Why You Should Start Drysuit Diving

Does the idea of shivering your way through a dive make you want to stay on dry land? If you want to try cold-water diving but without blue lips and excessive neoprene, drysuit diving is the answer! There are some exquisite cold-water diving spots around the world, all waiting to be discovered. Drysuit diving is a little different to regular recreational diving, so we have put together a little guide about what to expect from drysuit diving, how to choose the perfect drysuit, and where to go drysuit diving.

When to use a drysuit and how they work

Drysuits are suitable for cold-water diving, multiple dive days, or tech diving where you will be underwater for a long time. There is no set rule on what temperature the water should be when you switch to wearing a drysuit because everyone feels the cold differently. 

As a rough guide, around 60°F (15°C) is usually when divers switch from a wetsuit to a drysuit for recreational diving

Drysuits are different to wetsuits in that they keep you completely dry while you are diving. The drysuit connects to your air tank so that you can add a little air to the suit. This makes up for the pressure which will squeeze the air space in the suit as you descend. Adjusting buoyancy with a drysuit can be a little tricky at first but you soon get used to it, and by the end of your dry suit diving specialty you will be able to do it easily.

Prefer to stay on the surface? Check out: 5 Unique Swimming Spots

What to expect from drysuit diving

Drysuit diving opens up a world of diving opportunities; imagine exploring Arctic destinations or spotting penguins in Chile’s cold waters. Drysuit diving can also keep you warm on multi-dive days when you do not want to spend your time getting in and out of a cold wetsuit. Many divers wear drysuits at warm-water destinations when they are diving multiple times a day on a liveaboard.

The SSI Dry Suit Diving specialty program is the best way to become a drysuit diver and learn the ins and outs of drysuit diving techniques. You will learn how to dive safely and comfortably in a drysuit.

Your specialty instructor will explain the benefits of using drysuits and how to deal with drysuit diving emergencies, which are unique to this type of diving. Upon completion, you will earn the SSI Dry Suit Diving specialty certification. 

Ready to start drysuit diving? Find a dive center near you and sign up for your drysuit specialty today

How to choose the perfect drysuit

Just like finding the perfect fitting mask, finding a drysuit that fits you well is important. If the suit is too big then it can leak or feel baggy, which causes drag. If it is too small, it will feel tight, restricting, and uncomfortable while you are diving. 

Taking a drysuit speciality will allow you to try out a drysuit and see what fits you best. You will then practice using the drysuit under the supervision of an experienced instructor, who can show you how to use it in the best way and make sure you stay safe.

So, how do you choose the perfect drysuit?

There are two main types of drysuits: 

  • Membrane/laminate drysuits are thin and do not offer much insulation; they are designed just to keep you dry. You can then choose to wear warm undergarments underneath to stop you from getting cold.
  • Neoprene drysuits are essentially very thick wetsuits. They are warmer (but also a lot heavier) than membrane drysuits and are more streamlined. 

Both styles have water-tight zips and seals to keep cold water from entering your suit while you dive.

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Things to consider when buying a drysuit:

If you are traveling frequently, a membrane drysuit might be the best option as it is much lighter to pack and carry. If you are drysuit diving close to home, perhaps a neoprene drysuit will suit you better. Consider where you will be using your drysuit to make the best decision. 

Other things to consider include:

  • The number of pockets.
  • Where the pockets are positioned on the suit.
  • The zipper placement and how easy it is to reach. 
  • Whether or not you will require a P-valve.

Top places to go drysuit diving

Once you have completed your Dry Suit Diving specialty and bought your very own cozy drysuit, you will want to start diving in it! If you are looking to use your drysuit for cold-water diving, here are three amazing places that have mind-blowing cold-water experiences:

1.Channel Islands, California, USA

The Channel Islands are known as the ‘Galapagos of North America’ and form a protected National Park teeming with marine life. These stunning islands jut out of the ocean and have kelp forests that reach up to 120 feet (37 meters) high, with marine life that is found nowhere else.

You can go diving in the Channel Islands from a day boat or stay longer on a liveaboard. The islands are dotted with caves, deep drop-offs, spectacular walls, and secluded coves. Water temperatures there range from 50 to 70 °F (10 to 21°C), making it a perfect destination to go drysuit diving without getting too cold!

2.Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands, Scotland

Diving in Scapa Flow is an unmissable experience for advanced cold-water divers with a passion for wrecks and fascinating history. It is arguably one of the best wreck diving areas in the world, due to the large number of shipwrecks in a small area.

Towards the end of World War I, the German High Seas Fleet famously scuttled no less than 52 of its ships and submarines at Scapa Flow, creating a wreck-diving mecca.

These waters are also home to the Tabarka wreck; a shallow sunken blockship from World War 2 that sits at an easy 60 feet (18 meters). This blockship was sunk to stop enemy vessels from gaining access to Scapa Flow and has become one of the most popular wrecks at Scapa Flow. It is a unique wreck to dive and is a habitat for starfish, anemones, lobsters, and urchins, as well as cod, silver bellies and wrasse.

It is possible to dive year-round in Scapa Flow but expect temperatures averaging 6°C (43°F) during winter months, which are the best months for visibility.

3.Lake Baikal, Russia

The ice sheet on Lake Baikal can be more than 6.5 feet (2 meters) thick during the long Siberian winters. Not only the oldest lake in the world but also the deepest, the surface of Lake Baikal remains frozen for up to five months, from January to May each year.

With all these aquatic accolades, Lake Baikal is an unmissable ice dive for any adventure diver. Under the ice, water temperatures average 38°F (3.5°C), and divers can explore steep slopes, canyons and giant sea sponges.

Some unique marine life that can be spotted along the way include the Baikal oilfish, and giant invertebrate Gammarus. February and March are the best months to venture into Lake Baikal’s icy depths. 

4.Ojamo Mine, Finland

Ojamo Mine is an old limestone mine that offers a mind-blowing ice diving experience. Since it closed down in the 1960s, the mine has gradually filled with water and become the ultimate test in explorative diving.

Cave diving experience is necessary here, as well as previous cold-water experience with deep decompression and CCR diving skills. Water temperature averages around 39°F (4°C) and the shallowest tunnels start at 92 feet (28 meters).

The pit water is murky near the surface and home to burbots, northern pikes and crayfish. The deeper you descend, the clearer the water becomes, allowing divers to eventually see the stunning scenery.

We hope we have inspired you to brave the cold and start drysuit diving!