We can’t all be diving in warm tropical waters all the time, and some of the best sights to be seen are found in much cooler climes. So what do we do when we need to keep warm underwater? Don a drysuit, of course!
Shopping for a drysuit is not the simplest task, though. With the wisdom from our Girls that Scuba community, we’re here to help you find the best women’s drysuit, as well as sharing what you need to know about drysuit materials and drysuit undergarments.
Trilaminate vs Neoprene Drysuits
The first thing to consider when you’re shopping for a new drysuit is what material to choose. The two most common drysuit styles are trilaminate (also called membrane) suits, and neoprene drysuits. Both have their advantages and disadvantages for different types of diving.
Membrane or trilaminate drysuits are constructed from a triple layered fabric – generally a waterproof rubber centre with flexible fabrics on either side. This is usually nylon or similar, but commercial or technical drysuits can also be layered with Kevlar for its hard wearing properties.
Trilaminate suits are generally bulkier, with more of an airspace between the diver and the suit. Trilam has little insulating power on it’s own, and it’s actually the undergarments which will keep you warm underwater. You can customise these layers depending on the water temperature, making it a great option for those who dive in areas where the water temperature fluctuates throughout the year (such as UK diving).
Crushed or compressed neoprene has stronger insulative properties alone than trilaminate. As they don’t need to leave as much space for thick undersuits, neoprene drysuits have a much closer fit than membrane suits. This means the diver is more streamlined underwater, moving more efficiently with less drag than in a trilaminate suit.
Whilst crushed neoprene is naturally more buoyant than trilaminate (which some see as the main downside to neoprene), the additional layers needed underneath a trilaminate suit can also be similarly buoyant. We recommend talking to other drysuit divers in the location you plan to dive to work out which combination of suit material and undersuit will work best for you.
Choosing Drysuit Undergarments
When thinking about drysuits, you should consider your suit itself and the undergarments as equally important. It’s a full exposure suit system, rather than the suit doing all the work on its own.
The most important properties with drysuit undergarments are insulation and wicking, which means drawing moisture (sweat) away from the body. Natural fibres are generally best for this, with merino wool being a popular choice. Undersuits used to be thick and bulky, but fabrics have come a long way. You will now find endless options of customisable layers which are less buoyant, have stronger insulative properties, and are much easier to wash.
Fourth Element drysuit undergarments are always some of the most highly recommended, as they have a whole wardrobe of customisable base layers available. This means you can choose based on the water temperature and your personal cold tolerance. The toasty Fourth Element Arctic layers are perfect for underneath trilaminate suits, whilst their thinner Xerotherm top and leggings would work for neoprene drysuit users.
Bare’s drysuit layers are also popular within the GTS community, with their SB Mid Layers and Ultrawarmth Base Layers being particular favourites.
Custom Fit Drysuits
Fit is one of the most important factors when choosing any scuba diving equipment. This is particularly true for exposure suits, where a badly fitting suit will mean the suit doesn’t keep you as warm as it should.
With drysuits you have the added consideration of buoyancy. If a drysuit doesn’t fit well, areas of excessive air can make it really challenging to get your buoyancy right. It can even be potentially dangerous – large air pockets in places such as your legs can make you more likely to end up in a feet-up runaway ascent.
With this in mind, most drysuit manufacturers will offer a tailoring service to achieve the perfect drysuit fit. This often means adapting their off the peg suits with some modifications, sometimes for free or for a small additional cost.
For a truly perfect fit, look for completely made to measure suits. This can also come at an extra cost, but it will be worth it to have a suit which is streamlined exactly to your body’s proportions. This is also a great option for plus size divers.
7 of the Best Women’s Drysuit Brands
With our community discussing scuba equipment on a daily basis, we definitely know which brands get the approval of women in the dive world. These are seven scuba brands which come highly recommended for women’s drysuits.
Santi is a Polish brand which offers trilaminate suits, and their E.Lite Drysuit is a GTS favourite. There is a significant women’s presence on their team, which perhaps contributes to their great suit offering for women.
They offer 12 women’s sizes, and leg and arm lengths can be adjusted on their standard sizes within the price of the suit. For more custom sizing, they also have a made to measure service which uses 24 measurements for a perfectly adjusted fit. It’s always worth trying dive equipment in person, and Santi’s global network of dealers makes them widely accessible.
Bare is always a brand which comes up when women ask about great fitting wetsuits, and apparently their drysuits are no exception! This could once again be impacted by having women involved in their design process.
Bare offer mostly trilaminate suits with a few neoprene models, too. Their neoprene suits in particular (Guardian Pro Dry and Guardian Tech Dry) are often praised by women in the GTS community. Their size range includes 11 standard women’s sizes, with short and tall options available in some sizes. Custom sizing is also available.
Fourth Element Drysuits
With their base layers being so great, it only follows that the drysuits over the top are brilliant too. Fourth Element have two drysuits on offer – their trilaminate Argonaut 2.0, and the crushed neoprene Hydra.
Like many drysuits, the Argonaut is entirely customisable – you can change seals, valves, boots, pockets, and choose to install a p-valve. The Argonaut is also fully made to measure, and the fitting can be done in person at a Fourth Element dealer or online via their BIOMAP system.
The Hydra comes in 11 sizes with short and tall options, and Fourth Element have an interactive sizing tool to help you find the correct size from your measurements.
O’Three are the experts when it comes to compressed neoprene drysuits (although they do offer a trilaminate suit too). They are passionate about the benefits of neoprene drysuits for the reduced bulk and buoyancy from base layers, and the improved streamlining underwater.
Whilst the number of standard sizes is small compared to other brands (with a total of six women’s sizes visible online, noticeably less than their men’s), they do have a free remote tailoring service. You receive your estimated off-the-peg size, communicate with O’Three via video call or by emailing pictures, send the suit back to them and it will then be returned to you once it’s been tailored.
This “Off the Peg – Made to Fit” service includes small adjustments to seals, changing boots, and adjusting leg length. For larger adjustments their “Off the Peg – Made to Fit Plus” service will set you back an additional £100. If you’re based outside of the UK, you will also incur the cost of the extra shipping to have the suit customised. Other customisations include seals, boots, p-valves and pockets. For fully made to measure suits, you can plan a fitting at their store in Dorset, UK.
From the neoprene experts to the trilaminate experts, Otter drysuits are also a UK-based bespoke drysuit manufacturer whose suits are worn and loved by divers all over the world. Their drysuits are customisable as standard – you have the option to upgrade seals, add dry gloves, change boots, or add a p-valve.
They have a generous 14 off the rack women’s sizes on offer, with 2-3 shorter and taller options per dress size. For an additional £125 any suit can be made to measure, which is generally well worth the cost. Their made to measure system works from 26 measurements to ensure a perfect fit.
Aqua Lung Drysuits
If custom suits from specific drysuit manufacturers are harder to get for you, some of the big name scuba brands have fantastic drysuits in their ranges, too. Aqua Lung’s Fusion drysuit line is popular and is a unique suit featuring two layers, one for warmth and one for flexibility. This style requires a different approach to donning and doffing, so definitely try it on in person to work out if it’s right for you.
Their compressed neoprene Blizzard and Blizzard Pro drysuits are also worth considering if one of the seven women’s sizes works for you.
Much like with Aqua Lung, Scubapro is such a huge global brand that their drysuits should be easily found around the world. If you can find the correct fit, they are well constructed suits which can last many years of dry diving.
They offer both neoprene (Exodry and Everdry) and trilaminate suits (Evertech), however, they are limited by their sizing. The Everdry only offers 6 sizes for women, and we’d love to see this match up to the 10 sizes offered for men. Additionally, Scubapro don’t offer any customisation of sizing so any tailoring must be taken on by a third party.