Living in Scotland and having a passion for getting in the sea may come across as something of an oxymoron, and until my recent purchase of the Fourth Element’s Proteus II 5mm wetsuit, I would have agreed with you!
Let me be upfront – when it comes to life in general, (on land, let alone in the water) I am somewhat of a Princess; should I feel the slightest breeze grace my face fuzz I begin the layering process! This may explain why when it comes to dipping my head, shoulders, knees and toes in la mer for more than a few seconds, I prefer the warmer waters of the tropics. However, living in (the fantastically beautiful) Scotland, and having read about the wonderous biodiversity that can be found along the various sites of the Nature Scot North West Scottish snorkel trail, I decided I needed to suck it up, and take the literal plunge! I just needed to find a wetsuit that would allow me to enjoy the snorkel aaaand not think throughout, “I’m freezing, I’m freezing, my hells-bells, I’m ruddy freezing!”. Enter Fourth Element and the Proteus II.
I read extensively (really extensively) about what thickness to go for, ensuring it would afford me the pleasure of year-round snorkeling. I plumped on 5mm, planning to layer it with my 1.5mm rash vest if needed. Next, I needed to find a company from which to procure my new aquatic garment. There are so many companies out there with strong heritage and reputation, but for me, it was imperative I went with a company who share my passion for protecting our marine environment. I’d heard of Fourth Element while studying for my Masters degree in Falmouth, Cornwall, and, after perusing their website and social media platforms, my mind was made up.
If I had to sum up the suit in two words, I would say, ‘thoroughly impressed’ (note, this is not a sponsored review…my digital door is always open though!). Having previously owned entry level suits, I instantly appreciated all of the advanced features. First up, the Hexcore body lining, which did a tip-top job of keeping my wee engine toasty for nearly an hour as I bobbed around the icy waters off Clactoll in the NW Highlands in late October. I also really liked the Glideskin wrist seals, which kept the said icy waters out. However, for me, the best feature of the suit was the hydrolock inner neck seal – even in the warm waters of the tropics I would roll in backwards with trepidation, waiting for that first cold flush to hit me (if you know, you know!). However, I was amazed at how the hydrolock pretty much stopped any water flushing down my neck and back! WIN!
A few reviews say it is a difficult suit to get in and out of, but post snorkel it was wet, rainy and windy and, had I not read these reviews, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it.
So far, I’ve only been out once (thanks Covid!), but the suit performed exactly as I’d hoped. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, I paid for it all out of my own pocket, and yes, I still feel it is excellent value for money! I’m looking forward to getting out again to snorkel more of Scotland’s bonny coastline, and I know I’ll be able to spend my time enjoying the underwater wonders, nice a snug!
FYI, Fourth Element have begun offering a new suit which is not made, but grown. The Surface is made of sustainable natural rubber and part of their Ocean Positive range. No diggedy, no doubt, this would have been my first choice, but it is only 4/3 thick, which I knew would not be warm enough for this princess!