To Pee or Not to Pee
If you have read the Otter dry suit blog many of us take the optional ‘Pee Valve’ as an extra. You will also know that as with anything in diving, the use of the pee valve is not without its own learning curve.
Why would I need a pee valve?
All divers know there is a direct link between dehydration and decompression sickness, as there is between ample hydration and the need to pass urine.
Diving in cold water means a dry suit, a dry suit is a self-contained waterproof bag that is designed to keep water out, by design this means that fluids inside cannot get out!
You may have seen divers running from the water discarding equipment as they bolt to the nearest toilet, begging anyone to undo their zip!
With a pee valve this is no more… or so you are lead to believe!
Why is this a taboo subject?
As men we find it difficult to go to the doctor when our hand is hanging off, now imagine asking another man “how do I put this condom on my penis”? or “can you help and show me how to connect this condom on my penis?” or “can I see how you connect your condom on your penis?”… It just isn’t going to happen.
So, what is it?
A Pee valve is basically a hole in your dry suit that allows you to eliminate urine through. To do this in a way that doesn’t flood your suit either from the inside or outside you need to have a connection from the body to the hole and the hole has to have a one way valve so the urine can leave but water does not enter.
How is it fit?
The Pee valve is fitted to the inside thigh of your dry suit and allows the urine to flow out into the water. It allows you to plug yourself into the system.
There are balanced valves that equalize the pressure difference between the valve system and the outside water pressure. As your penis is “plugged” into the system at depth with an unbalanced system you may have a “squeeze”. My recommendation is go for a balanced version.
Plugging in, you need to connect yourself to the system. This is achieved by using a condom catheter with a hose connector. Many men will have used a condom before, however, these will have been one size fits most! This is no longer the case.You will be using these condoms when you are in a much more “relaxed” state, or even an extremely relaxed and cold state.
It is vitally important that you do no over estimate how “relaxed” you will be. Those who know me, know I am a half full optimist, this means I have had wet feet! I have rebounded and almost strangled the old chap.
Be honest, get a range and try them all, you need a very good fit and remember you will become more relaxed!
So now it’s on
So, you have a condom that fits and you connect this to the Pee valve, you are now sorted!… or so you think.
The internal diameter of the Pee valve hose and the routing of this can cause problems for you. I prefer to dress up. This means that I route the hose over the waistband of my under trousers and then down to the Pee valve, making sure there are no folds or kinks in the tube.
The diameter of the hose means that you cannot pee like you would normally; to effective use mine I have to pee in stages, gently and slowly. You can feel the urine passing down the hose. This is quite disconcerting as you are never sure at first if this is working.
Normally as long as you only feel warm down the leg the Pee valve is connected to and as far as the valve you are still connected and peeing effectively. When both legs and your calves are warm… it’s gone wrong.
Choosing the correct condom
When selecting your condom catheter, there is not that much choice, but some very important ones.
As mentioned before, you will relax. This means you will shrink so it is important that the condom is not so large it falls off or sticks to itself and closes off.
So there are different girths and lengths of condom and different amounts of glue. I avoid freedom styles which have a narrow band of glue. I have found the more glue, the better.
You also need to complete some “manscaping”. If you do not tidy up the base of the penis you will glue hairs into the condom. While this does not stop the Pee valve working, it will make removal of the condom one of the most painful experiences out there. You will also at inopportune moments pluck trapped hairs when diving causing your eyes and nose to water.
Wash and clean the old fella before applying, then dry him well, not too well, remember you will “relax” once the condom is on nice and neatly. You should gently warm the glue to ensure a good fit, your hand is warm enough! Put the condom on so there is not too much room at the tip – you do not want a balloon of urine, as this will force itself back and blow the condom off. Make sure that there are no creases as urine will travel back up these and will cause the glue to fail.
Getting it off, the best tip I can give you is a hot bath and soap. Taking the condom off too early, they tend to hang on to a layer of skin, so be warned.
It is best to pre charge the system; once connected and before your dive have a pee to check that all is fine.
The body secretes natural oils and over time these will break down the glue and break the required contact. Movement makes this worse. I find that taking off and putting my dry suit back on is a problem and you may need to have a spare condom with you for later dives. I also have some XXL ones in my bag that I give to other divers if they ask for a spare!
How to dive dry?
Get the right size.
Fit it well.
Test it before diving.
Pee slowly and gently.
Check it after removing and replacing dry suit.