Rain, wind and more rain. Well that sums up how autumn is in the Netherlands. Summer and it's warm sunny scuba days are already long gone. Almost all the leaves have dropped from the trees and the temperature drops a bit more every day. Winter... with it's icy water temperatures is not far off. I've been called crazy (and with me my buddy), but we scuba dive all winter in our wetsuits. During the past winters we've learned a couple of tricks to stay warm.
Most people ask us why we scuba dive in a wetsuit during winter and not in a dry suit. The honest answer is that my money is spend somewhere else during the year, think scuba holidays like Aruba or Iceland this year. When winter comes I just don't have the cash to buy myself a proper dry suit. It's still on my wish and to do list. However scuba diving in a wetsuit works. It's cold.. true enough, but manageable! Also we learned some important tricks during the past winter which helps us keep warm or warm back up :)
1. Put on your wetsuit at home
Being butt naked in an open field with icy winds will cost you a lot of body heat. One time we changed in to our wetsuit while it was snowing and the temperature was below zero. We where cold before we even hit the water and had to abort the dive early. The best option is changing in a shelter nearby. If this isn't a option and it isn't for me. Just put on your wetsuit at home. Very probably you'll get some weird faces during your trip to the dive site, but you will be warm!
2. Bring hot water
Never leave the house without it... Hot water has two different, but very useful ways to keep you warm. First is a nice cup of tea after the dive. It will warm the hands and most important your inner self. Secondly use the hot water to warm up your wetsuit after your first dive. After your first dive the water in your wetsuit will cool off rapidly and when you hit the water the second time it will cost you a lot of body heat again to warm it up. So help your body out and make sure the water in your wetsuit is already warm. Just remember to leave enough for that cup of tea!
3. A warm cap
It's a myth that you loose the most body heat through your head. But it definitely helps to have a nice and warm cap after your dive. Personally I always find that even with a warm jacket the cap is essential in warming back up! So make sure to bring enough clothing to get warm again.
4. Heat Packs
Heat packs are a much discussed subject among scuba divers. Some swear by it while others will dissuade the use of them because of health reasons. Me and my buddy usually use them below our wetsuits, around our body core and in our gloves. They just give that extra bit of warmth. You do have to be careful though which heat packs to use. Some can get really hot and their are cases known divers had heat burns after a dive.
5. Keep your dive times short
Scuba diving for an hour is nice in warm temperatures, but dangerous in cold waters if not using a dry suit! When using a wetsuit keep your dive times short, for example between 30 and 45 minutes.
6. Run back to your dive center for a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate!
Thanks +Marloes Otten for reminding me! :) haha (update on 23-11-2014)
We all know that scuba diving is a hazardous sport, but especially when scuba diving in extreme conditions. During winter time the water temperatures in Holland can drop as low as 1 degrees Celsius, which can cause hypothermia really fast! Always know what your doing when scuba diving in these kind of situations! This post gives some tips, but is in no way leading in how to scuba dive in winter conditions. Read more about hypothermia.