Some additional general wetsuit information to help you understand the different ypes of wetsuits and how they work.
How does a wetsuit keep me warm?
The simple explanation of how a wetsuit works is that by trapping a small amount of water within the wetsuit, it uses the bodies’ heat to keep that small amount of water warm. However, the most important thing to remember is that the amount of water that gets trapped in the layer between your skin and the wetsuit should be a very small amount. The best way of ensuring that not too much water enters your wetsuit is making sure your wetsuit is the right size for you. The better the wetsuit fits, the warmer you will be, to find out more about sizing, have a look at our size chart page.
Another important aspect of the wetsuit which keeps you warm is the material it is made from. Neoprene is a material which provides ultimate insulation due to the closed cells that are filled with air making the wetsuit light yet warm. The thickness of the neoprene will determine the warmth of your wetsuit.
What do these wetsuit numbers mean?
The numbers you see on a wetsuit represent the thickness of the neoprene in the wetsuit in millimetres. When you see the number 2/3 this means that the varying thickness of the neoprene is 2mm and 3mm. The reason there are 2 thicknesses is because the thinner neoprene is for body parts that require more flexibility and movement, whereas the thicker neoprene is for parts of the body that require warmth such as the torso. Wetsuits that are 2mm thick are best for surfing in mild water whereas a 9mm wetsuit would be for diving in Europe when the water is extremely cold or commercial diving.
What is the best wetsuit on the market?
There is no clear cut answer as to what the best wetsuit on the market is. This is due to the vast array of wetsuits which are suited to various activities, for example, a surfing wetsuit which is the best for cold water surfing may not be best for a triathlon swimmer. Therefore when trying to pick the best wetsuit for your particular need there are certain qualities you should keep in mind, such as, the flexibility of the suit, the stitching used, the quality of neoprene, and how well it fits you.
One of the things to look out for when buying a wetsuit is whether it fits you correctly, this is because the more water that is flushing through your suit, the colder your body temperature will become. The wetsuit should feel firm on your skin, however it shouldn’t be so tight that you can’t stand up. Another thing to look out for is the seals on the wrists, ankles and neck. Silicone on the ankles and neck prevents water from getting inside which in turn keeps you warmer. Another important aspect to preventing too much water getting into your wetsuit is the zipper. Zippers are not watertight which means things to look out for when purchasing a wetsuit include; the size and shape of the teeth of the zipper, the durability (metal zippers are preferable) and the length of the zipper especially in thicker wetsuits more suitable to cold water.
There is another solution to the inefficient zipper and that is to get rid of the zipper altogether! Wetsuit manufacturers produce zipperless wetsuits which prevents large amounts of water getting in. Another benefit is zipperless wetsuits often have better flexibility because the neoprene is sculpted to the body. However, there is a catch, trying to get into a zipperless wetsuit is incredibly difficult and due to the amount of stretching you need to do to enter the wetsuit, the neoprene can become worn and depleted meaning zipperless wetsuits don’t generally last more than a couple of seasons.
What else do you need to know about wetsuits?
There are many terms that are thrown around when discussing wetsuits, one of these terms is single lined and double lined neoprene. Back when Hugh Bradner was playing around with wetsuit design, it was common to use neoprene that wasn’t lined with anything. This resulted in it being very sticky and easy to tear, however once people realised that lining the neoprene with nylon increased its strength and durability. So basically, single lined neoprene means only one side is lined with nylon and double lined neoprene is surrounded on both sides.
All these different terms explain the differences between surfing wetsuits and windsurfing wetsuits. Basically those terms correspond to a type of neoprene that is singled lined. Singled lined neoprene increases the warmth of the wetsuit as it repels water and reduces wind exposure. However when lined with nylon, it gets wet and in turn, cools you down. Also, the stickiness of single lined neoprene can be beneficial when it sticks to your wrists and ankles. However windsurfing wetsuits benefit from single lined neoprene because they stay out of the water and are more exposed to the wind. However windsurfers need less flexibility unlike surfers who need lots of flexibility when choosing a surfing wetsuit.
Additional wetsuit insulation
A couple of extra tips for a warmer wetsuit is a layer of titanium which is placed between the neoprene and nylon which keeps the body heat more insulated. Thanks to the advancement of modern technology, better titanium has become available which increases the effectiveness of this technique.
Things such as aero care, fire skin, air lite are all different types of fibres which are filled with trapped air making them very light, easy to dry, and stretchy which makes them perfect for wetsuits. Another option is using wool as insulation which is done by some wetsuit manufacturers.
What is the stretchiest wetsuit?
It is probably too big a call to make, there is such a vast array of wetsuits on the market that provide flexibility and many people claim that they have the most ultimate stretchy wetsuit. The neoprene used in wetsuits today is incomparable to the older types of neoprene. The benefit of the new flexible neoprene is that a 4/3mm feels the way a 3/2mm suit used to feel. The stretchiness of modern neoprene increases your movements, it is a better fit and is warmer, these are all things that increase your energy, allowing you to maximise the time you can spend in the water.