If you’re keen to build your skills and experience, diving all year round is an ideal way to keep yourself up to speed. Visibility during the winter time is often better and water temperature generally remains greater than average surface temperatures through to mid February.
We have covered in a different article Staying Warm whilst diving in cold water
This article is about our top tips for Winter / Cold Water Diving, which includes looking after you and your equipment when on the service pre and post dive.
Anyone who has ever trained with us, will know about the list of recommended items that each student gets should bring with them to make their day(s) of training more comfortable which leads to more enjoyment. Diving is fun, but if you are cold nothing is fun (unless you are building snowmen, sledging or having snowball fights), but with a little bit of preparation then you extend your diving season and take advantage of the better visibility.
Diving - Hoods and Gloves
Diving Gloves: Consider putting your diving gloves on prior to building your gear, kitting-up, and buddy checking. Neoprene gloves generally have better grip characteristics than normal surface gloves, you get to keep your hands warm and saves time later when you’re at the water’s edge.
Gloves should be well-fitting good quality diving gloves 5mm or more and have a dry set for each dive you plan to do.
Dive Hoods should be well-fitting and good quality 5mm+ or more and have a dry hood for each dive you plan to do.
Ensure you are using in service, cold water rated regulators and that both primary and octopus 2nd stages are up to the job. In water less than 10 degrees non-cold water rated regs (typically those without environmental sealing) increase their propensity to free-flow.
Always ensure you have adequate reserve air supply, consider working to a two-thirds rule, and always start a dive with a full cylinder.
Do not leave your regulators in the boot of your car, or a wet dive box, prior to the dive day; always have your regs inside overnight and consider putting them inside your car when not in use.
Breathe as little as possible from your regulator in cold air temperatures and always ensure you enter the water with the octo mouthpiece pointing downwards; both of these will avoid accidentally causing a freeflow to occur.
If possible have Spare Thermal Layers… if you happen to get wet thermals they’re unlikely to dry before a second dive! no spares then do not go for that second dive
Look after your Kit
Keep an eye on your gear. In the coldest of air temperatures your wet dive equipment will suffer freezing and icing. Particularly prone are the LPI, hose ends and regulators. Turn off air sources when not in use (ensure good buddy checks!) and keep those items off the ground, where pooling water will cause a slippery and freezing surface.
You should make your dives shorter and more conservative than you may otherwise do. For example, keep dives to relatively short times, maybe 25 minutes instead of 45. This helps you to maintain your core temperatures throughout a diving day without going past the chill point most of us feel around 30 minutes in. Additionally shortening your dive times, and not pushing your limits, will mitigate increased risk of DCS in cold water.
Surface Interval Warmth
Staying warm on your surface intervals is very important, its amazing how cold you can get just waiting for your surface interval time to tick away, so during this time: -
Eat and Drink
Drink - Some of us take two flasks… one with soup/coffee/tea and one with boiling water. Soup mostly stays warmer longer than coffee/tea and the boiling water – use it to fill your diving gloves and hood before you put them on for a head start in beating the chill.
Eat - Diving uses fuel, so you need to refuel between dives - its a great excuse to eat chocolate but carbohydrates are better
Thermal Hat Have a decent dry thermal hat to wear, which means you need to have at least three with you - one before you dive which you put back on after your dive, then when wet, change to a dry hat, which you can then put back on after dive 2 but you will need another one to go home in or change to when the second hat is wet.
Wholly Gloves Have several pairs of cheap gloves so that you always have a dry pair to put on.
Coat Wrap yourself in a thick warm coat or Dryrobe or Fourth Element Storm Poncho
Winter diving is great fun if approached with the right attitude and preparedness. Relax and enjoy the environment!
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