What to Wear Under a Wetsuit to improve Protection and Warmth

So, the guide books told you all that you need to know about diving: where to practice, what rebreather to use, how to stay safe underwater. But one thing that you probably haven’t been taught is what you should wear underneath your wetsuit when you go scuba diving!

What should you wear under a wetsuit when you go diving? Can you wear anything you want? Do you need a rash guard?

Why would you Wear Undergarments under your Wetsuit?

It can be more Comfortable – No Rubbing or Chafing

If you’re not wearing any additional layer of clothing under a wetsuit when you go scuba diving then your skin is exposed directly to the inside material. At least at times, this can be quite uncomfortable and potentially even painful if your skin is directly exposed to the suit.

The inside material of wetsuits can constantly rub against your skin and even chafe in some areas of your body. The typical spots where you will experience discomfort or chafing are in the armpits, knees, and crotch. Many divers also experience rubbing around the neck from wearing wetsuits.

After wearing wetsuits for longer times, you will wish you’d be wearing an additional layer to protect your skin. Areas that are not covered by a rash guard, swimsuit, or other undergarments can be protected using anti-chafing gel or cream that helps with rubbing of the neoprene of the suit.

Having said that, there’s no hard and fast rule that you wear anything under a wetsuit. Most divers prefer to wear an undergarment underneath a wetsuit especially when diving in colder temperatures.

It adds Insulation – Stay Warm when Diving

Wearing undergarments under wetsuit

Wearing an extra layer underneath your wetsuit can keep your body warmer in cold environments. This is not only true underwater but also on land or on a boat.

Yes, you can use a thicker wetsuit but the thicker the wetsuit, the more restricted the movability. To some degree that is even worse when you are on land as a thick wetsuit can be quite irritating when you try to move around.

Adding an additional layer under your suit can keep you warmer in the water and above. Cold winds can drain your energy before you even get into the water if you’re not keeping warm. Even a thin layer under the wetsuit can offer additional insulation.

The layer under your wetsuit should be matched to the surrounding conditions. During a dive you will always experience different surrounding water temperatures that affect how cold or warm you’re in wetsuits. When you’re on deck getting ready to dive or after a dive is also a consideration for picking the right clothing under your wetsuit.

When you are in warm water then the thin layer of water between the neoprene and your skin is sufficient and you don’t need to wear anything under a wetsuit. In colder water the thin layer of water is not enough to keep you warm

Added Protection against Cuts, Bites and UV Light

A layer underneath your wetsuit can also help protect you and your skin while diving. It can be an additional security layer in case you get bitten or stung through your wetsuit. Even if you are not in touch with aquatic wildlife that might puncture your wetsuit, your additional layer can protect you from scrapes and cuts if they rip through wetsuits.

Another level of protection is that the right material can protect you from sunburn caused by UV light exposure. If you are on deck or land for longer periods before, between, or after dives and you don’t wear your wetsuit during those times, then make sure to have a layer of clothing available that offers UV protection.

Rash guards often have SPF protection woven into the fabric. This makes them a great choice when you’re exposed to the sun while they also add thermal protection and extra insulation on land as well as underwater if worn in a wetsuit.

Not being Nude in Public

It might happen more often than you want that you have to change in and out of your suit in public. Whether it is on a boat or on a public beach, you might want to get in or out of your wetsuit where other people can see you. In that case, it might be better to just about wear anything underneath wetsuits compared to nothing.

If you wear a swimsuit and rash guard underneath your wetsuit, then you can be sure you are always covered and will not accidentally end up naked in public when you take your suit off. That can save you from some embarrassment and potential fines.

Personal Hygiene

Specifically, in cases where you rent a wetsuit, you have no idea who was wearing the suit before and how well it was cleaned between it being rented and used. Even if everything is perfectly clean, you simply might not like the thought that intimate areas of your body rub against the inside of a wetsuit that somebody else had been wearing before.

There are also quite a few scuba divers that pee in their wetsuit when scuba diving which makes it even more compelling to wear a layer of your own clothing between you and a rented wetsuit. It is simply more hygienic and safer to add a layer between your skin and the wetsuit. Even just a bathing suit is enough to keep your private areas distant from the inside of wetsuits.

Wear a bathing suit and rash guard under your wetsuit - you never know who was wearing the suit before!

Since you don’t want to show up on dive day without a plan, here are a few tips of the trade to answer this seemingly simple question of what kind of clothing you can wear inside wetsuits. The issue is that you can’t just wear anything under your wetsuit.

Whatever you choose to wear in wetsuits has to match the environmental temperature and it should be tight fitting. Fitting these requirements, you can wear anything under your wetsuit. Check out below what to wear under your wetsuit after you consider the temperatures you’ll be diving in!

Consider the Temperature

If you’re going to be exploring warm waters, you’ll probably be fine with very few undergarments and maybe even a shorty wetsuit. If even that’s too much, your best bet might be a rash guard and a pair of diving shorts.

Cold Water Environments

But, if you’re facing colder temps, you’re going to want to be a little more strategic. You’ve got a couple of options for undergarments to wear in your suit.

You can wear a thick, lined wetsuit or a thin suit that you’ll layer over base pieces. Sometimes divers who know they will be using a wetsuit in multiple locations and climates will choose the latter option so that they don’t need a second wetsuit.

What do you Wear under your Wetsuit?

The Gender Difference…

There are a number of options for men and women with regard to what to wear in a wetsuit. To some degree, it’s easier for women as a one-piece bathing suit covers already a large part of your body. A swim trunk or board shorts for men don’t cover the upper body so there are more considerations for men with regards to what to wear under a wetsuit.

Options for Men to Wear Underneath

As a guy, you’ve probably got your standard board shorts for every beach and boat outing. They’re comfortable and they look great. Unfortunately, they don’t hold up well under a wetsuit, usually getting bunched up and caught because of the loose material.

Instead, your best bet is to go with one of these alternatives:

Bicycle or diving shorts

Sure, they’ll feel uncomfortably tight at first, but fitted diving or bicycle shorts will give you some extra warmth and allow you to get in and out of wetsuits easily. The best ones for diving come in neoprene shorts adding extra insulation. The advantage is that neoprene is buoyant and warmer than other materials.

Neoprene bicycle shorts are a great protection layer to keep yourself from chafing and to provide extra warmth. It also makes it easy to change into and out of the wetsuit.

Rash guards and compression shirts

In cold water, it’s going to be vital to keep your torso warm and cozy, so finding a good undershirt is key. Luckily, there are plenty of options, ranging in thickness and heat-retaining material.

Full body jumpsuit

These tightly-fitted long-sleeved onesies are usually available in neoprene or another similar material and are great for colder waters.

Men’s briefs or the nude

That’s right. If you want to wear your standard men’s briefs or slip into your wetsuit without a base layer, you’re welcome to do so. Just keep in mind, you might get some strange looks on the boat if you decide to change on the deck if that’s all you wear under your wetsuit.

Better idea: if this is your preferred attire, show up to the dive spot dressed for the dive, and remember not to disrobe after you’ve climbed back on board.

Options for Women to Wear under Her Wetsuit

The ladies have something of an advantage in this area. Women’s swimsuits are already fitted and don’t usually pose too many problems when putting on a wetsuit.

As long as you make sure your swimsuit doesn’t have decorations that will pinch or dig into your skin under the pressure of the wetsuit, you’re perfectly fine without buying additional pieces. Also, be aware that wetsuits that close by tying a knot or with a bulky clasp may also be uncomfortable.

And, of course, women are able to wear any of the options listed for men, as well. Diving shorts, rash guards and/or compression shirts, full-body jumpsuits, and more are available in women’s sizes and are perfect for colder temperatures.

Let’s talk about rentals

Renting a wetsuit is a great alternative to buying one if you’re not someone who will be using the wetsuit over and over again. However, renting does limit your options a bit when thinking about what to wear underneath. After all, wetsuits are form-fitting, and you want to limit your exposure as much as possible, at least in the areas that count.

So, regardless of temperature, if you are renting a wetsuit, you’re going to want to invest in a pair of diving shorts, as well as a rash guard shirt. This will cover up the areas that are most vulnerable so that you can dive comfortably and stress-free.

You’re ready to start shopping!

Now that you have learned everything about diving attire that the books didn’t teach you, you are ready to get shopping for your wetsuit undergarments to have an extra layer and then go diving. You know what to wear under a wetsuit!

What should you wear under a wetsuit when you go diving?
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