Why Dive Dry – Drysuits Part 1
Water covers about 70 percent of the earth and most of that water is either temperate or cold. In order to truly enjoy the marine life that inhabits these wondrous areas, you must feel comfortable and warm.
Over the years I have spent time with divers from all over the world and quite often the questions arise regarding gear, and more specifically drysuits. I have put together a series of articles to help answers some of these questions and hopefully entice more divers to see the value in diving dry as well as venturing out to experience the wonders beneath the emerald sea.
Why Dive Dry?
Comfort is a desire of all divers. When divers dive outside their “comfort zone,” enjoyment and motivation gradually decrease, and diving eventually stops. Cold is a key factor that affects both comfort and general motivation for divers. The cold itself does not have to be bone chilling to affect the diver’s enjoyment or safety, but can deter from continuing a great dive or demotivate them enough to never dive again.
The comparative levels of warmth at increased depths dramatically illustrate the advantages of diving dry vs. diving wet.
Each diver has a different personal “comfort zone.” Wetsuits provide a very narrow “comfort zone” with little room for adjustment. Their performance is impacted by fit, diving depth, and changing environmental demands. As a result, many wetsuit divers are on the edge of, or outside, their “comfort zone,” often resulting in discomfort and fatigue witch can lead to unsafe situations.
Drysuit systems consist of a shell suit to keep you dry, and insulated garments to keep you warm. This approach allows each diver to adjust the level of insulation for his or her own personal “comfort zone.” These drysuit systems also maintain their insulation at depth.
The compression factor: increased depth means increased pressure. The drysuit system’s compression-resistant insulation means warmth and comfort at all depths. To a wetsuit diver, compression means decreased insulation. A wetsuit offers 1/2 its original insulation at 33 feet, 1/3 at 66 feet, and merely 1/4 at 99 feet. Decreasing insulation at potentially colder depths is uncomfortable and can have dangerous results.
No current wetsuit system allows the diver to make the individual adjustments required to maintain performance with changing depth.
Water draws heat from your body 25 times faster than air. The colder you are, the more at risk you become for hypothermia, out-of-air emergencies (cold divers use air faster) and decompression sickness (a 30% higher risk when chilled). Staying dry and warm is essential to limit these issues.
With its system of zippers, attached boots, and seals at the neck and wrists, a drysuit keeps virtually all water out, leaving you surrounded by a cushion of air that your body warms to a comfortable level. In some ways, a drysuit is similar to a raincoat. It keeps you dry and allows you to adjust what you wear underneath depending on the outside temperature.
Some facts about Heat Retention
Continuing heat loss associated with wetsuit diving mounts with each consecutive dive. After the first dive:
• Some skin/surface cooling.
• Skin reheats during rest period but leaves some subsurface cooling.
After the second dive:
• Additional diving re-cools the skin and increases level of subsurface cooling.
• Skin reheats during rest period, but subsurface cooling increases, affects comfort, and diving requires more effort.
On subsequent dives:
• Additional dives re-cool skin and add substantially to subsurface/body heat content drop.
Reheating of the skin takes an extended amount of time. Body heat content drop causes increased fatigue and enjoyment ceases.
In part 2 we will have a look at some of the most common drysuit myths and how they come into play when educating yourself about drysuits.
Be that diver