Cold water makes up a huge portion of our diving world, from high mountain lakes to the open ocean. The northern pacific where most of my diving occurs averages about 50 degrees year round. In many northern states, without ice diving there is no diving. Without the proper thermal protection, hypothermia sets in quickly. Why enter such a harsh environment when there’s plenty of warm water diving? Well, in my case, I do it because it’s close to home and very prolific with life. There are animals found in the cold water that are not found elsewhere. I’d be missing out on some great diving and hunting if I didn’t take advantage of my home waters.
So how can I safely and comfortably enjoy the north pacific and other cold water sites? All I need do is dress for the occasion. Usually a good 7 mil wetsuit, combined with a cold water hood or hooded vest, boots and gloves is sufficient for an hour or so of submergence. A good fit to minimize water movement through the suit is definately required. Many manufactures make some great suits, more flexible one piece suits for freediving, as well as two piece suits that work well for scuba. If you need a little mote warmth for those long scuba dives, a drysuit is a must. Many different styles are available, from neoprene to trilaminate materials, and, when combined with the right under garmet, will keep you nice and toasty even in some very cold water.
The big drawback to these thick exposure suits is the need for extra weight to offset the added buoyancy. Where some people may need only a few pounds of trim weight in the tropics, that same diver may need 40 pounds in a cold region. Having to pack extra weight makes it very important to have a good weight system, whether it’s a weight belt, a weight integrated BC or a combination of the two.
Diving in cold water can be an awesome experience, but it will require extras that may not be for everyone. Some may not be able to handle the weight or loss of flexibility. A specialty course may be needed to learn to properly operate a drysuit. For us hearty folk who love the idea of being able to dive just an hour or so from home, a wonderful cold water world awaits. Properly prepared, enjoying a cold water dive can be big fun, an experience you’ll not soon forget. Brrrrr!