Do I always have to wear a full length wetsuit?

A common question that we normally get is whether a short wetsuit (up to the knees and elbows) or a full length wetsuit (up to the wrists and ankles) would be more suitable for tropical waters. New students in warm tropical waters (28 to 30C) like to ask for a short wetsuit, because it’s much easier to put on. However, I would always suggest wearing a full length wetsuit, despite the temperature.

The big reason for this would be protection against scratches and bites in the water, even though the temperature may not warrant it. Another good reason would be thermoclines, which is water at a different temperature at a different depth. Normally the temperature would drop the deeper you go, and this can’t always be predicted in advance.

As divers get better and more comfortable in the water, they also tend to move less, and eventually get to the point where they are able to stop moving completely. At this point, because the body isn’t working so hard, a person will lose body temperature faster, and result in a colder dive.

My recommendation is thus to always dive a full length suit, and if you’re thinking of buying a suit, then always buy at least a 3mm suit, you’ll find more use for it in a wider range of temperatures than a short wetsuit.

Short wetsuit Full length wetsuit
Pros Cons Pros Cons
Easy to wear Gives you a funny looking tan Protection against scratches Harder to put on
Cheaper to purchase Potential scratches and bites Keeps you warm in thermoclines More expensive
Leon Boey is a GUE, HSA and PADI instructor based in Singapore and Bali. He runs the dive education centre Livingseas in Singapore, Bali and Jakarta. Diving since 2005, he first fell in love with wrecks. He enjoys all sorts of diving, and loves being surrounded by fish.

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