A true innovation in the field of undergarments.
It often feels like dive gear evolves at a pace that would put Darwin to sleep. Everyone follows everyone else with minor changes, often just to get around the patents of the last innovation. Fourth Element is one of only a few scuba companies that are consistently wowing us with a stream of creative innovation. When we go to any dive show, we always run first to their booth to see what’s new. But the Halo 3D undergarment is not just an innovation it is a game changer in the field of undergarments. The Halo 3D both looks and works like a super hero suit.
John’s advanced level of cold wimpness only has one upside; he is one of the best candidates for testing scuba exposure gear. He wears full wetsuits in 85 plus degree water and dives a drysuit in anything colder than 80. If a suit keeps him warm, you can bet it will be cozy for you.
The key factor for drysuit underwear that has never been conquered until now is compression. The air in your drysuit is supposed to hold the shell away from your skin and allow your underwear to maintain loft. But the air the suit is always running for the highest ground, leaving some parts of your suit free to shrink wrap you with cool water. Even so-called compression resistant fleece has its limits. Thus, for diving the life-rich sub 50 degree waters here in the Pacific Northwest, we tend to bulk up and look like kids going out for the first snow. We can’t reach our valves but we are warm. But as we descend, it all compresses and we can get cold.
SPACETEK makes a super hero suit
What makes this suit different than the others is the essentially non-compressible material that is quilted into the garment over the body’s high heat loss areas. The material in these quilted areas is a 3 dimensional mesh that you can squeeze together with your fingers. But with a flat-hand or the even coverage of water compression it maintains a full 8mm space between you and the chilling waters. Besides the mesh quilting, the suit also has extra insulation in other heat loss areas where the mesh would not be practical. Additionally, the suit features a double ended zipper for a pee valve, a small opening in the leg for the valve hose and a pocket for keys and valuables. The result is an under garment that is so warm it provides the same warmth we used to get wearing three layers.
Dive manufacturers are learning that there are great innovations to be had by farming other industries and adapting the ideas to scuba. For instance, on the day we toured the BARE sports facility many of the staff were en route to a boat show on a mission of creative trolling. The design for the SPACETEK, non-compressible mesh in the Halo 3D is also found in many other applications. It is what you sit on in a luxury car that allows the cool air to keep your seat at a comfortable temperature.
Dry Base Layer – Not just for Cold Water
When we were talking with Michelle from Fourth Element, she convinced us of the importance of wearing their dry base wicking layer under the Halo. We’re glad she did. First, the dry base layer enhances the comfort of wearing the Halo, wicking moisture away from the body while diving. Additionally, while you are topside, preparing to dive, it keeps you warm and dry as well.
Our suits arrived the day before we were heading to Hawaii to dive. Since one of our testers was planning on diving dry (Whites Fusion drysuit with sports skin), we decided to bring the dry base layer along for use under the Fusion. It turned out to be the perfect choice. John was amazed at the comfort both in the water and topside. While he was wearing the suit on the boat deck in the warm Hawaiian weather, he felt completely dry and comfortable.
Après-dive John wore the drybase layer for strolling around the humid streets of Lahina and said he felt so dry and comfortable it was as if he had someone following him around with a towel.
The bottom line
After years of layering up for winter diving, feeling compressed before splash time and still surfacing with a chill we are thrilled to now be able to pop into the Halo 3d system and enjoy a cozy dive without giving the water temps a second thought.
We give both of these layers a full five stars, our Editor’s Choice Award and congratulate the Fourth Element team for wowing us again and raising the bar on innovation for other companies.
Written by Chaela Sumner and John McKenzie. To post comments on this or any other article, please visit www.facebook.com/scubagadget
Visit Fourth Element at DEMA Show 2011 at booth 775.