In my (Fourth) Element
I like to sometimes review kit that in itself isn’t necessarily considered as underwater photography kit,but nevertheless these items of kit have definitely added to my best and most comfortable photo dives to date.
I’m talking about my current choice of wetsuit and under suits from Fourth Element.
For quite a few years now I’ve used this brands Thermocline under suits under ( and sometimes over) a variety of wetsuits, and they have definitely made me more comfortable, especially during the winter seasons out in the Red Sea.
Where when teamed with a decent 5mm suit I’ve been able to deal with the long slow dives that my photography trips typify, and where previously I’ve opted to go dry.
Yes, I know some of you have to crack the ice at Stoney Cove during the Winter months, but I’ll bet you’re in your dry suits insulated from the cold by thick woolly bear undersuits!
And by comparison the Red Sea in Winter is a balmy 19/20 degrees, but physics is physics and with your body and its core temperature of 38 degrees, you don’t need to be too long at these lower temperature for your body to redress the temperature imbalance, and if your in the water for over an hour then that shorty you packed doesn’t seem like such a good idea, as your core temperature will plummet.
A diving doctor once told me to beware of folk who maintain that they are comfortable in less than adequate thermal protection, as they make very poor buddies. Why? You may well ask.
He told me that regardless of an individual’s ability to “tough it out” in a shorty in the Winter in the Red Sea, they were still getting cold like anyone else but that they’d taught themselves to cope with it, but after an hour’s dive they could be potentially borderline hyperthermic, and as such were incapable of making clear decisions, but worse still thought that they were, making them dangerous buddy material.
I will spare you the image of me wearing my Fourth Element Thermocline ensemble after the complaints we got with the shots of me wearing my Apeks Technical Shorts! See that blog here. So I have taken these images from the Fourth Element website, I look as good as these models honest, but unfortunately no pictures of me where at hand.
UPDATE !!!! I’ve just found a picture of me, a selfie ( below ) taken last week on Hurricane in the Southern Red Sea, wearing my LS top and underneath I’ve got my Fourth Element Proteus Shortie
I’ve opted for a farmer john style Thermocline Explorer and a long sleeved pullover called the Mens LS Top so I have double thickness on the body but they come in a variety of configurations so just check out your local supplier. I would urge you to go into a store though to ensure the correct fit.
I currently wear board style shorts underneath with a tank top style rash vest, these aren’t Fourth Element and tbh are a bit long in the tooth, with some scary holes so I fully intend to complete my base layer ensemble with the Mens Hooded Vest and the Mens Shorts, I don’t have the body for Speedos trust me, so I reckon this base layer will also suffice as general wetsuit and snorkelling apparel.
On top of all this in the winter months I wear the fast becoming legendary Fourth Element Proteus 5mm wetsuit, I also have the Fourth Element Proteus Short John too
This whole get up allows me to wear all or some of the stuff as dictated by the conditions.
For instance I’ve just returned from a Southern Trip to the Red Sea and about as hot as it gets in Egypt waters, and I opted for only the two piece under suit. This is also neutrally buoyant so your lead is reduced dramatically.
I was comfortable and it provided all over protection from accidental encounters with the reef, and also incidentally getting sunburnt in the shallows, which my Northern European skin is prone to.
I imagine next trip in September in the North it won’t be quite as hot but still warm enough for me to get away with the same setup, but this time teamed with the shortie. A quick tip here, try putting the shortie on first and the under suit over it. I personally found this warmer and more comfortable, but each to their own.
In my two Red Sea Winter Warmers, last time I had most of the combination on, and was easily ok for an hour’s dive in comfort. (check out the itinerary here) Previously I used a Drysuit and I’m not ruling using one out again for this trip, but I managed fine on the last Winter Trip with the Fourth Element Thermocline Undersuits in combination with the excellent Proteus full 5mm suit and Short John combo.
I can heartily recommend Fourth Elements excellent range of under suits, Thermoclines and wetsuits.
As a photographer it’s important for me to be comfortable allowing me to concentrate fully so being cold is not good.
And I am literally and metaphorically “In my Element” using their well made, functional and also aesthetically pleasing products.
If you’d like to join me on one of my underwater photography trips to Egypt and further afield then check out this link here.
They’re a fun and friendly way to improve your underwater photography and open for all abilities, with tailored itineraries to get the very best out of you and your kit.