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P valve & condom catheter 101

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba Discussions' started by DaleC, Dec 18, 2009.

  1. DaleC

    DaleC Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Leftcoast of Canada
    Ever find yourself deep into a P valve discussion, nodding along with what's being said while not really knowing all the "little" details. I recently installed one in my drysuit and discovered a thing or two so I thought I'd share my experience with others so they won't have to ask those "embarassing" questions.

    First, here's the front view of the P valve. It is a Hollis brand, balanced model. The instructions called for using AquaSeal sealant but I opted for silicone instead. I cut a hole in the drysuit, spread a bead of silicone on the outer and inner halves of the valve, put it all together and tightened it just so the silicone spread flat. After 24 hours I tightened the valve down a bit more for a good seal:


    This is the open/close bolt. By turning it you exposed the hole drilled through it, which connects to a central hole, which is connected to the tubing. This allows the urine to come out:


    A behind the scenes view. The shorter black tube coming off the main black tube is the balancing chamber. This equalizes the internal/external pressure so water won't travel up the P valve. This allows the diver to leave the bolt open for the duration of the dive if they choose. With an unbalanced P valve the diver needs to open and close the bolt each time they want to go:


    The condom catheter with the quick connector attached. This snaps onto the P valve hose :


    The condom catheter. There is glue on the inside of the condom which adheres to "the pipe" (more about this below the pics):


    How to measure your pipe. Condom catheters come in different sizes so I picked this cardboard template up at a medical supply store (where they also sell the condom catheters). Unlike ordinary condoms you should measure when you are in a relaxed, not aroused, state. I will leave the rest up to your imagination:


    For me, one big question was whether the condom would stay on during the colder conditions of a dive with exertion, shrinkage, flexing and all. I didn't trust that they would stick so I decided to try a dry land experiment. I "donned" a catheter and wore it around the house for awhile. Then I did a sweaty workout. Some weights, half hour of incline interval treadmill and half hour on the stationary bike followed by a shower... No slippage!

    That's all I've got. Hope it helps someone.

    My wife thinks I am a complete loon :shakehead:
  2. JahJahwarrior

    JahJahwarrior Solo Diver Staff Member

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: West Palm Beach, Fl
    A few thoughts after 100 drysuit dives:

    -you do not need to open and close the bolt on an unbalanced P-valve. Infact, I usually dive with the bolt removed and in my wetnotes, as it catches on lines in tight caves sometimes.

    -an extra bolt is not a bad thing. You need it if the condom ever does come off, or if there is a failure in the tubing, and if for some reason you lost the main bolt, that spare comes in handy. Since I often leave my bolt in the wetnotes, there is a chance I could drop one, so I carry a second in another pocket of the wetnotes.

    -all catheters are not made equal. I only use Rochester Widebands, which tend to not come off even after sweating. I've had catheters come dangerously close to come off and lost one once, but that was only with Freedom caths.

    -buy catheters in bulk, and you can get them for about $1.25 each, and that is the nice widebands. Freedoms can be found cheaper. Also, don't be afraid to buy medium. Just carry a spare XL in your kit so if a buddy needs one, you can throw that to him. Similarly, too big caths will work in a pinch, just pinch the unglued/unused/unneeded portion together. Best to have caths that fit, and mediums fit a lot of people. Medium in Rochester and Freedom are different by something like a millimeter or two.

    -There are two ways to do hose routing. Either in a straight line (gravity positions the "little guy") or with the hose going up, then doing a U to come back down (direct the "little guy" with your underwear) I prefer the U method, as it allows for more flexiblity in the hose and there is never any stress put on the catheter

    -Installation in a neoprene suit? Assemble it WITHOUT glue and compress it for 24 hours. Tighten atleast once. You are crushing the neoprene. Then take it apart, apply glue, and put it back together.

    -I trim the ends of catheters because I am paranoid about the catheter pinching off.

    -Leaving caths on until you can take a hot shower results in much less pain than pulling it off immediately after a dive.

    -if you use a quick disconnect like DaleC and myself, carry a spare of some sort with you! You can bring the non quick disconnect hose connector if you want, anything is better than realizing you left the catheter end of the QD back home!
    MasterMindDiver likes this.
  3. Gombessa

    Gombessa DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: NorCal
  4. Sas

    Sas Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Melbourne, Australia
    Just some of my own thoughts after nearly 100 drysuit dives with p-valve too :)

    You don't need to with a balanced valve either. I never have mine shut during a dive, mainly so my buddies can't give me stage fright if they see me opening it...

    There is another alternative too - I installed mine without glue. It has a plastic ring thing with a hole in the middle you stick onto the suit and it screws into it. After each dive day I can take out the whole p-valve to disinfect it. Though the downside is you might forget to put it back in and then you have a great big hole in your suit - I nearly did this once but remembered just in time :)

    Ok ok, this is something I just don't get about male p-valve users. Does nobody use adhesive remover to get their caths off? I am quite sure that my cath requires a lot more glue over a wider area than a male cath and the only way I can get it off comfortably is to use adhesive wipes - don't see why this would not work for men as well. A hot shower will do the trick as well but not nearly as well (and basically the minute I finish my last dive of the day I want the cath off so often just remove it at the site whilst I'm changing). Allkare is a good brand and you can get it from medical supply stores or she-p.come :) I just lift the edge of the cath up a bit and start peeling it off with the adhesive wipe - no pain at all.
  5. rcs9250

    rcs9250 Barracuda

    Another thing worth mentioning. Male and female. Shaving is a must, especially
    for the removal, it will spare you a lot of discomfort.
    Regarding the routing upwards. Jah Jah, I like the idea about trimming the cath to prevent a pinch off. We know that if it pinched off you can try all you want underwater to straighten it but all you are going to do is ammuse your buddies.
    You will look like Houdini looking for the key to the handcuffs. What I have been doing to prevent the pinch off is once I have formed the U I tie a piece of cave line on each straight portion of the U so that it maintains the U shape at all times. Works good.
    What a wonderfull invention the P valve is.

  6. LiteHedded

    LiteHedded Great White

    i've had trouble with freedom caths too.
    they're junk
  7. Mitchell

    Mitchell IDC Instructor

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: New England
    I've used both. As mentioned Rochester stays puts. Makes it tough coming off when you are through diving. Freedom works fine. Shaving short is a must. Do not use the quickdisconnect model that shuts off completely. It happened once and the pain was just amazing I must have not connected it completely in the first place or it came apart. I also find that using a size larger works good as it makes it easier to roll on. I always trim then end of the condom so that it doesn't kink. If your condom doesn't roll on all the way there will still be some sticky glue at the end of the roll. Take baby powder and pat the sticky away or use your dry suit talk bag.
    When you are done I find pouring powder on the condom to work pretty good as it prevents it from resticking. Westchester recommend using warm water to release the glue. Sometimes its just better to pull off fast and get it over with. The other that seems to work preety good it to check the hose routing before getting in the water to make sure there is not a kink. Always have spare parts available in case you drop something or lose it. I have the salvo balance and keep the bolt in place but not tight.
    I'm still trying to figure out the undergarment and the proper placement of the hole.
    Overall it makes for a better dive and longer.
  8. TSandM

    TSandM Missed and loved by many. Rest in Peace

    Just one thing that hasn't been mentioned -- be sure to rinse the tubing and valve after diving with alcohol. I have read about some really nasty, resistant urinary tract infections coming from the use of p-valves. One of our SB members ended up in the hospital for something like ten days on IV antibiotics as the result of one. A catheter tipped syringe makes doing this easy.
  9. JahJahwarrior

    JahJahwarrior Solo Diver Staff Member

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: West Palm Beach, Fl
    I have a cheap condiment bottle from Walmart, I think they are between fifty cents and a dollar. Used for holding mustard or ketchup, comes in red yellow and clear. Holds enough stuff to do easily 3-5 really good rinses. I use rubbing alcohol and/or vinegar, Listerine in a pinch. I have a buddy who just uses water, but he uses a lot more water than I do vinegar/alcohol.

    The tip on the bottle is real easy to poke into the end of the system to flush, unless you have a self sealing QD. Some are designed so that when the male end is removed, the female side closes a valve to prevent water from flowing into the suit. Mine came with that, but at some point, it fell out, so now I can rinse real easy. Before I had to remove the male side from the cath, put it back in the suit, and then rinse.

    QD or no QD? I like mine because in the Florida heat, I want to get in that drysuit and be getting in the water less than 5 minutes after I start putting the suit on. In colder months, not having a QD is just fine, but I really like mine in the summer.
  10. hudson

    hudson Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: St. Louis, MO
    I've said this before, but it's worth repeating: apply skin-prep wipes before putting the catheter on. They make it very easy to remove the catheter even without the adhesive remover wipe - the latter is still good for "cleanup" of adhesive remnants though.

    Trimming is very good advice.

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