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Monday, February 14, 2011

Drysuit Diatribe: Undergarments

My main comment on undergarments is the thicker the better :) I started with a fleece undergarment, and then got a Bare hi-loft Thinsulate (250g I believe) suit, and then eventually got the DUI 400g. I also have a Diving Concepts thinsulate vest. I can't imagine doing dives of any significant length in the fleece undergarment now. Brrr. Back then I was overall a spazzier diver, so I'm sure I kept myself warm from all of the flailing :) The Bare undergarment plus vest served me well for a really long time, including all the way up until Tech 2. One of the things I love about the Bare undergarments is that they come in a lot of sizes (I think they have short and long sizes and they also have women's sizes), so it is highly likely you will find one that fits you well. I also like the stretch panels in the knees, shoulders, and lower back, which make the suit quite flexible, but are small enough not to cause big cold spots. I also like the fact that the arms and legs taper, which makes it really easy to slide into a suit. But eventually I decided I needed something a bit warmer for longer decos. This was shortly after DUI came out with their new 400g, and I found a smoking deal on one that someone bought and it didn't fit them (which seems to be common - the sizing changed between the old and new 400g undergarments) so I got that. If I hadn't found a deal on that, I probably would have tried the "ultra hi-loft" Bare suit. The DUI suit is bit oversized for me in the arms and shoulders, which is not surprising since it is a "unisex" size (which as far as I am concerned, is code for "men's" size). But it does fit in both of my suits and I can still reach my valves, so I can live with that. The suit is very warm, and in fact, I can no longer stand to dive my old Thinsulate undergarment in Monterey :) The one minor complaint I have about the suit is that the stretch panels (which are stretch fleece) are huge. As a result, I can feel cold spots. It's not a deal breaker though. I prefer the Bare style though, where they have narrower stretchier panels. The fleece might perform better when flooded than the Bare elastic panels, however.

Which brings me to the main reason that Thinsulate is supposedly the way to go for undergarments. If you are doing any diving where you are obligated to be in the water for a period of time (e.g. deco obligation, long scooter dive from shore), a good undergarment won't just feel warm when it is dry, but will keep you warm enough (not that it will feel warm :P) when flooded. I don't have much experience with flooded fleece undergarments. But I did once have a pretty significant flood with a substantial deco obligation when I was diving my DUI undergarment, and well, I lived to tell the tale. I really have nothing to compare that to though.

Quite a few of my dive buddies have started diving the Santi Thinsulate undergarment (I think in part because of unhappiness with the sizing change in the new DUI undergarment). They all seem happy with it, but I can't personally give any sort of review of it.

One last thought on undergarments - you don't want to take the "more the better" philosophy and start piling on tons of layers. For every layer that you add, the friction between the layers as you move can cause binding and restrict your range of motion. I wear a base layer (made by Fourth Element, and stolen from Ted), my main undergarment (DUI 400g), and the DC vest. Oh and on my feet I wear Smart Wool socks from REI. I used to wear fleece socks, but those smart wool socks are soooo snuggly. I love wearing them, even when I'm not diving!

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