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Wet suits for cold weather- what type?

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New Member
Sep 24, 2004
I have a 3 mil wetsuit but I know it will not be thick enough for when winter comes. The temps here in Alabama, USA have already been dipping down pretty chilly and due to an ear injury I am just now ready to get beack in the water but I don't think my suit is thick enough. Any suggestions?
I am in a similar situation (identical actually minus the ear). I own a 3/2 scuba suit with the big zipper up the back. I am shivering within minutes of being still on the surface, and manage t oward of hypothermia only through constant motion. My SCUBA brother has a 7mil SCUBA suit and is always hassling me about how he has proper thermal prtection and I don't. Nonetheless, he gets cold pretty quickly too. I didn't buy into the whole apnea suit thing, but then someone explained them to me, and I am completely and totally convinced that if I got one thick enough, I could dive in freezing cold water all day and be fine. My brother, BTW, thinks that is a fairy tale. Any replies from the experienced?
Well, granted, I'm no dive master, but I do have a 5mm Picasso Apnos apnea suit, and have used it twice in 10-14C water, and was very warm. I was in the water for about 1-2 hours, and was surprisingly fine! Never wore a scuba suit to compare it to, but I was pleasantly surprised. If you're really unsure, I'm sure a 7mm suit would be really toasty.
I have dove under ice, in my 5mm Elios Low Density Heiwa, on a New Year's day. I spent 3 hours swimming around and diving. My hands and feet froze by the end, which is why I had to get out. The water temperature was 4C degrees, and the air temperature was 0 or so. After the first 45 minutes I had also flushed the inside of my suit, from waist down, with water. I was warm throughout the whole dive, except at the moment of flushing of course.

If I had been doing line diving, where one rests at the surface for lengthy periods of time, and does not stay active much, then certainly I would have lasted maybe only an hour or so. But that at least gives you an idea of how effective these suits are.

In the end, it will be your feet and hands, that determine the need to get out of the water, if you want to avoid damaging them.

For the average person, usually a 7mm for less than 12C degrees, a 5mm for 12-17C degrees, and a 3mm above that to 23Cdegrees. Maybe adjust for women to 7mm-15C, 5mm-20C and 3mm-26C.

Reallly depends on your activity as well. If you are active, then you get away with colder temps.
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tylerz said:
In the end, it will be your feet and hands, that determine the need to get out of the water, if you want to avoid damaging them.

Absolutely correct, and a point I forgot to make! My gloves are only 2mm thick, so my hands were freezing quite early, but the rest of my body covered by the wetsuit was pretty warm! I too was skeptical of the warmth of these apnea suits, but believe me (cold water wuss), they are really really warm.
In the past I have ice (free)dove in 5mm suits, and my Cresso super-comp. I can hardly wait to try out my new 6mm Elios suit this winter. The thing is the warmest wetsuit I have ever had on.

As far as hands and face go, I would get a pair of the Picasso 3-finger mitts with the double wrist seals. There is a thread on this board about them somewhere if you look for it. For the face I have used a Henderson "Ice cap" in the past to keep warm. With my new, Elios, suit I don't think that I will need it anymore.

As far as what type of suit to get i would suggest an Elios, custom cut, opencell inside suit. It should ber at least 5mm, or more if you like. I think that I would go down to 5mm next time since their custom suit are SO warm. You really can't compare a scuba wetsuit to a freediving wetsuit- it's like comparing a Yugo to a Porche.

Here's a few shots from last year's ice dives. Ted and I were in for a couple of hours over a couple of days. We never actually got cold, but got tired of running into all of the other scuba divers we were ice diving with.

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For some reason I can't seem to attach any more photos. :vangry

Oh well, just search through some of my old posts and you'll find picutres of the ice dives, Picasso Mitts, Ice Cap's, ect.

This is good news. I expect my new Elios 5mm superstretch/black slide Open cell suit in the next few weeks. I think I'll be hopping into lake michigan just to see :)
i love my Omer in 6.5mm. might be a little to much for most folks but works great for me.
By the way women needs less neoprene to keep warm compared to men... beacuse of more bodyfat I pressume

And I do a lot of cold water diving too, acctually almost all the time :vangry but a tailor made 7mm elios suit is cheap and very warm, like 3 hours 0 degrees water and no sun. And I am really skinny and freeses easily

Johan denmark
By the way women needs less neoprene to keep warm compared to men... beacuse of more bodyfat I pressume

How did you conclude that they need less neoprene? Individuality aside, the general tendency in and out of the water, I have gathered from countless experiences and personal accounts (women), is that women tend to feel uncomfortably cold easier. I know the fact, that "in general" women have more body fat, but that is just one factor in the sensation of warmth.

I regularly see guys hanging out in the cold, expressing comfort with the water temperature, wearing shorts in winter, etc... but that does not fall over to experiences of women towards the cold (once again, odd individuals aside).

I have explored this at length with women, in conversation, and it came up that possibly men were just generally trained throughout life to accept the discomfort more readily. I don't think that totally explains it, but certainly that is an added element. One thing that seems to be quite common is the idea of women having thinner blood. Another thing, is cold adaption. If men are trained to accept the discomfort, then they will subject themselves to it more often, which essentially can act as a training of their body, which adapts to this common discomfort.

Basically, if you are a lady, I would not put much faith in the concept that you need less neoprene as opposed to more. Just ask some of the experienced female freedivers. There is certainly going to be the odd one that is an exception, but I think you will find the majority follow what I am saying. Maybe it is important to compare people of similar physique. Although, as I mentioned earlier, there are many factors that affect the sensation of cold.

Actually out of interest, maybe we should start a thread and poll of what men and women are comfortable in with suit vs temperature.
I created a thread at:
[ame="http://forums.deeperblue.net/showthread.php?t=56636"]Women VS Men - Who feels warmer?[/ame]
I have found my Omer Mimetic to be good for 2-3 hours at 9º C.
I would recommend a Biothermic type coating if you want to be really warm.
I think that Picasso make a 9mm suit freedive suit if you really need one, however my friend has a 7mm Spetton with the gold thermic coating and he is toasty in winter and too hot in summer 12-13ºC.
It really depends on an Individuals cold tolerance.
I have a fairly good tolerance to cold water, so 6.5mm opencell is fine to 9ºC for me.
you may need more or less thermal protection according to your needs.

I have experience diving with both, scuba and apnea suits.
All I can say is that you can't even COMPARE a well fitting open cell inside apnea suit to a wetsuit designed for subadiving.

Where I was freezing in my 3mm scuba suit I am almost too warm in my 3mm open cell inside, nylon outside Picasso, and where I was freezing in my 7mm scuba suit, I am nice and warm in my 5mm Picasso (similarly built as my 3mm Picasso).

My advice; if you want quality apnea diving so you can relax and not shiver without constantly finning, get a good fitting apnea suit.

Safe diving to you.
Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the big thing that makes an apnea suit an apnea suit is that:

1) No zippers - usually a 2 piece suit with an attached hood
2) Open cell neoprene on the inside - this makes a tight seal between the suit and the wearer, allowing no water to get in. Basically, the neoprene doesn't have a nylon layer on the inside. I suppose it works like a tight fitting drysuit.

Mind you, the fact that you have no zippers and it's open cell inside makes it tricky to get on, but really warm once you do. I use a lube of about 4 parts warm water to 1 part hair conditioner to lube the suit up before trying to put it on. With that, it slides right on... :D
I bring a thermos of hot water and pour in the suit before I slide in - sooooo much nicer...
Amphibious said:
I bring a thermos of hot water and pour in the suit before I slide in - sooooo much nicer...

Or...as the Ottawa freedivers did on the day of the beginner clinic I attended...use a big cooler full of hot water to dunk your entire suit into before putting it on. Sweet... :D
haha - hard to put a Cooler in my back pack :D but the cooler is a good idea! I have to hike into most of the lakes and rivers I dive here. Miss ottawa, lots of good freediving around there. didn't have to take my shotgun freediving there either :)
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