Cold water scuba diving offers unique underwater experiences, from the crystal-clear glacial waters to vibrant marine life that thrives in chilly temperatures. However, diving in cold water requires extra precautions and specialized gear to ensure both safety and comfort.

Whether you're new to cold-water diving or seeking a refresher, here are some essential considerations for an optimal experience:

1. The Right Exposure Suit is Key

  • Dry Suits: The go-to choice for cold water, dry suits keep you dry by preventing water from entering. They have seals at the neck and wrists, allow for the use of warm undergarments and heating elements, and they inflate with gas, which also acts as insulation.
  • Semi-Dry Suits: These are a hybrid between wetsuits and dry suits. They allow a minimal amount of water in, which gets trapped and warmed by the body, helping to slow down heat loss.
  • Thicker Wetsuits: For not-so-extreme cold conditions, a thick (7mm or more) wetsuit can suffice, but remember, it lets in a larger amount of water than a semi-dry and core body temperature will drop more rapidly.

2. Protect Your Extremities

Cold fingers and toes can make your dive uncomfortable or even unsafe.

To prevent this, you'll need:

  • Dive Boots: Ensure you have thick-soled, high-cut boots, especially when walking on rocky or uneven surfaces.
  • Gloves: Cold-water diving gloves are thicker. Choose a pair that offers dexterity while maintaining warmth.
  • Hoods: A neoprene diving hood minimizes this loss, ensuring you stay more comfortable during your dive.

3. Regulator Considerations

Cold water can cause your regulator to freeze and free-flow. To combat this, choose a regulator designed for cold water. They often feature environmental sealing to prevent freezing. You should also always have your regulator serviced to ensure it's cold-water ready.

4. Buoyancy Control

Cold water gear is bulkier. This might change your buoyancy characteristics. To prepare, practice buoyancy control in a controlled environment before venturing into the deep. You may also need to adjust your weight to account for the added buoyancy of a dry suit or thicker wetsuit.  It is important to enroll and complete a Dry Suit Specialty Course to learn the tricks to diving with a drysuit.

5. Dive Computer

In cold conditions, you'd want a dive computer that's easy to read and manipulate with gloves on. Look for one with a larger display and buttons.

6. Pre-Dive Safety Precautions

  • Pre-Dive Check: Given the additional gear and complexities, always perform a thorough pre-dive check.
  • Dive With A Buddy: Cold water conditions can be challenging. Always dive with a buddy to ensure safety for both of you.
  • Plan Your Dive: Ensure you know your entry and exit points, and be aware of the local currents and potential hazards.

7. Stay Hydrated And Well-Fed

Cold water can sap your energy quickly. To help mitigate this, drink plenty of water before your dive. Dehydration increases your risk of decompression sickness.

You should also consume a high-energy meal prior to diving. This helps in maintaining core body temperature.

8. Be Mindful Of Hypothermia

Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, slow or slurred speech, and a lack of coordination. If you or your buddy show any of these signs, it's essential to end the dive and seek warmth.

9. After The Dive

Once out of the water:

  • If you’re diving with a wetsuit, you should consider removing it and drying off in between dives or at least lowering it off of your core and toweling off. For a dry suit, you can also lower it half-way in order to prevent overheating between dives.
  • Have warm beverages and snacks handy. This helps in restoring body temperature and energy.
  • Thoroughly rinse, dry, and store your gear properly to ensure longevity.

Shop Cold Water Diving Gear

Cold water scuba diving can be a magical experience, revealing marine wonders not seen in warmer waters. By equipping yourself with the right knowledge and gear, you'll ensure a safe, enjoyable, and memorable dive. Remember, as with all diving activities, when in doubt, consult with professionals or local dive shops for tailored advice. At Paragon Dive, we have a variety of high-quality equipment for cold water dives.

Browse our collection of scuba gear online, or visit us in Tucson.


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