How to choose a freediving suit

Balance between Comfort & Warmth

The need for a freediving suit is highly recommended where ever you go , for sure when you’re freediving the dutch waters. But what kind of freediving suit do you want, as there are so many different out there. For me goes without saying that a suit can make a freedive or totally ruin it…

First-ever-freediving-setupWhen I first got into freediving me and my buddy got a scuba diving suit from about 7mm thick, the one with a zipper pushing up against my chin. The hood, arm and ankle seams were far from tight, so water came in immediately as we entered the water. Even though our motivation to check out the underwater world was high, the experience was far from relaxed or comfortable. But back then we didn’t know any better…

Now, a few years in with more experience with different suits, I like to share my findings. The whole deal with a proper suit is that it’s totally dependable on the freediver who wears it. Every freediver has other boundaries when it comes to cold and warm, but by explaining my own findings when choosing a suit might make your search a bit easier…

Layer thickness

2,5mm Smooth skin & Open Cell
2,5mm Smooth skin & Open Cell

You can vary the thickness of your suit ranging from 1mm to 10mm suits. The determinant factor is the types of water temperature you want to use the suit for. So ask yourself: “Am I going to use it in a sea, a lake or a swimming pool?”. Also keep in mind that the temperature of these can also vary throughout the season or location, which make it hard to go by only one freediving suit to do the job. When you’re selecting your first ever suit, choose it for the situation you’ll be in for 90% of the time. In my case I started out with a 5mm suit for both pool and lakes here in the Netherlands, but nowadays I prefer a 2,5mm for the pool competitions and a 6,5mm for the outdoor sessions. This change has to do with how comfortable I feel in those situations. Going to the seas in Egypt, Dominican Republic or other remote locations, I’d go by either 2,5mm for warmer waters and 5mm when I’m early in the season.

Surface types
Different sets of surface types are available for freediving suits, ranging from lining, smooth skin to open cell structure surfaces. The choice here also depends on what you’re going to use the suit for, or in which conditions or surroundings you’re using the suit. The first freediving suit I ever had, was an Elios with smooth skin on the outside and the inside featured open cell structure. In between I bought another similar type of suit, but this one was 2,5mm thick and from a slightly better neoprene. The last one I bought is a 6,5 mm, but now with lining on the inside and smooth skin on the outside.

Inside: Lining or Open cell?

Inside: Open Cell structure
Inside: Open Cell structure

At first I wasn’t very keen on the whole lining principle, but now since I tested one and eventually own a freediving suit with lining on the inside, I can say it’s just as comfortable as an open cell structure, but with less of a hassle to get into. Because an open cell structure will “suck” itself onto your skin with only a thin layer of water in between, you’ll have to keep in mind that by changing into this suit, you’ll need to have a bottle with soap water to prepare your suit before you put it on. Never the less an open cell structure on the inside is also very comfortable.

Outside: Smooth skin or Lining?

Inside: Lining | Outside: Smoothskin
Inside: Lining | Outside: Smoothskin

I’m the type of freediver that likes the outside to be smooth skin, this sololy to the fact that a smooth skin surface will dry fast when you’re at or above the water surface. On the other hand lining on the outside will better protect your suit from tearing when putting it on or swimming in rocky underwater areas.

Tailor made or standard size
Until now I’ve been a lucky guy, where I’d be able to send my body measurement over to the suit maker and they’d suggest one of their standard sized suits to go with. Only my 2,5mm suit I have is a tailor made suit, which fits very nice.

The only reason why I should consider going with a tailor made suit is the fact, that a tighter fit will improve the ability of the suit to keep the water from coming in and keep the water from flowing through your suit, thus keeping you warm for a longer period of time. A standard sized one will be cheaper than a tailor made suit. So if a standard size is within your options, then my suggestion would be to try one from a fellow freediver with the same body measurements, to see if you’re able to go with the standard sized one.  Otherwise the tailor made is the best alternative.

Comfort & Warmth
The most important thing you want to achieve by selecting your suit, is a balance between comfort and warmth. Although a thick suit may make you feel like a Michelin-man, if you really need the thickness in terms of not getting cold, this is a concession you might have to make. Believe me when I say that a very comfortable suit, like my 2,5mm, just didn’t do the trick for me in terms of staying warm whilst freediving outdoors at Panheel. This makes a freedive not only uncomfortable, but even dangerous. It’s all about the best experience and finding a balance between the different parameters is a very personal choice.

By selecting the proper combination from the points described above, you should be able to find a suit that is a balance between comfort and warmth. Furthermore it must be functional and practical as well, because you’re going to be freediving with it for about a year or two. Making the selections is a process where you’ll have to decide for yourself what you like and where you want to use your suit. These are all personal decissions, so I hope this article will aid you into selecting the right freediving suit for you.

PS. I haven’t discussed the different types of material, because this differs so much, I’d be writing a whole new page. Plus the different manufacterers feature enough information about the materials on their websites.

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