John 



A JOURNALIST ON ANOTHER MAGAZINE stated in print that he thought the new Proteus wetsuit from Fourth Element was the best wetsuit made, so I had high hopes when I received an example to take away for an extensive series of dives.
This extremely flexible one-piece zips up the back. It has a hidden bib that pulls up over the head and forms a collar round the neck to stop water flushing through the zip. Ive seen something similar with other makes but these always had the zip and internal bib at the front.
This explains why I found the suit rather uncomfortable at first. The clue was that the knee-pads had mysteriously migrated behind my knees. I had put it on back to front!

Appearance
This is a smart-looking suit. It fits where it touches and it touches everywhere. The smoothskin area at the chest makes the wearer look more deep-chested than he
might otherwise be. Fine by me. Non-slip areas at the shoulders help to stop BC shoulder straps slipping.

Comfort
All internal seams are covered with tape, so I had no soreness or abrasions on water-softened skin after a weeks intensive diving.
The sample tried was a very snug fit for me, even when round the right way. The effect, once I had squeezed myself into it, was to leave very little room for water to enter.
We were diving in the African Atlantic in January, and the water was disappointingly chilly. We had to swim out with our equipment to the RIB moored some way offshore.
Each day I would arrive at the boat wet on the outside but still toasty warm, pull myself up over the tubes and tip head-down into the boat.
This was when the cold water that had entered the lower part of the suit migrated up past my torso and found a convenient place to pool under my arms. Argghh!
Had I been using this suit on a boat with a ladder, I could have avoided this startling moment. It seems that two small holes at the back shed excess water, evidently giving the wearer a urinating bovine appearance, and affording a cheap laugh for divers waiting below.
Of course, after a dive, all the water that had squeezed inside the suit with me had been warmed up by my body, and there was no further chilling.
The internal collar of the bib put a little too much pressure on the throat, and at times made me want to gag.
Those on the verge of throwing up on long, bumpy boat rides may need to adjust this with a pair of scissors beforehand!

Efficacy
Long smoothskin seals at wrists and ankles make this suit slightly difficult to don, but they certainly keep the water at bay.
The internal rear bib and collar stop water flushing, so there is no sudden chill the moment you swap the deck for the water.
As the sea was colder than expected I took to wearing a 3mm hooded vest (from another manufacturer) under the Proteus.
This made it even more of a challenge to get into, but I just had to be patient when pulling the suit legs over my own, or working the neoprene of the sleeves up my arms.
Once I had both layers on, I felt like one of Philip Pullmans armoured bears, and ready for anything. Best wetsuit ever Well, it proved to be pretty good!

COMPARABLE WETSUITS TO CONSIDER:
Mares Origin 5 £100
Cressi Lontra 5 £216
Scubapro Everflex 5 £199


Divernet
SPECS
FOURTH ELEMENT PROTEUS

PRICE £199
THICKNESS 5mm
SIZES Off-the-peg for men & women
CONTACT www.fourthelement.com
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