Cold Water Diving: Taking The Plunge Into The Cold

Cold Water Diving: Taking The Plunge Into The Cold
Niels Quist

For many divers, diving is a definite summer thing, associated with warm water, sandy beaches, and tropical fish.

Once winter hits, these divers either flee to other warmer destinations or simply hang up their kit and hibernate, waiting for warmer weather.

But it needn’t be so.

Winter diving can be every bit as amazing as summer diving.

But it’s not quite as easy.

Read on for considerations on kit and skills necessary to take full advantage of the “off season”.

Dive kit considerations

Cold water is a different setting than warm water from a dive kit perspective.

If you decide to try the cold waters, first make sure your regulator is in fact cold water safe.

The flow of compressed air cools in particular the first stage, which can cause it to freeze up and start free flowing. Most high quality regulators are approved for use in cold water, but check your reg before making the plunge.

Needless to say, you need warmer clothes for diving in cold water.

Thicker wetsuits or drysuits become relevant, and with this more weight to counter it the extra buoyancy. And thicker suits with thicker boots can also mean you need a larger fin.

Read more about diving gears here

Skill considerations

Diving with additional layers of clothes does feel very different if you’re used to diving in nothing but a shorty, so ease into it if need be.

Take a page out of the winter bathers handbook, and start early in the season gradually making you more and more used to the cold water and new kit. And dive places you know well, to keep the task load at a manageable level.

If you need to dive with a dry suit, and you’re not used to it, either take an actual Dry Suit Diver course. Or at the very least do a number of dives with an experienced dry suit diver who can help you get used to how a dry suit works.

Depending on where you live winter doesn’t just mean the weather gets colder it may also get darker.

If that’s the case, any dive beyond late afternoon will now be night dive, and in that case you need the necessary skills for this. And ideally, you should be a relatively experienced night diver, as the cold water does add to the total task load.

Here’s our guide about Night Diving 101: Get started Scuba Diving at Night

If it gets cold enough where you live for water to freeze, you’ll need to have appropriate training for this, too, if you intend to dive. Ice diving is a fantastic type of diving, but as it is a type of diving that takes place in an overhead environment, it does require training. So do an Ice Diver course to make sure you have the skills.

Two divers rising on the surface between the ice.
Two divers rising on the surface between the ice.
Photo by: Jeffrey Van Daele

Managing cold

Besides dressing in warm layers and a drysuit, there are a few things you can do to manage the cold when the temperatures plummet.

First and foremost, make sure you aren’t cold before going in the water. So make the transition from dressed in your warmest to the drysuit as quickly as possible. Once you’re out of the water, do the same in reverse.

Don’t start taking off gloves or hood until you’re ready to take off the whole deal and get back into your “civilian” clothes.

Bring a fleece hat and gloves that you can easily put on while wet. Fleece will not only keep your hands and head warm (most of our heat loss is through the head) and helps wick cold water away from your skin and help it dry.

Also, bring warm drinks such as hot, sweetened tea or hot chocolate to warm up on and get some sugar into your system. The cold takes a lot of energy out of us, so replenishing heat and glycogen is a great strategy.

These gloves are not to be taken off until you totally decide to be in civilian clothes
These gloves are not to be taken off until you totally decide to be in civilian clothes
Photo by: Peteri

Final words

Winter diving may not be for everyone, and it may seem daunting.

And yes, it is cold, and dark, and nothing like diving in tropical waters. But that’s exactly the appeal of it.

So if you’re one of the more adventurous divers, give it a shot, maybe just by extending your diving season by a month or two more than you normally would.

And who knows the next thing for you may be full on ice diving.

Have you ever done cold water diving or Ice diving? Tell us about it in the comments below!


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