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How to Choose the Perfect Triathlon Wetsuit

If you are planning to buy a triathlon wetsuit, be sure to get one that you will feel the most comfortable in. Sizing and fit can be the difference between the suit that works and the one that doesn't, regardless of the style of the suit. Tri wetsuits are known for their precise neoprene width that vary on different areas of the wetsuit. Thicker areas are for easy buoyancy while thinner areas are for flexibility. This guide will go over all of the basics about tri wetsuits as well as teach you how to know when a wetsuit is right for you.

The Proper Fit

When choosing a tri wetsuit, the most important factor to consider is fit. If the fit is not right, you are not going to be comfortable and the wetsuit will not be able to perform properly for you. Ultimately, the correct fit depends on your preferences.

How Should A Wetsuit Fit?

  • Snug but not tight.
  • No folds or excess material.
  • Full range-of-motion through shoulders.
  • Neckline should be comfortable and not suffocating.
  • Arm and leg holes should be snug so water cannot get through.

What to Look For

1. Buoyancy / Flexibility

  • The rubber/neoprene used to make wetsuits floats naturally.
  • The higher you float in the water, the easier and faster you can swim.
  • The thicker the material, the more buoyant but less flexible it is—find your ideal balance.
  • The thinner layers provide more flexibility so it is easier to move, preserving energy.
  • Arm and shoulder area should have thinner neoprene. Note: the thinner the neoprene the more expensive the wetsuit is.
  • Thicker neoprene should be in chest and leg areas—how thick is based on your preference.

2. Warmth

  • Tri wetsuits hold a small amount of water inside the suit so your body can warm the water to form a barrier between you and the cold.
  • Be sure the wetsuit is tight enough because too much water getting in slows you down.

3. Hydrodynamics

  • Tri wetsuits with a silicone surface make them slippery through the water, but it is not required.
  • This feature is found on most mid- and high-end wetsuits.

What Is Too Tight?

  • Should have no painful restriction anywhere.
  • Should have a full range-of-swim-motion so arms move freely and comfortably.
  • Should not feel like it is riding up in crotch area (may mean wetsuit is too short).
  • Should move with you and not against you; suit should feel like a thick second-skin.
  • Should have certain degree of comfort in your wetsuit so you can perform optimally, but not so much comfort that it defeats the purpose of performance properties of the suit.

Thickness and Material

Neoprene thickness ranges from about 1mm-5mm (5mm is the maximum thickness allowed in competitions). There is “stretchability throughout tri wetsuits, but the thinner, most-flexible material is around your shoulders and arms for fast, easy movement.

The Cut

  • Full sleeve – Gives full-body coverage and provides maximum buoyancy.
  • Sleeveless – Does not cover arms, but still covers legs. Offers maximum range of motion.

Full-sleeved suits are more buoyant and warmer, which is ideal for colder swims. Sleeveless suits are easier to get out of and offer more arm movement. Ultimately, your personal preference will determine your decision. Some people are more comfortable with sleeveless wetsuits, even in colder water.

Men's tri wetsuits have a bit of extra room in the crotch and a narrower hip area than women's tri suits. Women's wetsuits also have extra room in the chest.

The Bottom Line:

A triathlon suit should fit like a second-skin; it shouldn't be too loose or too tight and you should have a full range of motion in your shoulders. The three wetsuit qualities to pay attention to are buoyancy/flexibility, warmth, and hydrodynamics. The full-sleeved and sleeveless wetsuits simply depend on your preference. When searching for your ideal wetsuit, stay with what you are most comfortable in because that is ultimately the most important. Your perfect wetsuit is waiting for you, now it's time to go find it!


Continue to Part 2: “How to Put On and Care For Your Wetsuit? Click here to read.

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2 months ago.
2 months ago.
Hi Carlos!

We have the TRISLIDE skin lubricant 4oz which is part of a gift set -
3 months ago.
I have never used wetsuit, but considered to buy it now to be able to swim at the pool all year around, when it is not heated. I'm waring size 16/18 and I'm 5'3", hence all the suits I find of my size, are for much higher hight. What would you recommend?
5 months ago.
I swim laps every day and recently bought swimsuits size 18 from the website that fit perfectly. Our pool will stop being heated on Labor Day and I want to swim year-round. I have asked management what the minimum temp will be but I have gotten no response. I read that the water temperature must be kept at least 60 degrees in order for the pumps to work so I guess I'll have to go with that. Also, it can get very windy here. That said, and having read the article you have recommended, is a full triathlon suit size XL the way to go? Or do you have any other questions/ comments/recommendations before I make an expensive and possibly non-refundable purchase (if I wear it and it doesn't suit my needs)? Thanks for any help you can offer as it is difficult to find a brick-and-mortar store that would let me try suits on.
7 months ago.
I'm looking for a women's light weight wetsuit for swimming in a cold mountain lake (Tahoe) since all the pools are closed. By mid-late summer I don't need a wetsuit, so I was hoping to find one light (thin) enough that I could also wear it against protection against box jelly fish in Thailand/Cambodia where I spend a month each year. Is there anything that would work in both situations, or should I just plan on getting a rash guard suit for the jellies in SE Asia and a wetsuit for Tahoe? Any recommendations on particular suits? Thanks.
7 months ago.
Hi JC!

For colder water temperature, you will need thicker wetsuit and sometimes you will have to pair them with hood or booties. Please read our article about wetsuit guide to better understand your wetsuit need:

For your SE Asia swimming, yes a rashguard will be best option to avoid jellies.
8 months ago.

I am looking to swim in a 50 deg lake for some good practice since all the pools are closed atm. I am a swimmer, so not a beginner..and would love good flexibility and something not too thick.
8 months ago.
Hi Julia! We recommend the TYR Women's Hurricane Cat 1 full sleeve or sleeveless suit.
1 year ago.
I want say, how to take the mesures for the good wetsuit please!
1 year ago.
Hi Aldericjean!

Please follow this directions:
Bust*/chest: Measure around the fullest part of your chest.
*For women, this measurement is NOT the same as your bra band size.
Waist: Hold the end of the tape at your belly button and wrap around your waist to the front.
Hip: Measure around the widest point of your hips and buttocks.
Body Loop/Torso: Start at inner shoulder, come down the front of the torso and go between the legs. Continue up the back to the start of the tape on the shoulder.
Giovanni Leones
1 year ago.
Thanks for the comprehensive discussion on wetsuits. I bought a thicker wetsuit before because I am still new to swimming. Overtime as my swim improves, I prefer a thinner one especially in the shoulders area. Can you recommend different choices base on my current preference please. Thank you.
1 year ago.
Hi Giovanni!

Then we recommend the Orca Men's 1.5 Alpha Triathlon Wetsuit with Arms/Shoulders made of 0.88 Free SCS cell & Titanium which is .5 mm thick.
Marios Stylianou
2 years ago.
My swimsuit is taking water from the neck. Is that ok;
2 years ago.
What would best suit cold water for triathlon open water swims please? I have water at 14 deg C (57 deg F). Thank you. Colin
2 years ago.
Hi Colin! You should look for tri suits with 4/3 mm - 5/4/3 mm thickness.
Philip J Carroll
2 years ago.
Best triathlon wetsuit with thickness of neoprene is 5mm
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