Dressing for Winter Diving

For us diving enthusiasts in Quebec, there are two diving seasons: one in temperate water and one in cold water. Wondering how to dress underneath your drysuit? The best way to stay warm and dry is to wear a multi-layered clothing system. It allows the body to adapt to various temperature changes, and it helps keep you warm throughout your dive.

The base layer

Its function is to keep you dry in all conditions.

The base layer consists of long underwear worn directly on the skin. Its primary function is to drive moisture away from the body. Another function is to keep the body warm, but this typically depends on both the thickness and the type of fabric that the base layer is made of.

Often used in everyday life, cotton is not really recommended as a base layer because it absorbs moisture instead of evacuating it and, once wet, cotton loses its insulating properties. Basically, it absorbs perspiration and dries very slowly. This is the worst fabric to use underwater. Check that your underwear doesn’t contain it….

The intermediate layer

Its function is to keep you warm.

Oftentimes, it’s the intermediate layers that allow you to play with the amount of heat you have. Most intermediate layers easily disperse perspiration from the base layer. Again, the heat depends on the thickness of the fabric. It should be noted that more than one intermediate layer can be superimposed depending on the surrounding temperature. We’ll look for clothes ideally made of wool, fleece and/or merino wool. Cotton is also to be avoided here! The “Prima Loft” garment can be an excellent product as well. Look for synthetic fabrics as much as possible. Goose down also loses its insulating properties once wet…

It should be noted that dive shops specifically sell intermediate layers commonly known as “jackets.” Thermal Fusion from Aqua Lung is an excellent product in this field.

The outer layer

First defense against the elements

In our situation, the outer layer is the drysuit. It is the latter which protects us from our environment. It is the latter that prevents us from becoming wet during a dive. There are several materials involved in the manufacturing of waterproof suits: neoprene, trilaminate, bilaminate, rubber… Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Refer to a dive shop to advise the right product for you.

In summary, no matter the temperature, dive enthusiasts will always apply the principle of onion peels, starting with a polyester underwear, wool or polypropylene to keep the body dry. The t-shirt, the jeans and the cotton suits are to be banned! Make a habit of reading the labels on your clothes, you may be surprised ... The white cotton bottoms are particularly inappropriate for diving. Polar layers will be added depending on the temperature of the water. The first layer is dry while removing moisture from the body, the second keeps warm and the third protects from the wind and especially water. Avoid as much as possible to wet your clothes before entering the water! Several layers = heat.


Diving in Winter


In order to give your body the calories it needs, don’t hesitate to eat slightly more. Your diet should be rich in fat and sugar ... Eat more, but stay balanced! The important thing is to vary the pleasures: pasta, rice, bread or legumes, milk and eggs rather than pastries ... Don’t forget the fruits and vegetables, vitamins and fiber they contain are essential to stay warm.

When it's cold, we are often less thirsty than in the heat of summer ... However, your body must remain permanently hydrated. As usual, it is advisable to drink at least 1.5 liters of water a day. If it’s difficult for you to take the bottle of water from the fridge, then go for a hot drink that causes the diffusion throughout the body of a restorative heat! Tea, herbal tea or coffee (with moderation!) Or broths and soups that bring you all the minerals that your body needs.

All these little ideas will not stop your body from being put to the test! However, they may be able to avoid some unpleasant sensations!

Tips and advice to counter the cold in winter diving


I think, therefore I am! If we don’t stop to say that it’s cold, we’ll certainly be cold.. But if, on the contrary, we think of something else, it’ll be much easier to accommodate this discomfort, which is sometimes, at least in part, between our two ears.  

The three heat producers are only active if the fuel exists. To enjoy diving in cold waters without “freezing,” it’s necessary to eat well and remember that good hydration facilitates digestion and maintains a good volume of blood.  

Your body is like your house. The trunk is the furnace where the heat is produced. That's why it's essential to keep warm. It's easier to stay warm than to try to warm up once you're cold.

Bring your thermos of hot tea that will warm you up when you leave the water. It can also be used to thaw a zipper or laces of boots caught in the ice...

You can wear a mid-thigh underwear made of "drytex" over a long undergarment. A marvel for women who are always cold at the buttocks and/or thighs. It will definitely guarantee more heat where it’s really needed. A long down jacket makes all the difference as well.

Always wear dry socks before playing sports in cold weather. We should not keep the socks we had on in the car. Change socks just before you dress. The multilayer system is also recommended for the feet.

For some people who always have cold feet, the application of an antiperspirant (not a deodorant) under the arch makes a big difference.

Insulate your boots with soles cut out of a blue floor mat. Choose boots with a rigid sole and a larger point. Boots should not be too tight.

Make a small square with floor mats to sit warmly in the snow or stand in the parking lot.

Between two dives, to avoid constantly changing clothes, put on a down coat (jacket) over them. Your body heat will dry your wet clothes.

Walk and warm up before entering the water. Do isometric exercises in your drysuit.

Don’t try to be too cool: urinate regularly, eat dried fruit, walk, move your toes. If your hands are really frozen, do not wait passively: rotate your arms vigorously so that the blood is well into your fingers. We can also do visualization: send the heat where it is cold ...

Exposure to cold increases urine production. Most people will refrain from urinating. By holding your liquids captive in your bladder, you will burn calories unnecessarily to prevent it from freezing inside. Let yourself go and you will feel the heat invading you again. Some favor the layers while others the "p-Valve". The diaper can serve as a good convenience store, but once wet, it will promote the feeling of thrill. The "P-Valve" allows relief instantly, but requires special installation on your drysuit by your dive center.

Our cold tolerance is greatly influenced by wind, snow, rain and altitude. You must protect yourself from the wind by using a shelter (tent, canvas, car, ...) and isolate yourself from the ground with a mattress when you are done getting dressed. Your physical and mental condition, what you have eaten, your hydration, what you wear as insulation, your level of fatigue and your metabolism are also factors that influence your winter diving experience. There is no bad weather only bad ways to deal with it!

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Mathieu Roger
05 Jan 2019
Barry MacEwen
Excellent information! Even for some of us experienced divers...
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