What You Need
About Cold Water Diving
Generally, the definition of cool water could be defined to be 72ºF/27ºC to 78ºF/33ºC and cold water diving is when the water starts to drop below 72ºF/27ºC. Places considered cold water diving include: southern California, Great Lakes region, north and eastern USA & Canada, Southern Australia, New Zealand, Mexico’s Guadalupe Island & Socorro, Mexico, Northern Europe, United Kingdom and Ireland, Russia, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Iceland, Southern Africa (June & July), Arctic, Antactica etc.
More. More exposure suit, more bulk, more to pack, more to wear. Less streamlined with more layers and gear. Heavier weight. more thermal and physical protection is needed. Cold water diving can be more challenging but it can also be interesting because different species of underwater life that thrive in cold conditions.
What do you need
- BCD's, Buoyancy control devices are larger with more pockets, weight integration systems, larger bladders with more lift and made of heavier weight materials. Dimensions and comfort are critical when sizing over drysuits, semi-drysuits and heavier 7m wetsuits. Be sure to know how much weight you will wear to calculate the lift you will need.
- Fins, open-heel, adjustable paddle and split fins are a necessity for cold water. They do require booties to be worn. They have adjustable fin straps so fit is less of an issue - but the foot pocket still needs to accommodate your bootie or turbo sole/rockboots; you may need to go up a size from a bootie to a rockboot to fit. Make sure to try on fins with the booties you intend to wear. RockBoots can be worn with any wetsuit when combined with a wet sock. A must for any diver who walks, hikes or climbs to a dive site - even great on boat ladders!
If you are doing a lot of beach dives, you may want to invest in spring straps to make it easier to quickly put on or remove fins. Many divers wear spring straps on all of their fins.
- Wetsuits come in variety of thicknesses, and styles. From 7m to 8m and even some 5m's, it all comes down to the individual's capacity for cold tolerance. You can find full wetsuits to farmer johns to back zip and front zip semi-dry suits. If you're going to dive wet, look into adding hooded vest, attached hoods and thicker gloves, booties, and hoods to provide extra insulation on the body areas that lose heat the quickest. While some individuals don't wear wetsuits, the vast majority do due to the initial investment of a drysut. Considerations here are getting too cold to enjoy diving or multiple dives in a day.
- Drysuits are becoming more common in cold water environments due to a greater number of manufacturers entering the market. Today’s drysuit systems consist of a shell suit to keep you totally dry, and insulated garments to keep you warm. Drysuits can also be rented during training or when certified in a drysuit specialty. Different thicknesses and layers of drysuit underwear/insulation are made for different temperatures. Turbo sole/rockboots are the booties that come with drysuits; they may be attached or not.Dry gloves are also available.
- Weight systems are either accommodated through an integrated system on a BCD or the wearing of a weight belt or a combination of these options.
- Gloves suitable to this environment are 5m or great in thickness. Like all exposure materials, they can make a difference in your ability to keep you warm or protect you from outside hazards.
- Cold water and travel bags & boxes are critically important pieces of equipment for all diving. Special bags and boxes are made for the durability and easy of use with wheeled options for heavier and larger capacity needs. Others feature dry pockets and multi use properties.
- Other accesories - warm clothes to change into, ample towels and dive coats to keep warm between dives are equally important and are all things that should be considered for comfort.
Not every cold water destination means cold water. You can find warm water and conditions in cold water destinations that warrant different considerations. It pays to find out the local recommendations of what to bring to a cold water destination from your tour leader or the local dive operator who you will be diving with. Conditions can change, so plan to be prepared in case a warm snap in weather arrives. Layering with a vest or bringing an extra wetsuit that is thicker or packing a beanie are all good options.
It's important to be comfortable with your scuba gear. If it's been awhile or you have purchase new gear for cold water diving, get in the pool to assure it works for you. A fin that fits in the store, may be too big or small in the water. You don't want to find this out when you out on the boat miles away. Also, you should be comfortable with how gear performs and not learning or trying it for the first time on vacation. Can you do a remove and replace your BCD underwater or on the surface with your new BCD? How you do you know? Practicing dive skills with new gear is highly recommended with a professional scuba diver to confirm your ability - this is why we recommend Scuba Tune-ups / Scuba reviews before you go.