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Wetsuit Buying Guide

 

By Steve Kopitz

 

 

Wetsuits used to have a “one size fits all” mentality until very recently. Now they are available in different designs depending on the sport, different thicknesses depending on the outside temperature and temperature of the water, and different types of layering.

 

Wetsuits are made with neoprene which is a synthetic rubber.

 

If you’re new to the wetsuit buying game or need a quick reference guide, this Wetsuit Buying Guide should help you.

 

 

THICKNESS:

 

If you’re unsure, always go thicker. It’s much easier to cool yourself down. Once you are cold though it is quite difficult to warm up.

 

The thickness of a wetsuit is listed as two numbers with a slash in between.

 

The first number is the thickness in millimeters (mm) for the part of the wetsuit that covers the torso

 

The second number indicates the thickness for your limbs.

 

A number listed as 4/3 would mean 4mm in the torso area, 3mm in the arms and legs

 

Depending on the temperature of the water, you may also want to consider a Hood (usually detachable) and Booties (pirate gold…I mean, shoes). Booties are a great way to keep your feet warm if the water temperature is cold.

 

So, what thickness should you buy and should I get an additional coverage like a hood? Well, where are you going to be using the wetsuit? What is the temperature of the water? You know your body and how susceptible you are to getting cold so remember, always go thicker if you want warmer. Below is a standard suggested guide.

 

 

 

 

Wetsuit Thickness

Temperature Wetsuit
80 to 74 Degrees Rash Guard would be ok or thin wetsuit
73 to 66 Degrees 2mm Neoprene Top
65 to 58 Degrees 3/2mm Full Wetsuit
54 to 49 Degrees 4/3mm Full Wetsuit + Booties + Hood
49 to 43 Degrees 5/4mm Full Wetsuit + Booties + Hood
42 Degrees and Below 6/5mm Full Wetsuit + Booties + Hood

 

 

 

Remember that the water inside a wetsuit will match your body temperature; it will not automatically warm you up. It will maintain your warmth.

 

 

DRYSUIT VS. WETSUIT:

 

You will get wet in a wetsuit. The water comes in and warms up based on your body temperature.

 

A drysuit is meant to keep you dry but has little or no insulation. Therefore, you should be wearing clothes/insulation under a drysuit.

 

 

Drysuit vs Wetsuit

 

 

FIT:

 

So now that you’ve figured out where you will be using the wetsuit you want to make sure you get the right fit for a wetsuit.

 

They should be snug but not restrictive. A snug wetsuit presses against your body and is able to warm the water, therefore keeping you comfortable. If it’s too loose then the water won’t be as tight against your body and more water will flow through the suit and not warm up hence you’ll be colder. But you also want to be able to move, and if it’s too snug, then you won’t have very good mobility.

 

 

Here are some areas to pay attention to:

 

Neck - should be snug but this is an area you should pay close attention too. For men, have you ever worn a really tight tie? Not very comfortable, and neither is a tight-in-the-neck wetsuit. You don’t want to be uncomfortable and you don’t won’t want to feel restricted.

 

Wrists and Ankles – Both should be very snug. A lot of water will enter and exit the suit through these holes so the snugger they are, the less water that will enter.

 

Chest – If there is a zipper, it should be snug as well but not so snug hat you need a bodybuilder to close it up for you. If it zips too easily then you probably should try a size down.

 

 

STITCHING:

 

Believe it or not, stitching is very important. You want high-quality stitching or else water could seep inside, it may rub against your skin and irritate it or it could start to unravel.

 

Here are a few different styles of stitching and what they mean for your comfort:

 

Flatlock Stitching – Panels are stitched both on the outside and inside of the suit. Stitched seams are visible on the outside of the wetsuit. It’s a strong stitch that has been used forever. The downside is that water and air have a greater opportunity of seeping in.

 

Glued & Taped Stitching – Two pieces of neoprene (the material used on wetsuits) are glued together followed by a glue tape over the seam. It helps seal the suit creating a watertight and airtight wetsuit.

 

Taped Seams – This is a tape used over the stitches to create a powerful and near-indestructible seam. It helps prevents tears or leaks.

 

 

STYLES OF WETSUITS:

 

As always, temperature and intended use will determine the best style of wetsuit.

 

Full – A full suit is a one-piece suit that goes from the neck all the way down to the ankles keeping you (almost) completely covered. They are best if you’re going to be in water 65 degrees or colder.

 

Shorty – Just like the full suit but shorter. These are one-piece wetsuits with short sleeves and short legs to the around the knee.

 

Spring – Best used in warm water because they don’t have the best insulation, Spring Wetsuits are designed to keep you warm in water around 80 degrees and generally have a better range of motion than a Full Wetsuit.

 

Farmer John/Jane – They get the name as a hybrid of Long John’s and overalls that Farmers may wear.  Farmer Johns or Farmer Janes are two-piece wetsuits that are designed to cover your chest and legs. They look like overalls and are great if you have an odd leg-to-torso ratio.

 

Jackets – Wetsuit jackets insulate the upper body. If you want the warmth without the full wetsuit the jacket is good or if you want additional insulation over a wetsuit they work that way as well.

 

Types of Wetsuits

 

 

 

BACK ZIP VS. CHEST ZIP

 

A Back Zip has a zipper in the back, a Chest Zip has a zipper on the chest.

 

Okay, want a real difference?

 

A Back Zip is usually much easier to get into and out of. The zipper tends to go far down so slipping inside is simple which some find convenient if your hands are cold. With a Back Zip you have a little more restriction in your movements.

 

A Chest Zip Westsuit tends to fit easier around the neck and doesn’t have as restrictive of movement. They do tend to be a little difficult to get into and out of though because the opening is about the size of the shoulders.

 

 

WHAT DO YOU WEAR UNDER YOUR WETSUIT?

 

If you’re a guy you can get away with wearing nothing, unless you’re renting, then boardshorts or a bathing suit is a good idea. A rashguard will also suffice if you want a little extra insulation.

 

When it comes to a bathing suit though, less is more. Sometimes boardshorts have a tendency to ride up so a small, tighter suit might be the way to go.

 

For women, it is recommended a bikini top and bottom in warmer temperatures. For colder temperatures you can get away with shorts and a rashguard as well.

 

The best advice for both sexes is to go with what you find most comfortable depending on the temperature and try out different combos. While a three-piece Armani suit is ill-advised, your favorite bathing suit or boardshorts/rashguard might be perfect.

 

Just remember to wear what you would wear swimming. (Cargo pants and a T-shirt is NOT the way to go)