Since our main diving happens in the colder water climes of the Pacific Northwest, we’re always on the hunt for base layer items that give us the edge over the cold…especially when water temps drop into the 40s. Hearing good initial reviews on the Fourth Element Xerotherm wrist warmer and the G1 Glove Liners – bamboo-derived hydrofoam glove liners – we purchased some sets for review.
All cold spots on your body on not equal. We knew that keeping our head and neck extra insulated prevents a heat dump that can chill our entire body. Additionally we learned of another key spot, when we purchased our Whites Fusion suits, which include a kidney insulation pad built into the suspenders. But we did not realize how much a little wrist warmer could effect our overall comfort level until we tried these wrist warmers. In fact they were so effective that we took to wearing them regularly for surface comfort on chilly outings.
The wrist warmers are designed to be donned first, before pulling on the arms of your drysuit. The wrist seal of the drysuit is pulled over the warmers which allows air to equalize with the dryglove, inhibiting squeeze. This also has the added benefit of eliminating the need for coffee straws that some divers use to allow suit air into their dry gloves. The hyrdofoam glove liners, used under the dryglove, are said to “provide confidence the in the case of dryglove failure, will still retain some thermal protection.”
Our initial tests took place in water temps in the mid 40s. At these temperatures we typically wear a super-thin glove liner under the drysuit wrist seal, and the standard yellow fleecy gloves over the top, and then the dry gloves. We had, on several occasions, experienced a shock of sudden cold at the wrist when entering the water which made us think “Uh, oh, dry glove leak!” Then, when the cold subsided, we realized that there was a gap between base layer and glove, resulting in the cold sensation. The wrist warmers (which we put over the top of our thin gloves) took care of that phenomenon flawlessly and definitely added a noticeable feeling of being slight bit warmer overall.
The hydrofoam glove liners returned mixed impressions as far as dexterity. Some of the divers we spoke with who use this system reported a loss of dexterity as a result, while others said they felt more freedom with the hydrofoam liners. This was our experience as well. The warmth factor results are mixed. One diver reported that the glove liners did not provide superior warmth over the fleece liners. She said it was about the same. Others said, “Yes, slightly warmer.”
The great thing about these bamboo derived glove liners, however, is what happens when they get wet – yes, they do provide thermal protection. Topside, with drygloves removed, we can be unloading wet gear, milling about the boat, or swapping out tanks without regard to the glove liners dampness. If we hit the water for a second dive, there is no loss of warmth if the glove liners got wet topside. One of our divers experienced a suit flood on one dive: when she removed her drysuit topside, buckets of water poured out. Under the water however, wearing her Fourth Element undergarments, the wrist warmers and the G1 Glove liners, she was comfortable enough to complete the dive.
The only caution about the hydrofoam glove liners is that you need to remember to give them same care as wet gloves or they will start to take on that stinky wet suit smell.
John also found a unique use for his wrist warmers. He spends most of the day at the computer. He found that the Fourth Element wrist warmers protected his hands and wrist from chaffing on the desk edge and keyboard. They just make computer work more comfortable. Between diving, other chilly land based activities and computer work, he is in his wrist warmers more than almost any other piece of clothing.
The bottom line.
While not vital equipment, both the wrist warmers and the hydrofoam glove liners are innovative products in that they add comfort and solve a problem we never thought about until they came along (e.g wrist chill or wet glove liners). We no longer feel ready for a dive without the wrist warmers and the have many good uses beyond diving. Under normal conditions, the choice to use glove liners is a bit more flexible and often based on the conditions. They are great on multiple dive days or even very warm days when you are likely to get a lot of condensation inside your dry gloves. However, if you didn’t don the hydrofoams on the dive and you get a glove or suit leak, you will wish you had.
Neither products are pricey so we can recommend them for any drysuit diver looking for that extra bit of comfort. Weather you dive wet or dry, if you have not explored other Fourth Element products, we strongly recommend doing it now http://www.fourthelement.com/northamerica/thermal_protection.php. This company is one of the most innovating in the dive industry and their quality products deliver unique and comfortable solutions for divers in any water temperature range from tropical to polar.