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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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Charles
1 year ago.
I am a senior citizen and want to avoid the shock of entering a swimming pool whose temperature is 75 - 80. I know that's warm, but still shocks me. Would a 2mm vest do the job if I started with a warm/hot shower? Or what do you recommend?
SwimOutlet.com
1 year ago.
Hi Charles,

For water temperature 75 to 80 degree Fahrenheit a 0.5 mm to 1 mm neoprene top would do.
Jeff Jenkins
1 year ago.
I'm starting to get really into kayaking on lakes and lazy rivers in the PNW. I'm trying to decide what kind of thickness I would need for a wetsuit that would allow me to do some paddling in the winter as well as the rest of the year. I'm currently based in Boise ID and want to try and get out at least a couple times this winter if possible. Any suggestions?
SwimOutlet
1 year ago.
Hi Jeff!

We recommend getting a 2mm Long Sleeve Springsuit or 2-3mm Fullsuit. Please copy-paste this links for your options - https://www.swimoutlet.com/searchresults.asp?Search=mens+2mm+Long+Sleeve+Springsuit&checkRealSearchInput=Y#page=1&search=mens+2mm+Long+Sleeve+Springsuit&catlvl=1&sortby=Relevance&viewall=no / https://www.swimoutlet.com/searchresults.asp?Search=mens+2-3mm+Fullsuit&checkRealSearchInput=Y#page=1&search=mens+2-3mm+Fullsuit&catlvl=1&sortby=Relevance&viewall=no
Maag
1 year ago.
Hi,

First of all, thank you for the website, I’m just about to start my adventure with kitesurfing and I find the information extremely helpful :)

I’m about to embark on a kitesurfing course and am looking for a wetsuit. The thing is I’m about 180 lbs, and 5,40 ft, and am afraid I won’t be able to find any wetsuit matching my needs, and that perhaps that this sport is not really for me due to my size. The plan is to swim in 64 F.

Would I need a bigger kite, bigger board, special harness?

Can you recommend any wetsuit brand that makes non-standard sizes and suggest thickness of the suit? Or perhaps I should just let it go?

Thank you.
SwimOutlet
1 year ago.
Hi Maag!

We do not carry kites but we do have 2mm springusit you would need. We recommend the Xcel Men's 2MM Axis Long Sleeve Back Zip Spring Suit. For the right fit, please refer to the sizing guide here (please copy-paste) - https://www.swimoutlet.com/size-charts/xcel/xcel-men-s-wetsuits-sizechart_s18/.
Maddie
1 year ago.
Hi. I’m 16 and live on a lake where I go tubing all the time, so I get really bad rug burn type abrasions on my elbows and knees. Would a wetsuit help? I’m getting one soon anyway for a diving vacation but i was wondering if I could use it to help prevent some of the friction when I tube. Thanks :)
SwimOutlet
1 year ago.
Hi Maddie!

We do know what could be the result, however you may try. Hope it helps!
Linda Clare
1 year ago.
I am looking for a wetsuit for swimming in a high sierra lake that is about 50 to 55 degrees. I am 5'6" and 118 and I get cold easily. Would you have a few recommendations at different price points? Thanks! Linda

Read more at: https://www.swimoutlet.com/guides/wetsuit-buying-guide
SwimOutlet
1 year ago.
Hi Linda Clare!

We recommend a 3-4mm fullsuit like the Arena Women's Fullsleeve Tri Wetsuit (few other recommendations here on this link - https://www.swimoutlet.com/searchresults.asp?Search=3-4mm+womens+wetsuit&checkRealSearchInput=Y#page=1&search=3-4mm+womens+wetsuit&catlvl=1&sortby=PriceLow&viewall=no) with a bootie like the Roxy Women's 2mm Syncro Reef Round Toe Bootie (other recommendations here - https://www.swimoutlet.com/p/roxy-womens-2mm-syncro-reef-round-toe-bootie-8150810/?color=35277).
Andrew
1 year ago.
Hi I am looking for a wetsuit that is cheap but durable in Florida weather
SwimOutlet
1 year ago.
Hi Adrew!

The first thing you determine is the temperature of the weather in Florida. Then, check the information above to know which type of suit or thickness you should be getting. Here's the list of our wetsuits from lowest price to highest: https://www.swimoutlet.com/mens-wetsuits-c9288/#page=1&cat=9288&catlvl=3&sortby=PriceLow&viewall=yes
Peter
1 year ago.
I live in Los Angeles and the pool temp is between 63-72 year round. I just want to do laps in my backyard pool for exercise at night. What product do you recommend?
SwimOutlet
1 year ago.
Hi Peter,

You might want to check our 2mm neoprene wetsuits. They can be used arounf 63-72 F temperature. Just please make sure wash them with cold water after every use:

https://www.swimoutlet.com/p/vissla-mens-2mm-front-zip-wetsuit-jacket-8159938/?color=27116

https://www.swimoutlet.com/p/xcel-mens-21mm-axis-sharkskin-front-zip-wetsuit-jacket-8153304/?q=1&richrelevance&CategorySiloedViewCP&item_pagerr1

https://www.swimoutlet.com/p/vissla-2mm-tripper-front-zip-surf-jacket-8181109/?q=1&richrelevance&CategorySiloedViewCP&item_pagerr1

https://www.swimoutlet.com/p/vissla-mens-2mm-drainer-front-zip-surf-jacket-8175929/?q=1&richrelevance&MultiItemPersonalizedViewCP&item_pagerr2
Ben
1 year ago.
Hey, I live in California and am trying to figure out what thickness of wetsuit I should get as I will be in the water pretty much year round. The temperature ranges from 55F-70F for the whole year. Wondering if you could help me out. Thanks!
SwimOutlet
1 year ago.
Hi Ben!

The recommended suit for 55F temperature is 2-3mm Fullsuit + Optional Booties.
Peter Lederman
2 years ago.
Hi
I have a 1 are pond in the Catskill Mountains that gets warm enough for everyone but my wife who had a stroke and feels the cold more. Could you recommend a suit that is not bulky or difficult to get into as this would dampen her efforts (excuse the pun)
thank you in advance
SwimOutlet
2 years ago.
Hi Peter! Based on the kind of environment on Catskills at the moment, for full warmth, we recommend a 5-6mm Fullsuit + Booties + Hood for your wife.
Peter Lederman
2 years ago.
My wife wants to be able to swim in our 1 acre pond in the Catskills....in early summer its fine for me but she feels its too cold and rarely goes in till mid summer then in a couple of weeks shes cold again. I don't actually know the water temp...she's had a stroke so feels colder and putting on and swimming n a bulky outfit wouldn't work...do you have a suggested outfit for her.

Thanks so much in advance
SwimOutlet
2 years ago.
Hi Peter!

We recommend getting a 5-6mm Fullsuit + Booties + Hood.
SwimOutlet
2 years ago.
Hi Peter!

Based on the kind of environment on Catskills at the moment, for full warmth, we recommend a 5-6mm Fullsuit + Booties + Hood for your wife.
jeff
2 years ago.
i'm looking for a wetsuit for my son's spring outdoor swim practice. Something that isn't too bulky but will help with the early morning practices to keep him warmer.
SwimOutlet.com
2 years ago.
Hi Jeff,

For swim practice, you can go with Product Code: 7535965.
Mike
2 years ago.
Hello, I've recently purchased the O'Neill Men's Reactor 3/2 Full Black Wetsuit; Size - Extra Small. I'm currently looking for boots and gloves that would work with the suit. Any suggestions?
SwimOutlet
2 years ago.
Hi Mike!

We recommend the O'Neill Unisex Reactor Surf Boot and the Rip Curl Men's Flashbomb 3/2 MM 5 Finger Glove.
Mike
2 years ago.
Hi, I'm looking for a wetsuit to wear in a large creek, the water temperature might range anywhere from 50's-60's I'm about 5'7" and rather skinny. I don't have any stores near me that I could go to, to try one on or get one sized in store. So my only option is to shop for one online. Any recommendations?
SwimOutlet
2 years ago.
Hi Mike!

We recommend a thermal wetsuit like one of our bestsellers, the O'Neill Men's 3/2MM Epic Back Zip Fullsuit Wetsuit. In order to get the right fit, please compare the necessary measuremnets on this sizing guide - https://www.swimoutlet.com/size-charts/o-neill/o-39-neill-men-39-s-wetsuits-amp-rashguards-sizechart_s265/.
Dani Bell
2 years ago.
Hi, I'm looking for a wet suit to swim in my back yard swimming pool in the winter, 50-70. Thanks, Dani
SwimOutlet
2 years ago.
Hi Dani!

We recommend the 2-3mm Fullsuit + Optional Booties. Here's the list:
https://www.swimoutlet.com/searchresults.asp?Search=3mm+wesuit&checkRealSearchInput=Y#page=1&search=3mm+wesuit&catlvl=1&sortby=Relevance&viewall=no
Emma
2 years ago.
Hi,

I was wondering if you'd be able to help me out. I'm looking to purchase a wetsuit and I'm not quite sure where to start looking. I would be using it primarily to swim in a lake that ranges from 69-71. I'm a college student so I'm looking for something pretty affordable. I'm also not an advanced swimmer or participating in any competitions. I'm just looking for something that will keep me warm and allow for freedom of movement.
Swimoutlet.com
2 years ago.
Hello Emma,
You will just need a spring suit for that water temp. This should work just fine for you! https://www.swimoutlet.com/p/us-divers-womens-hibiscus-shorty-2mm-wetsuit-8161071/?color=9325
Patti
2 years ago.
Hi what brand of wetsuit is made to hold up in chlorine pools ?
Swimoutlet.com
2 years ago.
Hello Patti,
Wetsuits are typically made of neoprene. Unfortunately neoprene is not recommended to be used in chlorine as it will break down the material quickly.
Frank
2 years ago.
Hi,

I’m looking for a full body wetsuit for swimming in my backyard pool in Houston during the winter when the water temp gets as low as 45. Tks!!!

Frank
SwimOutlet
2 years ago.
Hi Frank! The recommended suit for water temperature 43F below is 5-6mm Fullsuit + Booties + Hood.
Victor
2 years ago.
Looking for a wet suit for Swiming I’m doing my first iron man in Canada in the summer in Ontario. I was reading there are some restrictions as what is allow to race with. Any help will be much appreciated
Swimoutlet.com
2 years ago.
Hi Victor,

Since races have different Rules and Regulations, please visit the IRONMAN Official Site. You may click the link below for reference:

https://asia.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman/canada.aspx#/axzz5XTe0IC4G
alec
2 years ago.
I am looking for a suit to use for surfing in south carolina year round and possibly for colder rivers. I am new to it and would like a better understanding.
I am a medium size athletic/muscular build with very little body fat so it is hard to stay warm. what would you recommend?
SwimOutlet
2 years ago.
Hi Alec! We recommend you get a 5-6mm Fullsuit + Booties + Hood. This is for water temperature below 43F.
Robin
2 years ago.
I am looking for a suit to wear during the winter months in my pool in the low country of South Carolina. It gets pretty cold here and I need to be able to swim for my back. I hope you can make some suggestions. I would need booties, gloves and a hood..
Thanks so much.
Swimoutlet.com
2 years ago.
Hi Robin,

The thickness of the suit that you are going to use depends on the water temperature. You may refer to the "Thickness and Warmth" mentioned above to help you decide what style and thickness (mm) of wetsuit is right. Please check the links below for the booties, gloves and hoods we offer online that you can use during the winter months.

https://bit.ly/2yM5Nki
https://bit.ly/2S6gWFs
https://bit.ly/2OvNKtg
John
2 years ago.
What would you recommend for 65 y.o. man swimming in NC coastal waters in February...water temp 65-72? Thanks, John
SwimOutlet
2 years ago.
Hi John!

We recommend a men's 2mm spring suit. Please use the link to view what we carry - https://www.swimoutlet.com/searchresults.asp?Search=mens+spring+suit&checkRealSearchInput=Y#page=1&search=mens+spring+suit&catlvl=1&sortby=Relevance&viewall=no

Thanks!
Mahen
2 years ago.
My daughter is part of a swim team and they practice in open water pool during winter which is chlorinated. And the water temperature would be around 50-55 F. Can you suggest a full body wet suit? Also will it hinder in her swimming?
SwimOutlet
2 years ago.
Hi Mahen!

We recommendt a thermal wetusit like the Blueseventy Women's Thermal Reaction Tri Wetsuit (https://www.swimoutlet.com/p/blueseventy-womens-thermal-reaction-tri-wetsuit-8168433/?color=9325).
Jean Hum
2 years ago.
What wet suit should I purchase to swim in an unheated pool in Panama City Florida in January and February.
SwimOutlet
2 years ago.
Hi! It would be best if you can first get the water temperature then here's what you need to look after:

75+Fahrenheit
Rashguard

74-64Fahrenheit
2mm Springsuit

66-59Fahrenheit
2mm Long Sleeve Springsuit
or 2-3mm Fullsuit

59-56Fahrenheit
2-3mm Fullsuit + Optional Booties

55-50Fahrenheit
3-4mm Fullsuit + Booties

50-44Fahrenheit
4-5mm Fullsuit + Booties + Hood

43-Fahrenheit
5-6mm Fullsuit + Booties + Hood
Kathy Berryane
2 years ago.
Recommendations for wetsuits for swimming in Florida winter in swimming pool for female.
Swimoutlet.com
2 years ago.
Hi Kathy,

You can wear 5mm wetsuits for winter in Florida however 3mm will be just as good and sufficient. It depends on how warm and comfortable is the suit per your preference. Please click the links below for some recommendations.

https://www.swimoutlet.com/p/mares-she-dive-flexa-5-4-3-wetsuit-30149/

https://www.swimoutlet.com/p/huub-womens-axiom-fullsleeve-wetsuit-8172907/?color=9604

https://www.swimoutlet.com/p/oneill-womens-32mm-bahia-full-suit-wetsuit-8152469/
Lolo
2 years ago.
Hello--

I am looking for a wet suit to swim in waters ranging from 52-60 (such as northern coastal Maine this fall). I usually swim up to a couple of hours so I am looking for an flexible, warm, wet suit that allows freedom of movement. I would appreciate any advice.

Thanks,
Lolo
Swimoutlet.com
2 years ago.
Hi Lolo!

We recommend you get the Xcel Men's 4/3mm Axis X Fullsuit Wetsuit . Any wetsuit that has a thickness from 2mm to 4mm will work on the waters with temperature of 50-60F.
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