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Determining the Best Wetsuit for You


You've probably thought of wetsuits in the past as being unnecessary for your needs, and maybe even a little funny looking. However, wetsuits can be of great use to you, even if you're just learning how to dive, or you're an expert on the surf. Wetsuits have numerous advantages for swimmers to take advantage of, including:

  • Additional flotation
  • Reduced drag in the water
  • Extra warmth in colder waters

But there are tons of wetsuits out there and many different styles. How can you know which is the best for your needs? Read on.

How a Wetsuit Works

Before you determine which wetsuit you need, it is useful to understand how a wetsuit actually works. A wetsuit traps a thin layer of water between your body and the wetsuit material, letting your body warm the water to a comfortable temperature. The thicker your wetsuit, the longer and warmer your body will remain in the water. 

To keep your body warm and dry, many wetsuits are made with a material called neoprene. Neoprene is a synthetic, elastic rubber with excellent insulation properties. The thicker the neoprene in a wetsuit, the warmer you'll be in the water. The neoprene in a wetsuit traps the water between the suit and the skin while body heat warms the water, reducing heat loss in cold water. Buoyant and lightweight, neoprene can also be used as a protective cover because of its resistance to abrasive textures.

Thickness and Warmth

To determine how thick of a wetsuit you should buy, you will need to take into account the temperature of the water. If you plan to use a wetsuit on the beach in the middle of summer, your wetsuit will be much thinner than if you wanted to use it in the winter. Wetsuits aim to keep warmth in and cold water out. The colder the water, the thicker your wetsuit should be. 

Some wetsuits use air chambers on the outside of the suit to trap heat. Fused with a locking zipper, this mechanism blocks out water to prevent flushing.

Below is a chart to help you decide what style and thickness (mm) of wetsuit is right for your water climate.

  Water Temperature    Type of Wetsuit
  75+F   Rashguard
  74-64F   2mm Springsuit
  66-59F   2mm Long Sleeve Springsuit or 2-3mm Fullsuit 
  59-56F   2-3mm Fullsuit + Optional Booties
  55-50F   3-4mm Fullsuit + Booties
  50-44F   4-5mm Fullsuit + Booties + Hood
  43-F   5-6mm Fullsuit + Booties + Hood

 

Freedom of Movement

In the water, your movements shouldn't be restricted. A wetsuit that is too snug will make it hard to swim properly. Your wetsuit should fit comfortable against your skin, without restricting arm, leg or body movements, but snug enough that water can't easily get in. Each wetsuit manufacturer has their own standard sizing for wetsuits, which may vary between companies.

Seams

Each wetsuit has its own kind of seam, each with its own set of pluses and minuses:

  • Overlock Stitch: Found on the least expensive wetsuits, the overlock stitch sticks out of the neoprene, which can be uncomfortable. Although strong, this stitch leaves needle holes for water and wind to enter the wetsuit. 
  • Flat Lock Stitch: A completely flat stitch that goes through both sides of the neoprene shell. This does NOT provide a water tight seal.
  • Glued and Blind Stitched: This stitch is first glued together then threaded with a needle on the same side, not going all the way through. Continuous stretching and use over time may create small holes.
  • Liquid tape: Rubber used to seal the inside and outside of the stitching, creating a 100% waterproof seam.
  • Neoprene Tape: Most flexible seam tape. Can be used on the inside of the seams, creating the most flexible 100% waterproof seal.

Zippers

The zippers on your wetsuit can vary as well, which determines how you get in and out of the suit itself:

  • Back Zip: Opens vertically down the back, making it easy to put on and take off your wetsuit. However, this type of zipper also reduces flexibility and can be stiff.
  • Chest Zip: Zips horizontally crosses the upper chest, providing more flexibility on the back of the suit. This kind of zipper keeps water flushing through the suit while swimming or surfing.
  • Zipper Free: Wetsuit is made of neoprene with flexible liners utilizing Velcro™ closures, keeping the cold water out and flexibility in.

Wetsuit Styles and Accessories

Now that you know what to look for when choosing your wetsuit, you are ready to pick the right one for you. However, there are many types out there. Choose the one that suits your needs!

  • Full Suit: One-piece suit that stretches from the top of your neck to your ankles. Also called a full-length suit. View: Men's Full SuitsWomen's Full Suits
  • Spring Suit: Either has full length legs and a short sleeve top or a full length top and short length legs. The type depends on your personal preference. View: Men's Spring SuitsWomen's Spring Suits
  • Dry Suit: Used for extremely cold water conditions. Dry suits are designed to keep as much waterb out as possible by using rubber seals around the neck, wrists and ankles. Some also use Velcro™-style straps around the wrists and ankles to provide an extra measure of sealing.
  • Three Quarter Suit: One-piece suit with short sleeves and legs that extend to the ankles.
  • Farmer John / Long John / Short John (Jane): One-piece suit which combines a vest top and either short or long legs. View: Men's Long JohnsWomen's Long Johns
  • Spring Suit: One-piece wetsuit with short legs and long or short sleeves.
  • Rashguard:  Not a suit itself, but can be layered under a wetsuit for extra warmth and to protect against chafing. Rashguards and looser fitting surf shirts block UV rays while under the sun. View: Men's RashguardsWomen's Rashguards
  • Hood: Used to keep your head warm and keep the wind out when in cold temperatures. Some wetsuits come with the hood attached or you can purchase the hood separately. View: Men's HoodsWomen's Hoods
  • Gloves: Keeps your fingers and hands warm in cold water. They come in different thickness levels and styles depending on your environment. View: Men's GlovesWomen's Gloves
  • Booties: Foot coverings to protect your feet in cold waters. They have two varieties: round-toe and split-toe. The split-toe, or two-toe, has a compartment for your big toe and another space for the rest of your toes. This adds more stability in the water, keeping your feet warm in colder climates and offered in different thickness levels. View: Men's BootiesWomen's Booties

 Shop all Surf Wetsuits

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Janet
4 months ago.
I want to swim in an outdoor pool that is around 81-85 F but the air temperature is around 35-45 in the winter. My back and arms exposed makes my body a bit too cold. What do you recommend for a wetsuit? is there some other type of long sleeved high back swimsuit that would also work. I swim 100 25 yd lengths in an hour usually, so I move decently fast.
Swimoutlet.com
3 months ago.
Hi Janet,

You might want to check this: https://www.swimoutlet.com/p/xcel-womens-43mm-infiniti-fullsuit-wetsuit-8178178/?color=9325

and also this link for more options: https://www.swimoutlet.com/searchresults.asp?Search=womens+wetsuit&checkRealSearchInput=Y#page=2&search=womens+wetsuit&catlvl=1&sortby=Relevance&viewall=no
MB
4 months ago.
Trying to buy a rip curl dawn patrol 3/2 full wetsuit for my son. He is 6'1" and about 165lbs and 16 years old. Should I be looking at a MT or L as he would fit in either. Not sure which way to go. Thanks!
SwimOutlet
4 months ago.
Hi MB!

Based on the sizing chart, he is size MT.
Paige
4 months ago.
Hi! I’m looking to get a wetsuit for my daughter to learn to boogie board/very beginner surf in the San Francisco Bay area. It sounds like the water is usually 51 to 61°. Would 2.5 mm be sufficient? She is six years old. Thanks!
SwimOutlet
4 months ago.
Hi Paige!

Yes, the specified thickness will definitely work for the specified water temperature.
Barry
5 months ago.
Hello,
I am 6 foot tall, 220 pounds, looking for a suit to play water volleyball in during winter months in North Florida. They say the pool temperature is supposed to stay at 83 degrees but not sure if that is reality. The outside air temperature can be in the 40s or 50s. Style and size please.

thank you.
Swimoutlet.com
5 months ago.
For thickness and warmth you will want to consider a 2/3 mm wetsuit. As for size you will want to compare your height and weight to the sizing charts provided. Sizing for each item will vary from brand to brand and often depend on the style and materials.
Colleen Alves
6 months ago.
I have MS, swimming year round is very beneficial. My home pool is not heated, the winter air temps can get down to 40 ‘s. Water temp below 75 causes spasticity in legs. I need good flexibility also.
Sofia
6 months ago.
Hello, I live in Israel and want to swim in the sea all year. The lowest temperature is about 60 Fahrenheit. I am 5ft 1in and weigh 95lbs. What would you say the best wet suit would be for swimming in the sea during winter months?
swimoutlet.com
6 months ago.
The guide below will tell you the best thickness for a suit in 60 F temperatures

Water Temperature Type of Wetsuit
75+F Rashguard
74-64F 2mm Springsuit
66-59F 2mm Long Sleeve Springsuit or 2-3mm Fullsuit
59-56F 2-3mm Fullsuit + Optional Booties
55-50F 3-4mm Fullsuit + Booties
50-44F 4-5mm Fullsuit + Booties + Hood
43-F 5-6mm Fullsuit + Booties + Hood
.
Pjhil
7 months ago.
I have .tennis elbow. I'm looking to purchase a neoprene arm sleeve that I can use to play water volleyball. If you don't have such an item do you know where I can purchase such a the neoprene sleeve for water use?
Gary
7 months ago.
Hi there, I am now living in Spain (58 years old ) and like my swimming, but the sea and the pool in the complex are rather cool in the winter months. The average sea temp is between 56 and 59 degrees. What suit would you recommend? Any help would be much appreciated.. thanks Gary
SwimOutlet
7 months ago.
Hi Gary!

We recommend a wetsuit that is at least 5mm thickness. You can read this article to get more details of what you need to get: https://www.swimoutlet.com/wetsuit-guide.
John Williams
7 months ago.
I have a 2mm 1/2 wet suit (short in arms and legs) that I plan to use for lake swimming for 65-70 degrees. I'm bald, and wondering if my head will feel the cold more than my extremities, in which case I should get a hood. Thanks for any advice.
SwimOutlet
7 months ago.
Hi John!

We recommend the "IST 5MM Hood with Triple Glue". This has an extended bib to guarantee a seal underneath the collar of a wetsuit. It has different neoprene sections for the best possible combination of stretch and durability. The face seal is lined with smooth skin to eliminate water transfer and the jaw/ throat area is designed to stretch to accommodate variances between users, while the collar, head, and triple glued blind stitching is designed for maximum thermal protection and durability. The top panel is double layered to create a vent to allow air or water to escape the hood to prevent unwanted pressure or bubbling.
Melanie
8 months ago.
Looking for full suit for lake swimming 65-70 degrees. 5'4 140 lbs
Lucas
8 months ago.
Hello my name is Lucas I’m about 5’9’5 and a new scuba diver and I need a wet suit but don’t know which one I’m about 223-227 and idk which size to get
Shop@SwimOutlet
8 months ago.
Hello Lucas!

When selecting a wetsuit you will want to decide whether you want a full sleeve or sleeveless and what thickness you prefer. As for sizing it is best to review the sizing chart for each wetsuit you are viewing. Sizing Charts are located just below the size selection and just above the add to cart button on each product page.
Natalia
10 months ago.
I want to swim in our apartment pool year 'round but it's only heated from May through October. I'm still cold even when the heat is on but I warm up after a few laps. What would you recommend for when they turn off the heat? I live on the SF Peninsula in an area where it's windy most evenings and the pool is in the shade by the time I get off work. I'm also 5'4 & 185# so I'm not sure about sizing either. Do they even make anything my size?!
Susan Jeter-Koch
10 months ago.
Hello! I live in PNW and am considering open water swim in water temps of 46-54 F. I’m 51 y.o., 5 ft 6in and weight 200 fairly evenly distributed. Concerned about flexibility, range of motion for shoulders. What would you recommend? Thank you!
SwimOutlet
9 months ago.
Hi Susan!

We recommend 5 to 6.5 mm dry suit for you. Though, please read this article to help you more better understand about wetsuits: https://www.swimoutlet.com/wetsuit-guide.
Lisa
10 months ago.
Really missing swimming, I live in the Puget Sound/Seattle area, and it looks like the colder lakes and the Sound are my only options. I'm 5'6", weigh 115#, and get cold in an 83 degree pool. :-))) (No kidding.) I want a really warm and flexible wetsuit designed for swimmers. I also have a really testy back, and the full suits are SO difficult to get on and off that I often put my back out trying. Is there a warm option? (eg: top with balaclava hood & separate bottoms? A long-sleeved shortie with leg coverings?)
Thanks so much!

Lisa
Susan
11 months ago.
HI! Our local pools will be closed this summer due to the virus and my 14 year old swimmer daughter will be swimming for fitness in the lake, temps mid 50s to mid 60s. What do you recommend?
SwimOutlet
9 months ago.
Hi Susan!

You should at least get 5mm-7mm wetsuit. Though, this article might give you more idea on what to get for you daughter: https://www.swimoutlet.com/wetsuit-guide
Dee
11 months ago.
Thanks for this tutorial. I’m a youthful 72 year old, petite (5.3) woman..141 lbs. I usually swim in a warm pool (87) at the Y. I’m lucky to have an UNheated inground pool for summer. I’m in Connecticut. I’d be grateful for your suggestion for a full body wet suit. Thanks
SwimOutlet
11 months ago.
Hi Dee!

We recommend a 2mm full suit like the O'Neill 3/2MM Women's O'Riginal F.U.Z.E Chest Zip Fullsuit. Please do get a size 8T for it.
lori
11 months ago.
looking for a wetsuit for daughter 23 yr old 5/1 stocky 140-150 lbs. Old wetsuit was a Roxy purchased 5 yrs ago when she was 20lbs lighter. It has a hole so leg is filling up with water. I don't know what size was purchased then. She tried on a lot .
Faith
11 months ago.
Im looking to purchase a suit for my daughter, she is 5'7" and 93 lbs, so far the suites either hike up her crotch area or they are super baggy on her. She uses it for surfing and sometimes swimming at the Oregon coast, waters are cold and she struggles to stay warm since she is very thin with no body fat.
Thank you
Kate
11 months ago.
Hi there,
I'm a 52 year old woman and am thinking about swimming in the SF Bay (temperatures vary from 52 F to 61F). I'm 5'4" and 128 pounds. What type of wetsuit do you recommend? What thickness. Booties also and hood? Thanks!
Kate
11 months ago.
Hi there, I'm looking into swimming in the San Francisco Bay. What sort of wetsuit would be good for swimming, give me enough mobility. Low temperature in Jan 52, high 61 in August not including wind factor. I'm 5'4 and 128 lbs, 52 years old woman. Also, would I need booties and head covering or would a cap and ear plugs be enough?
SwimOutlet
11 months ago.
Hi Kate!

It would be best if you can read this article too: https://www.swimoutlet.com/wetsuit-guide

We are sure that it will answer all your questions.
Jenny
11 months ago.
My daughter was on a swim team but has lost her practice- we are trying to team up to keep up her skills and want to swim (hopefully at least spring, summer, fall) in lake Washington...looks like lows of 42-highs of 76...looking for suits for a very skinny tween :/ 76lbs, maybe 4'10", kiddo, 68lbs, maybe 4'8" and mom, 5'11" 145
Wed hope to use the suits for kayaking and paddle board too? Thank you!
SwimOutlet
11 months ago.
Hi Jenny!

We recommend a 5/4/3MM Fullsuit with booties and hood for you and your daughter. Refer here:

https://www.swimoutlet.com/womens-full-surf-wetsuits-c11744/
https://www.swimoutlet.com/womens-wetsuit-hoods-caps-c11757/
https://www.swimoutlet.com/womens-surf-booties-c11753/
Laurie
11 months ago.
Hi--
I'm a pool swimmer (30 yrs) but with the COVID-19 and sports center closure I am considering ocean swimming (so cal). Year round water temp range is 55-72 so average of 63. I'm 5'3", 117lbs and hate feeling constricted. What do you suggest please? Thanks Laurie
SwimOutlet
11 months ago.
Hi Laurie!

We recommend a 2mm Long Sleeve Springsuit (Rip Curl Women's Dawn Patrol 2mm Long Sleeve Springsuit) or 2-3mm Fullsuit (Xcel Women's Ocean Ramsey Axis 3/2MM Fullsuit). Please refer to the sizing guide for the right fit.
Linda
12 months ago.
Hi,
My husband is in need of a 100% waterproof garment that will completely keep his legs and feet absolutely free of any and all water. He needs this to clean our above ground swimming pool just at the beginning of our swimming season for Washington state, he would be wearing the suit for a few hours for several days. He will be getting inside pool to clean and scrub it by hand. He believes he would need a full wetsuit? The issue is: he is approx 5’ 2 1/2 - 5’3” tall and weighs 255 - 260 lbs. Do you have recommendations and in a size that would fit?
SwimOutlet
11 months ago.
Hi Linda!

We recommend the Stohlquist Men's Treads Paddling Dry Pants (sizing guide is here - https://www.swimoutlet.com/size-charts/stohlquist/stohlquist-men-s-paddle-pant-sizechart_s2250/) and some booties for him - https://www.swimoutlet.com/mens-surf-booties-c11738/. Please refer to the sizing guide for the right fit.
Patricia Fredal
1 year ago.
Hi. We live in Italy and have a non heated salt-water pool. What suit do you recommend for my husband 50 years old, swimming in the winter where temperatures is 52 degrees? Thanks
SwimOutlet
1 year ago.
Hi Patricia!

We recommend the 4-5mm Fullsuit Wetsuit + Booties + Hood. You can search for these words on our site to view the list of items. For your proper size, you can check the item's sizing chart as your guide.
Amanda
1 year ago.
I am short and fat...5'6" and at 120 to 130lbs. I don't care if a suit is a men's or women's. I need something for fossil hunting in cold rivers...colder than 72 degrees. Any help would greatly be appreciated.
SwimOutlet
1 year ago.
Hi Amanda!

You can get the 2mm Long Sleeve Springsuit or 2-3mm Fullsuit wetsuit. You can search for these words on our site to view the list of items. For your proper size, you can check the item's sizing chart as your guide.
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