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rtrski

"Beginner" Drysuit recommendations

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Hi to all you cold-water divers out there.

 

Going to (finally) take the plunge and get drysuit trained in the next month or two. Shop uses Whites Fusion as the rental suit, so I'll get to try it out and see what I think. Overall though as I don't get to dive as often as I'd like, and don't want to spend an arm and a leg for a suit (if I buy one at all, of course), are there any recommendations for a 'starter' drysuit that won't break the bank?

 

I'm not interested in exploring the arctic, or doing ice dives in Wisconsin by the dark of the new moon in February. I don't think I could stand that much shrinkage (google Costanza, George, shrinkage if you don't get the reference). I have tried out a DUI on one of their travelling "Dog Days" and really frankly hated the way it felt. In all honesty that might've been poor fit in part, but still right now from a combination of cost factors and what I *think* I'd like right now, I'm leaning toward a smooshed (<--technical term, really!) neoprene type vs. a membrane or shell type. I'm a fairly big guy - 6'2", 250#, 39 waist, but not so disproportionate around the middle or elsewhere that I'd think I 'required' a custom fit. Not into caving either...just hate the huge wrinkled baggy feel.

 

I don't forsee flying with one frequently enough for the slower drying time to be an issue, and the smooshed neoprene and tighter fit seem to require both less lead and insulating undergarments for the type of diving I'd probably like to do with it (say 50 deg F water or higher).

 

The ones I've managed to scrounge up in searches so far that fit that category are: Mares IceFit or Dryfit, Aqualung Blizzard Pro, Apollo 4.0 EX, and DUI does make a crushed neoprene line as well, but they're pretty much still outside my price range (say $1k street price). As I'm not solo trained I really don't care about self-donning vs. not - there's always gonna be someone to pull my zipper. (ahem, maybe I should rephrase??? :huh: )

 

Any reviews of any of the above, suggestions of other makers, etc? I'm not planning on scarping off and buying until I've finished the class in the Whites, so I'll be giving it a chance (did read it's enthusiastic review on these very forums) already.

Edited by rtrski

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Compressed neoprene suits are almost always more expensive. I doubt that you'll find one for $1k.

 

The Apollo might be a decent bet, they are fairly inexpensive and decently made. I would check out Bare and a lower end High Tides or Seasoft.

 

It's really all about fit and comfort. I've had shell suits that were very comfortable, although they almost all are harder to swim, those wrinkles do slow you down. But they are lighter and more flexible in many ways.

 

I finally ponied up and bought a custom-fitted DUI compressed neoprene suit and it is great.

 

Beware the lowest price, look at construction, and the quality of the zipper and boots as well. But it really comes down to fit. The Fusion is an interesting choice, but it's a love it or leave it suit.

 

Jack

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Hi all,

 

I don't know much about what is available on the US market, but do ahve a bit of experience in drysuits!

 

I would be very careful of choosing neoprene over membrane. I like most people used to dive exclusively in Neoprene (intitially 8mm-the compressed/crushed). Certainly in the early/mid 90's, membrane suits were prone to short lives and lots of leaks!

 

However, things have changed!

 

Membrane suits are lighter, more flexible, need less weight, as durable, do not shift buoyancy in the first 10 metres, and can accomodate more/less insulation as required.

 

I really don't get compressed/crushed neoprene suits in particular-yes the insulation characteristics on an 8mm neoprene suit are pretty dramatic (or maybe that's becauase everything is such hard work with all that lead!), but compress it and you lose or compromise most of those insulation properties (a 3 mm wetsuit is not as warm as a 7mm). You make the garment stiffer, and although it is denser, still no more tag or tear resisitant. You still need to add extra weight due to its additional buoyancy! (albeit not much)

 

Your try out is maybe not the best way to make an opinion (and shell out lots of money!) I would try a few different suits if you have the option. All to often I see people rushing out and buying neoprene sits after their training because their dive school suit leaked/fit poorly etc. That is not a generic failing of the type of suit though!

 

Saying all that neoprene suits do look better!

 

All the best

 

Adam

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The best thing about dry suits is when you get back to the boat and all the other divers are shivering and you just step and and take off you dry shoe socks. :huh:

The bad thing is if you need to do a wee........

 

There are lots out there that for sure.

I use a crushed neoprene one with woollies to wear underneath when it gets really cold.

Diving just with the suit though it's not too hot, we even did a coral spawn once with them on. :deadhorse:

 

Good luck.

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I prefer tri-laminate above neoprene because it is much more restistant to wear and tear. No variating buoyancy during the dive, and the possibility to choose your own insulation depending on water temperature.

 

But it is just a matter of personal choice. I suggest you visit the local diveshop and try fit and try diving in some neoprene and tri-laminate suits.

 

/me dives in a DUI TLS350 Explorer, with 2 undersuits at the moment, one 80gr fleece and a 200gr wooly/fleece. the 80gr goes when the water gets back to 6degree.. and I swap the 200gr for the 80gr when the water is 12c.

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In North America the most "dived" brands are DUI, Bare, Whites, Dive Rite, Andy's... DUI is the favorite among tech divers based on reputation and quality - this is not to say that other brands cannot hold their own or that DUI is flawless.

 

Crushed or compressed neopren suits are heavier, dry very slow compared to a shell suit, and generally are a pain to deal with once you're out of the water. My main suit is a DUI CF200 and I'm always the last one to finish packing after the dive. While this suit is custom fit (It was DUI NE rep who took my measurements) I find it quite restrictive - I need lots of air in the suit to easily reach the valves, which implies I have to use a heavy back plate and in winter time additional weights to compensate for the added bulk in underwear - and I dive double HP 130 steel tanks. All in all, buoyancy flexibility considered, it's a lot worse than my backup suit which is a shell suit.

 

Supposedly the 1mm thicknes of the crushed neopren is more resitent to wear and abrasion - all I can say is that the harness webbing and the crotch strap have left marks on my suit, whereas my buddies diving shell suits have no such things. I know that springing a small leak will mean sending the suit to DUI for repairs - it's a lot more difficult to find a leak in a neoprene suit that it is in a shell suit. Good thing DUI has a 7 year warranty on their suits.

 

Another selling point for crushed/compressed neopren suits is their warmth - I live and dive in Canada most of the year (ice diving now) and while my dives this time of year don't last more than 50 minutes or so in 35 - 39F waters, I don't think I'm wearing less insulation than my buddies with shell suits. Summer time is hell and sweating in the suit becomes a problem since I have to rinse and dry it after a day of diving. Since the suit absorbs water like a sponge and becomes very heavy, hanging it out to dry is a major problem.

 

I'm getting a new shell suit and chances are that I will sell the CF200 - looks to me like a very expensive (~$3200 US) piece of kit which does not quite work for me.

 

Whites Fusion suits are getting good reviews, especially with the tech skin and they are in the ~$1400 ball park with very good fit and flexibility. Dive Rite's 905 suit is cave country (Florida) tough and well priced for what it delivers.

 

Any dry suit can and should be fitted with a pee-valve (overboard discharge valve) such that maintaining good hydration is not an issue.

 

Safe dives,

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Thanks for all the replies. This thread is already a mirror of what I'm finding elsewhere, namely everyone claiming pretty much all the faults are in the "other kind". Considering I am not a serious 'adventure diver' like some of you, and will consider this a starter purchase so I'm not looking at lifetime reliability, some of those arguments either way take back seat priorities.

 

I'm mostly interested, as an unfortunately 'occasional' diver, in something that won't have me flailing too much to reacquaint myself on each trip. (Paraphrasing, not direct quoting:) "Neoprene needs more weight/buoyancy varies more." "Membrane needs more weight because all the insulation is inside the shell, and the shell is completely non-stretch so the suits are baggier and can trap more air."

 

Compressing neoprene definitely reduces the buoyancy (and variance)...but also the thermal insulation and compliance/stretch of the material. And no one wants to dive any drysuit with a huge air bubble, it'll "squeeze" down to your comfort/warmth limit either way. Of course a custom fitted shell suit gets rid of the street person look anyway...but I'm not in the market for a custom fit just yet.

 

Remember too I'm used to the buoyancy shift effect in neoprene wetsuits - dive in up to a 7/6 thickness now when conditions demand it. And as I said, I'm simply not going to be diving in sub 50deg F (10C) -- heck, probably not in sub 60deg F (15C) water -- so I'm not looking for a huge amount of 'adjustability' right off. If I change my ways or move to where that's the high temp vs. the low extreme for my diving opportunities (like some of y'all in the Nethers), I wouldn't even be asking between types, just brands of membrane suits. :huh:

 

Living in TX it's just not that easy to get a lot of trial experience, and unless I own my own I can't see taking the opportunity to dive on business trips to cool (not ice cold) locations due to the fitting hassle with renting. I just wouldn't get anything out of doing 2 dives on say a Saturday stay-over with the first always being 'get to know your rental dive suit du jour'. But buying to 'try it out' is painful enough in kilobuck range...if it gets much over that, I'd be better off just saving the money for a few more dives when its warm.

 

So, are the 'buoyancy issues' (both variability and lead demand) of a 4mm type crushed neoprene suit over maybe a thin undergarment really that much better/worse than a shell with probably no more than 100gr insulation?

 

Is the manouverability of a (correct size purchase, but NOT custom fitted) membrane suit significantly lower than that of a compressed neoprene...or vice versa?

 

(P.s. to Jack: the Apollo is only $1k from Leisurepro, which is actually a licensed retailer. And I've seen some Mares IceFits for the same price, although admittedly thru ebay so not necessarily a fully legit seller. I do get the 'beware the lowest price' warning, hence my seeking out advice before I'm tempted! :deadhorse: )

 

(p.p.s. to Radu: Thanks for your post, yours crossed mine as I was prepping it. Looks like you gave me something new to think about - the warm side of the drysuit if the day is hot but the water isn't. Although I'm not a tech diver I do care about being able to reach my single valve. So you've given me more food for thought.)

 

Thanks again everyone. Maybe I should just save the grand and buy another lens or strobe?? :notworthy:

Edited by rtrski

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...

So, are the 'buoyancy issues' (both variability and lead demand) of a 4mm type crushed neoprene suit over maybe a thin undergarment really that much better/worse than a shell with probably no more than 100gr insulation?

 

Is the manouverability of a (correct size purchase, but NOT custom fitted) membrane suit significantly lower than that of a compressed neoprene...or vice versa?...

 

The only reason I see for someone to buy a 4mm compressed suit is for the additional thermal insulation. I assume that the 4 mm comes from a 7 mm after a compression process which tells me that there are still some Nitrogen bubbles left in the bulk of the neopren. This means more weight at the surface to go down compared to a shell suit which in turn will force you to add more air to compensate for it at depth. I dive a 1mm crushed neopren suit which theoretically does not suffer from buoyancy changes, it is a custom fit and I find it more restrictive, even a lot more difficult to dump air than my shell suit. As always, YMMV.

 

Safe dives,

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I'm going to toss in my one-and-a-half cent's worth...

 

I went through similar issues when considering a drysuit purchase, too. My (now-ex)wife and I became enamored with the prospect of West Coast diving after a few non-diving trips to California and SE Alaska. (Living in Florida, and spending most of our diving trips in Caribbean waters, this was a new twist for us.)

 

Even with all the cave diving going on in our part of Florida, it was difficult to find many brands represented well enough to do much in the way of side-by-side comparisons.

 

One of the things we did as part of our "research" was attending a photo workshop put on by Joe Wysocki at Optiquatics (www.optiquatics.com). He has a partnership with DUI in which you try any and all DUI products, allowing you to experience the different suits and setups. (Much more so than the DOG rallys...)

 

It was well worth the effort, and gave us valuable insight into drysuit diving. (It really sealed the deal wacthing the wetsuit-clad divers pouring pitchers of hot water down their suits before entering the water, too.)

 

For us, knowing that drysuit diving would mean air travel to get to any destinations (not unlike you in Texas) we knew early on we wanted to go for shell-style suits over compressed neoprene, for ease in packing and drying. And the flexibility in undergarments was a draw for us.

 

I also had the opportunity to try a Whites and found it to be good as well.

 

Yes, we ended up buying DUI. I've got the TLS350. You may find this surprising -- after getting measured, it turned out I was the one able to buy an off-the-rack suit, and I'm built similarly to you -- 6'3", 235, 34" inseam. My ex ended up having to spend more on a custom-fit model.

 

My experience has been good, but my recommendation is to try as many different brands and styles as possible to find the best price/performance/comfort/value combination for you.

 

Good luck...

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For me its neoprene all the way. Not for just its inherent warm UW but also topside between dives. I use a 5mm non-compressed which with a good set of undergarments, either Fourth Element Xerotherms (summer) or Actics (winter) and a wicking base layer is just the muts nuts. I just did 100 minutes at 5 degrees celcius and was toasty... I have now ordered a 2.5mm compressed neoprene suit which I'll use with the Xerotherms during the summer (12-15 degrees celcius) as I found the 5mm a nad too warm. It probably only needs shorts and a sweatshirt during the summer.

 

I know its the wrong side of the pond for you but O'Three in the UK make the best wet and dry neoprene money and good sense can buy!

 

Yes, neoprene does compress at depth and buoyancy changes. But hey, there's a button on your chest which deals with that... :huh:

Edited by Timmoranuk

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Hi -

 

Well, I can definitely throw an opinion in here...

 

My first suit was a neoprene (not compressed) drysuit, a Bare ProDry. I had this for the first 2 years I was diving dry, when I was living in Boston. I liked it because it was cheap, because it was warm, and because it gave me a chance to really see if I was gonna like the drysuit thing for less than $1000. I did, so then I moved to...

 

My second suit - a DUI CF200 - crushed neoprene. It is custom-made for me, and I have the rock boots and front zip. I dove this quite happily for another 2 years. I still have it and love it. Then, one day, my friend called me and said - I have emailed you a link on ebay that you need to check out immediately......and I did....

 

I now have a third suit, a DUI TLS (trilam) - this suit was custom made for a woman my height and weight with turbo-soles (built-ins) and front zip - and was worn about 40 times - and I got it for $500 the day after my other suit had gone in for some repairs - now THAT was a great day and the best $500 I ever spent!!! I love this suit so much that I actually wrote the seller a thank-you note. I dove it 14 times in the first week I had it!!! I think it fits me better than my CF...

 

Here is my take - the neoprene suits are more stretchy and durable against punctures. No question. And they are warmer - I can tell a difference between the crushed neoprene and the TLS. BUT...neoprene are heavier = when it is warm on the surface, it can really suck. Also, you can feel a difference in drag on surface swims - and as several people have said, they feel more restrictive. They also take longer to dry, and putting on a heavy, wet drysuit (though clearly more pleasant than putting on a heavy, wet wetsuit) isn't fun. If I am doing a long surface swim or am on a boat for a multi-dive day (I will not be dragged into the She Pee debate here!!), the TLS wins. In other words, 90% of the time, in So Cal, I prefer my TLS.

 

I suppose there is a bit of a buoyancy shift that is more noticeable w/neoprene, but honestly, it isn't such a big deal...I actually use the same weight with both my drysuits and notice more of a difference with different tanks!!! Let's be frank - the first few times you are in a drysuit, you go back to square 1 in terms of buoyancy anyways...and dry suits are pretty much an acquired taste in terms of comfort, anyways....

 

Allison

Edited by vetdiver

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The bad thing is if you need to do a wee........

 

Well,

 

There are perfectly good solutions for that in the market.

 

I myself have recently got to the habit of doing 70-90 minute dives in +3C water. Being prepared is sort of necessary in those conditions if you want to stay properly hydrated, being as it is that a sizeable chunk of those minutes is spent in deco.

 

And yes, I know these types of dives (mostly) suck, but it's all I've got right now.

 

timo

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Thanks everyone for the spirited advice and commentary.

 

It really does appear to boil down to "whatever YOU prefer", as there are strong proponents on both sides. Although the consensus does seem to be that the neoprene out-of-water issues aren't trivial (weight, slow dry, and cleaning). Of course I deal with all the above with wetsuits already....

 

Further comments are still welcome, but I think I'm going to just shelve torturing myself over looking at prices and wait until I finish the class. (The White's fusion probably has the worst of both worlds: membrane (baggy) seal with lycra providing neoprene-like restriction of movement! :huh: (Kidding - clearly there wouldn't be a market for them if they were a worst common denominator....)

Edited by rtrski

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... (The White's fusion probably has the worst of both worlds: membrane (baggy) seal with lycra providing neoprene-like restriction of movement! :huh: (Kidding - clearly there wouldn't be a market for them if they were a worst common denominator....)

 

You may want to read some reviews such as this one about the Fusion

 

http://www.scubaboard.com/forums/3175059-post1.html

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Thanks, I did - he reviewed it positively here, too. The comment was just a joke...

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Well, the Fusion is not for everyone though. My GF bought one. Do not buy their heaviest undergarment, it restricts air movement too much. The outer pockets are a joke, they hang down like droopy drawers. The rock boots have waay to heavy a sole. She likes the weight of it and the less restrictive movements, but isn't all that happy with it.. I honestly think for the price there are better suits out there.

 

I think for your level something like the Atomic isn't a bad bet. Lots of divers use them up here. Just know that if you stick with it, you are likely to want to upgrade in a year or so.

 

Jack

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Jack:

 

Thanks again for the feedback. Remember for someone like me, 'in a year or so' means 'after only about 10 dives in it', so I think it might last me a TAD longer even if I decide my first choice was rash.

 

I still plan on doing most of my dives in location suitable for a 3/2 full or shorty wetsuit. I just don't want to automatically rule out dives in locations where I'd need more like a 7 mil farmer john + jacket, and I refuse to wear THAT much neoprene! The boat anchor doesn't fit in the BC weight pockets anymore.

 

:huh:

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Then, one day, my friend called me and said - I have emailed you a link on ebay that you need to check out immediately......and I did....

 

I now have a third suit, a DUI TLS (trilam) - this suit was custom made for a woman my height and weight with turbo-soles (built-ins) and front zip - and was worn about 40 times - and I got it for $500 the day after my other suit had gone in for some repairs - now THAT was a great day and the best $500 I ever spent!!!

 

How very interesting how you acquired your DUI TLS Trilam suit! I had a very similar experience when I bought my DUI CF 200 drysuit. A friend let me know about a DUI drysuit that was for sale on Ebay for only $500. It had been custom made for a woman my height and weight, but unfortunately with feet much bigger than mine :huh: I bought the suit and it was also one of the best $500 I've ever spent. I've used it for a number of cold water dives. After I bought the drysuit she sent me the drygloves that came with the suit. It was almost like getting a present as I didn't even know she had drygloves for the suit when I bought it.

 

Ellen

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Here is one more possibility for you to check out. DUI has for sale a number of suits, which it offers for less than full price, on their web page. These were suits that either had been custom made and were returned by a customer or can't be sold new at retail for other reasons.

 

DUI Factory Seconds

 

They send the drysuit to a dealer where you can try it on. Then you can decide if it fits you. Most of the drysuits on the list did cost more than $1,000. Still it's something to consider and you can get a close to new suit for less than full retail.

 

Ellen

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I just switched from compressed neoprene to membrane and wouldn't look back. I always felt constricted (yet warm) in the neoprene suit, unable to move my arms as I wished - and it was a custom fit. The membrane suit is excellent for mobility, and I bought 4th element undersuit to keep me more than toasty in the cold Atlantic waters.

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Here is one more possibility for you to check out. DUI has for sale a number of suits, which it offers for less than full price, on their web page. These were suits that either had been custom made and were returned by a customer or can't be sold new at retail for other reasons.

 

DUI Factory Seconds

 

I bought mine this way too... I was looking for a drsuit with drygloves and my local dive shop offered me a DUI demo suit, 1 year old and used on DOG demo days.

 

TLS 350 Explorer (extra padding/side pockets

Softsocks with rockboots in my size

Zipseals on both arms and neck

Zipseal latex seals

Zipseal drygloves

Frontzipper old style

 

All accesories included for 50% discount on a standard TLS350 explorer and with 3 years warranty :)

 

Some buddy's in my divingclub still declared me insane (still 2x the price of a beaver drysuit for example), but I regularly get people asking about the gloves and checking out the zipper. But I know that I will still be diving in the same suit for years to come, instead for having to send the suit away for frequent repairs. (I can replace my own seals in 10min!)

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How very interesting how you acquired your DUI TLS Trilam suit! I had a very similar experience when I bought my DUI CF 200 drysuit. A friend let me know about a DUI drysuit that was for sale on Ebay for only $500.

 

Oh, Ellen, I am laughing so hard - I am SO telling your story on my charter tomorrow - my husband and all the other guys I dive with have been bitching nonstop about my killer deal (granted, I have totally gloated about it at every opportunity!!!) whining about the fact that "girls get all the good deals" or some such crap. Actually, it may not be crap, I suppose, as all my guy friends who have used suits have the same story - bought it for $900, it had 300 dives, it needed new seals and a new zipper and a crotch strap....

 

Well, whatever. Yay, us. (But way, way bigger feet - what do you think that means, exactly???? Ah, never mind...)

 

rtrski - the bottom line kinda is - this is sort of like when someone starts diving and asks about what kind of gear to buy...what do you tell someone? There are positives and negatives to each - I know what I prefer, but you might like something else. Your best bet is to buy the best quality suit you can get and give yourself a chance to get used to it - really, the comfortable thing about diving in a drysuit is the fact that you're not freezing your butt off and that you are dry between and after your dives - otherwise, it takes some time to get used to it, because it just isn't a comfortable thing to wear!!!

 

Allison

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vet: Thanks. I see your point*. But I have learned from this thread, and do want to thank all the contributors. It's given me a better idea of some of the tradeoffs, and better yet from those who I know share a photographic bent, not just a common diving interest.

 

It may or may not alter my first selection, but at least I'll be going into that choice a little less blindly. This is a step in the research and learning process, not a shortcut to bypass it entirely and land on "collect $200 and a drysuit."

 

[*To answer the sorta-rhetorical question, when asked the 'which gear do I buy?' I usually answer much like the ones I got here. "I bought this, here's my likes and dislikes with it". If I've got prior mistakes to relate, I include them too...I try not to opine too widely about other stuff I haven't tried but have magically developed an impression of - but probably fail to exclude judgment completely. :)

 

For the record, I dive a jacket BC, non-split fins, lowish end plastic sport regulator, with (gasp!) Mares AirTrim no less!! So clearly I'm just a recreational level stroke!!

 

And hopefully the person who asked the question leaves with no more clear 'answer' to the original question, but a better understanding from all the various answers they got as to what the tradeoffs are, right? It's their fault if they were just looking for the 'one right answer'. ]

Edited by rtrski

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Well, whatever. Yay, us. (But way, way bigger feet - what do you think that means, exactly???? Ah, never mind...)

 

I think the person I bought the drysuit from wore a Size 8 or 9 shoe and my shoe size is only 6 1/2. The main problem is the trapped air. I eventually took to using fin keepers (those little triangular things) to keep the trapped air out of the feet. Uncontrollably turning upside down in a drysuit, which happened to me I think because of the trapped air, is not my idea of fun :-)

 

Have fun on your charter and let the guys bitch again about another good deal on a drysuit :)

 

 

Ellen

Edited by ornate_wrasse

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