To get the very best wetsuit for your requirements, you first need to be looking at the category of suit for the time of year and water temperatures and matching this to the type of water sport for which you’ll be wearing it. Even if you choose a top of the range suit, if it is not appropriate for the conditions you will be using it in and the purpose you want it for, you will have wasted your money!
So read on, our best wetsuit guide will provide tips and advice to ensure you choose the right suit for you.
All wetsuits use Neoprene. This is a material made from foam rubber. However, since the early days of all Neoprene suits, technology has moved on and now this material is often laminated with other materials to provide a smooth inner lining making suits easy to put on and take off and an outer, tear resistant membrane. Other materials laminated into the fabric, such as Lycra help to increase flexibility by adding even more stretch. As a general rule, the colder the water, the thicker the suit you will need. Suites vary in thickness from 2mm used in summer ‘shorty’ suits right up to 6mm for winter suits. Our handy reference table below is designed to provide you with the best wetsuit guide depending on water temperatures. Wetsuits are often a combination of two or three different neoprene thicknesses, for example, a 5/4/3 refers to a garment with 5mm neoprene in the core body areas, 4mm for the limbs and 3mm in areas that require more flexibility.
|Water Temperature||Recommended Wetsuit and Accessories|
|18-21 C or 65-69 F||2mm shorty|
|17-18 C or 62-64 F||2mm short sleeve full suit or a long sleeved spring suit|
|14-17 C or 58-61 F||3/2mm full suit (suggested 2mm surf socks)|
|12-14 C or 54-57 F||3/2mm or a 4/3mm full suit (suggested footwear 3mm boot)|
|10-12 C or 50-53 F||4/3mm full suit (suggested 3mm boots plus 3mm gloves and 2mm hood)|
|8-9 C or 47-49 F and below||5/4/3mm or 6/5/4 full suit with either 5 or 7mm gloves and boots plus hood.|
When choosing a wetsuit, one brand may fit you better than another. Your suit really needs to fit like a second skin. If you have never tried on a wetsuit before, this can feel very strange and even a little uncomfortable but it is vital as when you jump into the water your body will contract and there is nothing worse than a suit that is then too big and feels baggy! Wetsuit sizing is determined in the same way as street clothing when it comes to the width of the garment. The height is taken into account with suits available to fit comfortably whether you are short or tall.
What To Look For
- Choose a suit with glued and blind stitching to prevent leaks. Look for a suit that is fully taped – especially when choosing a winter suit. Flat stitched, unsealed seams are common in garments designed for warmer waters.
- For winter wear, the more expensive suits have plush thermal linings, sometimes called firewalls or heat-shields. In the past, thermal lining material was so stiff that to enable freedom of movement in a winter suit, manufacturers only put this type of lining in the chest and back area.
Newer thermal materials are much more flexible and stretchy so the ultra-thin thermal lining can be used throughout the suit without restricting the wearer’s movements. For extra warmth, some suits include titanium. This can be woven into the fabric where the metal reflects body heat back to the wearer and/or applied as titanium oxide as an inner coating.
- Look for a suit with a top quality zipper. Most modern wetsuits have rear entry zippers so an extended zipper pull is pretty much essential if you are going to be getting into and out of your suit without a buddy to help you.
- A nice refinement, especially on suits designed for winter wear, is the barrier, called a floodgate or gasket found inside the zipper section. This stops the flush of water coming through. Gaskets are also available on the wrists, ankles, and neckline of some suits.
- Another refinement that stops water flowing in is the provision of touch-fastening seals at the neckline.
- Some wetsuits have an integrated hood. This is mostly for cold water surfing and diving though.
- Integrated knee-pads are a good idea as they add durability to the area which probably gets the toughest wear.
Extra stretch in the knee, elbow and shoulder areas of some suits is provided by what are called ‘flex zones’. These areas provide four-way stretch to allow the greatest possible ease of movement and if you are going to be in the water a long time, these reduce fatigue considerably.