Scuba Questions: What’s the Difference Between Cold and Warm Water Fins?
Is there a difference between diving fins for cold and warm water? Can you use one pair for both? We’ll address these questions in the following article.
The biggest differences between fins used in warm water and cold water are the style of the foot pocket and, sometimes, the fin’s size and stiffness.
First and foremost, fins used for cold water diving must allow for appropriate exposure protection. This may include various thicknesses of neoprene boots or a drysuit boot. So, divers who visit destinations with cooler water will want to consider open-heel fins. This style features a strap (usually adjustable) that goes across the back of the foot opening, rather than being one solid rubber pocket. Open-heel fins also tend to have larger and wider foot pockets than those in a fool-foot design. All of this allows them to accommodate a wider range of boot sizes.
Additionally, cold water fins can have bigger and stiffer blades to provide more power for divers wearing additional exposure protection and weight.
Finally, since divers in drysuits can struggle with floaty feet, cold water fins are often made to be somewhat negatively buoyant to help achieve better trim and control in the water.
Here are a few examples of classic cold water fins:
Fins designed exclusively for warm water tend to be smaller, softer and have a full foot pocket. Because they are usually worn on bare feet or with a light neoprene sock, these fins have nice, soft rubber foot pockets that hug the foot snugly.
As for the blade, it’s often narrower and more flexible, since warm water divers, wearing less gear and weight, don’t need as much power. Their compact size makes warm water fins easier to pack and travel with than their cold-water counterparts.
Finally, it’s considered a plus if warm water fins are either neutral or slightly positively buoyant. Otherwise, the diver may end up with too much negative buoyancy in the lower body.
Here are a few examples of fins, designed exclusively for warm water:
Is there a versatile fin design that you can use for multiple destinations and purposes? Here is where it really comes to your personal preferences and priorities. The fin specifically designed for certain conditions will definitely be more comfortable and effective in those conditions than an all-around fin. However, if you want just one pair of fins for everything, get a neutral open-heel design. This way, you will be able to use it both in cold and warm water but will need to wear wetsuit boots for your tropical dives to protect your feet from the strap and to take up an appropriate amount of space in the larger foot pocket.
Here are a few models of good versatile fins: