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Wetsuit thickness and temperature chart and guide

Updated on April 21, 2012
Girl in Akona wetsuit
Girl in Akona wetsuit | Source

So what thickness wetsuit should you wear for cold water diving? What about warm water? There are so many questions about scuba diving but this one by far is the one that I hear most frequently. People new to cold water diving always seem to freak out a little bit about being able to keep warm while at depth on dives from 30 minutes to an hour. They especially become concerned about warmth when they venture past the thermocline. That’s OK. You do want to stay warm while diving in cold water. You also don’t want to wear a 7mm 2-piece wetsuit in tropical waters either. I have put together a chart that will hopefully shed some light on what thickness of a wetsuit you should wear for the temperatures you will be diving in.

You can find the chart below with different temperatures and wetsuit thicknesses. Check it out!

2mm or 3mm shorty
3/2mm or 4/3mm jumpsuit
3mm or 5mm jumpsuit or 2-piece
7mm jumpsuit or 7mm 2-piece
7mm 2-piece

So as you can see, there are many different options for different temperatures. It all depends on what temperature you will be diving at. There are also other major factors that determine what thickness you should be wearing. These factors include body fat, muscle, how active you are in the water, and air temperature. A person with more body fat may need less neoprene than a skinny person. A muscular athletic person may need less neoprene than the person with more body fat. Keep in mind that when you are active underwater you are creating body heat. This will help keep you warm also.

If you are in doubt of which thickness wetsuit you may need, go with the wetsuit that gives you a little more. It’s better to be a little warm than a little cold. Getting cold leads to less bottom time and increased chance of DCS as your body is using more air to help stay warm, not to mention it’s no fun diving when all you can think about is how cold you are.

There are also more reasons to wear a wetsuit, even if you can get away with just shorts in tropical waters. If you are diving around reefs, or anywhere for that matter, regardless of the water temperature, you as a diver are still susceptible to abrasions, cuts, and stings from your underwater surroundings. A good wetsuit will help keep you safe from jellyfish and different species of coral etc…

There are just so many things that go into making sure you are warm underwater. Your best bet is to follow this general guideline but still go to your local dive shop and try stuff on. Thickness plays a major role no doubt, but proper fit matters too. You can wear a 30mm wetsuit but still get cold if it doesn’t fit you right. Do you know how a wetsuit works? A wetsuit lets in a small amount of water when you initially get into the water. That water that is first let in warms quickly from your body temperature. The wetsuit then traps that warmer water in to help keep you warm. If the suit doesn’t fit well, it could let in cold water that will flush out the warm water. The improper fit will continuously let cold water in and it will quickly chill you, especially if you are below the thermocline.

I hope this helped you on your quest to find the right thickness wetsuit for your diving environment. Just keep in mind that thickness isn’t everything though. Make sure you have a quality made wetsuit that fits you well. If you have any questions or comments on what kind of wetsuit you use and at what temperature, share it with everyone in the comments below so others can use your information also. Happy diving!


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