The term “exposure protection” encompasses more than just wetsuits and drysuits. Apart from a reliable way to deliver breathing gas to a diver underwater, a means of insulating the diver from the chilling effects of submersion is one of the most important systems a diver has to consider. In warm water, a dive skin or thin wetsuit may be all that is needed to stay warm and comfortable underwater. As the water becomes colder, the addition of a hood and gloves can help slow the loss of body heat from our extremities. But when the diving environment gets cold enough to make a drysuit the exposure protection of choice, it is often the frosty tingling in our fingers and hands that make cold-water diving a chore rather than the pleasure it should be.
Body heat is transferred approximately 100 to 200 times faster in water than it is in air of the same temperature. Even if the diver is wearing insulating undergarments and an effective drysuit, the insulating value of “wet gloves” is diminished the colder the water and the longer the dive. According to the NOAA diving manual, “It is easy to recognize that hands and feet are cold by the familiar sensations of discomfort, numbness, pain, and diminished usefulness… Chilling, even if not severe enough to threaten life, will produce loss of dexterity and sense of touch in the hands, making it difficult for a diver to do useful work or even to control diving equipment such as weight belts and buoyancy compensators.
Dexterity is important, but so is comfort. Think about the dread you have probably experienced prior to struggling into an icy, wet set of neoprene gloves for your second dive in cold water. Even if you’ve planned ahead and had hot water to pour into your gloves, that sense of coziness disappears soon after your dive begins.
Fortunately, one of the many advances in the technology of underwater exposure protection is the option to add a dry glove system to virtually any drysuit. There are a number of different dry glove systems available, but they all work in a similar fashion. A waterproof vinyl glove is worn over an insulating inner liner, and the glove is attached to the suit with an O-ring seal. The air space inside the glove is adjusted on descent and ascent as gas is added to and vented from the drysuit.
Although some dry glove systems are glued to the suit, requiring that a drysuit technician perform any replacements that become necessary, most dry gloves can be easily changed by the wearer if they become worn or abraded, which can allow water to seep in. Some systems retain the latex wrist seals used when wearing wet gloves, while others do away with the inner seal. Divers who are experienced with dry gloves usually prefer one system or the other, for reasons of their own. But the end result is the same—dry hands that stay warmer during the dive, slowing heat loss and allowing you to retain comfortable dexterity in even the coldest underwater environment.
The drysuit experts at Monterey Bay Diving are experienced with every major dry glove system available and can help you compare options and decide on the one that will work best for you. We will professionally install a dry glove system on your drysuit that will reduce the “cold tingles” you get when the water temp drops and your dive times lengthen. Don’t wait any longer to take your drysuit to the next level!