A drysuit keeps you warm, dry and comfy under water, but they are also a significant investment – budget models cost more than $1,000. Drysuits require periodic servicing too, which is also pricey. Replacing a neck seal can set you back $100, a valve $125, a waterproof zipper $300 to $500. Of course, a quality drysuit can also last you 10 years or even much longer—if you treat it right.
**Before the Dive. . . **
Take care of your drysuit is when you’re using it. A drysuit’s most critical components—seals and zipper--are most susceptible to damage when getting into and out of the suit.
1. Pulling wrist and neck seals, especially latex seals, over your hands and head without first dusting them with talcum powder is a sure-fire formula for a ruined dive and a hefty repair bill. Talcum powder eliminates virtually all resistance between skin and seals, allowing them to slip on without stressing the rubber. In fact, when you don your suit, you should never stretch the material lengthwise and pull it over your head or wrist. You should stretch the opening as wide as possible and put you head and wrists through the seals.
2. Never zip up a waterproof zipper without first applying some zipper wax. Use only the manufacturer’s wax that’s specifically formulated for your specific drysuit zipper. Apply the wax only on the outside of the teeth so as not to interfere with the zipper’s inner sealing surfaces. If your suit’s a rear-entry design and you need help zipping up, make sure your buddy knows what he’s doing. Drysuit zippers are heavy-duty but they’re not indestructible. Never yank; instead, stretch the zipper track out as straight as possible and apply a slow, steady pull on the zipper car while keeping the track off the undergarment so nothing gets jammed in the teeth.
3. Once you’re zipped in, squat down and pull out on the neck seal to bleed the air from the suit. Or, if possible, climb down the swim step and let water pressure do the purging for you. This second method serves a double-purpose--it neutralizes any overheating you might have generated up to this point, which makes climbing into the rest of your dive gear a lot more comfortable. Either way, by getting as much air as possible out of your drysuit now, you reduce the chance of blowing a neck seal during your giant-stride entry.
4. Remember, every time you put on or take off a dry suit you’re stressing the seals and the zipper, and putting yourself one step closer to an expensive repair. Order your suit with a relief zipper or, better, yet, a pee valve, so you won’t have to unzip and strip down every time you have to pee.
5. A torn seal not only costs time and money to repair, it ruins a day of diving, and that doesn’t come cheap either. By fitting—or retrofitting—your drysuit with an in-the-field seal replacement system, like DUI’s ZipSeals or Waterproof’s Seal System, you will never blow a day of diving because of a blown seal. If a wrist or neck seal fails, simply remove it, snap on a spare and continue on with your dive.
After the Dive. . .
6. When you climb out of the water, squeeze a few bursts of air into the suit before popping your QD hose . This makes it more comfortable walking around on deck still zipped. Immediately if possible, give the suit a thorough freshwater rinse, including seals and valve casings.
7. If it’s a fabric suit, wipe the outside down with a quick-drying micro-fiber towel and install the protective cap on the inlet valve--the last thing you want is corrosion building up inside the valve that can cause a stuck inflator button. If it’s a neoprene suit, just pad it down lightly, cap the valve, unzip and climb out.
8. If you’re going to be diving again in the next 24 to 48 hours, hang the suit inside-out to dry the dampness that occurs from typical perspiration. Don’t rinse the inside because it won’t dry in time for your next dive. However, if you’re done diving for a couple weeks or more, go ahead and rinse off the inside. This is easy to do on dry suits fitted with soft socks that can be turned completely inside-out. Suits with attached boots can be difficult, but get them turned inside-out as much as you can, keeping in mind that the insides of the boots are going to take longer to dry completely, but nonetheless must be completely dry before putting the suit into storage.
9. Hang the suit in a cool, dry place out of the sun, preferably on a dry suit hanger (heavy-duty with wide shoulder supports). Each day, turn the suit outside-in, then inside-out, then outside-in, etc. until it’s completely dry. Fabric suits dry relatively fast, a neoprene suit might take a couple days on each side. Special hangers and electric dry suit drier fans can help speed up this drying phase.
10. When the suit’s dry, lay it out on a table. Dust the wrist seals and neck seal with talcum powder so the rubber doesn’t flatten out and stick to itself when in storage. Use a very soft toothbrush to remove grit, grime and sand from the zipper’s teeth. Also, wax the zipper’s outside teeth. It’s important to leave the zipper unzipped to avoid deforming the sealing surfaces.
11. Roll the suit from boots to neck, taking care that the open zipper maintains its most natural shape. Then slip the suit in an airtight dry bag that will protect the suit from moisture and ozone. Note: Do not hang a dry suit for long-term storage. Even when using a wide-shouldered plastic hanger, over time the weight of the suit puts a lot of stress on the shoulders, plus it’s exposed to dirt, dust and ozone.
12. Stow the bag out of the sun away from auto exhaust fumes, electrical panels and electrical equipment like washers or dryers. Never stack gear on top of your dry suit; this is your big-ticket piece of gear, your long-term investment, it always goes on top, ready for your next problem-free dry diving adventure.
13. Get an annual inspection and pressure test. For $50 to $79, you can discover minor issues before they ruin a dive.