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Wetsuits Buying Guide

Think neoprene is just for super hero costumes ? Think again.  Wetsuits allow you to spend a prolonged time in the water when you wouldn't even think of going for a swim.  By trapping a layer of water against the skin, the wetsuit allows the water to be warmed by your body which acts as an insulator.  Who's the super hero now?  Water sport enthusiasts across the boards zip up a wetsuit whenever the water gets too chilly for just a swimsuit , and so can you if need be!  Choosing the correct wetsuit for the right water temperature and application is tricky, so pay attention to the guide below and make sure you're toasty the next time the water temperature drops.

Styles of Wetsuits

Full Suits

Standard Full Suit
Standard Full Suit

Full suits  are perhaps the most versatile and commonly purchased style of wetsuit. They provide full protection for your body's core, arms and legs.  Full suits offer protection in water temperatures from around 7°C (45°F).  Often, the core (centre panel of the wetsuit) is thicker than the arms and legs to provide maximum insulation without restricting movement.  Many water sport enthusiasts consider the full suit an essential when going in water below 18°C (65°F). 

Spring Suits

Spring Suit
Spring Suit

Spring suits  offer minimal protection, and are commonly used in warmer water temperatures.  There are also forms of spring suits with long arms and short legs or, vice-versa.   Flexibility is higher in a spring suit, but warmth is somewhat minimal.  These are great for a cloudy day when the water is still warm or when it is hot outside but the water is still bit nippy.

Jackets and Vests

Jackets  are basically a wetsuit without the bottom. They protect your core and arms from colder water. 

A vest
A vest

Vests  protect your core only and nothing else.

Choosing a Thickness

Wetsuits are available in different thicknesses of neoprene so you can match the water temperature with the appropriate suit.  Thickness is measured in millimetres (mm), and many manufacturers make suites comprised of one to three different thicknesses.  Are you lost? Here are the basics when it comes to wetsuit thickness:

  • Wetsuit thickness is usually given with two numbers like 3/2, 4/3, 5/3, or three numbers like 5/4/3. The numbers mean that the thickness of the neoprene is 3 millimetres (or 4 or 5) on the body (and legs with winter suits) and 2 millimetres on arms (and legs with spring suits).
  • A 3/2 wetsuit is generally used for Summer and early Autumn
  • A 4/3 wetsuit and thicker is mostly used in the late Autumn, and early Spring.

Fitting a Wetsuit

Finding a wetsuit that fits you properly can be a daunting task if you have no prior experience.  In the world of wetsuits, there is no such thing as 'breathing room'. A wetsuit should fit snugly, but not restrict movement.  Use the following fitting suggestions to make sure your suit fits:

  • Neck- Fits snug on around your neck with the Velcro completely fastened. As a general rule, you should be able to slip your finger in between the suit and your neck, but you should have to hold the neck open to do this.
    • If the neck is too loose, new water can wash in and disturb the layer of warm water created between the wetsuit and your body. This is called a 'water-flush'.
  • Arms- With the wetsuit completely on (zipped completely up if ), lift your arms high above your head.
    •  Do you feel any excessive pulling in the shoulders, under arms, or groin? If so, your wetsuit is too small.
    • The arms should reach your wrist and should barely move when lifting your arms above your head.
  • Legs- With the wetsuit completely on, try some common leg stretches.
    • Does the wetsuit restrict your movement? If so your wetsuit is too small.
    • Do you have any extra room in the groin area of the wetsuit? If so, your wetsuit is too big.
  • Zipper (If your wetsuit has a zipper)- Zipping up the wetsuit, check the following:
    • Does it pull the wetsuit snug against your chest and ribs? If not, the wetsuit can be too big.
    • Is your zipper extremely hard to zip up? If so, your suit might be too small.

 

Tips/Care

  • Rinse wetsuit with cool fresh water after each use.
  • Hang dry only! Never place a wetsuit in the dryer or direct sunlight.
  • Never pull or tug on a wetsuit (or zipper) when putting on or taking off. It can damage the seams which are an essential part of the waterproofing technology built into the suit.
    • At first, you might find it easier to have someone else zip up the wetsuit and properly secure the velcro.
  • After you put on your wetsuit and are prepared to go in the water, try curling up in a ball and hugging your legs. This forces out any excess air trapped in the suit and helps prevent water flushes.

Related Products / Buying Guides

 

A good amount of body heat is lost in your feet.  If you plan to be in cold water for a prolonged amount of time, booties are essential to keeping warm.  

Gloves keep your hands from getting too cold and unusable.

Some wetsuits come with hoods built-in.  Most do not.  Grab one of these and keep valuable body heat escaping from your head.

Major Manufacturers