Diving Equipment

CUUEG maintains its own store of equipment for use in pool training and for hire by members to use on branch dives. This means people can dive with us without having to commit to buying all their own (expensive) equipment. The only items of kit that an individual needs to own are a mask and drysuit (we do have some masks to use in the pool and club members may have spare drysuits to borrow).

There is some advice below on what to look for when buying a drysuit. The club’s kit is looked after by the Equipment Officer.

Air cylinders

Cylinders are filled with air using the compressor owned and maintained by the Cambridge 240 branch. All club members are expected to help with cylinder runs. If you are interested in becoming a compressor operator for the club, get in touch with the Air Officer.

Club kit

The following items are available from the club: regs  – cylinders –  wing bladders –  backplates –  single tank adaptors –  BCDs  –  dive timers –  compasses –  weights – weight belts –  dive bags –  reels – spools –  DSMBs – masks –  fins –  snorkels –  and gloves.

Kit Hire prices are listed below.

 

Kit Hire Rates

(Charging Scheme in effect from: 1st October 2016)

Kit hire is available to all club members, and is included in the cost of training dives for Ocean diver Trainees.

We have two rental options; full kit rental or just tanks and lead, and you have the option of paying annually or by the day.

Per Year (Oct-Sept) Per Day
 Full Kit rental  £40 £10
 Cylinders and Lead only  £16 £4

Notes

CUUEG kit belongs to the entire club. it is held and administrated by the Equipment Officer for the benefit of all members. To encourage the rapid return of kit, thus maximising its availability, please note the following:

  • Kit not returned by the Wednesday evening following the trip, or by a date agreed in advance with Equipment Officer, will be charged for the number of days overdue at the one-day hire rate.
  • A penalty charge of £5 will be made if an item of kit not returned was needed by another diver.
  • An overdue kit debt will result in the offending diver being placed on a kit ban when the debt is 2 months overdue (unless otherwise agreed with the Equipment Officer).
  • An administrative charge of £5 will be added to kit hire bills not paid within a month of the diver being placed on a kit ban.
  • Unpaid debts will be taken very seriously: if the debt is not resolved promptly following a diver being placed on a kit ban then the appropriate authorities will be contacted to recover the money.
  • Attention is drawn to the Constitution, rule 21, part (iii), which states that, “if a member damages or loses Branch equipment the Committee may charge that member the cost of repairing or replacing the article. The Committee may similarly charge a member who damages or loses private property used in connection with Branch activities.”
  •  Attention is drawn to the Safe Diving Practices, section 8.0 “Use of Club Equipment”.
  • Try dives may be offered to interested potential members. They are limited to one try dive per person.

Drysuits

This section gives an overview of Drysuit features and what to look for when you buy one. If you’d like more information and pictures you can download an informative and in-depth guide from X-Ray Magazine here, but note that some of the articles are written by manufacturers and may not be impartial.

Anatomy of a Drysuit

A scuba drysuit is basically a full-body waterproof suit, with seals round the neck and hands, a waterproof zip for you to get in, and valves to allow you to add and vent air.

Suit Material

There are 2 main types available in the UK at the moment:

  • Membrane (also known as tri-laminate) – a thin but sturdy ‘bag’ round the diver; generally has more room for expansion but isn’t stretchy and doesn’t provide any insulation
  • Neoprene – the same material as used for wetsuits. They provide some insulation, and are slightly stretchy, but need to be a slightly better fit than membrane suits. Neoprene compresses at depth, losing insulation and buoyancy. Crushed neoprene suits avoid this, but tend to be very expensive. Compressed neoprene reduces the effect somewhat, but not completely. (There is some more information on this here, from DUI, who make nice but expensive crushed neoprene suits). We would advise against getting a neoprene drysuit that wasn’t at least ‘compressed neoprene’.

Most people in the club have membrane drysuits; if you’re buying new, we’d advise going for membrane over neoprene where features are otherwise similar. That said, many people do dive safely and comfortably in Neoprene drysuits.

Seals

Diving drysuits have seals for the head and neck. Seals are either Latex or Neoprene – Latex are generally slightly cheaper but may last less time, and provide less insulation. You can easily replace one with the other, and you can replace them yourself or get a shop/manufacturer to do it.

Zip

The zip is probably the most expensive single item on a drysuit, and a new one fitted would cost between £140 and £180. There are two types – rear entry zips on the shoulder (you’ll need your buddy to zip you up), and front entry zips that go over your chest (you can do these up yourself). The front entry ones are generally more expensive.

Valves

You have one air inlet valve somewhere on your chest, which connects to your cylinder to allow you to put air in. There are two options for the connector, Apeks and Sitek (also known as ‘international’), and the drysuit should come with a matching hose. Sitek connectors are the same as the ones used by most wings and BCDs, and the club regulators all have these connectors, so we’d recommend getting a Sitek inlet if possible, however getting a new connector for the drysuit valve costs about £4 so it’s not a big issue.

You also have a dump valve. Here there are two main choices – an Autodump and a Cuff Dump. Cuff dumps are found on the left wrist, and will dump air when you raise your arm so that the left wrist is the highest point on the suit. Autodumps are located on the left shoulder, and can be adjusted to different pressure settings; a fully open one will dump any excess air, whereas a fully closed one will keep all air in the suit, handy for when you’re on the surface and want some extra insulation. Most people in the club have autodumps.

Autodumps can be positioned in various different positions on the shoulder, see here for a diagram. They all work, but if you have the choice, then the “DIR style” may be slightly more comfortable with the club equipment and the way we tend to dive.

Note that you can get some drysuits without the valves – these are useless for scuba diving unless you don’t plan to go deeper than about 3m, as they will get squeezed onto you and become very uncomfortable.

Undersuit

You’ll want some kind of undersuit to keep you warm underwater. Commonly their insulation level is given in grams per square metre of material – 200g is common for UK diving; the thicker you have the more air you will have in your drysuit, and so the more weight you need. It’s often easier to add extra layers of thermals and jumpers if the undersuit isn’t warm enough; this means you can alter what you wear according to the conditions. Most drysuit manufacturers will sell undersuits as well. They tend to vary in the quality of the stitching.

Fourth Element offer a slightly different undersuit, the Arctics, which is based around fleece rather than thinsulate. Some people prefer them because they need less air; others complain they’re not as warm. Northern Diver sell a similar version slightly cheaper. If you have thermal underwear and soft shell clothing (the sort of thing you’d wear skiing or hillwalking) you could try experimenting with different combinations as an alternative.

Generally the undersuit will be a 1 piece (whole body) or 2 piece (separate jacket and trousers), with separate booties for the feet.

How to tell if a suit is a good fit

Ideally, put the suit on whilst wearing an undersuit. If you haven’t yet got one, use a few thick jumpers and thick trousers. You should be able to get in comfortably, and be able to crouch and have full motion of your arms (including putting them behind your neck). Common things to watch for are not enough material at the armpits, restricting your arm motion. Ideally there shouldn’t be too much spare length on the legs – otherwise you’re at risk from floaty feet. If it’s a bit baggy round the arms or torso, this tends to be less of a problem, as long as it’s not extreme. Don’t be surprised if the neck and wrist seals are initially very tight – you can stretch these before diving, so it’s less of an issue.

Options when buying a drysuit

Boots

Drysuits will typically come with ‘wellington boots’ – big rubber boots (sometimes neoprene) that are integrated with the suit. If these fit you well, they are great – however if you have too much free space in them you have the potential for floaty feet, and they can be awkward to put on. There are several different materials used, and different boot sizes, so it’s best to try the suit on. (Don’t forget that you’ll probably want undersuit booties, or at least thick ski socks, to keep your feet warm

An alternative is to get neoprene socks on the drysuit to keep you dry, and outside them put a ‘rock boot’ or wetsuit boot to provide a sole to walk on, something for your fins to strap to, and to keep the sock tight round your foot. A few people in the club have these. They’re definitely a nice option if you can get them

Pockets

Some drysuits come with pockets, some don’t. There are a range of different types and sizes of pockets, some with zips and some with velcro. Pockets are also the easiest thing to put on yourself later, so don’t worry too much if your suit doesn’t come with them; as a beginner you probably won’t have anything you need to carry in them. Velcro bellows pockets on the outside of the thigh are generally preferred in the club; some suits will come with them on the front of the thigh instead, which is marginally less streamlined, but not a big issue.

Hood

Some drysuits have the option of an integrated hood; we’d suggest instead buying a separate hood – as much as anything else, if you’re doing warm water wetsuit diving you can reuse the hood.

Braces

A set of braces helps keep your drysuit on you while you’ve only half put it on. These are probably more useful for rear entry suits than front entry. Nice, but not essential.

Sources

Manufacturers

If possible, go to your local manufacturer, try their off the peg suits, and if necessary they can measure you for a made to measure suit. You can see a map of manufacturer locations round the UK here. Note that we in the club haven’t tried all of these, so it might be worth searching for reviews before deciding where to go. Yorkshire Divers Forums are a good starting point for these – but bare in mind that every manufacturer will have a few poor suits, because making something totally waterproof is very difficult; how a company deals with stuff when it goes wrong is more important, and some companies seem to have a better reputation for customer service than others. Opinions and facts are very different.

Some places do made to measure suits online, which are good value if you’re careful with your measurements – but made to measure suits also take a while to make (sometimes 6 to 8 weeks), and we’ve had problems with manufacturers not strictly keeping to their deadlines before, so order with plenty of time.

Many manufacturers will sell cheaper ex-demo suits, or made to measure suits that didn’t quite fit. You may also have more room for negotiation when dealing with the manufacturer, especially if you want them to price match one of the online made to measure deals.

If you are buying a suit online, check the size chart for the manufacturer on their website – they all have an extensive range of sizes and you might find one that is right for you. Buying a stock suit will be quicker. Some manufacturers will also make small adjustments to stock suits

For undersuits, as well as the manufacturers themselves, look at Lomo and Fourth Element

Local Dive Shops

Your local dive shop (‘LDS’) may have a few different drysuits to try, if they don’t, find another Dive Shop. They will probably also be able to measure you and order some in – you may pay a little extra for this, but you get the convenience of someone local to talk to if you have issues. Also if you’re buying a Drysuit you will probably be able to get a discount or a special price if you’re buying an undersuit/hood/gloves at the same time – try to get an idea of the online prices before you buy so that you know if you are paying a lot more than you should.

Second Hand

You can also find some good second hand deals on ebay, – expect to pay £100-150 for a good suit. Of course, if you get something 2nd hand and it doesn’t fit you, you can hopefully sell it at the same price. If you’re buying second hand online and you can’t try the suit on, ask the seller to make sure that the boots are the right size (that is big enough for you to wear a thick pair of socks in), and that it fits someone that is your size (i.e. height and weight). The sort of suit to avoid is a thick neoprene suits with a cuff dump – these are usually very old, and may have an old inlet valve which will not ft any current hoses. It’s not uncommon for second hand drysuits to need replacement seals (wrist or ankle). These are just glued on, depending on your technical abilities this may be a trivial job, or not. If you’re considering this route, you can find some prices for repairs here, or for DIY prices and instructions see here. These aren’t necessarily the cheapest prices, but should give you an idea. Ebay is also a good place to look for second hand undersuits.

If you find a suit on ebay that looks good to you and you would like a second opinion, ask someone in the club – we can’t tell you whether it will definately fit you, or whether it leaks, but we will be able to tell you if it’s a reputable brand and if it’s suitable for diving.