Frequently Asked Questions
High Tide Dry Suits, Inc.
     
We get many questions and queries – here are our answers to most of them:
Q:  I think I could fit a stock suit.  Why is a custom fit so important?  

When you combine the characteristics of a good neoprene drysuit with a custom fit, you have the best
of all worlds.  By getting yourself measured up by a High Tide dealer, you will be able to try on actual
Rocklug boots to make sure you get the correct size for your foot.  When your suit is started, we will
cut your neck and wrist seals to fit you perfectly, make sure the leg, arm, and torso length are correct,
adjust the chest, waist and hips to fit you properly.  Your fleece jumpsuit will also be cut just for you.  
When your suit arrives and you try it on, you will realize how much more streamlined and comfortable
it is than a stock suit.  You will feel the difference!
A correctly fitting drysuit system will last longer too, since there will not be stress at seams or panels
that accompany an ill fitting stock suit.

Q:  Does High Tide offer “shell” type dry suits?  

Since our specialty is providing cold water protection for diving across the northern latitudes of the
continent, we greatly prefer neoprene based dry suits and only manufacture those.  There are three
basic reasons we dive neoprene dry suits rather than shell:
1) WARMTH.  Neoprene is warmer than shell type suits because insulating air is encapsulated in the
neoprene itself and cannot gravitate upwards to the highest portion of the suit.  This keeps your lower
torso and legs warmer.  A shell suit user will discover that the air provided by the loft of his thick
“snowmobile’ like jumpsuit quickly leaves the lower extremities and concentrates in the upper
chest/neck regions (air always goes up!).  With the “loft” gone from the lower parts of his body, the
shell suit user will feel chilled below his chest, especially on long or deep dives.
2)  SAFETY:  If you’ve ever had a neoprene dry suit flood then you know that the suit still retains
buoyancy and thermal warmth, even if it is like a baggy wetsuit.  We’ve had lots of testimonials from
divers with badly leaking neoprene dry suits who continued their dives without too much discomfort,
often remarking how warm they were!  A shell suit, on the other hand, loses all buoyancy if there is a
bad tear or zipper blowout since a shell suit has no floatation characteristics in the thin, bladder-like
material.  And if flooded, a shell becomes freezing cold with virtually no thermal warmth.  Imagine
facing a series of long decompression stops in a flooded shell suit!
Also, neoprene suits are safer to dive since they have small volumes of interior air.  This is important
should a diver happen to get his feet above his head, so that the air rising to the boots does not exert so
much pressure as to blow the boots off!  A shell type of suit carries a large air bubble inside (that air
that was squeezed out of the jumpsuit and rose to the top of the suit) and if that air happens to get into
the boots, then the result can be exceedingly dramatic and no fun at all!
3)  FIT AND DRAG:  The vast majority of shell type dry suits are sold as stock, off-the-shelf units.  
These types of suits are cut very, very baggy since the material does not stretch and suits have to fit a
wide variety of body shapes.  This extra material causes unsightly wrinkles underwater and produces a
lot of drag, thus making the diver work harder to swim and therefore use up his air faster.  Often the
stock suits do not really fit that well and a diver may find himself with a suit that he ends up upgrading
soon thereafter, while taking a financial beating as he tries to sell the original suit.  Better to get a
custom neoprene suit to start with – you will swim faster, improve your air consumption rate and be
warmer.

Q: I keep hearing that neoprene suits require more weight to submerge than shell type
suits.  Is this true?

Yes.  And No.  It depends on how cold the water is.
In temperate waters of,  let’s say, California, a diver wearing a shell suit will not require much of an
undergarment to stay warm,  so he typically dives a thinner jumpsuit and does not need as much lead
to get down.
The diver using a 7.0 mm neoprene drysuit in those waters obviously cannot make his suit thinner, so
will not be able to reduce the amount of lead to get down and he will wear a few pounds more.  (He
will also be warmer – maybe too warm!)
So under that scenario the axiom holds true – a shell diver uses less weight to get down.
Things change when the same two divers travel to British Columbia, Canada, to dive some wrecks.  
The shell suit diver quickly discovers the water temperature of 45 degrees rapidly chills him, especially
his feet and lower parts of his body.  So he keeps adding layers of fleece or a thicker jumpsuit  until he
finally gets fairly warm.  But now he has had to add another eight to ten pounds to his weight system.
Meanwhile, the neoprene guy may add a layer of ultra thin polypro underwear (and perhaps a fleece
layering vest), but he requires nowhere near the extra layers that the shell guy has employed, so he only
has to add three or four pounds to his weight system.
In these colder northern waters, the neoprene diver actually uses less weight and he is a lot warmer
too.  So the axiom reverses itself.
One of the neat things about High Tide drysuit systems is that they are based on thinner, 5.0 mm
neoprene so they can comfortably be used in temperate waters (without the fleece jumpsuit) and with
comparable weighting as the shell suits.  Yet by adding the included fleece jumpsuit and layering vest
the High Tide suits are absolutely the warmest suits you can get for trips to cold Canada or the Great
Lakes.  One type of suit for both water temperatures!
All things being equal, in temperate waters we find that High Tide neoprene suit wearers use just about
exactly the same amount of weight as the shell suit people and in northern waters can use a couple of
pounds less.  And they always report being warmer.

Q: Does High Tide make suits with self-donning zippers?

We do not.  In our opinion, one of the disadvantages of neoprene is that it is not a good material to use
for self-donning suits.  To design a suit for an across-the-front zipper, one must add about 8 to 9 inches
to the torso length of the suit to allow one shoulder of the suit to be pulled up and over the diver’s head
as he gets into it.  In shell suits, this extra torso material can be easily folded at the waist and held in
place with straps for a (relatively) smooth fit.  Neoprene does not fold, but gathers in a tube around the
midsection, making the diver look like he is wearing a tire around his stomach.  While we have made
some experimental suits that featured a self-donning zipper, we were not happy with the results and
now just concentrate on back zip suits.  
We understand that a few people do dive alone and may require a self-donning zipper and for those
people we recommend DUI or USIA shell suits as examples of well proven technology and design.  For
the rest of you, we recommend a back zipper style of suit since you should be diving with a buddy
anyway, and back zippers last much, much longer than front zippers (front zippers wear out quickly at
the shoulder  or the crotch – they don’t like being bent tightly and fail prematurely).

Q: Can I get latex neck or wrist seals?

Latex seals offer pretty much “bone dry” sealing and have the advantage in stock suits of being “cut-to-
size“.  Those advantages are offset by a short lifespan (ozone attacks the latex and they usually last
only one or two seasons before expensive replacement is necessary), being un-repairable in the field (if
you poke a hole in one, you cannot glue it, it must be replaced), and by being cold (latex has zero
insulation so you feel a cold “ring” around your neck and wrists).
Neoprene seals are soft and warm and last many years without degradation from ozone.  And if you
poke a hole in one it can be field repaired with a can of wetsuit glue and you can be back in the water
in an hour.  The neck seals are much more comfortable than latex since they are warmer and do not
feel so much like they are choking you.  Having said that, neoprene seals are not as watertight as latex,
they commonly will weep a little bit of water and give you “ring around the neck” or “ring around the
wrists”.  However, weepage is generally slight and unnoticeable and even if a diver experiences a little
leakage he will feel warmer than if he was using the non-insulating latex seals.
To answer your question:  High Tide does not offer latex neck or latex wrist seals - we think the new,
soft and stretchy neoprene seals are far superior to latex and absolutely last much longer.

Q: I thought all neoprene was alike.  What are the differences?

Almost all neoprene manufacturers offer at least half a dozen grades of neoprene.  Some foam is made
with so much “filler” that is comes into the country classified as “blended foam” and does not even
qualify with US Customs as neoprene!  Such inexpensive foam is used for wraps for horses and
athletes but is not suitable for water or diving use.   Some water sports grade neoprene is designed with
a zero depth rating (for surfers, water skiing, etc.).  Some is designed for sport diving (with a typical
depth rating of 100 feet).  Some is meant for commercial diving and, with extra ingredients added to
the basic neoprene (such as butyl – a strengthening agent), can withstand repeated pressure to 165
feet.          
Compressed neoprene (also marketed as micro-cell neoprene) is foam that starts out life at one
thickness (and with additives to improve its compression strength) and is compressed under pressure to
a slightly thinner ending thickness.  Only the strongest, most robust air cells survive this process, thus
compressed foam usually carries a depth rating of at least 230 feet and can easily last a thousand dives
with little crushing or wrinkling.  Hyper-compressed foam can go to 400 feet without damage from
pressure!
There is no free lunch here.  Inexpensive foam is not suitable for diving or it will rapidly crush and
wrinkle, losing its thermal insulation properties.  Most wetsuits and accessories on the market are made
from the so called “sport” foam, rated for moderate depths of 100 feet.  If you dive sport products for
long, or take them deep, they will lose thickness and warmth rapidly and permanently.  Commercial
rated foam is the best for most people, it is a little bit stiffer than sport grade foam but lasts about three
times as long under the same conditions.  Trouble is, in our price conscious society, almost no one
makes suits from commercial neoprene anymore due to the expense.  By the way, compressed foam is
too dense to make good wetsuits, it doesn’t stretch enough, but it is excellent dry suit material.
That, in a nutshell, is more information than you’d ever want about neoprene!

Q: What is the difference between compressed neoprene and crushed neoprene?

Only two companies (that we know of) use true crushed neoprene.  Crushed neoprene, as its name
implies, is neoprene in which all of the air bubbles have been squashed flat as a bug and the air
escapes.  This leaves a very thin, (1 mm or so) dense layer of neoprene which no longer has any air
bubbles.   This thin material is then used for traditional type shell suits.   DUI pioneered this technique
and makes a very successful shell suit from this material as it has some stretch which most shell suit
materials do not have.   However, since the air is gone, crushed neoprene has no thermal warmth or
floatation properties if flooded.  It is just another shell material, although arguably one of the best for
that purpose.
Compressed neoprene, while thinner and denser than regular neoprene, retains plenty of air bubbles for
warmth and floatation – and much better stretch than crushed neoprene.
We have sold many, many High Tide suits to former owners of crushed neoprene suits and we
repeatedly get rave reviews and comments from these owners about how much warmer and more
comfortable they are in their High Tides.
In semi-warm waters (like southern Cal) a crushed neoprene is probably the way to go so you don‘t
overheat.  But in colder northern waters like the Great Lakes or Puget Sound, you will be far happier in
a compressed neoprene suit.  Those millions of trapped air bubble will definitely keep you warmer.

If you have any more questions about our dry suits, please contact us at info@hightidedrysuits.com.  
Thank you.