The Art of Infiltrating Cultures

A wetsuit at 36000ft: a successful experiment

To (wet)suit or not to (wet)suit. On dry land, that is. Or even weirder, at 36000ft.

Planning diving holidays in tropical waters while escaping winter sounds like a good plan. It IS a good plan. But the issue of going from 3ºC to 30ºC, and having to drag a coat (scarf, gloves…) for a month of summer is always there.

Travelling light even for a long scuba trip is a must, I believe, as explained in Light Packing for Scuba Diving Trips. However it is not easy when the winter coat will take over half of your backpack once you reach the summery destination. It is true that from that point on I use my scuba mesh bag for my gear, but still, winter clothes bother me. Useless baggage drives me crazy.

Leaving Europe on a cold winter morning, I didn’t know what to do. I knew that as soon as I’d reach the airport the coat would be a drag. So I thought that for the 1h trip to the airport it was not worth carrying warm clothing…

And one thought crossed my mind: I already carry warm clothing!

True, it is made to keep me warm underwater, not on land. But my wetsuit feels comfortable enough to wear it much more than that! I looked up online if some other people had done it. I wanted to know if my summer shorty was indeed warm enough for 3ºC winds on land, and if it wasn’t too warm to walk on, to wear on a plane, etc. I was also afraid of wetsuit squeeze, given the altitude. And I found basically nothing on it…

I decided to wear my wetsuits out in the city for a walk to see its effect, just a jumper on top:

  1. The first trial was with my long wetsuit, my old 2/3mm surfing wetsuit (probably not that thickness anymore)
  2. The second trial was with my brand new shorty, a 1mm surfing wetsuit

They were both warm enough on the body parts that they covered. After a 30min walk I did not sweat, but I was out walking in 5ºC.

The long wetsuit was a bit more uncomfortable because it is slightly big, and it was a bit “squeaky” while walking. Plus it is more obvious to wear under your clothes, and a full wetsuit would certainly suffocate me fast once indoors.

The shorty was way more comfortable, and since it covered my core and arms I did wear a pair of jeans, although I could have worn my scuba leggins as well. In terms of freedom of movement and awkwardness, the shorty was great.

With that in mind and making the most of an already planned short flight, I decided to test it out and wear the wetsuit to the airport and on the plane.

This was a 2 hour flight and by the time I sat on the plane I started to feel a bit too warm, to sweat a bit even. Since it was a short flight and I was flying economy I didn’t walk to the bathroom to remove it or drop the top of the wetsuit, but it could have been done easily and I only kept it on out of awkwardness and for the sake of the experiment. When I reached my destination the top I was wearing underneath was a it damped and smelled of neoprene (but what can I say, I love that smell anyway).

This was enough for the experiment. I decided to pack my long wetsuit and wear my shorty to travel with. I took a hoodie, a thermal top and a shirt, together with a pair of jeans, and that was all.

The goal of the experiment was to keep warm on the stretch from my apartment to the airport and up to boarding – once on the plane I could also change or remove the top part of the wetty. The added value was to carry one piece less of diving gear on my backpack by wearing it, which was pretty cool.

Heat exhaustion was my biggest fear, although as explained I was wearing a shorty that was easy to remove. I kept more comfortable clothing at hand to change either at the airport or once on the plane, and kept space in my bag for my wetsuit – which was not big anyway – in order to put it back on if cold, ever. I also carried a lighter jacket for the plane in general and for the early mornings/ late nights during my trip, so I wasn’t planning on wearing a wetsuit throughout my trip all the time 🙂

In the end, I took my wetsuit off before boarding, as the stress of going through security with scrutiny on my rather big carry-on backpack and my little bag with my regs in, together with almost missing the flight, got my heart pumping. Not being cold again during the trip, I thought I had beaten the elements with this crazy idea.

So considering all of this, and using my wetsuit as a replacement for my big winter coat was, all in all, pretty successful. I think I will inevitably do it again.

What do you think?

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