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Semi-dry Wetsuits

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#1 Guest_farmertodd_*

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 06:06 PM

Hi gang,

I was wondering if anyone had tried out a semi-dry wetsuit yet? Scott Schlueter said this was what I should check out, and I was talking to the guy at the dive store, and he agreed it was what I wanted... I didn't need to spend all that money on a dry suit, and he recommends these from 55-70 F, which will cover darter spawning, and is my interest. It also won't make me buoyant, nor will the neck gasket choke me with all the drag on the suit. These were the two things I wasn't a big fan of with proper dry suits. I going to guess that the trade off is when the water is 60, but the air is 45 and I have to get my shots!

This is the model I'm checking out:


I guess the dive shop guy had some customers who were getting drug behind boats at Yellowstone to sweep up brown trout eggs, and they could go all day in them.

I really like how it's all one piece, and that front zipper takes all the struggle out of getting on 7 mil. The gaskets in the sleves and neck were nice too.

Now to find the $$, but that will be a LOT easier to find at $500 instead of starting at $1500 :)

Would love to hear any thoughts or experiences!


#2 Guest_smilingfrog_*

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 03:25 AM

I haven't used a semi-dry wetsuit, but have dove (scuba) with others that were using them. I never heard a complaint about them.
I do think they will make you bouyant though probably not as much as a drysuit would.
I have dove in both drysuits and wetsuits in cold water/weather. I use a 7mm farmer John style wetsuit year round in Minnesota. I have rented but don't yet own a drysuit. Basically for the reason you mention.

Now to find the $$, but that will be a LOT easier to find at $500 instead of starting at $1500 :)

I have come to find that the times I really appreciated having a drysuit over a wetsuit is when making multiple dives in cold weather. Specifically when I will be removing the suit between dives. I don't enjoy putting on a cold wet wetsuit in the cold. I thought this might apply to your situation as well, as you might hit multiple sites for your photography. If I am not mistaken the semi-dry suits still get plenty wet inside but the rate of exchange of the water between the inside and outside of the suit is much less than a traditional wetsuit. In this case you will still have to put on a cold wet suit when it is 40 degress and you have to go to a second site because the water was too turbid to get a good shot at the first site.
Just out of curiosity, I gather from your post you have used drysuits, have you used a farmer john style wetsuit, and if so was it too cold? I have always found mine to be plenty warm in water above 50 degrees F, but I may just not have been in long enough to get cold. With scuba my time is limited by how quickly I go through my air, therefore I don't typically spend several hours in cold water. With snorkeling you potentially could.

#3 Guest_daveneely_*

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 09:23 AM

I owned a 7mm Scubapro semidry before transitioning to new, non-leaky drysuits (long story there). The kind of snorkeling we do is a lot different from diving, or surfing, or whatever. If you're actively swimming/moving, you'll be warm for a while in a semi-dry. If you're face down trying not to move so you don't spook fish and getting video, with fast cold current running over you, it's a whole different story. You'll likely still be constrained by your battery/memory limits of the camera, but like smilingfrog said, when you get out of your dry suit you're warm and dry -- you shake the suit off and it's nearly dry, compared to hauling around a big pile of wet neoprene. You can cut the neck and wrist gaskets down if you feel like you're choking (when it's your OWN suit and not mine!), and if you vent as much air as you can and use a properly-adjusted weightbelt, they're no more buoyant at the surface than a semi-dry. I'd be tempted to see if you can rent a good-fitting drysuit from a shop and get more stream time in it before you plop down $500 on a semi-dry, especially when list on an OS Systems Streamcount is only $800...

#4 Guest_farmertodd_*

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 09:58 AM

I REALLY appreciate the feedback from both of you. Thinking about putting on cold wet neoprene is a very very strong selling point! But what I think it's going to come down to is whether I get a grant that I applied for and how much of the proposal they fund, if they do. I may just have to suck it up for a couple years, because it's not just the $800 list on the wetsuit. That's kinda like saying a digital camera is $300 :)

I'm looking at the Stream Count... How does that vent? Do I get in the water and then pull open the gasket at the neck? I think that was my single question. They're speakin' my language in the product description.

Thanks again!


#5 Guest_ashtonmj_*

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 10:21 AM

I think Dave made a good point that gets overlooked quite a bit for this type of river snorkeling....some weight is good. You save a lot of energy when you are properly weighted and your bouyancy is controlled. If I wore just a 6 mm shorty for a day of snorkeling with no weight I was far more tired than with 5 lbs on. If I went to the 6 mm short with a 6 mm farmer I'd go 8lbs, 10 if there was really swift current. Even on long lazy floats through the Emory, which has very little flow for the most part during the summer, a couple pounds helped. I've yet to see any NANFA'n snorkeling with weight. Personally I never go without a few 4's or 5's just in case and maybe a few soft ankle weights.

I've yet to try one mainly because I've always been wary about the perfomance once a tear happens. First piece of glass, woody debris, and random stream trash to get caught and then what? Just scared off by the total cost of ownership of a semi-dry versus a good wet suit combo. A double 6 mm, a good fitting hood, and maybe a rash skin or something cotton underneat, gloves, and proper boots has always done me well for about 9 months out of the year. Plus if you're looking for extended snorkels when it is really cold, you can always get out of the water warm up your core and put a second, dry wet suit on. Two full suits would probablly equal or be less than the semi-dry's.

Edited by ashtonmj, 14 March 2010 - 10:24 AM.

#6 Guest_farmertodd_*

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 06:40 PM

Hmm... I'll have to pick up some weights and give that a try. Sometimes I think they'll be in the way, because I've adapted to not having them (I hang my feet off tree limbs and gravel bars). And that could be dangerous (maybe it is already with the woody debris).

Your point about not hearing about weights is why I think that's why its great to have this conversation, no matter how much some of us have talked about it in person. It's always good to get other people's perspectives. I think pulling resources and wagons around this will be the long term activity for NANFA, but that's just my personal opinion. Plus it gets me excited to get into the water. Something I think will do a lot of people some good 'round these parts ;)


#7 Guest_mikez_*

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 08:11 PM

never used semi dry or dry.
I stay in 60F water for hours in the off the rack wet suits from the dive shop. I also tend to remain motionless in the current trying to creep my nets close to a wary fish. The current is at least equal to what I saw in your recent videos. I cling elbows and knees to rocks and pull myself rather than swim. I do get a little chilly at times but some cool fish gets my attention and I'm good for another half hour.
I can't even imagine doing it without 35 lbs of lead on my hips. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to hold in the current and reach down below arms length with the nets while fighting the bouyency. It's worth it to me even with the climbing up and down the slick granite jetty. Truthfully, not advisable in water very deep, I tend to weight somewhat negative.

What's so bad about clammy wet suits in 40 degree weather? Wet suits are supposed to be cold, wet and full of sand. You ain't havin fun otherwise. :tongue:

#8 Guest_daveneely_*

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 11:46 PM

Todd -- Yes, you burp excess air through the neck gasket. Not having valves is a good thing for a snorkeling drysuit - one more thing to catch a rock and break and leak (or give you a nice round bruise on your chest). You might want to give the CFI crew a yell for a review of the OS suits. I also know several western USFS/USFWS/state folks that speak well of them.

I don't like ankle weights, even with a drysuit, but several pounds on a belt does help a lot. Not sure I'd use quite as much as Matt, but to each his own. I like being very slightly positive, for purely safety reasons.

You'd be surprised how tough the material is, it's pretty difficult to cut or tear. What you're most likely to see is seepage after a couple years around the seams, knees and elbows from abrasion -- areas that you might want to reinforce with external cordura patches before you do the damage in the first place. Slap a patch on it and you're good to go at it again. Just don't get your wrist gaskets near the business end of a 3" trash pump while you're sucking silt...

Mike -- When you're cold and shivering you don't operate a camera as smoothly, glide as gracefully, think as clearly, sneak up on stuff as effectively, or notice as much around you as you do when you're nice and warm and comfy.

I got my first wetsuit at 14 or 15, a hand-me-down 7mm farmer john that was way too big for me and had more holes than swiss cheese. At the time, I thought it was great (and, yes, it was better than being in the water without it). I got SCUBA certified at 16 and bought a brand new 5mm farmer john (from the old mail-order Divers Supply), and thought it was fantastic. Dove a LOT with that, including ice dives with the glove/wrist and boot/ankle seals duct-taped over, a thermos of hot water dumped down the neck right before you went in, and the hood/neck seal duct-taped for good measure. You'd be surprised how well this works when you don't know any better or have the money for better.

Over the next couple of years I found a couple used neoprene drysuits for sale from commercial diving "friends" cheap. One was a gumby suit with giant booties and a zipper that started between the shoulder blades, ran under the crotch and ended at navel level. Getting into it was, er, an experience, and the zipper (well worn) required superhuman strength and much tugging and grunting to operate. These are what gave drysuits their bad reputation; the giant booties DO hold air pockets, they were extremely uncomfortable, and the neck gasket was constantly choking you. Plus, you have the overall flexibility of a turtle. To add further insult, they leaked, and while not a lot of water came in, it was enough to reduce the insulating efficiency of your undergarments. I used one of these as an undergrad looking at sculpin mating behavior, and spent a lot of time floating motionless in cold springs watching sculpins watch me back. I could take about 2hr of immersion (water temp ~55F) before having to get out and warm up, and try to get out of the thing - no easy task when you have to pee.

The new generation of fabric drysuits are amazing. I'm not going back for cold-water applications, and I've found that I use it later in the spring and earlier in the fall every year...

#9 Guest_ashtonmj_*

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 07:06 AM

Yeah my weight applications were mostly for fast shoals moving upstream, so I was probably on the heavier side when I was over 5lbs. Try crawling upstream at Campbell Island using water stargrass as holds and you'll want your butt under water taking advantage of the force of the water to push your body down. For most floats or snorkeling around randomly 4-5 lbs are nice. Though your a bit taller than me Dave, I think I'm a little more bouyant. I'm definately on the side of being slightly negatively bouyant. It probably comes from a majority of my dives being in pretty large rivers for mussels. If you don't get to the bottom and stay on the bottom you end up wasting a bunch of energy and air struggling. Plus you can always ditch weight belts. Like you said, to each their own. Wet suits are one of those things that are different for everyone. Good to know about their condition, it makes me a little less apprehensive about purchasing.

#10 Guest_farmertodd_*

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 01:01 PM

Okay Dave, you totally have me sold. The problem is now the $$ :) But I am really glad for all your input on this, because I think this thread lays out nicely what you get for $$ spent.

Okay - Neoprene (You're insane Mike Z - I filmed that mobile logperch like that and I vowed NEVER AGAIN. I'm not THAT poor :))
Good - Neoprene 7 mil Farmerjohn dualie
Better - Semi Dry
Best - Dry Suit

Matt, one of the issues that occurs to me with anchoring myself down is the amount of incision it creates in the bedding. This is probably great for fishes, but I don't know so much with places that have sensitivity issues with mussels. Do you find that it creates that much more scour at the belly and ankles?


#11 Guest_ashtonmj_*

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 01:46 PM

Certainly not any more than digging hundreds of quadrats...

In all seriousness, any particle movement is probably negligble in the grand scheme of things. For fish observation I'm not really talking about anchoring yourself to the bottom, just being a little lower than on top of the surface. Do fines move about, yes, and probaly some really small gravels. Again, probably not more than is caused by wading around with buckets or seines. My extreme case for mussel sampling should have had negligble effects if any on beds anyways. The volume of water were talking about is lower Wabash River on the bottom at 6 ft; minimal near bottom velocity, not riffles where the water depth is next to nothing.

#12 Guest_farmertodd_*

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 02:15 PM

Well, I'm thinking more like looking in the Clinch or Green, say, in normal June discharge. The beds are in dynamic equilibria with shallow bedded drift on a wide bank to bank profile, and it doesn't take much to push the shear critical over the edge (unlike an entrenched channel like the Wabsh in heavy heavy alluvium).

I guess it's a play it by ear kind of thing.

#13 Guest_ashtonmj_*

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 02:40 PM

I think the geomorph in you is over thinking it...plus if it is in equilibria, shouldn't it correct things soon after you leave? We're talking microhabitat, maybe a little larger in the grand scale of a dynamic river reach or longer. I've been back to intensive mussel survey sites even a few days later and quadrat holes disappear. Almost a chiken and the egg, which came first the stable substrate or the flow refugia...The multiple hundred year droughts and hundred year floods the past decade in the Green River are going to have a lot more impact on the substrate dynamics and benthic communities than your belly.

#14 Guest_farmertodd_*

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 03:00 PM

Yes, it all does, but not after I've stranded mussels on the surface. I guess that's the only thing I worry about, and you're right I'm over thinking it. It just seems I scour a lot less if I'm hanging from a rock and flailing in the current. Doesn't make filming any easier (it really is quite an effort), but I want to first of all, do no harm :)


#15 Guest_mikez_*

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 07:46 PM

Something I forget, you guys know this anyway, but I use all that weight in saltwater.
I like to take a dip in freshwater to rinse out the salt. Very noticable difference.

I probably would have trouble taking pictures when I'm cold.
I sneak up on fish even better when hypothermic. I move very slowly. :tongue:
I have a bad habit of pushing well beyond sane limits when I get fishy. One more cool fish...
When I finally come out, I can't use my keys to open my car, my hands won't work.

Of course I'm just being mouthy. I just fool around a few times a year. For folks who do it day after day, obviously you don't endure crappy wet suits.
If I could afford a dry or semi dry, believe me I'd use it. :rolleyes: Heck if I could afford a custom wet suit I'd get it. I out grew the only wet suit I bought. Since then I rent and I don't have an off the rack build. :sad2:

#16 Guest_ashtonmj_*

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 06:08 PM

I hate to bring this back from the dead, but can we get a review Todd? Thinking its time to get one. Those Alasmidonta are just much more active in the late winter early spring and the Lampsilis right about now.

#17 Guest_farmertodd_*

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 11:47 PM

Sorry to take so long to reply.

I think the answer to this question really comes down to the person's preferences. Dry suits choke me to death, and the next sentence will be surely graphic - I have a lot of postnasal drainage due to a bad set of sinuses. The extra pressure on my glottis causes a feedback loop of acid reflux, more snot, more acid reflux, more snot, gagging on my snot and making hot burps through the snorkel. Yuck. If that leaves you to wonder why I don't like dry suits, then you're on your own :)

I've also yet to get a dry suit to completely burp out, and even tho I'm wearing 8-9 mil neoprene, I find I'm far less buoyant in lateral current (the dry suit feels like a sail to me). This may be that I'm more used to neoprene tho.

I also find I can really klang around a riffle and be no worse for the wear. I got my stuff slammed getting some greenbreast footage this spring that should have left a mark (in concrete blocks and rebar from an exploded dam), but no problem.

The cost is a definite positive, although the OS Systems stream count suits aren't horrible - but the semi dry is still half as much.

The really bad thing? A still-wet-suit the next morning when camping, or a big blob of wet neoprene as Dave mentions. I can deal with it fine, you warm up in a hurry trying to get the thing on. But it isn't the greatest feeling at first, and the blob problem is dealt with by using space in the vehicle with a roughneck storage box.

I wouldn't overlook it as an option as you're considering gear. You'll know pretty quick when trying on a dry suit if it's going to cause the choking problem I have.

Hope this is helpful,


#18 brannon67

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Posted 12 November 2014 - 10:35 AM

Dry suits are nice, and do their job well, but I cant stand them. They are way to bulky to me, and to bothersome. If I have to spend money to take a class to get certified in using the suit, and have to worry about burping the suit, and it filling up with water in an accident, then thats to much for me. Snorkeling, that would not be a problem, but diving, yes, it would be. I would rather layer up, or get a good 5m,6m, 7m neoprene or semi-dry suit. Oh yeah dry suits choke me as well. Not a big fan....

Edited by brannon, 12 November 2014 - 10:36 AM.

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