I’ve recently found myself back in colder waters and in researching the market for undersuits it’s become apparent I don’t need to wear something that looks like I’ve wrapped myself in a duvet anymore. One of the first undersuits I got to test was the Arctic Expedition undersuit from the rather clever chaps at Fourth Element based in the UK.
As the name suggests this is a high-performance undersuit worthy of use in rather colder conditions than a quarry in the UK. The undersuit is a low volume, high insulation material that is made up of high-density fleece and waterproof, windproof panels. This construction is an improvement on the original Arctic design and is designed to hold air next to the skin whilst wicking away moisture from suit leaks or perspiration (something most drysuit divers appreciate after wiggling their way into their suits).
Fourth Element also states that both the Arctic and the Arctic Expedition will continue to give thermal insulation properties even after a “fundamental failure of the drysuit” which would mean a flooded suit. Whilst I wasn’t brave enough to purposefully flood my suit for the review, I did speak to several divers who have suffered a drysuit flood and it does seem to be true – the undersuit giving them enough insulation to complete a dive safely.
The Arctic Expedition comes as either a one-piece or two-piece as well as socks, all of which can be purchased separately. I was testing the two-piece and socks combination.
When I first unpacked the suit the first impression is that it looks a little bulky, however, once I put it on, and slid my drysuit over the top it was surprising to find that it didn’t feel bulky at all. It feels like a much thinner undersuit and doesn’t obstruct the performance of any drysuit dump valves – a complaint I’ve suffered from other undersuits I’ve tried.
Does It Keep You Warm?
Whilst I wasn’t able to take it diving in the Arctic, I did manage to take it diving in several inland dive sites in temperatures ranging from 8 C / 46 F to 12 C / 54 F and in all cases was toasty warm.
Likewise in-between dives I wasn’t reaching for anything else to keep me warm as the waterproof/windproof outer shell kept me warm and dry. Any perspiration from the dive was wicked away quickly and whilst the outer layer was slightly damp post-dive, the internal lining was completely dry.
My only gripe about the suit was with the two-piece version. Whilst bending and wriggling to get into my drysuit and rest of the kit meant that the top rode up and gave me a slight chill in the small of my back. I tried over the course of several dives to avoid this but never managed to fully stop the top riding up. This, of course, should not be an issue with the one-piece.
At ~£290 GBP / $395 USD for either the one or two-piece, it’s in the premium range of performance undersuits although I expect to be using this undersuit for a long time!
Once I got back home after diving, I popped the suit through a low-temperature (30 C) washing-machine cycle and just hung it up to dry. It was then ready for my next dive looking like I’d never worn it.
- Available in Men’s and Women’s versions
- One-piece version or a two-piece version
- Sizing XS to XXXL
- Unique thumb-loops prevent the sleeves riding up when donning the drysuit, but retract to prevent them being caught in the wrist seals.
- A zipped hip pocket is positioned for ease of access whilst wearing a cross zip drysuit, without needing to remove the suit and is ideal for carrying a key.
- The outer fabric is protected with a ceramic print to minimize any effect of abrasion from the inside of drysuits, and waterproof fabric provides further protection to the knees and seat.
- Handwarmer pockets on the leggings provide added comfort.
- Arctic Expedition Top – £145.90 GBP / $232 USD / €184.50 EUR
- Arctic Expedition Leggings – £145.90 GBP / $232 USD / €184.50 EUR
- Arctic Expedition One-Piece – £291.80 GBP / $464 USD / €369 EUR
|Value For Money|
This is an impressive, if expensive, piece of kit. It is adept at keeping you warm in colder diving conditions and giving you unrestricted movement. The only thing to let it down is how the top rides up on the two-piece.