Hiking After Diving: How Long Should You Wait?

There’s nothing quite like experiencing every adventure you can while on vacation, which is usually what leads to diving and hiking within a short period of time. I’ve even heard of friends who were planning to hike immediately after returning from a scuba diving trip.

Unfortunately, there are some important things to consider when trying to accomplish both during the same weekend. To keep safe and enjoy both experiences, plan on waiting one full day before going from one activity to the other.

Can you go hiking after going diving?

It’s recommended to wait until 17-24 hours after diving before going hiking, trekking, or climbing. The change in altitude and elevation while hiking can lead to illness or an increased risk of injury. Other strenuous activities like running or flying should also be avoided until the day after the dive was completed.

Scuba Diver

How Long Should You Wait To Hike?

During most dives, your body will go through a few changes that can have a negative impact if you are too active immediately after. The deeper the dive the more pressure that’s pushing onto your body, and any sudden decrease of pressure can cause sickness from the change.

Hikes that are above 1,000 feet are considered altitude hikes, meaning there’s an increased pressure difference on nitrogen in your body and the air that’s around you. This causes your body to get rid of the nitrogen quicker than it should and again can lead to decompression illness.

Even hours after diving it’s still possible to run into this issue, so it’s best to play it safe and wait to hike until the recommended wait time.

Here’s how long you should wait after diving to do various activities:

Dive Type Hours To Wait
Single (no-decompression) 12+ hours
Multi-day 18+ hours
Mandatory 24+ hours

This was just a quick overview of how your body responds to deep diving, but there are some important reasons to delay your hiking trip if you’ve recently dived.

The Risk Of Hiking After Scuba Diving

There are three main risks that are associated with intense activity after diving:

Decompression Sickness – This injury can happen when the pressure around you quickly changes. This most commonly happens when divers ascend to the surface too quickly, but it can also occur while out hiking. Going from a high altitude on a mountain down to a lower altitude can have the same effect.

Barotrauma – If you’ve ever been hiking or driving in the mountains and felt some pressure or a clogged feeling in your ears, you might have experienced Ear Barotrauma. This happens when the air pressure around you differs from the pressure inside your ear. It can also lead to dizziness, slight discomfort, or even extreme pain in the ears.

One user on forums suggests planning your trip and routes very carefully if you’re scuba diving to avoid any potential issues.

But be careful, if you go elsewhere on the island, some of the roads are quite elevated. We had to carefully plan our route out for where we wanted to go after the dive.

Reasons Not To Hike After Diving

1. Altitude Changes Lead to Decreased Air Pressure

After completing a successful dive your body will have an increased amount of nitrogen that’s absorbed into your bloodstream. Hiking or climbing a mountain after isn’t the best thing to do since the increased altitude means less air pressure. The air pressure change can cause nitrogen to form tiny bubbles in your blood that can cause more serious injuries.

2. You Could Become Dehydrated

During hikes our bodies need a lot of water to fight off dehydration. This is especially true if you go after diving because you’ll have a harder time removing the excess nitrogen found in your body after the dive. It’s also a risk because you may think you’re dehydrated even if it’s a more serious issue like decompression sickness.

3. Exercise Increases Blood Flow

When you participate in exercise or other intense activities, your blood flow is increased which could cause decompression sickness. With higher blood flow, nitrogen bubbles could combine into one larger bubble and cause soreness over time.

Final Thoughts

How long should you wait to hike after diving? Even though there’s no perfect answer, many experts recommend waiting from 17-24 hours before doing any activity like hiking or running. The time can differ depending on long and deep of a dive it was, but it’s safest to always wait for one day.