Wet suits are an excellent investment in your snorkelling career. A good fitting suit will be more comfortable, warmer and allow greater flexibility when in the water.
Wetsuits are made from neoprene rubber and is a fantastic insulator having trapped micro bubbles in the material which retain heat. It is also waterproof and protects your skin from minor scrapes and stings.
A wetsuit as it sounds keeps you wet, but it allows your body to warm the trapped water between you and the suit and the neoprene prevents the heat from escaping too rapidly. You will eventually get cold, but far less quickly than with just skin exposed to the water. The better fitting the suit, the less water trapped and the less hard your body has to work to heat it up. You therefore stay warmer for longer.
For snorkelling we recommend a minimum thickness of 5mm neoprene, but it is even better titanium lined (a special reflective layer that helps keep you even warmer. Any less that this and it is either not a diving suit or suitable for British waters. You can go up to 8mm if you feel the cold, but you will lose some flexibility.
Good seals around the neck, cuffs, and ankles are imperitive. They help keep the suit from flushing and in turn you stay warmer longer. They should not be so tight as to cut off circulation but they should be enough to keep the water out to a point. Zips at the cuffs and ankles do aid getting it on and but you lose some integrity in the seal.
The entry zip can come in many forms. Expensive suits may velvet have waterproof zips to aid the prevention of water entering the suit. However it is not a must to have. You want a good quality robust zip with a tether to aid doing it up yourself. Check the zip works and keep it well waxed or greased (with special zip grease) to ensure it remains long lasting.
Colourings and styles are down to personal preference but a bright colour will aid you being seen underwater or at the surface in an emergency.
Cost is again down to personal funding but please realise that you do get what you pay for with these sort of things.
Fit should be skin tight around your whole body. In fact if it was a little struggle to get on then it’s probably about right. It should not pinch under the armpits for back of knees as this can cause painful injury. Check that the knees on the suit match lithe spot where your own are.
Check that there is no gap at your small of your back. If you can grasp this with your hand and bunch it, it is not a good fit. There is always some compromise due to people’s differing shapes but you don’t want water flushing next to your kidneys as you will get cold very fast.
Make sure also that the stitching is glued and double blind stitched. This means that the neoprene hasn’t been fully pierced and prevents leaks at the weak points. It’s also a stronger way of seaming the garment.
Try before you buy. Always try the suit on before you buy it. Don’t buy it online unless you know it’s the right one for you.
All the major diving manufactureare make excellent suits and the instructors will be very happy to advise you of where to look.