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 Bonaire1 and underneath a fullsuit in cold California.
1. I have one additional recommendation: If wearing it alone, wear a rashguard underneath it. My shoulders got severely burned during long surface swims.