I love hooded vests. They are one of the most versatile pieces of
equipment I own, for a few reasons:
- They keep you extra warm. This one's obvious. Hooded vests make
any wetsuit useful for another 10 degree drop in temperature, so
factor that in when choosing a wetsuit. It's also useful to warm
you up at the end of a week of diving.
- They are easy to pack. Taking all my gear isn't always an option
for trips where diving is not the sole purpose, but I'd like to get
a dive in if possible. This means using a rented wetsuit. Shove your
perfect-fitting hooded vest into your suitcase and it'll partially
make up for that awkward-fitting rental.
- Forget the wetsuit completely. Don't even bother with a wetsuit
at all. In warmer climates you can get away with wearing a bathing
suit and a hooded vest. Most heat loss comes from the head, with the
next largest amount coming from the torso. A hooded vest keeps these
two areas well insulated. You can laugh at everyone wrestling to put
on their fullsuits.
Add one to your collection and start reaping the benefits. I've used the
same one by itself in balmy Bonaire^1^ and underneath a fullsuit in cold
1. I have one additional recommendation: If wearing it alone,
wear a rashguard underneath it. My shoulders got severely burned during
long surface swims.