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Best Wetsuits For Cold Water


So, you're ready to reap some of the benefits of cold water swimming but you know you need a wetsuit to really get the most out of it. While Swimoutlet.com has a lot of wetsuits available for both men and women, it can be hard to know what kind of wetsuit will serve your needs the best. Fortunately, we're here to help! We'll break down the things you need to consider before buying a wetsuit for colder water so you can be confident that you made the right decision!

How Does a Wetsuit Work?

Before choosing your wetsuit, it can be helpful to understand how exactly the suit works, so you know what to expect when you choose one. Wetsuits are made out of layers of various materials, working similarly to the way wearing layers of clothing works better than a single layer on a cold day. However, there is one material used in a wetsuit that you really need to consider when making your purchase.

That material is called Neoprene, which is a rubbery, water resistant material that is designed to insulate you in water. It has nitrogen bubbles embedded in the material itself, which allows it to insulate you in cold temperatures. You can buy wetsuits without neoprene but you just won't be as warm without it.

Neoprene works with your body's own heat to trap a thin layer of water around your skin which your body heats up. This layer keeps your body heat in, allowing you to stay warm in even the most frigid waters! However, that water needs to seap in as you swim, and stay there, without leaking back out. If you flush water out while you swim, you lose all that water you heated up previously and will be colder quicker.

Fortunately, this can be minimized depending on the zipper you choose for your wetsuit and the seams that are used to sew it all together.

Zipper

Wetsuits come in two zipper styles: back zipper and chest zipper. The back zipper is the more common of the two, and is self-explanatory. The zipper is in the back of the suit, and comes with a long cord that you can use to zip yourself in. These are popular because they tend to be easier to put on than a chest zipper, but because the zipper itself doesn't have any flex to it, it can be hard to swim as naturally as you may want. Plus, if the zipper isn't tight, you can end up with the “ice down the spine feeling more often than not.

The chest zipper opens in the front, and instead of stepping into the wetsuit from behind, you pull the wetsuit over your body. You step in, pull it over your legs, up your waist, over your shoulders, and zip it around your neck. This is more difficult and time consuming than a back zipper, but it does not pull as much on the back and is better at keeping cold water out of the suit.

Seals

The type of seal a wetsuit has affects both the warmth of the suit and the price, as generally the better protection against the cold, the more expensive the wetsuit becomes. There are three different types of seals/stitches for wetsuits:

  • Flatlock Stitches--Recommended for use in water warmer than 62 degrees fahrenheit. Lies flat against your body, preventing discomfort, but may let in water.
  • Sealed--Recommend for use in water that is 55 degrees fahrenheit and higher. Consists of stitch panels that are glued and then blind stitched, meaning that the stitch does not go all the way through neoprene, and instead comes out the side it went in, making it watertight.
  • Sealed and Taped--Recommended for water that is 55 degrees fahrenheit and below. A step above sealed stitching, this takes it a step further by taping the interior seam. This adds durability, reinforces the seam, and prevents all water from seeping through.

Before going in on a cold swim, make sure you have some idea of the water's temperature. That will help you make sure the wetsuit you choose will meet your needs.

Full Body Wetsuits

While you can get wetsuits of varying styles, if you are going for a cold swim, you will want as much coverage as possible. You may even want to invest in gloves and booties as necessary to stay warm in the frigid waters.

Wetsuit Thickness

Perhaps the most important part of your wetsuit buying decision is to determine how thick you want your suit. The thicker the material your wetsuit is made of, the warmer it will be. However, it will also be more expensive as well.. The key is finding the middle ground that will serve your needs.

Water Temperature Range Wetsuit Thickness  Seal Type
65°- 75° 0.5 mm - 2/1 mm  Flatlock
62°- 68° 2 mm - 3/2 mm Flatlock
58°- 63° 3/2 mm - 4/3 mm Sealed
52°- 58° 4/3 mm - 5/4/3 mm Sealed and Taped
43°- 52° 5/4 mm - 5/4/3 mm Sealed and Taped
42° and below 6/5 mm - 6/5/4 mm Sealed and Taped

Measuring Thickness

If you are looking at those numbers in the chart confused at what they mean, you aren't alone! Fortunately, it's fairly simple. A wetsuit that is 6/5/4 mm for example, uses different thicknesses of neoprene depending on what part of the body it's on. For example, you will want thicker neoprene around the torso both to keep you warm and because the torso does not need as much movement as, say, the arms.

So, for a 6/5/4 mm wetsuit, that means that the torso is 6 mm thick, the legs are 5 mm, and the arms are 4 mm. This order is universal. If the suit has only two values, for example, 4/3 mm, that means that the torso is 4 mm thick and both the arms and legs are 3 mm. 

Have Fun!

If you keep all this in mind, you'll find yourself with a solid wetsuit that will keep you warm in even the coldest of waters. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and swim!
 

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Rich
2 months ago.
Greetings,
I want to swim in lake michigan in the cold months (40 - 50 degrees). I also want to swim in the mid-atlantic ocean beaches during winter (50 degrees).

I'm 55 about 210 lbs, 6' 1''. What suit and booties gloves headcap do I need?
Thank you!
SwimOutlet
2 months ago.
Hi Rich! You can get anything that's made of neoprene.
Sue
5 months ago.
I thought I sent a message a couple of weeks ago, but maybe it didn't work. I'm 63, 5' 7", 170 pounds. I live at a 2000 foot elevation in TN and usually swim early May to mid October in a fairly shallow local lake. What would you recommend for extending my season through Thanksgiving and starting early-mid April? I have no way of knowing what the actual water temp is, but I'd like to swim while the air temp is in the 50s.
Barb
5 months ago.
Hi, I am female, 5’3” and stocky, especially around mid-section. I plan to swim in heated pool (72 degrees) pool in cold months and am looking for moderately thick neoprene. Can you recommend suit, booties and other gear?
Jane
7 months ago.
I'm 67 years old and I'd like to swim at the beach in the cold water. I need something full length that's easy to get into and out of and that keeps me a bit warmer in the cold water.
Any ideas?
Cheers
Reece
7 months ago.
What wetsuit would you recommend for 11 degrees sea water Uk for swimming a 6 my wetsuit is freezing need to find something to keep me warmer so I can swim longer
John
7 months ago.
I am on Lake Superior, the coldest lake in the world (LOL). Want a suit for water temperatures in the 40s. The main purpose of this suit will be to put in and take out docks, lifts, etc. Secondary usage (maybe 20%) would be on a PWC. Want full body coverage ( feet, hands (?) ) and am looking at buying a few suits. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.
Thank You
SwimOutlet.com
6 months ago.
Hi John!

You would need these: (5/4/3),(4/3),(9.5mm) neoprene, full drysuit-gloves, hood and booties. We would recommend the following:

Xcel Men's Polar Thermoflex 9/7/6mm Hooded Full Wetsuit
Mares 6.5mm Trilastic Dive Boots
Seac USA 3.5mm Camo Free Dive Gloves
Rich
2 months ago.
Really recommending a 9/7/6 for swimming? (freestyle?) I looked at the video for the 9/7/6 seems like I could only do breaststroke with the arm restriction.
SwimOutlet
1 month ago.
Hi Rich!

The suit is actually made of UltraStretch Neoprene which provides flexibility. However, you can still switch to a 1 mm thinner if you think it would restrict your movements.
Rich
1 month ago.
According to the xcel sizing chart I could fit a 2XL were it not for my gut (40), all the other parameters are within range. 3XL is really out of my range but will accomodate my gut. Should I get the 2XL and make an honest effort to reduce size of gut?
SwimOutlet.com
1 month ago.
Hi Rich,

To ensure the accurate sizing, I think the best option is to order both sizes and just return the one that doesn't fit right. Here is our Return Policy - https://support.swimoutlet.com/hc/en-us/articles/202812240-What-is-your-return-policy-
Ramin Artang
7 months ago.
I live by lake superior and the water remains in low to high 40's. I already have a 3 mm full sleeve Blueseventy suit that is simply too cold and according to you table on wet suit thickness is it too thin for that temperature. So I am trying to find thicker ones for swimming, but I can't find any. Your website offers the thicker surfing suit, but I need a swimming suit. There must be others besides me who swim in cold water. Just cannot figure out what to get. And besides that, also looking for front zip suits so i can close it on my own rather than needing others help all the time. Appreciate your response.
thanks
Ramin
SwimOutlet
7 months ago.
Hi Ramin!

A 4/3MM thickness wet suit will do like the O'Neill Men's 4/3MM Epic Back Zip Fullsuit Wetsuit. You may want to add some gloves and booties as well for extra warmth.
dave
9 months ago.
what wetsuit would you recommend for swimming in Colorado Lakes where the temperature is 48 degrees to 68? Im 68 years old, in good condition, and a good swimmer with not a good kick. I swim to to 4 miles. Thank you.
SwimOutlet
9 months ago.
Hi Dave! The recommended suits are here https://www.swimoutlet.com/searchresults.asp?Search=mens%20full%20wetsuits&checkRealSearchInput=Y&sayt#page=1&search=mens+full+wetsuits&catlvl=1&sortby=Relevance&viewall=no
Allyson
9 months ago.
Looking for a wetsuit for my daughter to use now in Ohio. She is a competitive swimmer and is desperate to train in the water. Unfortunately we do not have a pool, so looking for something she could use in open water. Glove and bootie options too please.
SwimOutlet
9 months ago.
Hi Allyson!

There are few more things that you have to consider in buying a wetsuit for you daughter. We suggest you read our article about wetsuit guide before you decide which suit to buy her. All information to what you need is in the article. please click on the link to access the article: https://www.swimoutlet.com/wetsuit-guide.

Should you have additional question or just a product question, please reach out to our customer service at 1-800-691-4065.
Madi
10 months ago.
125 pound 5’7” woman needed wetsuit for temperature 55-63 degrees. Please post link, gloves & booties. Anything else you can recommend is appreciated!!
SwimOutlet
10 months ago.
Hi Madi!

We recommend 6/7mm neoprene full drysuit.

Xcel Women's Hydroflex 7/6 mm Full Wetsuit
https://www.swimoutlet.com/p/xcel-womens-hydroflex-76-mm-full-wetsuit-8165804/?color=9325

Xcel 5mm Drylock Celliant Texture Skin 5 Finger Glove
https://www.swimoutlet.com/p/xcel-5mm-drylock-celliant-texture-skin-5-finger-glove-8178194/?color=9325


Xcel Women's 3mm Infiniti Thermo Lite Split Toe Neoprene Bootie
https://www.swimoutlet.com/p/xcel-womens-3mm-infiniti-thermo-lite-split-toe-neoprene-bootie-8178187/?color=59490
Josh
1 year ago.
I was wondering what the best suit would be to be in about 30 degree water
SwimOutlet
1 year ago.
Hi Josh!

5/3 can work, 6/5/4 is better, depends on how extreme do you want to get. Often it is not the thickness of the wetsuit, but bad booties, gloves etc that are the source of cold. So not only the wetsuit, also the booties, gloves and hood must be thick (at least 5mm).
Marlene
1 year ago.
Looking for a tri suit for 65-72 degree water (sometimes a bit warmer). I have muscular legs and a big chest (5'3" female, 128 pds). I think I need a suit with less neoprene around my chest and more in my lower body. Do you think I should go for a male's suit? What suit would you recommend?
SwimOutlet
1 year ago.
65-72 degree water is suitable for swimming with or without a wetsuit. Sleeveless suits are popular at this temp.
Marlene
1 year ago.
I am fairly muscular but a large chested female. I am pretty neutral if not a bit negatively buoyant in the water depending on whether diving in salt or fresh water. That said, my legs will sink when I swim and I tend to be more buoyant around my chest. I want to swim up in the lakes of Northern WI (water temp anywhere from 65-75 depending on season) so I want a tri suit. I am hesitant as to what to purchase because I think I need less neoprene around my chest and more in my lower body as my chest is much more buoyant than my legs. Any thought on which of your tri suits may be best for me?
SwimOutlet
1 year ago.
Hi Marlene!

We apologize, our tri suits or spring suits are evenly made of neoprene. Here's our selection for women: https://www.swimoutlet.com/spring-suits-c18301
Alice
1 year ago.
Hello this was such a helpful article! That you for writing it :-)
Sheree
1 year ago.
What kind of wet suit to Paddel board in SE alaska
SwimOutlet
1 year ago.
Hi Sheree!

Please follow the wetsuit thickness guide on the article above based on the water temperature.
Katrina Hajagos
1 year ago.
What type of women's wetsuit should I purchase if I am swimming in 52-60 degree waters. I'd like to spend about $300. And what type of botties/wesuit socks do I need?

Thanks
Mike
1 year ago.
What type of suit would be best for waters from Santa Barbara to San Diego for open water group swims between an easy half mile to 5 mile swims?
SwimOutlet.com
1 year ago.
Hi Mike,

Based on the information available for water temperature in that area, it's around 61°F-66°F. For this a 3/2mm would work best, you may check this wetsuit, Product Code: 8147863.
Paul brady
2 years ago.
Thank you - good info!
Paul brady
2 years ago.
Thanks - very good info!
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