Best Wetsuits

Updated October 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

60 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
160 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

Buying guide for best wetsuits

Last Updated October 2019

You might look cool hanging ten in your favorite bathing suit, but there's nothing cool about catching a chill or scraping yourself on the ocean floor. Whether you’re surfing, wakeboarding, or swimming in open water. wearing a wetsuit is a more practical option,.

But wetsuits can seem baffling to the uninitiated. What with various entry styles, cuts, thicknesses, and stitching, not to mention a heap of specialist jargon, checking out the product description of a wetsuit can seem like reading a menu in a different language.

Never fear. We at BestReviews are here to help. Read on to learn how to pick the best wetsuit to fit your needs. You'll also find some of our favorites to make shopping even easier.

In addition to keeping you warm, a wetsuit also helps protect your skin from abrasions and provides additional buoyancy.

Key considerations

Type

  • Full-body: Full-body wetsuits are perhaps the most common. These cover the arms down to the wrists and the legs down to the ankles. Unless you live in a tropical climate or in a region with very hot summers, you'll probably want a full-body wetsuit.

  • Sleeveless (or Long John): Sleeveless wetsuits cover the legs but not the arms. These are designed for people who still want extra warmth and coverage on their legs and torso but enjoy greater range of motion in the arms. This isn't an extremely common type of wetsuit, but it's out there for those who need it.

  • Short: Short wetsuits (or "shorties”) are wetsuits that come down to just above the knee and have either short T-shirt-style sleeves or no sleeves. These wetsuits are designed for use in warmer climates where a full-body wetsuit isn’t needed.
     

Entry

  • Back zipper: Until recently, almost all wetsuits had zippers up the full length of the back. Even with a cord attached to the zipper pull tab, these wetsuits can be awkward to get in and out of, and the long zipper increases the chances of water seeping into the wetsuit. If you choose a wetsuit with a zipper, check whether it zips top to bottom or bottom to top. While different users have their own preference about this, you could find a bottom-to-top zipper is more likely to accidentally come undone in the water than a top-to-bottom option. However, a top-to-bottom zipper at the back can be more difficult to fasten by yourself.

  • Chest zipper: A lot of the newer wetsuits have a shorter chest zipper, sometimes running diagonally across the chest, which many users find more flexible and comfortable.

  • Cord: You can also find some suits with front entry and a cord closure instead of a zipper.

  • Zip-free: Some wetsuits are so stretchy that you can get in and out of them without a zipper.
     

Thickness

Wetsuit thickness is measured in millimeters (mm) and ranges from 1 mm to 6 mm.

  • Use a 1 mm suit in warm water over 68°F.

  • Use a 6 mm wetsuit in cold water below 50°F.
     

Obviously, a thicker wetsuit will keep you warmer, but it’s less flexible, which can limit your range of motion. That’s why you'll find wetsuits with thicker material through the torso to keep your vital organs warm and thinner material on the arms and legs for flexibility.

If you come across two numbers separated by a forward slash, it refers to the thickness. A 5/3 wetsuit, for example, is a wetsuit that's 5 mm thick on the torso and 3 mm thick on the arms and legs.

Seams

To minimize water entry, look for wetsuits with glued, taped, or liquid seams.

  • Glued seams are glued before stitching to limit the water that gets into the wetsuit. This is a common type of seal found on seams in cheaper wetsuits, but it isn't as effective as some methods.

  • Taped seams use a special watertight tape adhered to the inside of seams. They may either be spot taped (with small pieces of tape in areas where water is most likely to come in) or fully taped (taped all the way down the length of the seam).

  • Liquid seams are generally only found on more expensive wetsuits, and they're the best option out there. The seams are sealed with a special liquid rubber that's not only flexible and comfortable but also 100% watertight when dry.
     

Stitching

Most wetsuit seams are either flatlock stitched or glued and blindstitched (GBS).

  • Flatlock stitching involves layering panels over the top of one another and stitching them together through the material. This allows for more water to get into the wetsuit, which is great for maintaining a cooler body temperature in hot weather but not ideal when you're in cold water. Flatlock stitching is generally only used for thin summer wetsuits.

  • GBS wetsuits are glued together and only stitched on one side rather than all the way through the material. This enables less water to get into the wetsuit and so is good for use in cold water.
     

Size

It’s important to choose a wetsuit that fits correctly. Too small and it will be hard to squeeze into and uncomfortable. Too large and it won't keep the water out effectively and you'll get cold quickly, especially in cool water. Different wetsuit makes and models fit differently, so it's important to measure yourself and check your measurements against the manufacturer's size chart. These charts are usually right, but they aren't infallible, so be sure your chosen wetsuit comes with a good return policy, just in case.

DID YOU KNOW?

Some wetsuits designed for cold water contain additional insulation, especially around the torso, to keep vital organs warm.

DID YOU KNOW?

Reinforced knees on a full-body wetsuit will help the suit last longer.

Wetsuit prices

Wetsuits vary widely in price, from as little as $30 to around $1,000.

Inexpensive

Assuming you only want a wetsuit for occasional recreational use, you shouldn't need to spend more than $100, but don't expect the latest technology or features.

MId-range

For more regular use, we'd recommend a wetsuit in the $100 to $300 price range. You can find some great wetsuits at this price that are more than good enough for most hobbyists.

Expensive

If you need a wetsuit for professional use or high-level amateur competitions, expect to pay between $500 and $1,000 for a top-quality option.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

It's important that your wetsuit is comfortable and flexible enough to allow for good range of motion in the water.

Tips

  • Decide if you need other accessories. If you’re in very cold water, you might require wetsuit boots, gloves, and hood.

  • Check the number of panels on your chosen wetsuit. Fewer panels equals fewer seams, which reduces the likelihood of water getting into the wetsuit and possible irritation from seams rubbing on your skin.

  • Choose a wetsuit with a good seal at the neck and cuffs. This will help prevent water from entering the wetsuit.

  • Know how to care for your wetsuit. Rinse it with cold water after each use. Never wash it with hot water or in a machine. Check the instructions for more information.

Other products we considered

If you don’t find a wetsuit in our top five that’s right for you, don't worry. There were several more options we like enough to give honorable mention. The Xterra Wetsuits Men's Volt Triathlon Wetsuit is so comfortable and flexible that it's perfect for open-water swimming whether in competition or just for fun. If you're looking for a suit for use in warm water or to layer under another suit for extra insulation, the NeoSport Women's Premium Neoprene Full Suit is an outstanding choice. Now, let's talk shorties. If you're not looking for a full-body suit, we have some excellent recommendations. The Seavenger Navigator Shorty is a solid yet affordable choice that's available in both women's and men's sizes. We also love the O'Neill Men's Reactor Back Zip Spring Wetsuit with its flatlock construction and superseal neck.

You can find women's, men's, unisex, and kids' wetsuits – choose the option that best fits your needs.

FAQ

Q. What are wetsuits made of?

A. Wetsuits are made of neoprene. This closed-cell synthetic rubber is an exceptional insulator, which is why it's ideal for keeping you warm in the water. It also improves buoyancy, which is a plus for many water-based activities.

Q. What can I use my wetsuit for?

A. When you think about wetsuits, you might think of scuba diving or surfing, but there are plenty of other activities for which a wetsuit is useful. Many people wear wetsuits for open-water swimming, including triathlons and Ironman events, especially in particularly cold water. You might also wear a wetsuit for windsurfing, kayaking, wakeboarding, river rafting, or sailing.

Q. Do you always need a wetsuit for surfing?

A. There's no requirement to wear a wetsuit while surfing, but you might want to for a number of reasons. First, if the sea is cold, it would be silly to surf in just a bathing suit. A wetsuit can help keep you warmer. If you're surfing in an area where the seafloor is rough or rocky, a wetsuit will help protect you from abrasions. What's more, some people get a rash on their torso from board wax, which can be prevented by wearing a wetsuit, even if it’s only a shortie.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Lauren
    Lauren
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Rich
    Rich
    Writer

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