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Some thoughts on Hydroglove suits.

Discussion in 'Vintage Equipment Diving' started by elmer fudd, Oct 26, 2010.

  1. elmer fudd

    elmer fudd Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Puget Sound
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    So far I've done 4 dives in my hg suit. Here are some things I've noticed.

    2 of the dives I wore the hg over a 7mm wetsuit. This is really unpleasant. Yes, you are warm, but it feels like diving in a straight jacket. Wetsuits are already snug. Squeeze a latex suit over the top and you feel positively constricted.

    I dove this way for two reasons.
    1) it seemed like an extra margin of safety. If the suit didn't seal or it tore, I was wearing a wetsuit under it.
    2) Fred Reed spoke highly of it in Basic Scuba.
    The only reason I did it more than once was because my first dive was one of those 5 to 10 minute dives where everything goes wrong and you decide it's time to abort. Later on, I decided that I hadn't really given it a fair shot the first time around.

    Those cheap mesh water shoes they sell in K-mart or Walmart work pretty well over the latex feet. Just be a little careful when you remove your fins. It's easy to pull off the shoe with the fin. If you pull the fin strap over your heel first, then the shoes stay on when you remove the fins.

    The hood seems to need some sort of neoprene type hood on underneath or no hood underneath at all for a good seal. When I used a cloth hood it didn't seal well and my suit ended up half flooded. You seem to get a little more water in the suit than you do with a modern drysuit, but I've had no problem staying warm in water in the mid 40's.

    The suit seems to work best when it's slightly overweighted. In order to vent you need to move into a somewhat upright position. At this point the air vents from around your face. If you are minimally weighted, you'll have to move closer to vertical and spend more time in that position to vent. This means you'll tend to ascend a few feet and you might have to swim back down and repeat to get the air out. With a few extra pounds on you just shift up to 45 degrees or so and the air bubbles out around your face.

    These suits really don't seem to be well suited at all for bobbing on the surface talking with your buddies. When you go into that upright position the suit wants to vent, making you more negative. You can still do a surface swim, but it works better either with a snorkel or with a breast stroke. That way the air stays in your suit.

    When worn over normal undergarments, the suit is very comfortable, but I've found that it's a good idea to put a loop of bungee cord around my crotch and over my shoulder as a crude type of suspenders, worn underneath the suit. Being a two piece suit it can sag. The bungee cord helps prevent the gangsta diver look.

    I'd be more than a little hesitant to do a challenging dive in one of these suits. They really are quite thin and if I had a long surface swim or any decompression ahead of me I would be afraid of hypothermia in the event of a tear. Modern suits are a lot tougher.

    You also need to trim the chin area a little or it will ride up and cover your mouth when you remove your regulator

    The fetish jokes surrounding HG suits occur for a reason. Check out the alternate hood openings they offer. You can get a suit with only a mouth or nose opening if you want. Sounds like just the thing for diving doesn't it?

    You have to inflate the hood as you descend. Because it is a hooded suit, you not only feel the suit squeeze on your body, but also in your ears. If you don't vent, your ears will never clear.

    I'm going to do another 6 or so dives before I'm prepared to give these suits a final judgment. I've learned a lot so far, but I still have a lot more to learn.
     
  2. David Wilson

    David Wilson Manta Ray

    871
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    Thanks for the suit review. I use mine just for snorkelling, but I enjoy reading about scuba divers' experience of using it.

    The long defunct British diving equipment company Submarine Products of Hexham, located not far from where I live in the North East of England, imported the Hydroglove's prototype, the Skooba totes suit, in the 1960s. On the matter of what to wear inside the suit, the relevant page in their catalogue reads:

    A diver can wear as many sweaters underneath it as he wishes - or best of all, a SUPER TARZAN as an undersuit, like the French navy.

    So the idea of wearing a wetsuit under a drysuit had some currency in Europe as well as America.

    As for footwear to conserve the integrity of the latex socks, the original Skooba totes suit had a number of accessories, including "shore boots". The flyers of the time didn't really have the pictorial detail to show precisely what these boots were like:
    [​IMG]
    If I'm wearing a pair of full-foot fins whose foot pocket is on the large size, I'll put on a pair of vintage all-rubber beach shoes. They're thin and flexible, but their thicker, more robust soles provide some protection from wear. It's a pity that today's swimming shoes are only made in synthetic materials. One modern lead looked promising:
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    but when I wrote to the Spanish manufacturers Perellon, I received no reply.

    I agree about the probability that the suit hood will need trimming and I had a similar experience to you with the lower part of the face opening riding up to my mouth. You mention how one version of the hood comes with just a mouth or nose opening. People's heads come in all shapes and sizes, and there will always be some divers who find that the standard hood with the face opening has had too much material removed and therefore cannot seal properly. A hood with just a small opening leaves the user with enough material to trim the article to a precise, perhaps non-standard, head and face size.
     
  3. elmer fudd

    elmer fudd Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Puget Sound
    1,094
    122
    0
    I suspect that HG suits would work better for snorkeling on the surface than other drysuits. For freediving, I think the ear clearing aspect would be an issue. Then again, even sleek drysuits are too baggy, clumsy and buoyant to be much good for freediving. If I were a diehard freediver, I'd just plan on suffering through the winter in a wetsuit.

    If you plan on staying on the surface however, you can just forget about the weights and you'll be buoyant as a cork and since you're not inflating and venting your suit there should be remarkably little water in it. For that I think they would be a very good choice. They're very affordable and much sleeker than most other drysuits.

    As far as wearing a wetsuit underneath goes, I'd need a size larger suit to do it comfortably. I'm just over 6' and my weight hovers around 220. Reading their sizing information I opted for the XL. That works alright over typical drysuit undergarments, but not so well over a 7mm.
     
  4. John C. Ratliff

    John C. Ratliff Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Beaverton, Oregon
    2,158
    475
    83
    Elmer,

    I had a different experience with the Aquala dry suit, as I had quite enough room for the Farmer John bottoms from my wet suit under the dry suit. I also experimented with a vest made of the reflective material (that blue stuff I'm wearing in the photo), which was a more advanced "space" blanket. It did not work at all, as the reflective energy saved was probably compensated by the convection of the heat out of me through the material. What did help was a good sweater over that suit, and a wool hood (actually a stocking cap that could double as a hood). The wool hood had enough of an opening to allow the dry suit hood to seal. My main problem was with the front entry seal, which I never did get to work. This was in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

    Thank you for your description of the suit, and your trials with it. That is very helpful.

    Below is my first dive in the Aquala dry suit, as I recorded it in my dive log:
    SeaRat
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 2, 2010
  5. DaleC

    DaleC Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Leftcoast of Canada
    4,962
    2,279
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    I can't seem to push the Thanks button so consider this your official "thanks" for the review.
    I'm considering a HG in the future, probably in the spring. I like the two piece idea better than the one piece, front entry but have to admit the latex hood isn't #1 on my wish list. I was sort of hoping to use a neoprene hood and just live with the sqeeze in the 40'-50' range. I'll watch your progress first and see how you do as the guinea pig :eyebrow:
     
  6. David Wilson

    David Wilson Manta Ray

    871
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    The Hydroglove website features a version of the basic suit with a neck seal:
    [​IMG]
    leaving the wearer with the option of diving bareheaded or with a separate hood. One of the products in the site's accessories section is a separate latex dryhood
    [​IMG]
    but users can still opt for different head coverings of their own choice.
     
  7. elmer fudd

    elmer fudd Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Puget Sound
    1,094
    122
    0
    So I did two more dives today. I pretty much had my weighting and undergarments down. I sank easily enough and stayed warm throughout the dives.

    This time I wore a drysuit hood over the top of the HG hood. This both kept me warm and it seemed to help seal the hood.I wore two fleece pullovers underneath and the collars remained dry through both dives.

    There are two problems though that I really need to solve.
    1) Surface swims suck in this rig. You're really stuck swimming face down or doing some sort of dog paddle that doesn't get you anywhere. Why? Because when you go vertical or lie on your back, the suit wants to vent and surface swimming in scuba gear largely consists of being mostly vertical in the water. I've got to find some way to inflate the suit and keep it inflated while on the surface.

    2) I've got to work out a better seal around the waist. Water is seeping in through the rubber roll that joins the top and bottom. I try to roll it up carefully each time, but water is still getting in. It's not enough water to ruin the dive, but I'd be considerably warmer if it weren't there.
     
  8. DaleC

    DaleC Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Leftcoast of Canada
    4,962
    2,279
    113
    Did you get the latex cumberbund that is supposed to come with it?
     
  9. John C. Ratliff

    John C. Ratliff Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Beaverton, Oregon
    2,158
    475
    83
    Elmer, I'll address the second part first. Fred Roberts, in his book Basic Scuba, has something to say about dry suits that may help you.
    Mr. Roberts goes on to mention wearing several layers of underwear, needing about twice as much weight as without a suit to get down, and using a weight belt with a quick release.

    Concerning swimming on the surface, I did not have a problem with that, as I was weighted for the clothes I was wearing. It did not come up in my dive log entries of problems and solutions.

    Concerning the leak, I'd first try that rolling technique from the chest down, rather than the hips up. According to Mr. Roberts, when swimming the roll would not tend to unroll when rolled from the chest down. Then, if that did not work, you can try the rail system. He has a diagram in the book, but you might be able to see something like it in another reference.

    SeaRat
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2010
  10. elmer fudd

    elmer fudd Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Puget Sound
    1,094
    122
    0
    I called up Hydroglove today and had a nice conversation about the waist seepage. I ordered a waist band, which they said helps, but doesn't always seal perfectly. They also suggested that I make a loop out of surgical tubing and use that to start the roll.

    One thing I'd been thinking of was applying a little silicone grease to a couple inches of the sealing surface before rolling it up. They gave that the OK. Apparently it does no damage to the latex, but it does hamper repairs as they won't adhere to surfaces that it has been used on.

    He also advised me to keep the suit a bit better inflated.

    I'm thinking that between these three things, that I should have no problem getting a good seal.

    As far as surface flotation goes though, that's something I'm still going to have to work out.
     

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