As a Dutchy I live in my wetsuit, the waters here ask for a suit most of the days. In the winter I’m in need of another wetsuit than in the summer, but my budget never allows it haha so I’m always wearing my 5/3. If it gets to warm in the summer I just leave the zipper open, not ideal but it works! After teaching two seasons I now find my wetsuit stretched out and full of holes. Right now I am orienting on a new one, but there are loads of different wetsuits out there, all ranging in quality and warmth. Time to focus on some key characteristics, see what’s important in this wetsuit guide!
So, how does a wetsuit work and what are important characteristics that you should consider when buying a new one? Wetsuits work by trapping a small amount of water between your body and the suit, which regulates the temperature inside the suit. When you have a good one, you can last all day outside. With a bad one, new water is coming in each time, eliminating the warm up process.
The first decision you need to make when it comes to buying a wetsuit is deciding whether you need a short, spring or full suit. This is depending on where you live and what the average water temperatures are. When you know which type of suit to buy you will need to pick the ideal thickness. The most common neoprene thickness types are 3/2 for mild temperatures, 4/3 for mild to cold temperatures and 5/4 for cold to very cold temperatures. You can add extra’s to this setup such as a hood, booties and gloves depending on the season.
You also want to make an informed decision about the kind of stitching you want in the suit because you want to avoid water seepage. There are loads of different kinds of stitching but these are the most common types:
Flatlock Stitching – Each panel is stitched both on the outside and on the inside of the suit. The resulting seam is flexible and strong, but because this process involves creating many holes it is prone to high water penetration.
Sealed – The edges of the panels are placed end on end and glued together, this is to prevent water from entering through the seams. This technique is the most common on good wetsuits for colder water.
Sealed and Taped – Here, the panels are blind stitched and glued plus there is tape applied over the glue on the inside of the suit. This is the warmest method of wetsuit construction.
Zipper placement is important as well. This will affect the warmth of the suit and your flexibility on the water. There are three options:
Full Zipper – The wetsuit has a zipper that runs from your neck until your but crack. This option offers the least amount of flexibility.
Half Zipper – Like the name implies, this zipper covers half the length of your back. It runs from your neck until the middle of your back. This offers increased flexibility and range of motion.
Frontzip – You have to get in the suit in a slightly different way. Step into the suit from the neck and then pull it up one leg at a time. You do the same for the arms. Keep the zip in front of the suit and zip up! This kind of suit offers the most warmth because it’s the most watertight construction. They also offer the most flexibility and range of motion.
And of course, super important, the fit! This is the most important factor to consider when buying a wetsuit. It should fit like a second skin, so tight enough to maintain a warm layer of water between the skin and the suit, but not so tight that it cuts off your circulation! If you can easily squat down and fly your arms around freely you probably have a good fit! I am still looking for the ultimate wetsuit, they are often tight around my shoulders and too wide at my upper arms and stomach. Good luck finding yours, let me know when you find it!