Caving undersuits vs drysuit undersuits

aaajones

New member
Hi everyone,
I‘m a student caver and our club is looking at replacing quite a few of our undersuits as they have very much seen better days, we have been looking around for different options to bulk buy and i have realised that I haven't found any other undersuits that look like the ones that the club currently have.
The only things I have found that look similar are dry suit undersuits.
Is there much difference between buying drysuit undersuits instead of caving undersuits?
is this something that people have experience with and is it possible that that’s what has happened with our club suits in the past?
The only possible differences I can think of are the fleece gm or the cut of the suit.
Many thanks,
AAJ
 

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Fjell

Well-known member
They are so similar I get the sailing drysuit and caving ones mixed up (I have two that I actually don’t know which one is which to be honest). They are not as fancy as the AV one I have, but they do the job for a reasonable price, like £30.
 

Babyhagrid

Well-known member
I own a LOMO undersuit and an AV undersuit.
The LOMO is very warm (too warm for quick dry caving really) but it excels on dry slow trips. However it soaks up water and becomes extremely heavy when wet. Making it a bit of pain when doing really wet passages followed by dry passages.

The AV on the other hand is slightly less insulating but it weighs a lot less when wet and works better for dry warm caving

P.S (I'm pretty sure the dry suit undersuits are designed with the idea that they won't get wet , where the caving ones are designed with the plan that will get wet on trips)
 

Rob

Well-known member
We got a load of dry suits in a closing down sale about 12 years ago. Best furry suit i've ever worn for wet trips, almost comparable with a wetsuit as long as you're staying active (apart from the initial cold shock). So seemingly there are a variety of different options at play.....
 

phizz4

Member
In my somewhat limited experience caving undersuits tend to be fleece, while diving undersuits tend to be fibre pile, which is warmer but holds more water. Also, diving undersuits tend to have a lower collar so it doesn't interfere with the dry suit neck seal. I've both a caving undersuit (Warmbac) in fleece that I use in mines and dryish systems and a kayaking undersuit in fibre pile (Polar Bear) that I use for slower, wetter trips, and both do the job just fine.
 

aaajones

New member
I own a LOMO undersuit and an AV undersuit.
The LOMO is very warm (too warm for quick dry caving really) but it excels on dry slow trips. However it soaks up water and becomes extremely heavy when wet. Making it a bit of pain when doing really wet passages followed by dry passages.

The AV on the other hand is slightly less insulating but it weighs a lot less when wet and works better for dry warm caving

P.S (I'm pretty sure the dry suit undersuits are designed with the idea that they won't get wet , where the caving ones are designed with the plan that will get wet on trips)
That makes a lot of sense! We have experienced that I think, the club ones hold water and get heavy easily which over time puts a lot of tension on the fabric causing them to wear in an odd way, so this lines up with them maybe being drysuit undersuits.
 

aaajones

New member
In my somewhat limited experience caving undersuits tend to be fleece, while diving undersuits tend to be fibre pile, which is warmer but holds more water. Also, diving undersuits tend to have a lower collar so it doesn't interfere with the dry suit neck seal. I've both a caving undersuit (Warmbac) in fleece that I use in mines and dryish systems and a kayaking undersuit in fibre pile (Polar Bear) that I use for slower, wetter trips, and both do the job just fine.
Fibre pile vs fleece isn't something I had thought of before!
The undersuits we have have lower collars as well so I think they are drysuit undersuits.
In your experience how does the fibre pile compare to the fleece for keeping warm when wet?
 

Fjell

Well-known member
Fibre pile is usually thicker and warmer than fleece, but the latter is generally fine for most caving trips unless you are going swimming a lot. At which point a neo-fleece might be the thing. Most expensive sailing tops are thick fibre pile, as is the Buffalo sleeping bag I have somewhere but never use.

We used to have some heavy pile suits that were meant for cold climbing - too hot in a dryish cave, especially under a PVC suit.

I would buy the £30 one for a club. It might motivate people to spend £129 on their own. Or not.
 
I was given a drysuit undersuit and much prefer it to my warmbac undersuit. It's lighter and has neoprene wrist and ankle cuffs. Perfect for all but the wettest of caves (then the neofleece comes out).
 

underground

Active member
Having tried on a Lomo suit recently, as a personal suit I wouldn't entertain it due to the cut, aforementioned weight when wet and the frightening amount of static it seemed to generate. Having said that when buying multiples the cheapness of it would probably add up to another couple of suits vs more expensive options (see below). Hopefully the keen ones will invest in their own kit anyway, and those just having a go might have a far nicer time than I did in my fresher's week caving in old clothes with a hand torch.

My Warmbac suit has been claimed by my son, there's no way I'd ever spend the 90+ quid they now want for a generic fleece, and I wanted to eke as much life as possible out of my treasured Styx powerstretch one that I had modified (short collar) and will probably replace the zip on at some point. I never want to buy a new powerstretch suit while they all have a high collar and lightweight zip (and cost 150 quid).

Hence having been delighted that the Gul Radiation suit I bought ticks all the boxes - decent quality fleece, a reasonably chunky zip (which opens from the bottom too for and no high collar. It cost 40 quid and is warm without being too warm, and super comfy. The collar is very low cut, but that's only a problem when I'm on the hill in a hoolie and forgot to bring a buff. They are big fitting though - I ended up with the Medium one I bought for my significantly slimmer than me lad, found it massive on him vs the Large warmbac and hence we did a swap. The strirrups felt a bit odd underfoot at first, and I don't need the thumb loops, but they might be handy for snug fitting oversuit arms.

 
Diving undersuits are going to be far too warm for caving, and also many are quilted thinsulate or similar so I'd imagine they'd soak up a load of water and be heavy. Even the Fourth Element jumper and trousers style fleece ones are two hot and the jumper big doesn't have a zip so you'll swelter (I've seen this tried when I took a diving pal caving). The thick fleece older "woolly bear" type are presumably OK for cold wet trips eg abroad but I've not used these for caving or diving. My current diving undersuit is Weezle which is kind of a suit version of a synthetic mountaineering duvet jacket which would clearly be hopeless underground, though to be fair I've not tried it
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
My experience of students is that many of them are tiny and consequently freeze to death at the slightest provocation. For them, no amount of layers will result in 'too warm', and in any event 'too warm' is generally merely a discomfort rather than the start of the road down to hypothermia... Personally I would always rather be too warm than too hot, so nearly always wear a Powerstretch undersuit and a Powerstretch vest.

That said, holding lots of water (potentially sweat if you have been too hot) is a Bad Thing. Personally I am more than happy to spend obscene amounts of money on anything Powerstretch (because it is the greatest of all fabrics) but I wouldn't pay anything like that for anything else; for club use a good warm fluffy anything is going to be much better than the usual array of thin thermals people turn up in. I know people who have happily used Typhoon undersuits which are about £50-60 (and are fleece rather than pile) but for club stuff, quantity is usually more important than quality... people can buy their own stuff if they want better stuff.

Primark onesies (non-cotton) used to be de-rigueur in certain circles! For the money, they were probably pretty damn good (the money being very little)...
 
Mine's a Scubapro but looks very similar, almost identical, to the Typhoons. I've never noticed an issue with it being heavier than the Warmbac when wet. If anything, it dries a lot quicker post-caving. I haven't used the Warmbac since aquiring this.
 

Ed

Active member
Beaver (dive company) make caving undersuit.

It depends on what fleece they are made of --- my Beaver is similar to my Warmbac which is similar to my Palm.

In warmer weather I wear my AV to dive in.
 
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