Drysuit Zippers: The Heart and Soul of Your Drysuit
So, is the watertight zipper on your drysuit a drysuit zipper? Or is it a pressure zipper? Well, we can debate this quite a bit, but the end result is that the drysuit zipper we commonly are familiar with is a pressure zipper. The pressure zipper was developed for NASA to be used in the space suits worn by astronauts to keep a constant pressure inside the suit. Especially, inside the suit, given that outside the suit was a very hostile environment. Like many of the technologies developed for the space industry, such as computer advancements and satellites (think cable tv), we as divers have benefitted from the technology as well. Prior to the drysuit zipper….well, it was a lot of work and not always dry.
The drysuit zipper is really an amazing device that functions very simply. Like any zipper, it has common parts, such as teeth, a slide and stops. What makes a dry zipper different, and dry, is the material the teeth are mounted to and that there are two seals, one above the teeth and one below the teeth. When the slide closes the zipper, the teeth interlock, bringing the two seals together to seal both outside and in.
More important to understand is that proper zipper maintenance is a priority and a preventive measure that can save you money.
Zipper replacements, as zipper repairs are not really feasible, can be costly – approaching $400 – and are not readily done by all dive centers or easily done by the end user themselves. To avoid having to replace a zipper, follow the drysuit manufacturer recommendations and keep these points in mind:
- Before donning your drysuit…as well as removing…make sure the zipper is completely open. Otherwise, overstressing the ends may lead to damage. The same is true to aggressively putting your drysuit on or off.
- With the zipper closed, wax or lubricate your zipper along the teeth. Excessive wax or sprays will attract and retain dirt, which can damage the sealing surface.
- Store your drysuit with the zipper open.
- Every so often, clean the exterior of the zipper with mild soap and water to remove excessive buildup. Use a soft toothbrush or similar device.
- As you accumulate dives on your drysuit, you may notice slight fraying of the neoprene tape that serves as the outer seal. It’s ok to trim these with sharp scissors (leave the dive knife in the gear bag), however, take care not to cut anything below the fraying.
These simple hints will extend the life of your drysuit zipper, making your dive experiences better.
To learn more about drysuits and drysuit training, contact TDI.
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