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How Much Weight Do I Need For SCUBA Diving?

   August 15th, 2022   Posted In: Articles   Tags:

How Much Weight Do I Need For SCUBA Diving?

‘How much weight do I need for SCUBA diving?’ This is a question that is usually answered by saying ‘It depends’. Let’s take a look at different situations and how much weight might be needed for SCUBA diving.

Freshwater vs Saltwater

How much weight you need for SCUBA diving will change based on whether you will be diving in freshwater or saltwater. Saltwater weighs more than fresh water and is more dense. The open water SCUBA diving book goes into great detail about this. If an object is neutrally buoyant in freshwater, it will float in saltwater. An object that is neutrally buoyant in salt water will sink in freshwater. All this means is that you will need to wear more weight when SCUBA diving in saltwater vs freshwater.

Also, higher salt contents in water bodies require greater amounts of weight to go diving. For instance, diving in the Dead Sea or the Great Salt Lake are not as common because the weight required to dive is very uncomfortable!

Exposure Protection

Another source that will determine how much weight you need for SCUBA diving is the type of exposure protection you will be wearing. If you wear a skin suit vs a wetsuit vs a dry suit, your weight to get down will change. You will likely need very little weight to go SCUBA diving with no exposure protection or a skin suit. For wetsuits, the thicker the wetsuit, the more weight is needed to go down. Dry suits are normally worn with warm clothes underneath.

Even with just a bathing suit underneath, dry suits require more weight to go diving than wetsuits because air is placed inside the dry suit and this makes the diver more buoyant. Based on the weight needed for SCUBA diving, many divers opt for diving in warm water climates. However, don’t let all the weight scare you away from enjoying a beautiful cold-water dive which is also very invigorating.

Body Weight

You may think that the more you weigh the less weight you would need to SCUBA dive. However, fat is very buoyant. So higher body fat content actually requires more weight to go diving. On the other hand, lean muscle mass sinks. Thus, someone with a body high in lean muscle mass content would actually need less weight to go diving comparably. Being in good health fitness isn’t just good to reduce the weight needed for SCUBA diving, but is also a great benefit for SCUBA diving to help reduce the risk of decompression sickness.

Tank

Depending on the size and type of tank you use, your weight needed for SCUBA diving will change. Steel weighs more than aluminum. For this reason, many divers like to dive with steel tanks. However, they are heavy on land too which means they are more weight to haul around. Aluminum tanks are popular for this reason, even though a little more weight is needed to go SCUBA diving. 

Smaller size tanks also weigh less than larger tanks. For instance, an aluminum 80 tank weighs less than an aluminum 100. Thus, there are two benefits of using a larger tank: more air underwater and less weight to wear while diving. However, your total weight load will be similar since the tank is pretty heavy. If opting for the larger or heavier tanks, try to minimize the distance needed to walk with them to your dive site.

Experience

How much weight you need for SCUBA diving will also vary based on your experience level as a SCUBA diver. There are a few exceptions where some new divers somehow are so cool and calm in the water that they barely breathe. However, most new divers tend to breathe heavily which can lead to increased lung inflation. This makes the diver more buoyant and increases the need for more weight to go SCUBA diving.

Also, with experience comes better buoyancy control. New divers that have yet to tone in their buoyancy skills tend to need more weight to SCUBA dive. With experience, divers tend to decrease the amount of weight needed to SCUBA dive in all types of environments just because of better breathing control and buoyancy skills. 

Basic Guidelines

It may seem like we have not really answered the question ‘How much weight do I need to go SCUBA diving?’ Luckily, the dive industry has guidelines on where to start when choosing your weight depending on what exposure protection you are wearing.

Here are some basic weight guidelines to help you know how much weight you need to go SCUBA diving:

  • No protection or skin suit- 1-4 lbs
  • 3mm wetsuit- 5% of your body weight
  • 5mm wetsuit- 10% of your body weight
  • 7mm wetsuit- 10% of your body weight + 3-5 lbs
  • Neoprene dry suit- 10% of your body weight + 7-10 lbs
  • Shell style dry suit with lightweight undergarments- 10% of your body weight + 3-5 lbs
  • Shell style dry suit with heavyweight undergarments- 10% of your body weight + 7-14 lbs

If you are diving in freshwater, these weights will decrease depending on your bodyweight, from 4 to 7 pounds less for each condition. Weight checks will have to be performed if you are unsure what weight you need. These are great starting points though.

There you have it. There are many factors that go into how much weight you need to go SCUBA diving. Whenever you are in a new environment or wearing a different kind of exposure protection, make sure to complete a buoyancy check on the surface so you have an idea of how much weight you need to go SCUBA diving.

There you have it. Whenever you are in a new environment or wearing a different kind of exposure protection, make sure to complete a buoyancy check on the surface so you have an idea of how much weight you need to go diving!

Candace is an avid scuba diver and freelance writer with a PhD in Biomedicine. She has been diving since 2002 and is currently a PADI IDC Staff Instructor. When she is not instructing, she enjoys writing about scuba and volunteering at the local aquarium where she dives with the sharks!

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