If you live in Michigan and you scuba dive local you are going to run into some cold water. When my non-diving friends ask if it is cold I tell them even in the summer 60 feet down in a quarry is going to be around 40 degrees. Yep cold…. not cold enough to keep me from diving. The real difference now is as the snow starts to fly all the water is cold, the air is cold and that just makes for cold. No moving above the thermocline to warm up.
So until the time I spring for a dry suit I need to do all I can to keep warm diving this time of the year. The old… errr… more experienced Mudder divers in my dive club have offered up the following tips for cold water wet suit diving. (My dive buddy Jim actually gets credit for extracting these nuggets of wisdom)
- wear a good fitting 7mm full wet suit with hood, gloves and boots. (this seems obvious, but still needs to be said)
- wear a T-shirt under your wetsuit to help hold a bit more water/insulation between your skin and wetsuit (I don’t believe the water actually insulates. You want to limit water movement so you don’t lose heat as quick)
- wear latex gloves under your regular thick gloves to minimize water contact on your skin
- bring a thermos of hot water to prime your gloves and wetsuit prior to entry
Jim did #1, #2 and #4 two weeks ago and said he was very comfortable through his entire dive a couple of weeks ago.
Now there has to be more good tips than these. I searched the internet and didn’t find a lot new. I did find a few pointers from a variety of sources.
Before the dive
- avoid drinking alcohol and drinks containing caffeine.
- get plenty of rest and that you are adequately hydrated.
- stay warm before the dive, heat loss can start to occur many hours before the actual dive.
- wear a hat during the hours running up to the dive.
- when possible stay indoors for the hours running up to the dive.
- drink plenty of hot drinks before diving.
- keep as dry as possible.
During the dive
- if you consider adding a “core warmer”, try both layers together to make sure you have a good fit
- neoprene socks greatly reduce water flow
- avoid unnecessary movements (don’t flail your arms)
- fin slowly
- don’t pee… it might feel warmer but, just like sweating, it’ll cool your body temperature
- 5mm lobster claw mitts are warmer than 5mm gloves
- neoprene compresses at depth…deeper will not only be colder but will feel colder
After the dive
- Keep moving.
- Stay out of the wind.
- wear gloves and a hat as soon as you come out of the water.
- Dry yourself off and put on some warm clothing.
- Drink plenty of warm drinks.
Even more important than comfort is safety. Make sure you have a regulator that is designed for cold water use. If you regulator is not up to the task it can freeze up and free flow. One tip I have heard of is sliding down the hose stress relievers away from your first stage. These stress relievers stop the critical water movement around the regulator that will reduce the chance it will freeze up.
I am going to try all these steps in my next dive and will report back how they worked. I am diving in a location I did a couple of months ago so I am familiar with the site and the water temps we had back then. I am hoping these tips work. Brrrrr..
If you have some tips please tweet me or leave a comment here! I would love to hear them. Has anyone tried Sodium Acetate Heat Packs?
Cold water / Ice diving references
Here is a book on ice diving. This could be what my January diving is going to be. http://bit.ly/1S6yPc
Diving in icy water and the equipment necessary http://bit.ly/420Nv2
Diving wet when it is cold http://bit.ly/22geFi This is a very good article!
Scuba Board cold water wet suit diving thread – http://bit.ly/VaF0U
An exert from the US Navy Dive Manual – Ice and Cold Water Diving – http://bit.ly/3XC2rs
Cold water images by Kawika Cheltron – http://www.coldwaterimages.com/ – Nothing to do with my topic other than name and they are very cool photos
A sad story of a cold water dive with a dry suit gone bad – http://bit.ly/2xKytH