A freediving weight belt is an essential item for anyone who is serious about freediving. They help overcome buoyancy and are crucial for diving at depth.
But for something so important, many people are unsure about what kind of freediving weight belt to buy.
If that’s you, worry no longer! Just read our ultimate guide to freediving weight belts.
What are freediving weight belts?
Freediving weight belts are belts that hold weights around your waist. They are used to counteract the buoyancy of the air in our lungs, our body composition, wetsuit thickness and the salinity of the water. This lets you descend underwater with ease.
While weights can be worn in different places on the body, such as in harnesses or around the neck (for pool diving or pool training), belts are most popular because they are easy to put on and are less restrictive.
They also make it easier to breathe since they don’t restrict your diaphragm. We wear our belts on our waist or hips and we distribute the weights evenly on the back of the belt, never on the front.
How do freediving weight belts work?
Small weights, usually between 1kg and 1.5kg (AKA 3lb in dive stores), are attached to the belt to offset any extra buoyancy.
As you dive underwater and the pressure increases the air in your lungs decreases. Depending on the amount of weight you are wearing, and the depth you are going to, you will eventually go from being positively buoyant to neutrally buoyant.
If you continue to dive deeper you will eventually become negatively buoyant. Beware, the deeper you go while being negatively buoyant the harder it is to get back to the surface.
How much weight should you have on your freediving belt?
At this stage you might be tempted to pile on weights to make your descent easier. This is not a good idea. Being overweighted makes it difficult to breathe, harder to be rescued, and can make you unable to float on the surface for rest periods. No matter why you freedive, it should never be dangerous and you should never dive with a weight belt alone!
To determine how heavy your weights should be, a good starting point is 1kg of weight per mm thickness of the wetsuit. For example, if you are wearing a 5mm wetsuit, start with 5kg of weight. You want to be naturally buoyant at half of your planned depth. If it’s a 20m dive you want to be neutrally buoyant at 10m. The deeper you plan to dive the less weight you will need.
A good way to check if your weight is correct without having to swim 10m deep is to get into the water and do a passive exhale. You can passively exhale by letting the air come out just like when you sigh.
This should only cause you to sink enough for the water level to be in line with your eyes. If you sink further, this means you need to remove some weight. This shows you where you would float if you blacked out, so it’s very important you get it right. This is why it is so important to dive with a buddy!
What materials are used to make freediving weight belts?
There are three kinds of weight belt materials: webbing, rubber and silicon.
Webbed weight belts are the cheap option. They are made of nylon which doesn’t stretch. Unfortunately, this makes them quite uncomfortable as do not stay in the one place on your body.
A webbed belt may be an acceptable option if you are just starting out, but as you get serious about your freediving you’ll want to graduate to a rubber belt.
Rubber freediving weight belts are the preferred option. These belts are incredibly durable, but can also shrink or expand to comfortably fit your body size at changing temperatures and depths. While they are more expensive, they are certainly worth the money!
Silicone freediving weight belts are relatively new to the freediving market. While very similar to rubber belts, they are slightly better in a few regards.
First, they are more elastic, making them even more durable and comfortable to wear than rubber.
Second, they are more resistant to the elements than regular rubber. This includes increased protection against:
With that said, we aren’t suggesting you should ditch your rubber belt in favour of a silicone one. Rubber belts are already extremely durable and more than comfortable enough. However, if you’re looking for a premium option, or if you need to replace your rubber belt anyway, you might be interested in silicone despite its hefty price tag.
Are there different types of freediving weight belt buckles?
There are two main kinds of buckles for freediving weight belts: quick release and marseillaise.
Quick release buckles, as the name suggests, are designed to quickly release the belt from your body. This is vital if you have an emergency and need to ascend quickly or be rescued. Rather than coming completely undone, they loosen so they can slip off you.
Their main disadvantage is the clasp can accidentally be knocked, causing the belt to fall from your waist unexpectedly.
Marseillaise buckles operate just like a regular belt, with a series of holes for the rod to be inserted through depending on how tight the belt needs to be.
These belts are designed to be just as quick as the quick release clasp belt. They are our favourite belts because they can’t accidentally come undone and are easier to tighten up.
What are the best materials for freediving weight belt buckles?
The three most popular weight belt buckle materials are plastic, aluminium, and stainless steel.
Plastic buckles are a cheap option, but they aren’t what we’d recommend. They can be quite brittle and can lose their shape if left somewhere really hot.
Aluminium buckles are a distinct improvement over plastic, but they are very delicate and will also break or bend with extensive use.
Stainless steel buckles are the most expensive, but for good reason. They are extremely durable and sturdy. A stainless steel buckle will last you a very long time, making your money well spent.
Are there any useful accessories for freediving weight belts?
Freediving weight belts can be made even more useful by adding certain accessories.
D-rings are simple steel rings that can be attached to your belt and used to hold items. For instance, if you’re passionate about taking underwater photos, you can keep your camera strap clipped to a D-ring so you don’t have to carry it the whole time.
Stronger than D-rings, shark clips are for securing heavy duty equipment, like spearguns or video cameras.
Some freedivers like to attach pockets to their weight belts for storage.
Keepers act as dividers for your freediving weight belt. If you prefer to have your weights distributed a particular way around the belt, keepers can ‘keep’ them in place.
If you’re interested in buying yourself a freediving weight belt, or any other freediving accessories, you’re probably also after some lessons to learn how to put it to use.
Well, if that’s the case you’re in luck!
No matter your skill level, Freediving Central can help you improve.
To get in touch and book a lesson, visit our contact page.