How do I go diving today and stay comfortable?
If I go out today, it will be in a trilaminate drysuit with my Fourth Element Arctic undergarment. I will also be wearing a 7mm hood and three finger mitts. The key to a successful dive in January, February or March is planning. When I arrive at the dive site, my gear is already set up. This means that my BC and regulator are on the cylinder, my mask is defogged, my fin straps are loosened and my weight system is ready for donning. The less time I have to spend with last minute preparations, the better able I am to stay warm....especially my hands.
I dress like I am going to the arctic circle with layers of thermal protection, a hat and good thick gloves. I am able to change into my drysuit in the van, but if I didn't have that option I would be just stepping out for a moment to get into my drysuit. Keep your head covered until you are ready to put on the drysuit hood. Always protecting your hands will allow for more dive time after you are submerged.
Hands....My biggest weakness for diving in the winter. I use three finger mitts with velcro straps. The velcro straps can be cinched to keep the flow of water to a minimum. I glued the straps on to the gloves myself. I have also used hand heaters inside the gloves to give me a little more warmth and extend my dive time. The only reason I will cut a dive short now is because my hands are too cold.
How cold is too cold? When you start to shiver or have pain in your hands, it's time to get out of the water and get warm. After the dive, I take care of myself first by leaving my gear set up and focusing on getting warm and comfortable again. If I allow myself to get too cold or uncomfortable, I know that I won't want to dive anymore. "Work smarter not harder!"
Once again dressed for the Arctic, I put away my gear and joke with my dive buddies about what "hard core divers" we are. I am warm, dry and pleased with my diving adventure. Springtime is four months away, and there is no way I can stay out of the water that long!