Cold-Water Diving Tips - Gear and Stuff: | Sport Diver

Cold-Water Diving Tips - Gear and Stuff:

Diving is gear intensive. Cold water diving multiplies that by a factor of five. In any sport, folks wind up with favorite bits of gear, some of it expected, some of it just plain weird. Our experts, all Sport Diver contributors, share their tried and true tips for cold-water dive preparation.

Special thanks to: Yvette Cardozo, The Northern Queen Brandon Cole, Cold Snapper_Pierce Hoover, _The Iceman Cometh Stuart Westmorland, The Digital Snowman

- Bins. I am an organization freak, especially on a dive boat and especially on a dive boat in cold water, where you have twice as much gear to misplace. I even carried a collapsible bin (something I picked up in one of those storage bin shops) to Antarctica (yes, I used it). I like to have a small bin (size of a shoebox) for wet gear such as lights, clips and anything else that isn't permanently attached to my tank or BC. This is stored in that open bin under the seat on the dive skiff. The larger bin is used for larger wet gear aboard the main boat on live-aboards. Into this go my drygloves, mask, mask cleaner, slippers, 'save a dive kit' and anything else that gets wet & salty. If I can drive to the boat (British Columbia comes to mind), I also bring a large bin for the cabin. This slides under the bed and becomes an extra "drawer." –YC

- Slush Protection. Cold days are tough, but even more difficult are days that warm enough to turn show and ice to slush. In extreme cases, you may have a foot of semi-frozen liquid layered on top of the ice. To keep items dry and protected in these conditions, use plastic storage tubs. –PH

- Large Rubbermaid totes are great to travel with for your gear before and after a dive(on a foreign trip I will often buy one just for the time I am in country and give it away after using it). I am often changing after a dive outside in cold weather. It helps after pouring some non-boiling hot water on the hands & face to brush off my drysuit boots and step into my large Rubbermaid and peel off the drysuit leaving it the bottom of the container, then adding the rest of my wet gear. This keeps the rinse time way down as the gear is not covered with dirt and grime. It is easy to fill the tote with fresh water and works great to soak the underwater camera housing/strobes as well. –SW

- Mesh bags. Of ALL sizes. You'd be amazed how handy a small mesh bag is aboard the dive skiff or Zodiac. While other folks are searching for their mini lights and masks, mine is safely tucked at my feet in a neon yellow mesh bag. –YC

- Plastic slippers. There's nothing worse than getting out of your drysuit and realizing you're going to get your socks soaked walking back to your cabin (or car). Regular shoes don't work for me ... the drysuit socks are too thick. These $10 slippers (picked up at GI Joes) have a velcro strap over the toes and are easily adjusted to fit anything from bare feet to inch-thick socks. Meanwhile, the divemasters with the Nautilus Explorer swear by soft plastic slip-ons (easy to wash) made by Holey Soles ( -YC

- Fleece jacket. Yeah, some folks swear by goretex but fleece is cuddlier, providing you don't have to go a long way over open water at 30mph. I take a ratty old jacket that I don't mind trashing. –YC

- A Warm Hat. Heads are the number one source of heat loss, and the part that gets wet, even when wearing a dry suit. Choose a snug-fitting hat with moisture-wicking properties, keep it on right up until you are ready to add the hood, and pop it on as soon as you are back on the surface and de-rigged. –PH

- It also helps to warm up with a good warm ski hat and gloves before, in-between and after a cold-water dive. I try and maintain as much warmth as possible before getting into frigid water. Good warm clothes in and out of your drysuit go a long way in keeping the heat. I use my waterproof DUI drysuit bag to keep my clothes, hat, gloves, and shoes dry while I am diving, and then place the bag next to my Rubbermaid while I am changing out of the suit. –SW

- Pack a large, windproof over coat to slip over your drysuit between dives. This will cut the wind chill, and can also double as a changing room if need be. –PH

- Pack spare drysuit socks for the second dive, just in case. PH

- Favorite dive gear includes the O.S. Systems ( dryglove and DUI ( hood. I got into dry gloves reluctantly for my Antarctica trip. I liked the O.S. Systems gloves because I was promised that I could remove them after the trip w/o harming the wrist seals of my drysuit. Turned out the gloves were so easy to don and remove and were so flexible, I never went back to wet gloves. The Nautilus guys, who insist on sticking with wet gloves, swear by 7mm three fingered titanium jobs made by Oceaner ( As for the DUI hood ... after suffering ice cream headaches for years with half a dozen other makes, I tried the DUI hood in Churchill, then took it to Antarctica where the water temperature was 28 degrees. Others may have had cold heads but I didn't. –YC

- Hot Water. Kept in a thermos or ice chest, hot water can be used to thaw an ice-locked zipper, stop a frozen and free-flowing regulator, or to pour over your hands, face, and head to get the blood flowing. –PH / SW

- Hot Liquids. A thermos of hot tea, hot chocolate, hot whatever is great after a cold-water dive and helps keep your core temperature up. So is a large thermos of warm-hot water to pour over your hands, face, and head to get the blood flow going! - PH / SW