For those of you that have read my previous article on proper weighting for SCUBA diving and buoyancy control, you will know how passionate I am about this topic! So very often, divers are overweighted. Being overweighted makes achieving and maintaining proper buoyancy extremely difficult. Not only that, overweighting can have other negative impacts such as reduced dive time as a result of increased air consumption and environmental damage caused by fins that constantly have to kick to maintain position.
I often think of diving as a type of art form, suspended animation. It should look effortless. And whilst I admit that diving in a dry suit is not quite as straightforward as diving in a wetsuit, achieving and maintaining your buoyancy in your quest to portray an underwater art form is a lot to do with proper weighting. If you are new to dry suit diving, check out my earlier article for an introductory to dry suit diving.
How much weight do you need for dry suit diving?
There is a common misconception that diving in a dry suit requires a significant amount more weight than diving in a wetsuit. In reality, most people will find that they only need to add a little more weight, no more than an additional 3 – 6 pounds whilst diving dry compared to wet. Of course, the is no simple answer and a lot depends on the type of dry suit (crushed neoprene or shell), whether the suit is a snug fit or more loose, and the undergarments worn. I, for instance, wear a snug, crushed neoprene dry suit with a couple of layers of wool undergarments and sharkskin and add an extra 3 lbs of weight compared to my 7mm wetsuit, 6 lbs if I’m planning on doing a shallow dive.
Another common misconception when diving in a dry suit is that your BCD is used for buoyancy on the surface only, with your dry suit being used for buoyancy control on your dive. This is not strictly true, however, as with diving in a wetsuit, if you are correctly weighted, you should hardly have to make any adjustments to your BCD and the air within it during your dive.
As you descend with your dry suit you will have to add small amounts of air to your suit to avoid squeeze. The misconception regarding buoyancy control via your dry suit only on a dive, in my opinion, leads to divers overweighting themselves and over inflating their dry suits during their dives. You should only add enough air to your suit on your dive to avoid a squeeze. The suit should still feel snug on you, as if it is hugging you, with only a small amount of air in it. If you require any additional air for neutral buoyancy purposes then by all means, use your BCD, however if this is the case, consider whether you are over weighted.
I see dry suit divers all the time with copious amounts of lead strapped to them and in many cases ankle weights to boot. If you suffer from floaty ankles, again, it is probably because you are overweighted and add too much air to your suit when diving. As I said at the start, diving should look effortless, overweighting with a dry suit, constantly adding air and venting it and strapping down those floaty ankles with even more weight is not going to look effortless. Not only that, it can be extremely dangerous too. With too much air in your suit, as it moves around, if it is not appropriately dealt with, can result in an inverted rapid ascent, a drysuit divers nightmare. The answer is simple, try less weight.
As always, if you are going to experiment with different weights and want to improve your skills as a dry suit diver, dive with experienced dry suit divers or seek guidance from your local dive professional. Hopefully, with these tips and an experienced guide or mentor you too will look like an underwater art form.