There’s no such thing as cold water, only unsuitable clothing
by Ross McLaren
Ross McLaren is a secondary school chemistry teacher in the West of Scotland. He describes himself as “Not a professional or even a technical diver, I’m just a normal guy with a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5(ish) career, that loves to go diving here in the UK (really Scotland!) and try to show the amazing stuff that so many people don’t realise we have right here in our own country”. He is a regular contributor to the online platform, BBC the Social.
Let’s be fair here, those three words do not sound appealing do they? Let’s be honest, Scotland is cold (and wet!) at the best of times, so in the depths of winter taking the plunge into the icy waters of our coast or sea lochs might not seem like the best of ideas… Well… that’s not strictly true!
Alfred Wainwright once wrote “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” Now Wainwright clearly wasn’t talking about scuba diving, but his quote can 100% be applied to exploring the underwater world!
Diving in Scotland we are rarely blessed with the weather and water temperature to allow us to dive in a wetsuit… Saying that, there is some crazy Scots who do! In fact more, often than not you’re more likely to get wetter on during surface intervals than you are under the water, but that doesn’t mean diving can’t be just as enjoyable. What it does mean though is a wee bit of extra prep and consideration has to go into choosing the right gear and one of those important choices has to be what you wear under your dry suit! It really can make all the difference!
Now everyone feels the cold differently. What works for one person, might not be quite right for others. However saying that, when you go to any dive site you can be almost guaranteed to see at least one person using Fourth Element thermals. I don’t have any statistics, and I’m only talking from personal experience, but the Arctic series thermals seem to be some of the most popular undergarments I’ve seen at my local dive sites on the west coast. But why?
Well, forgive me for stating the obvious, but they keep you bloody warm!
Ok… so maybe that is a bit obvious, but that’s really the key aim here! Now I know there is technical information about why they keep you warm etc found elsewhere online, but for me as long as they do the job that’s all I care about… and they definitely do the job! No questions there!
Having dived pretty much exclusively in Scotland since I started I’ve been through a fair few thermals in different combinations, different styles and different brands but since pulling on my Arctic’s I haven’t looked back. These have been my “go to” thermals all year round, and that includes in the depths of Scottish winters and early spring where you can find yourself having to crack through a wee layer of freshwater ice lying on top of the sea lochs.
Not once have I felt my core cold with the Arctic’s and they have never let me down… well apart from that one time they seem have shrunk in my wardrobe during lockdown… I mean I’ve no idea what happened there!
I’m not saying there aren’t cheaper options available, but there’s a reason that so many divers trust Fourth Element to keep them warm. Making sure you stay warm during a dive can be the difference between a great experience and a terrible one… Trust me, been there, done that and had the t-shirt… which was quickly flung out after some pretty freezing dives!
As the end of November/start of December approaches it’s not uncommon to hear that for many the diving season is “over”. But that shouldn’t have to be the case!
Ok… so yes, the weather on the surface can get a wee bit more miserable, but on a clear, crisp beautiful winters day there’s nothing better than heading for the dive site! In my own experience I’ve found, more often than not, some of my best dives have been during the “off season”. Now, I’m sure there is a reason for it, but I’m not going to pretend I know exactly why, but during the winter we tend to have some of the clearest visibility in Scotland and it can make for some superb diving.
Now I won’t pretend the water is tropical, and that first initial dook (that’s a good Scottish word!) under the water can be a bit of a shock to the system, but give it a minute or two and quickly you’re exposed face (unless you’re lucky enough to diving a full face mask) does become accustomed to the temperature. Ok… so you might not be doing +60mins dives to extreme depths, but diving is still as rewarding, if not more so, in winter in Scotland.
Going back to the original quote from Wainwright I think we divers can possibly put our own spin on it, “There’s no such thing as cold water, only unsuitable clothing”.