Anyone living in the UK will have felt a distinct temperature drop in the last few weeks. We know what that means - from now until around March, the sea will be getting progressively colder. Suddenly, spending hours under the sea is becoming slightly daunting! However, there are fantastic benefits to cold water diving, including the appearance of larger mammals, experiencing unusual environments like quarries and lakes and the mere thrilling challenge of it! Additionally, there are ways around the cold meaning that scuba diving in winter doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or arduous. As well as ideas for what to wear, let’s look at techniques and tips for staying warm in cold water.
Feeling the cold is subjective to each individual. Some people who ‘run warm’ may be able to brave it in a wetsuitall year round. In the winter months, a 7mm wetsuit is a must – but any thickness of wetsuit is made redundant if it doesn’t fit properly. A wetsuit should be tight, particularly around your core, without overly restricting movement. Get full coverage – any exposure of skin to the cold water will cause your body to lose heat, so even a 7mm shorty won’t be as effective as a full length thinner wetsuit.
A thought for the environment
Wetsuits wear over time as the air bubbles get continually compressed at depth, therefore a second hand wetsuit may not be as effective at keeping you warm. If you have an old wetsuit that isn’t working well anymore, be mindful about where it goes next. Neoprene is not biodegradable so consider selling it to someone who doesn’t need as much exposure protection or giving it to charity for someone to use. Whilst not recyclable, neoprene IS reusable.
Drysuits seal at the neck and wrists therefore a drysuit’s purpose is not to keep you warm, but to keep you, well, dry! It’s what you wear under a drysuit that keeps you warm so you need to choose the right undergarments for cold water diving . Fourth Element have a fantastic collection of undergarments, including their Xerotherm and Arctic range. Layering is key, so with a bit of research you can find the perfect combinations for you. The beauty of this is you can adapt what you wear under your drysuit as the water temperature changes.
A semi-dry wetsuit is arguably the best of both worlds. It keeps you wetter than a drysuit but drier than a wetsuit! Whilst a wetsuit will continually flush your body with fresh cold water, a semi-dry allows a very thin layer of water to enter, which the body then warms; due to the suit’s sealing properties being superior to a wetsuit, it minimises the flushing of cold water. At roughly the same price as a premium wetsuit, the ScubaPro Nova Scotia 7mm is a fantastic choice – it’s made from comfortable Everflex neoprene and has a ‘true’ dryzip which reduces water ingress.
It was claimed for a time that we lose up to 40% of heat through our heads. This is actually a myth - covering one part of the body is as important as covering another, therefore the best thing to do is cover all areas! The head, face and chest areas are more sensitive to temperature changes than other areas of the body, so a decent hood, boots and gloves are important in cold water diving. Moreover, hoods help in keeping the neck opening of your suit sealed. The Apeks Hood comes in 7/5mm and 9/7mm, guaranteed to keep your head toasty in the coldest of waters!
The best way to generate heat whilst cold water diving is to keep moving, without overly exerting yourself. On the surface, it is better to move less as too much movement can tip the balance past what you require to offset heat loss . Simply put, if you start overheating at the surface, your body will go into cool down mode and you will lose body heat – not what you want before you go down into colder water!
Good news for food lovers – eating can help you stay warm! The process of breaking down food slightly increases body temperature, so having a snack before and after cold water diving is recommended. Eating an enormous meal pre-dive however, will just make you uncomfortable. Warm drinks after a dive are ideal, but avoid caffeine; caffeinated drinks actually cause you to become colder as they are a diuretic which means they remove heat retaining water when you urinate. Your wetsuit or drysuit won’t warm you up – they will only help you to avoid losing heat. Therefore it’s important to stay warm when out of the water, both before and after scuba diving in winter and during the surface interval, particularly when it’s windy. Fourth Element’s waterproof fleece lined Tidal Robe keeps the warmth in and the elements out, and it’s also made from recycled material.
The most important thing to consider on any dive is your safety. Know your limits – if you are shivering uncontrollably or unable to enjoy the dive because you are so cold, end the dive and get warm. Check out our Switch collection on the Aquanauts website for more products which aim to keep you toasty warm whilst cold water diving over the coming seasons!
The new Garmin Descent MK3range has been so popular we sold out in the first week. Taking pre orders for our next delivery now, order soon to get your hands on the most exclusive dive computer this winter!