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UK suit thickness...

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New Member
Jul 10, 2002
Thinking of buying myself a reasonable wetsuit for freediving, and wondered what thickness the UK divers round here use. Intend to use it all year round, mostly in the north west england/north + mid wales area but occasionally down south. Might also be taking it up to Orkney next august.

I use a 5mm suit with farmer john trousers (an inbuilt vest which is 3mm). At the moment it is very cold (8-9C) and can usually last only an hour, before I start to shiver severly. The fitting of the suit is also important, closer the fit less water moves through the suit. In the summer it could become a bit too warm, but then you could flush some water through it.

Obviously more than one suit is best, but I would recogmend a 5mm to start then, when you can afford to buy a 7mm top for the winter... slowly build your suit collection for all seasons.

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What I use....

degrees centigrade...

< 10 (full 7mm) November -> April

10 - 14 (full 5mm) May -> June, October/November

14 - 17 (5mm jacket, 3mm trousers) June -> October

> 17 (full 3mm) urr... never get this warm here though :waterwork

... this is for freshwater. temperatures will be different in the sea. assuming good fitting freediving suit. if you want something for all year round.... it will have to be a 7mm. You'll just have to live with being extra warm in the summer months.

Thanks for the advice. I'll probably go for a 7mm suit now, and then perhaps buy myself a 5mm suit when I've got a bit more money lying around (like that'll happen :hmm).
Thinking of possibly getting the Picasso Shadow currently, anyone got any comments on this suit?


Can't really go wrong with them.
I have Black Termic 5mm, 7mm and Chicle Biotermic 3mm
Not sure if the Biotermic lining really makes much difference. Plain open-cell may well be just as good?
I would seriously consider buying made to measure though. Fit is everything. I've altered 2 of my suits to make them fit perfectly. Even made to measure don't always come back a perfect fit. You can order them through Dave Bailey (in the UK). PM me if you need his number.

Cheers Alun, will get that number off you once I've got some money together. What sort of price are the made to measure suits?

No problemo

The MTM suits are something like an extra £30 (very roughly from what I remember). They don't come cheap. My MTM 7mm cost me something like £200-210... but then it certainly does the business. (Biotermic suits are more expensive than the plain open-cell.)
I'll be wearing it tomorrow for up to 1hr30min in 8oC and I still won't come out shivering. My feet are the limiting factor at that temperature. After a while they start to go quite numb. There's nothing you can do about that.

30 quid extra isn't too bad I guess, as MTM drysuits are about 50-75 dearer than off the shelf. Also sounds like in freediving that extra 30 quid can go along way to extra warmth and performance with it being closer to the skin.

Is it Dorothea you're off to tomorrow? I might join you up there sometime once I'm a paid up BFA member and have a suit sorted.

Thanks Alun, you've been very helpful
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change in core temperature...

I thought I would measure the change in core temperature during diving today, out of interest....

Before diving it was 37oC and after 1hr10min in 8oC it had dropped to 33oC. (Measured under the tongue, so not ideal, but probably accurate to within a degree). I don't know what temperature would be defined as hypothermic. Perhaps hypothermia is diagnosed according to symptoms rather than temperature? That would make more sense. When I came out, my feet and hands were very cold, but my body was ok, cold but not shivering. For me, the signs of becoming too cold are feeling tired and yawning a lot - but I didn't experience that today. There must be an element of adaption with this - mental and physical?

(To put it into context: I was wearing a full 7mm and 3mm socks and gloves, and did 5 x 30m dives spaced out during the 70mins - fairly low activity level. I have little in the way of 'natural insulation'(!), probably under 10%. Shall be wearing 5mm gloves next time, as I was losing dexterity after 45mins today).

Thanks for the info Alun.
Currently I have a bit too much of the old "natural insulation", could do with losing a fair bit of it. 8 degrees isn't too bad this time of year, last time I was at Capernwray around this time it was below 4.
The gloves I've been using for scuba are currently a pair of Scubapro 3mm Kevlar gloves (which have been bl**dy wonderful over the year I've had them), and I've found they're about as warm as the 5mm pair of gloves I have. So I use the thinner pair as they're tougher and are less restrictive.

UK suit thickness

I dive in Southeast Alaska, similar temps to UK it sounds like. I wear 5mm torso jacket with 'beaver tail' (arms cutoff above elbows), 6mm farmer john, full 6mm shorty over this, double 4mm hoods, 6mm zipless booties, and 7mm three finger mitts.
Am 8% body fat, 47 years old; the ol' inner heater doesn't work like it used to.
Can spend 1-2 hours in water comfortably at 7 degrees, nearly unlimited time at 14 degrees.
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I was diving today in 45 F (7 C) water w/ a Cressi Competition 5mm for two hours -- wasn't the least bit cold. The big issue seems to be managing your body heat when you get out, since the cold air and wind take a toll. I usually towel off and slap on nylon pants and an all synthetic coat (i.e. stuff that doesn't wick moisture from my suit and body) to keep the heat in.

At any rate, I was really surprised that an inexpensive ($150) 5mm open cell suit would keep me that warm. This was the first time that I tested it in sub-50 water.

sorry for the second post

I just went back and read the preceding posts a little more carefully. Warm socks (3mm) and warm gloves (5mm or even 6.5 mm mits) are mandatory. I was diving w/ my friend Doug who is much more of a polar bear. He was sans gloved and mitts and not were his hands and feet sore, but he was getting cold all over as well. Apart form the fact that he did not have gloves and booties, our gear was identical.
I have been diving with my Escalpez 5mm two piece suit, in UK and I think it is warm enough up to about 2h diving... atleast here in SW..
I would not buy myself too warm suit, because I get sea-sick if I am too hot when popping up and down in the sea... but that is just me.. and I don't like letting cold water in my suit...:hmm
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