Is it absolutely necessary to wear a dry suit when the water temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit? Here’s everything you should know about dry suits and wetsuits for cold water diving.
The cut-off temperature for using a dry suit vs. a wetsuit is generally regarded as 50F. For instance, the water in the Bay Area around San Francisco is about 50F, and people generally still use wetsuits to surf and dive there. Below 50F, seriously consider a semi-dry or full dry suit. A good-fitting 7mm wetsuit can be quite adequate even in the coldest of conditions. Divers in Antarctica regularly dive using 10mm-thick neoprene semi-dry wetsuits. However, below 0 Celsius, or 32 Fahrenheit, you should seriously consider staying home and watching a good diving video.
Cold water diving generally means diving in those areas of the world where thermal protection isn’t just recommended, it’s an absolute necessity to avoid hypothermia. Translation: you’ll freeze to death. That would include diving in areas around northwest Europe and parts of North America among other destinations. Even sub-tropical areas such as Southern California will require a wetsuit 3mm in thickness. Wetsuits are even used in tropical waters, although these are generally speaking in the 1mm to 2mm area.
The loosest definition of cold water diving includes most of the wetsuit dive-able waters of the world. In the higher latitudes, cold conditions persist most of the year. And even in the height of summer, fresh water lakes around the world remain at cold water temperatures.
But the payoff for more wetsuitneoprene and equipment cold water gloves, for instance, comes in the form of images of spectacular new subjects as well as the opportunity to dive in the shadow of a Nordic fjord..
For jaded warm water divers who think they’ve seen it all by dressing down, there’s another whole world to be discovered and explored by dressing up in cold water gear. Get awetsuit (or a dry suit) and discover it for yourself!