The Design
Silver has long been known to have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, so it was deemed essential that this element be used in the construction of the fabric.
The J2 garments incorporate silver ions in the fibres, ensuring that the fabric’s bacteriostatic properties last. This prevents bacterial and fungal cells growing in the fibres, but I’m told that it won’t adversely affect the naturally occurring bacteria on the wearer’s skin.
Keeping the skin dry can be critical to success in maintaining warmth and avoiding infections, so this was Fourth Element’s next objective.
It used a unique knit in the fabric to maximise the air next to the skin while providing good contact points for perspired moisture to be wicked away. The result is a fine ribbed surface on the interior of the garments.
The J2 fabric is thin and designed to be worn as the initial layer next to the skin under thermal covers such as the company’s Xerotherm or Arctic undersuits. The J2 is available as a two-piece set of tops and leggings in male and female gender-specific cuts and styles, with extensive size ranges to suit both.
The male garments are graphite and black in colour and the female version the reverse, but with powder-blue piping. The men’s top has a crew-neck collar while the women’s has a comfort zip at the throat.
The leggings have a soft elasticated waistband, and on both models every seam is flat-stitched to aid with the comfort factor. The garments are light and pack down to a very small size, suiting them for travel or expeditions.

In Use
I have recently been involved in a local community project, building up the flood defences on my local river Kennet, and this has meant long days and some physically hard work in or around the water.
I opted to wear a drysuit with the J2 as the base layer worn under a Xerotherm top and leggings. The air temperature during this time ranged from -2° to 15°C, with the river’s water temperature averaging 9°C.
While putting in a hard shift, digging silt and placing heavy sandbags, I perspired profusely. These periods were followed by sedentary sessions of discussion and planning.
The J2 performed perfectly, wicking away moisture and leaving my skin dry and therefore warm. The benefit was especially noticeable when entering the cold water after a prolonged rest from humping heavy buckets of silt.
There were no rough spots to rub exposed skin, making the garments feel supremely comfortable even after extended use.
I spent four days working on the project. After each day when stripping out of my drysuit and thermal layers I noticed that the inside surface of the suit was wet, as was the outside of the Xerotherm thermals, yet my skin was bone-dry.
I washed the Xerotherm and tumble-dried it every evening and hung my drysuit in a heated closet to dry each night. I deliberately left the J2 out of the washing cycle to see if it could in fact resist the build-up of bacteria and fungi.
If it failed this would, I was sure, result in a foul odour similar to the pong permeated by sweaty socks as billions of bacteria multiply and microscopic mushrooms grow.
I’m glad to report that this wasn’t the case. After four eight-hour days sweating away in my drysuit, the only smell from the J2 was a heady mix of neoprene rubber and Lynx deodorant.

Conclusion
I’ve always been sceptical about claims for enhanced-performance fabrics; after all, they’re invariably made from plain old nylon and given futuristic names – aren’t they?
The J2 Base Layer is not in this category. After putting the apparel through a tough workout (for me), I can honestly say that I’m a convert. Its performance was second to none, doing exactly what Fourth Element claimed and keeping me dry, warm and resolutely odour-free.
The guys from the 2013 expedition put the Fourth Element J2 base layer to the ultimate test in the bowels of the Mexican underworld and were more than happy with the outcome.
They had penetrated the deepest cave system in the Western Hemisphere and reached what is said to be the most remote point yet visited on Planet Earth.
It’s comforting to see such high praise coming from Phil Short, Bill Stone and Marcin Gala, some of the world’s most accomplished cave-divers.
The good news is that these amazing, technologically advanced garments are now available to everyone.


PRICE J2 top £70. J2 leggings £70
SIZES Men S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL. Women UK 6-8 through to UK 20-22 (8 sizes)
COLOURS Men graphite/black. Women black/graphite with light blue trim
CONTACT www.fourthelement.com
DIVER GUIDE width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100%