from the skin into the air as perspiration cools the body through evaporation. Water, on the other hand, conducts heat 20 times faster than air does, meaning that even in warm water temperatures, your body will cool down much faster. For example, 30 degrees Celsius in air is very warm, but if water was this temperature you would still become cold after a while.
Left unchecked, body heat loss can lead to serious conditions such as hypothermia, where your body cannot function normally, this can be life threatening when underwater.
To avoid this from happening, divers wear insulation (exposure suits) especially in waters cooler than 24 degrees Celsius. To remain comfortable, you should also consider wearing a wetsuit in warmer water, though you may prefer a shortie for that which has shorter arm and leg sleeves.
Exposure suits don't technically "keep you warm", but they do slow down heat loss enough that you stay comfortable throughout the dive. This means that even with an exposure suit, you will still chill if you stay in the water for an extended period of time.
Which Exposure Suit is right for me?
The right exposure suit for you depends largely on where you will be diving. The main purpose of any exposure suit is not 'to keep you warm', but to slow down heat loss as much as possible to make for a comfortable dive experience. It is therefore vital that you choose the right option, either style wise or thickness wise, to ensure you are properly insulated for both the depth and temperature of the water you will be going to.
If you are unsure what the temperature will be, www.bigblueplanet.com/watersearch.jsp has a conclusive list of dive locations, but remember these are just rough ideas and it is preferable that you should test the water yourself first before going in.
The table below gives you a rough idea of what type of suit is appropriate in certain temperatures but again, this can vary depending on your size, ability, health and a myriad of other factors.
|Temperature of Dive
|30°C / 85°F and above
||Body Suit, Thin Wet Suit (2-3mm) or Shorty
|24°C - 30°C 75°F - 85°F
||Thin Wet Suit (2-3mm) or Shorty
|13°C - 24°C 55°F - 75°F
||5-7mm Wet Suit with Body Suit or Dry Suit with Under Suit
|2°C - 13°C 35°F - 55°F
||Dry Suit with Thick Under Suit
|2°C / 35°F and below
||Speciality Dive wear, not for recreational use
Find out more on the Water Temperature Search
Whilst style and additional features are also important to the individual, they should not interfere with the most important factors which are fit and comfort. Remember that a snug fit is essential for optimum performance from any exposure suit. The only exception being a dry suit, which should fit loosely but should still by tightly sealed at water entry points.
Here we explain the benefits of the four main types of exposure suits; Body suits, Wet suits, Dry suits and Under suits. Pointing out their differences and explaining how they work will help you choose the right exposure suit/s for you.