Why Consider a Freediving Suit When You Have a Standard Dive Suit?

Kathy Gagliardo   Aug 28, 2023

Now that I own 3 different thickness freediving wetsuits and have owned 10+ diving wetsuits over the years I can positively say I love the open-cell neoprene freediving suits for scuba diving! They both keep you warm, but the freediving suits have the distinct advantage of keeping you warmer with less thickness, considering a 3mm freediving suit is equivalent in warmth to a 5mm standard suit! This means less bulk, less buoyancy, and less weight needed.

How does it accomplish this? Good freediving suits are typically made of open-cell neoprene instead of the closed-cell neoprene in traditional suits (the closed cell has nylon on both the inside and outside of the suit). The open cell does not have a nylon layer inside the suit and instead the neoprene cups your skin. This prevents water transfer into the suit and you are warmer with less bulk as a result. I’m currently diving my 5mm suit while in the Azores with 72°F water, where I would normally need a 7mm, and I was very comfortable!

Beyond keeping you warmer than traditional neoprene, freediving suits have another advantage. Once you learn how to put them on, they tend to be easier to get into and out of than standard wetsuits (as long as you have a buddy)! On a trip with 3+ dives a day it can be exhausting getting in and out of traditional suits, but freediving suits not as much!

Before you jump in and convert over, you do need to know that freediving suits do have some disadvantages, and therefore the standard suit industry is still alive and vibrant! First of all, they tend to be more delicate since they have exposed neoprene on the inside. Because of this, you’ll want to keep your fingernails short with these or you’ll tear right through them. They also typically require a buddy for help getting into and out of them. In general, you won’t tend to be able to layer with a freediving suit so you may need to bring a couple of thickness jackets on a trip to determine which is the right warmth. In addition, not everyone likes diving with a hood and many of the freediving suits come standard with them. If you are not comfortable with a hood, you can always slide it back, but you cannot take it off. Another consideration is that you need to have shoulders with good flexibility in order to wear them since they do not have zippers. Finally, in addition to shoulder flexibility, the lack of zippers means that you’ll need to bring a lubricant to get into the suits. Stream to Sea's Leave-In Conditioner is my favorite and makes your suit smell great! As you can see, there are many considerations if you are trying to make a decision as to which suit is right for you.

Although there are disadvantages to the open cell freediving suits, for me the plusses outweigh the minuses because being cold and struggling to get my suit on are not things I enjoy. I’ve put 50 dives in at Raja Ampat on my 3mm suit and was never cold (82°F average), 18 dives now in the Azores in my 5mm suit and was toasty (72°F average), and 20 dives in Galapagos in my 7mm suit where I was the only one who was warm besides the person in a drysuit (63-75°F)!

If you do want to try one on, please make an appointment with us so we have staffing to help. You can prepare by bringing your bathing suit and a towel as you’ll need to get wet to try it on!