Cotton is not your friend
First and foremost, if you're new to base layers for diving, forget about cotton – it's not your buddy in the diving world and definitely not the best to use as a diving base layer.
When it comes to staying warm underwater, cotton doesn't cut it. Sure, it's soft and comfy, but it's also like a sponge, holding onto moisture for dear life. And let's face it, that's not the feeling you want when you're deep in the blue in what’s supposed to be a dry, drysuit. The name's the giveaway :)
Here's the lowdown on why you should ditch any cotton underwear for diving and opt for the synthetic squad instead:
The Cons of Cotton:
Moisture Magnet: Cotton loves to drink up moisture, but it won't share. Your sweat gets trapped, leaving you feeling cold and clammy, not to mention the chafing party it brings along.
Drying Drama: Get wet, and Cotton becomes a drama queen. It takes forever to dry, leaving you shivering in the cold depths or, more importantly, at your crucial ascent phase.
Insulation Amnesia: When wet, cotton forgets how to keep you warm. A damp cotton base layer is like a broken heater – it just doesn't work how it should.
Enter synthetic fabrics, the heroes of the deep. Here's why they're the Most Valuable Players in base layers:
Stay Dry: Stay Safe and Happy: Synthetic base layers whisk away moisture, keeping you dry and comfy even when you sweat.
Temperature Tango: They're your dance partners for temperature regulation – keeping you toasty in the cold and cool when things heat up.
Smooth Operators: Soft, smooth, and chafe-free – that's the synthetic promise.
Quick Dry Magic: Even when wet, synthetic fabrics dry in a flash compared to Cotton.
Mastering the Art of Layering
Now, we’ll briefly cover layering – the secret sauce to staying warm and comfy for diving and any other above-water sport. Most of you would be familiar with this, given the weather conditions in the UK (!), but we'll still touch on it with an emphasis on diving.
Layers mean more trapped air, and that means more warmth. Each layer has a different job to do. More layers equal more warmth – no surprises there. But there is a catch: Piling on too many layers under a drysuit can mess with buoyancy.
That's where the magic of quality layering materials comes into play.
Here's the real trick – forget about only a single thick layer, such as using only an undersuit. When you rock one of those, the air between you and the layer quickly warms up, thanks to your body heat. But guess what happens when that warm air makes a run for it? You start feeling the chill. Now, imagine multiple thin layers – the air between each one warms up more gradually. Result? You stay toasty for way longer.
The beauty of layering isn't just about warmth; it's a smart move for adapting to changing temperatures. Dive in warmer waters? Peel off a layer. Feeling a chill? Add one back. It's like having a thermostat for your body.
But wait, there's more! Layering isn't just about trapping air; it's also your moisture-busting superhero. Wet skin equals cold discomfort. Right? Well, when you layer up, moisture can wick away from one layer to the next, reaching the outer layer where it can do its disappearing act away from your skin.
Here's the layering lowdown:
Start Thin: Begin with a moisture-wicking, thin base layer – synthetic fabrics are your best buddies.
Mid and Outer Magic: Add mid or outer layers for extra insulation in colder conditions.
Adapt and Thrive: Adjust your layers based on the temperature dance of the water.
The Fab Three by Fourth Element
When it comes to base layers, many would agree that Fourth Element has stolen the show over the years, although manufacturers like Apeks and Waterproof might rightfully disagree.
Here's the breakdown for Fourth Element’s leading base layers on the market today:
J2 - The Lightweight Marvel: Fast-wicking, machine washable, and warm even when wet. Perfect for extended drysuit dives, it's the diva of base layers.
Xerotherm - The All-Rounder: NASA-approved Polartec® Powerstretch® fabric makes it the ultimate base layer. It's the go-to for FBI Dive Teams and winter hikes alike.
X-Core - The Thermal Maestro: Extreme thermal protection for the core, designed to be the heavyweight champion under your drysuit undersuit. A non-powered alternative to heated systems.
J2: Where Comfort Meets Innovation
The Fourth Element J2 base layer will take your diving experience to a whole new level. It's not just about staying cosy; it's a game-changer in the world of extended drysuit diving and also any of your surface adventures.
Crafted for the pros, the J2 boasts top-notch anti-microbial mojo, thanks to its silver ion technology. But it's not just about fighting off the nasties – this base layer is a beast when it comes to wicking.
Originally born for the 2013 Mexico J2 caving expedition (yes, worn 24/7 for 19 days straight!), it's got the fast-wicking superpower that keeps a dry zone next to your skin, delivering top-tier thermal protection.
What makes it a darling among technical and professional divers? Well, it's not rocket science – it's all about that outstanding wicking from a unique fabric.
Even when the fabric gets a bit wet, it holds onto its thermal protection like a champ. And here's the kicker – those silver ions? They're in it for the long haul, no washing them off. Bacteriostatic and antifungal properties stay put, ensuring you can wear it over and over again for extended periods without risking any unwanted surprises.
Prepare to be amazed at the ease of slipping into it, the sleek aesthetics, and the comfort level. With an all-way stretch fabric and flat seams hugging your skin, the J2 is not just a base layer; it's your ticket to comfort paradise.
The J2 can be purchased as top and leggings individually or as a set.
Fourth Element's Xerotherm Wows Us
Our love for the Fourth Element Xerotherm isn't just for diving – it's our own go-to for all kinds of adventures, whether on land or in the water.
Situated between the J2 and X-Core, the Xerotherm stands out for its rapid-wicking ability, outperforming other products in the Fourth Element line-up. This incredible feature extends across the Xerotherm collection, from tops to leggings, hand warmers, gloves, socks to the popular Xerotherm Beanie Hat.
Described by Fourth Element as the ultimate base layer for drysuit use, the Xerotherm utilizes Polartec® Powerstretch® technology, originally developed for NASA. But here's the kicker – we've been a bit cheeky, using the Xerotherm for everything, from kayaking to winter hikes, and it never fails to keep us warm, even when wet. Little wonder it's the top choice for the FBI Dive Teams, the Norwegian Navy, and British Police Diving Units.
Made from 57% Polyester, 33% Nylon, and 10% Elastane, the Xerotherm creates a cosy layer of air next to your skin, ensuring a dry and comfortable experience. Some users even report minor suit leaks during dives, unnoticed until after the dive, thanks to the Xerotherm's effective moisture management. Wear it under an undersuit with a membrane drysuit, or go solo with a neoprene drysuit.
And if you're feeling the chill, consider stepping up to the X-Core for extra warmth. Our favourite combo for warmer dives used to be the Xerotherm vest and long-sleeve top, but alas, Fourth Element decided to part ways with the beloved vest. Dive in, stay warm, and embrace the Xerotherm experience!
Elevate Your Warmth with Fourth Element's X-Core!
When it comes to keeping your core toasty during those lengthy dives, the Fourth Element X-Core steps up to the plate. Specifically crafted for wear under a drysuit undersuit, the X-Core is your secret weapon for extended underwater adventures.
For optimal performance, layer it over a lightweight base like the J2, offering that perfect combo of cosiness and core protection. But here's the cool part – the X-Core isn't just a layer; it can be your go-to next-to-skin guardian for that critical core coverage.
The X-Core cranks up thermal protection to a level where heated vests or undersuits become optional in many scenarios. It's your warmth companion for various dives, especially those colder and decompression-heavy ones.
The sleeveless design isn't just a style choice; it's a strategic move to minimise impact on buoyancy and bulk, especially in the crucial zones of shoulders and arms that need flexibility. The long body design ensures a snug fit, eliminating those pesky cold points.
Adding to its charm is the chest panel, strategically placed to combat the rush of chilly air from the inlet valve and offer extra thermal protection where it matters most.
Crafted from thicker fabric than the Xerotherm, the X-Core is a heavyweight champion that doesn't compromise flexibility. With 76% recycled polyester and Power Stretch® certification, it's a four-way stretch marvel.
Fast-wicking, odour-resistant, and machine washable – the X-Core isn't just about warmth; it's about convenience too. Whether you fancy the vest, leggings, or the full X-Core set, each piece can be snagged individually to tailor your comfort needs. Dive into warmth with X-Core!
Apeks ThermiQ: A Comfort Revolution
Even though it’s a new-comer to the base layer world, like all products it creates, Apeks excels with the ThermiQ Carbon Core base layer - here to steal the spotlight alongside heavyweights like the Fourth Element Xerotherm and the Waterproof Body X.
Now, what sets the ThermiQ Carbon Core apart? Well, it's not your average base layer. Unlike the cosy feel of the Xerotherm with its soft fibre material, the ThermiQ Carbon Core brings something new to the table – its outer layer is similar to those sleek outdoor shell vests or jackets.
The ThermiQ Carbon Core isn't just about looking cool; it's a versatile player with comfort and warmth guaranteed. Picture this: You can use it as a thermal rash guard against your skin for those warm water adventures or layer it under beneath your drysuit undersuit for an extra warm dive.
The triple-layer soft shell is paired up with a high-tech lining featuring graphene-wrapped fibres, making it practically a skin-temperature superhero. These fibres act like superconductors, orchestrating a symphony of warmth transfer from the toasty spots to the chillier zones on your body.
Graphene, a one-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice, conducts heat better than any material on earth and equalises the body temperature by transferring heat from warmer parts of the body to colder parts - without the need for a power source.
If you're after a base layer that's not just about comfort but also brings a touch of innovation to the game, the Apeks ThermiQ Carbon Core is well worth considering.
Waterproof Body X Rocks
Waterproof – the Swedish sensation since '84, rocking the scene with wetsuits, drysuits, and all the cool gear has not one, but two killer base layers for drysuit diving – meet the Waterproof Body X and its bulkier cousin, the Body X2.
In this review we're skipping the X2's heavyweight vibes and diving into the goodness of the Body X. Think of it as the stylish, not-so-bulky sibling that's ready to make a splash.
Here's the scoop: While the X2 is cosying up to the Fourth Element Arctic in thickness, the X1 is doing its thing like the Xerotherm – lightweight and ready to roll.
What's so cool about the Body X? Well, imagine this: it's rocking hollow fibre polyester, taking a cue from polar bear fur. The kind that thrives in crazy conditions. This fabric is like the superhero of insulation – lightweight but warmer than your regular stuff because it's hollow and filled with air magic.
Crafted with 90% Polyester and a dash of 10% Elastane, the Body X isn't just a looker. It's a tech wizard with killer moisture-wicking skills. It plays a capillary action superhero, pulling moisture away from your skin and tossing it out where it belongs to the outmost layer.
The brushed fabric is not just comfy; it's a pill-resistance champion with an Anti-Pilling ASTM D 3512 Grade 4.0 rating. Translation: no annoying fibre balls ruining your vibe after constant use.
What's more, the Body X range isn't just about tops and leggings but also includes socks.
So, if you're after a base layer that's not just cosy but also a moisture-wicking, pill-fighting hero, the Waterproof Body X is worth considering.