Difficult to use, less comfortable, and expensive, the image we have of dry clothing is often not very positive. It is however the best solution in extreme conditions, or for long dives. Let's take stock of his faults, and how to tame him.
THE "GOAT SKINS" OF OUR FORMER
Since it is a question of protecting oneself from the cold during the dive, the idea of locking oneself in an impermeable enclosure which makes it possible not to be in contact with water and to dress warmly inside this pregnant seems obvious. This is also how divers were protected from the 19th century. The combination was then called "goatskin", perhaps because it ended up having the same smell! It was assembled with a double cotton canvas sandwiching a thin layer of vulcanized rubber, the sleeves were made of natural latex, so thick that some kind of bonze forceps were needed to pass the hands. The principle was established: isolate yourself from the water and dress underneath clothes that were all the thicker and warmer as the dive would last a long time and the water was cold.
Because there is no alternative to dry clothing when the conditions become extreme or simply when the duration of the dive is important. So why deny it? First, because it's more complicated to use, then because it's less comfortable and finally because it's expensive.
As we learn at the level 1, finally I think that it is still the case, the liquids are not compressible. This is the reason why the diver does not feel the pressure increase on his body when he dives in wet. On the other hand, in a dry garment, it is air that is in the combination and the air is compressible.
Like all the gaseous masses of your body, your waterproof garment will thus undergo the pressure, to see its internal volume decrease according to the famous Law of Boyle and Mariotte, the garment will crash very quickly, especially in the first meters of the descent, but that too you know, the crash will therefore compress the diver, we call this phenomenon the Squeeze since the time of the divers with helmet . Imagine that in the event of a break in the pressurized air supply, the garment would compress to the point of pushing the diver back into the helmet causing minimal clavicle rupture and quite often cervical rupture leading to death. We are no longer there, but it is important to understand why, with a waterproof garment, it is absolutely essential to compensate the external pressure by blowing air under pressure into the garment.
As a result of this crushing, unless it is perfectly horizontal, which is rarely the case, the legs are usually a little lower than the body, so the air goes up in the top of the garment and leaves the combination squeezer slightly legs, it is the main source of discomfort if we move a lot, but we will see that there are solutions. Nevertheless waterproof kicking will never be quite as pleasant as wet well flexible. On the contrary, the air pushed up tends to inflate the neck collar, resulting, this time a small compression that can give a feeling of oppression. We could add the more rigid watertight closures, wrists tighter, etc ... no one can say that we are as comfortable in waterproof than mono 5 mm super stretch.
MORE EXPENSIVE !
It is more expensive first because for the reasons mentioned above it sells much less waterproof clothing, the economy of scale is therefore not the same, and then technically, the assembly must be waterproof, the cut including the boots are tricky to achieve, we must add a REALLY waterproof closure, so expensive metal, the sealing sleeves, the chest inflator with its water trap, purging and mounting, look closely inside a dry garment, which is more appealing to crafts than industry. It is almost impossible to find a waterproof below 650 euros, and again, we are really at the bottom of the range. If you want comfort, especially comfort, spend above 1000 euros is not useless.
BUT INDISPENSABLE IN EXTREME CONDITIONS
You are going to tell me, why then break the piggy bank to be cramped and take the lead?
To keep warm, just to be hot because, again, we can stay 20 minutes moving in water at 3 ° with a good 7 mm, but if we have to spend an hour, there is no alternative. And then in extreme conditions, dry clothing has an advantage out of the water. As you've already noticed, coming out of the water, the slightest breath of fresh air on your wet clothes will freeze the blood in minutes 3, understand that when you evaporate the water contained in the lining in the passage of 'a flow of air, you make cold, it is more or less the principle of a refrigerator evaporator, no wonder then you cool so quickly, with a waterproof garment, before and after the dive if you had the good idea to keep some air in the garment, you will be warm.
And since you wear polar underwear and you're dry, you can also take off the garment, quickly go for a jog or anorak and find yourself in a situation of earthen well warm without going through the mandatory and unpleasant box wet clothes of undressing, in underpants, wet and in the wind before donning a wet jeans.
So if you take the plunge, follow some simple tips to reduce the defects mentioned above.
CHOOSE YOUR "DOUDOU" WELL
Remember that the garment itself is only insulating, even if it is neoprene. Do not wear it on the skin but always with an undergarment even thicker than the conditions are extreme. Think about the feet, for the majority of the models, the manufacturer has planned proportions so that you wear big thick socks, even booties in polar, one cools quickly ends, do not neglect them.
TAKE CARE OF SLEEVES
Take great care of the sleeves, not only are they fragile but their replacement is quite expensive. Carefully wipe your hands and head and have a pair check that the sleeves and collar are flat without creases, without hair between the neck and the rubber, this is often the difference between a dry garment and an almost dry. If you have some (and otherwise you would do well to get some, sprinkle talc on the sleeves when they are dry, it protects them and it makes dressing easier.
MAINTAIN LIGHT CLOSURE
The waterproof closure is the element that requires all your attention, as much for the choice of the model of clothing that for maintenance or use.
Some combinations allow you to dress alone, but not all. If this constitutes a criterion of choice for you, be careful, only the diagonal front closures or the "neck straps" can be handled without outside help. Shoulder closures require help.
In any case, note that the replacement of a closure can reach Elyos budgets. Take care: when it is open, be careful not to force the ends of the opening, at this point, the two sheets of rubber that ensure the seal come together and they should not be separated by forcing the opening. under penalty of irreparable flight. Note that there are many products on the market to maintain airtight closures, I remain faithful to periodic cleaning with toothbrush and Marseille soap and the paraffin jam deposited by rubbing on the links. When you close your garment, the last millimeter is essential, a quick tap to ensure that the slider is fully stopped will prevent unpleasant water entering.
The garment is in place, check one last time the sleeves and the collar, flat, no creases, no hair, put the hood. The neck sleeve of the hood should rest on the collar as flat as possible to ensure good protection, avoid creating creases on the collar with the hood.
Bottle in the back, here you are with two inflators, one on the vest and one on the garment, by passing the inflator hose of the garment under the arm, you separate the two well and avoid mixtures. Especially since in principle, the fittings are not compatible. As soon as you connect the inflator of the garment, inflate a little to make sure that the connection is well established and, by putting a little air in the garment, you will immediately take a little ease.
LET YOURSELF SUFFICIENTLY
Since you have just put on your waistcoat, you are also weighted. Belt or waistcoat, or even harness, in any case, the insulating power of your garment / underwear combination depends above all on the inflation of the garment. Indeed, if your garment is squeezed, there is no more air in the fleece that you are wearing nor between your skin and your suit, for DIY enthusiasts, you have to imagine that you have just gone from 300 millimeters of wool to glass in your roof, at 50 mm, the insulation coefficient is reduced in enormous proportions. So if it's really cold, the secret is to inflate. And to inflate, you have to ballast. Regardless of the quality of your equipment, in extreme conditions, the secret is excessive filling, even very excessive!
AT THE WATER !
You are ready for the launch. A detail, when transferring air in the clothing during the dive, it can happen that a large air mass leaves in the legs and inflates the feet, take care in putting your fins to properly place the strap at above the calle strap provided for this purpose, which is only accessory on wet booties becomes essential on a waterproof. Put yourself in the water without exuberance to avoid rapid reflux of air to the collar that could move it and produce a water inlet. Do not put yourself in the water with a garment squeezed but very slightly inflated.
MASTER YOUR DOWNHILL
On the surface, you inflate your clothes to check that everything is fine, that it is waterproof, that the inflator works, and we stay tuned to his feet, this is where the small insidious leak will inevitably lead the water that enters the garment. If the garment seems to hesitate to inflate, it's time to check his purge. The purge usually placed on the left arm, is adjustable. Completely loosened, it lets air escape and the garment empties as you inflate it. Tighten it so that the air does not come out. The purge is maneuvered by hand for the descent, from the first meters you will feel the garment compress, especially around your legs, because it is useless to remember that the descent in duck is not recommended. It is necessary to control the descent and to breathe air as the external pressure increases. If you're wondering how to handle both the vest and the garment, leave the vest on the side, deflated, and learn how to manage your buoyancy with the suit.
AND GENTLY LEAD THE BEAST
The rest will come by diving! Lay down flat, let your legs rise slowly to feel and become aware of the air mass transfers, this is the best way to learn not to be surprised. When you start to feel at ease, by being coached by your partner for the first time, put your legs in the air, it is in this position that you risk being embarked, you have to learn and acquire the reflex to put in the position of the fetus, roll forward and we regain the balance. While diving try to adjust your arm bleed so that you only need to raise your arm to bleed, this is a habit to take which, once acquired, eliminates the need to manipulate the bleed. The adjustment is based on the pressure difference between the inside and the outside of the garment, and not on the absolute pressure on the outside. It is therefore not necessary to change it permanently, the only moment of the dive when you will have to tighten the purge, it is on the surface to be able to inflate sufficiently to ensure comfortable buoyancy while waiting for the boat. And at this point, the waistcoat that has not served you much will be an additional ally.
RETURN TO SURFACE
The surface is a time to think about a bit. Where is your ballast? On the belt,? So don't forget to put air in the garment before removing your block. On the waistcoat? So remember to inflate the vest before taking it off. Also, remember that you are attached to the scuba by the garment inflator hose, and to avoid getting stuck by the bleed lock on the arm, adopt a method that should never be forgotten. To teach, we open the left shoulder strap of the vest and we open the right side, this will prevent you from getting stuck or damaging the arm bleed.
And do not forget, once again, that these are constraints, no doubt, but constraints that experience and training will make less important. And they are the price to pay for thermal comfort that no wet garment, however thick, will ever give you when the dive lasts a long time.
A big thank you to the Beuchat company for its collaboration. Without forgetting the kindness and availability of Baptiste at Espace Beuchat.
Text: Patrick Marchand
Underwater mannequin: Anthony James Leydet