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Winter Diving

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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New Member
Feb 3, 2004
Hello everyone.

I am relitively new to freediving, i've been doing it in the form of spearfishing for 2 summers now in the mediterannean and I rate myself as novice(comfortable at 50-70 feet). However, I now live in Nova Scotia and am still wanting to persue my diving. Unfortunately, the water here is freezing. I would like to start freediving in cold water (3-6 degrees celcius). Could you give me tips and any relevant information on diving in cold water?

I own a 5mm OMER mimetic wetsuit. Will i survive the cold with this?
Get an Elios suit in the following config:
- Pants: 5mm heiwa neoprene, smoothskin outside, open cell inside (style: high waist 'trousers')
- Top: 7mm yamamoto neoprene, smoothskin outside, open cell inside (could also use heiwa but it would be a bit less stretchy, and have less buoyancy change)

Then, go to:
Get some 8x16 heat packs. Put them in cloth pouches and slide them under your suit, along your spine.

Eat lots of good fats, and lots of calories in general on the days leading up to the dive (including the morning of diving).

I could write more tips but it would take forever.

Here in Vancouver the water can reach 3C on a bad day in winter.

I have dove in 4C lakes to the bottom, with no wetsuit as well.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
Is it absolutely necessary to get rid of my 5mm OMER suit? how much would that elios setup cost me?
Eric has given you the optimum setup, but I would say that your OMER suit will be ok. In lieu of a 7mm top, maybe add a 3 or 5mm vest and an extra hood. Gloves are what kill me in the winter, so wear big 6mm gloves too.
If you have any loose spots on the suit, such as at the ankles, you could tape them up with duct tape.
Bring coffee and hang it off a float in your thermos!
Erik Y.

I have one large problem: My booties are only about 3 mm... Is there a way I can dive with those without having to amputate my feet?
Kicking with cold, numb feet, is more than just an annoyance, it causes tendonitis, which will be with you for life. I have tendonitis in both feet, caused by diving with cold feet too many times. Tendonitis never goes away completely. So be careful.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
I dive here quite frequently in the cold. Last few dives have been in the 1-3C range. My setup is a Cressi Supercompetion wetsuit, 5mm pants, 6.5mm top; Picasso biotermic 5mm socks; and picasso bio-termic 3 finger mitts. I'm good for well over an hour in this setup. Definatly the gloves and socks were the weak point for me! Get some warmer socks for sure. I don't use an ice mask, but some people really like them in the cold as well.

As Erik said, I think you'll be fine in your suit for an hour or so if you can keep your hands and feet warm. The coffee in a thermos is a great dive extender when its cold!!

I was ice(free) diving today for a little more than 2 hours. THe water was 34 degrees(F) and I stayed in longer than any of the other scuba divers. I only got out becasue everyone else did and I had noone else to take pictures of!

I use a Cressi super comp, but want to upgrade to an Elios before spring. I have been thinking about a Low density Heiwa 6mm suit with smoothskin outtters and an opencell inside.

Most important are fingers and toes. I use 6mm socks from OMER and hadded a little hot water to them about half way through the day. I also use 6mm Picasso 3-finger mitts to keep them toasty.

One last thing I use is an Ice Cap from Henderson to keep my lips warm. The water doen't bother them, but when I surface the wind can get a little chilly if my head is out of the water.

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Neoprene Thickness

The thickness of the neoprene for foot and hand protection in the cold is a tricky subject. It seems that the bulk of the protection comes from keeping water from flowing over the hands/feet. For example, I use 2mm gloves that don't evn have neoprene palms and these work down to about 50 degrees, or even temps in the high 40s.

As the temp passes through the 49 to 32 (5 to 0 C) range, things change rapidly. By the time the temps get down to 45 (about 2.5 C), I am resorting to putting 6.5 mm mitts over my 2mm reef gloves. JerseyJim and JimmGlynn use a similar setup and sometimes augment with latex gloves, which makes kind of a semi-dry setup that just about eliminates water flow over the skin.

Since there is very little muscle tissue in the hands and feet and since they are the most extreme extremeties (go for it Sven, I just lobbed one through the strike zone;)), I think that the insulation in the neoprene is of limited value.

This gives me an idea for a little "heating system". Basically plastic gloves with tubes (one for entering water and another for exiting water). The tubes feed to a plastic bag that is held against the abdomen. A check valve would ensure that flow is one way. Motion of the swimmer would pump the water through the circuit. The idea could be used for feet too. The necessary parts are cheap and readily available, which is good because this puppy would be quite rank after a few dives.

Various improvements are possible. See the "Rubber Peeing" thread for a few ideas on less passive approach towards staying warm.
Re: cold!

Originally posted by Greeker
I have one large problem: My booties are only about 3 mm... Is there a way I can dive with those without having to amputate my feet?

I wear the same 3mm booties, then wear another pair over top of the other pair, and over top of the footpocket. You need to cut the toes out of the second pair. This year I will try with a 6mm boot for the top layer. This method also acts as a great fin keeper plus adds stability in the ankles.
Jon I got the ice-pics ;) , very nice amigo.
Erik Y.
So far I have been pretty darn happy with my Picasso mitts. The only thing that ever gets cold is my index finger and that's because the glove it cut narrower there so it can fit into a speargun trigger.

In the past I used to scuba dive with a pair of DUI neoprene mitts that were 3mm thick on the palms and 7 mm on the back of the hand. These were really nice for diving, but are no longer made.

There are such things as electric dry gloves that are used for scuba diving. They actually plug into the electric drysuit underwear and then connect to a battery pack that the diver carries on his/her tank. I used one when they first came out and it broke, but I have heard that they have come a long way since then, and are much more durable.

Another thing you could try, if your mitts fit loose enough, is to put one of those acetate hand warmers in them- on the back side of the hand where the majority of the blood vessels flow.

Putting too many layers of rubber together can somtimes work against you because they can cause restricitions in blood flow.

One thing that I have been thinking about for winter freediving is getting a pair of these drygloves with latex wrist seals. They are used for sailing, scuba diving, kayaking, and fishing. I think that they would work out great for winter diving down to about 20 meters, or so. They are a bit pricey from a dive or kayak store, but I have heard rumors that you can get them from commercial fishing supply stores at a much more reasonable price.

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