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Tips for Diving in Cold Water in a Wetsuit

Just because the thermocline has disappeared, the leaves have fallen off the trees, and a few measly snowflakes have been spotted is no reason to put all your scuba gear away for the season!  Sure you might get some strange looks when you tell your friends you’re going diving in October or November, but they’ve probably never experienced the calm and quiet at the lake, the great visibility, and the fun of fall diving.

There’s no doubt that once you make the switch to diving in a dry suit, the thought of diving in the fall will seem perfectly reasonable.  But let’s face it, while a drysuit is a good investment in extending your underwater season, it may be one that is outside of your budget right now.  Not owning a drysuit is no reason to stop diving early.  Similar to all cold water diving, fall diving just requires a little extra planning and precaution to ensure it’s done safely and to maximize the enjoyment of it when using a wetsuit.

So for those of you wanting to extend your dive season a little longer in your wetsuit here’s a few tips for staying warm and safe:

  • Start off warm – The fact is, your body is going to cool off both from the cool air and the cool water.  You want to delay this process as long as possible to maximize your dive time.  Try getting geared up in a heated shelter or at least somewhere you’re protected from the wind.  This will help ensure your body is warm before you get wet.


  • Wear a proper fitting suit – A wetsuit that’s too tight won’t provide proper insulation, and one that’s too loose will allow water to flow in and out cooling you off faster.  While you may get by during the summer with a poor fitting wetsuit, you’ll want to reduce your body’s exposure to cold as much as possible to maximize your dive time in the fall.  This applies not only to your suit, but also to your gloves, boots, and hood.


  • Warm your core – Consider adding a core warmer to your wetsuit.  A core warmer is an additional layer you wear over top of your suit that adds additional protection to your core to help preserve heat.


  • Try semi-dry or three-finger gloves – three finger gloves will keep your fingers a warmer while diving but will limit your dexterity. Semi-dry gloves will provide a nice balance to keeping your fingers warmer than standard gloves and still allow you to use all your fingers.


  • Reduce unnecessary movement underwater – when you move, the water trapped in your suit to help insulate you also moves, and cold water will come in to replace it.  Being streamlined in the water with proper buoyancy, and avoiding unnecessary movement underwater will keep you warmer longer.  This also applies to any dive gear you may be holding such as a flashlight or a dive flag.  Keep a relaxed grip.  Holding on too tightly will also cause your hands to cool more quickly.


  • Know when to call the dive – The key to enjoying fall diving is to actually enjoy fall diving.  Trying to maximize bottom time by staying in the water to the point of mild hypothermia is both dangerous and uncomfortable.  When you begin to feel cold, call the dive and go warm up.


  • Keep warm between dives – If you’re planning multiple dives throughout the day then be sure to warm yourself up in-between dives.  Either complete your surface interval in a warm shelter or take your suit off and keep it in a warm place and dry off before your next dive.  Staying wet and out in the cold will only continue to cool you.


  • Plan shorter dives, especially for repetitive dives.


  • Try dry – Consider renting a dry suit.  Renting is a great alternative until you’re ready to buy your own.

By taking advantage of these tips, you can keep diving right through the fall in your wetsuit and be comfortable while doing it.

We invite you to leave a comment and share your tips with us on how you stay warm while diving in cold water in a wetsuit!

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