How Long Can You Survive In A Survival Suit?

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Last Updated on June 12, 2023 by Umar

Immersion suits, also known as survival or rescue suits, are essential for flotation and survival during emergencies on high seas, commercial operations, and oil rigs

They are designed to protect the wearer from cold water, rough seas, and hypothermia.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the different types of immersion suits, their materials, and how long you can survive in them.

Types of Immersion Suits

There are three main types of immersion suits


  1. Constant-wear suits: Worn by fishermen in extremely cold temperatures to maintain body heat and insulation.
  2. Emergency abandonment suits: Kept on ships, boats, and oil rigs for use during critical situations.
  3. Inflatable immersion suits: Unlike the other two types, these suits do not fully cover the person’s body and provide flotation through inflation.

Materials and Construction

Immersion suits are generally made of neoprene, a type of rubber that is completely waterproof and can withstand extreme temperatures of water and fire

They are designed to fit the person’s body without exposing any part to the water, providing protection from hypothermia and drowning

Some suits also have harnesses and ankle adjustments for a better fit.

Survival Time in Immersion Suits

According to SOLAS/LSA provisions, immersion suits should meet specific safety and performance requirements, including no more than two minutes of donning time, impact protection of up to 4.5 meters, and hypothermia protection for 6 hours

However, some immersion suits, like the White Glacier Arctic 10+ Survival Suit, claim to add at least 19 hours to the standard 6-hour survival time requirement


Factors Affecting Survival Time

Several factors can impact the effectiveness of an immersion suit and the survival time of the wearer:

  1. Fit: A properly fitting immersion suit improves mobility on land and in water, as well as increasing resistance to water ingressIt is essential to try on the suit for fit before purchase, paying careful attention to the face seal, zipper operation, and wrist seal (if gloves are removable) .
  2. Material: Polyurethane-coated nylon immersion suits are popular, but care must be taken to avoid sharp edges and hard abrasive contact while abandoning ship.
  3. Individual body shape and size: These factors can impact the effectiveness of the suit, so it is crucial to find a suit that fits the wearer’s body shape and size.

Tips for Using Immersion Suits

  1. Donning: Immersion suits should be donned quickly and efficiently, as seconds count in an emergency at seaPractice donning the suit regularly to ensure you can do it in under two minutes.
  2. Maintenance: Suits used in salt water or pools should be rinsed thoroughly inside and out with fresh water and turned inside out to dry, but not in direct sunlightRegularly inspect the suit for any damage or wear and make repairs immediately.
  3. Inspection: It is recommended that immersion suits be inspected by a certified service and inspection facility every one to two years to ensure operational readiness.

In conclusion, immersion suits are essential for survival in emergencies at sea.

With proper fit, material, and maintenance, they can provide protection from hypothermia and drowning for extended periods.

While the standard survival time in an immersion suit is 6 hours, some suits claim to offer up to 19 additional hours of survival time.

By understanding the different types of suits, their materials, and factors affecting their effectiveness, you can make an informed decision when choosing an immersion suit and be better prepared for emergencies on the water.

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