Jayne Jenkins: I found that with my Venture Heat Pro 32, the answer to the question ‘to heat or not to heat’ is definitely – to heat!
Sydney offers us some fantastic diving and although it does not get too cold, the water temperatures in winter for boat and shore diving can limit your time. I have tried drysuit diving in winter and must say I love using them, but in my opinion, in shallow water, I found them a bit clumsy, especially when carrying a camera.
This led to using 7mm wetsuits and again, I found these quite cumbersome and all the weight I had to wear for shallow-water diving made it hard work. I was heading to South Australia for the annual cuttlefish migration and trying to work out the best and most-comfortable way to keep warm, plus be able to have reasonably long dives (at least 120 minutes) as the water there is shallow but also very cold.
Drysuit was out, as I was doing the cuttlefish by boat and I would need a pee before the end of the day, and it would be quite difficult (no sorry, I refuse to wear a nappy)!
A 7mm suit was not looking good unless I bought a second one to be reasonably warm and ease of putting on the next day. Plus, all the weight. I had been told about heated vests over the past few years but the reports that I was getting were not good – batteries do not last very long, uncomfortable and can only be worn under a drysuit.
Luckily for me, I spoke to John Warner at Frog Dive. John explained about the new heated vest on the market. Longer battery time, easy to use, heating on front and back and can be worn under a wetsuit. Still not convinced, John provided a complete demo and try in the store.
The instant warmth was wonderful and even though not in the water, the ease of using was even better. The vests were not cheap – about the price of another 7mm suit – but if this could do the trick and keep me warm, plus not feel cumbersome, I would be happy.
Speaking to a friend (also doing the trip with me) and telling her of my purchase, she was so convinced she even stopped by the store on the way to the airport and purchased one.
The big test day was such a success. As we were on a boat, we switched our vests to temperature level one (there are three) just to cross the bay so we would not be cold from the trip there. Gearing up and getting ready was an exciting event, I was so looking forward to jumping in and trying my vest out. The first dive was about 8-10m deep and lasted 129 minutes in 13 degree C water. I was wearing a 5mm Fourth Element Proteus suit and a 3mm hooded vest, plus my trusty heated vest. Towards the end of the dive, I put the vest to level two and was toasty the whole dive. During the surface interval we both kept our vest on level one just to stay warm – about 90 minutes.
Dive two and after about 15 minutes I pushed the vest to level two and again we had a 134 minute dive. Heading back to shore we both kept the vests on level one and again both stayed toasty warm. I was so excited that I had managed to keep so warm. Divers (who don’t lie) know the feeling from a natural instant warmth – this was made easy and by just pressing the button to how warm I wanted to be, and the warmth stayed.
What I found so good:
- Having the flexibility of a decent 5mm suit and the heated vest made me comfortable by not having to have too much weight, especially in shallow water and carrying a camera
- Staying warm during the boat trip, plus surface interval, as well as the dive
- The level of warmth with heating in both front and back of vest
- As my core was warm, I found both my hands and feet stayed warm – normally, I must get out as my hands freeze The vest comes in a large range of sizes, and I found that the two batteries lasted a full day in my case. It was comfortable to wear, and I found the temperate adjustment very easy – it comes with a wristwatch-style control and its own USB charging station. Talking of charging, it was easy to boost to the batteries for the vest at the end of the day, though it does take a while to charge them fully. And best of all, all you have to do is give it a rinse in fresh water and hang up to dry.
Since returning from South Australia, I have used the vest on every dive. On a few of my local dives I have not charged my vest batteries and watch in between dives. My standard dives are around 140 minutes in 8-12m of water.
I did forget my watch for the temperature control on one dive. It was a great test as what I found was my hands and feet got cold and I had to cut my dive shorter. This totally convinced me that my vest was working at keeping me warmer. I have loved diving through the winter months in rain and shine and mostly 15-16 degree C water. The vest has made a huge difference to my comfort during diving, and I am sure I would have not gone some days if I had not have had the vest.
Venture Heat Pro 32
The Venture Heat Pro 32 is equipped with two heat panels that provide 32 watts of high-output warmth to the user’s torso. These are powered by two 5,200mah lithium batteries that can be activated by pressing the button on the wireless wrist remote. Incorporated into the undersuit is a haptic status receiver that sends feedback to the user via pulses regarding the heat levels. The package comes with the Venture Heat vest, two batteries and charger, one wireless controller and charger, undershirt, extension insert, laundry bag, and carry case.
This article was originally published in Scuba Diver ANZ #56