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How to Select the Right Wetsuit Thickness

   January 28th, 2016   Posted In: How-To  

How to Pick the Correct Wetsuit Thickness

Selecting the appropriate wetsuit thickness for your water sport can be a little intimidating and sometimes even confusing. No one wants to waste time and money trying to figure out the best thickness. This chart below should help you make the right decision based on your sport and water conditions:

Switch to Celsius

40°+ 48°+ 52°+ 58°+ 60°+ 65°+ 72°+ 80°+
General Watersports
(Surf, Wake, Kite, Etc.)
6/5/4mm
Sealed
5/4/3mm
Sealed
4/3mm
Sealed
& Taped
4/3mm
Sealed
3/2mm
Sealed
3/2mm
Flatlock
Springsuit
Neoprene Top
Poly Top
Rash Guard
SCUBA
8/7mm Full
7mm John
& Jacket
7mm Full
7mm John
& Jacket
7mm Full
5mm John
& Jacket
5mm Full
3mm John
& Jacket
3mm Full
3mm John &
Jacket
3mm Full
Springsuit
Springsuit
Lycra
Bodysuit
Triathlon &
Lap Swimming
5/3mm Full 5/3mm John Neoprene Vest
Kayak &
Paddle
5/4/3mm
Sealed
4/3mm
Sealed
3/2mm
Sealed
3/2mm
Flatlock
Neoprene
Top
Neoprene
Vest
Rash
Guard
General
Watersports
(Surf, Wake, Kite, Etc.)
SCUBA Triathlon &
Lap Swimming
Kayak &
Paddle
40°+ 6/5/4mm
Sealed
8/7mm Full
7mm John
& Jacket
5/3mm
Full
5/4/3mm
Sealed
48°+ 5/4/3mm
Sealed
4/3mm
Sealed
52°+ 4/3mm
Sealed
& Taped
7mm Full
7mm John
& Jacket
3/2mm
Sealed
58°+ 4/3mm
Sealed
7mm Full
5mm John
& Jacket
5/3mm
John
3/2mm
Flatlock
60°+ 3/2mm
Sealed
5mm Full
3mm John
& Jacket
Neoprene
Top
65°+ 3/2mm
Flatlock
3mm Full
3mm John &
Jacket
72°+
Springsuit
Neoprene Top
3mm Full
Springsuit
Neoprene
Vest
80°+
Poly Top
Rash Guard
Springsuit
Lycra
Bodysuit
Neoprene
Vest
Rash
Guard

Some factors other than water temperature could affect the wetsuit thickness needed, so you should consider the following:

Tolerance For Cold

Depending upon your tolerance for cold, a thicker or thinner wetsuit may be required or desired. If you are someone that tends to feel cold, err on the side of going with a thicker wetsuit. Otherwise, using the wetsuit thickness table should be a very good place to selecting the right wetsuit style and thickness.

Air Temperature

An early morning surfer hitting the water as the sun rises may want to consider a slightly heavier suit or more coverage. Without the warming rays of the sun and a higher ambient temperature or mid or late day, sometimes it can feel a bit chilly. Which leads to…

Time Spent in Water vs. Out of Water

Also relating to air temperature is the amount of time spent in or out of the water. Air temperature will become even more important for a wakeboarder or waterskier, since most of the sport is out of the water.

For a wakeboarder, if the air temps are 80+ but water only in the 60’s, a wetsuit top or springsuit could still do the job for most people. Conversely, a cool or cold fall day while the water is still warm could mean needing more coverage than usual.

Wearer’s Performance Expectations

This also relates to the previous two considerations. Something you will have to take into account is the demand for high performance. The less wetsuit (meaning thinner and less coverage) worn will translate to high performance. If performance is at the top of your wetsuit requirement list, you may be inclined to buy a slightly thinner wetsuit or go with reduced coverage as applicable. Alternatively, if budget can accommodate, a higher-end wetsuit can provide you with appropriate insulation and very high performance.

Here is a quick overview of different wetsuit products:

Lycra Rash Guards, Poly Fleece, Baselayers, etc.

These items are primarily worn under wetsuits or alone, as sun and/or abrasion protection. These items do not provide thermal protection when worn alone, so they are only appropriate for water that is typically 75F+. Shop our entire selection of men’s, women’s and kid’s rashguards.

Shorty Wetsuits, Wetsuit Tops (Jackets), and Wetsuit Bottoms

These items provide wetsuit coverage to areas of the body. When a little insulation is needed and water temps are in the high 60’s, these types of products would be perfect. They also work well in heated swimming pools that just aren’t quite heated enough! Shop our entire selection of shorty wetsuits for men, women and kid’s! We also have a great selection of wetsuit tops, vests and jackets.

Long Johns & Long Janes

Johns (men’s) and janes (women’s) are essentially sleeveless fullsuits. This style of suit is popular in layering applications, like SCUBA and kayaking. Johns & janes are also a popular style in triathlon/swimming style wetsuits, as this cut allows for full range of motion in the arms and shoulders. Shop our entire selection of long john wetsuits for men and women.

Fullsuits

Fullsuits come in a variety of thicknesses for all water temperature conditions. In most cases, the thickness will be described with two numbers, such as 3/2mm. This means the majority of the suit is made of 3mm neoprene (wetsuit material) and the flex points 2mm. Manufacturers do this to enhance the comfort and flexibility of the suit.

Fullsuits come with different seams. For water in the 60’s, flatlock stitching will work well. Flatlock stitches contain no glue, and will allow water to freely enter the suit at the seams. For that reason, you generally will not find flatlock stitches on anything thicker than 3mm.

Sealed seams add glue into the construction. The seams are glued and stitched. This gluing helps dramatically reduce the amount of water that enters into a wetsuit. The less water entering your wetsuit, the warmer you will be! Liquid taping on top of sealed seams takes your wetsuit to another level! A rubber bead is applied to the outside of the seams to add durability to the seams and also further reduce the chance of cold water trickling into the suit. Shop our entire selection of men’s, women’s and kids’ fullsuits!

From here you should be well on your way to choosing the right wetsuit for your sport and water conditions. If you need some more help, we’ve got you covered! Give us a call, email, or live chat. We can assist you personally.

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Lauren Belt

Merchandiser at Wetsuit Wearhouse
Lauren (LoLo) has been picking out the latest and greatest wetsuits and being the social media queen for Wetsuit Wearhouse since 2014. She learned to surf for the first time ever in Costa Rica but she gravitates more towards SUP. When she's not scouring the web for travel deals, you can find her either hiking, running, practicing yoga, studying holistic nutrition or reading a good book outside on a beautiful day.
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58 Comments

  • Avatar Jacob says:

    Just got a kayak and would like to use it in the winter in central Indiana when the temps are just above freezing. What would you recommend using thickness wise and style wise, i.e. full suit, long johns, etc?

    • Elizabeth Werdnik Elizabeth Werdnik says:

      Hi Jacob! According to wetsuit manufacturer temp ratings, you’ll want to invest in at least a 5mm fullsuit in temps that cold. You can browse our cold water wetsuits here to get an idea of what’s available on the market. Because of the extensive risks with cold water sports like kayaking in the winter, I suggest doing some additional research for your safety. You’ll likely also want to invest in gloves, a hood, and wetsuit boots. We have a blogpost about cold water kayaking with a focus on gear here. You might also want to consider a drysuit for extreme temps. We don’t stock any, but I recommend checking out NRS’s awesome selection designed with kayaking and paddle sports in mind. Hope this helps!

  • Avatar Sarah W Barker says:

    Hi what would you recommend for someone wanting a wetsuit as the base for their mermaid design and outfit in the water? The legs would be in a silicone tail so how would that affect the heat there? Would it keep my legs even warmer? Sorry I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get what I want while staying warm and modest.

  • Avatar Madonna says:

    hi, i would like a suit that has great boyancey to keep me afloat. what helps with this? i want to do a triathlon ( beginner and nervous )

  • Avatar Alex says:

    Hello, I would like to have a wet suite for the lake swimming in spring when the water is till cold. I am 5’10″/182. What would be the best? Thanks

  • Avatar Linda Thornton says:

    I want to do some open water swimming in Colorado, the water is cold. Around 40 degrees and up this time of year.I need advice on a triath. suit that would be appropriate for this type of swimming.I am female,5 ft 5 and 154lbs.Wide shoulders.

  • Avatar Jenny says:

    Hi,
    I was hoping to do some spring kayaking here in Maine. It looks like the water temperature is around 43 degrees. I don’t plan on calling in, but wanted something that would keep me alive long enough for the swim to shore if I did. What kind of suit would you recommend? I’ll be on tidal rivers, not open ocean.
    Thanks!

  • Avatar Annette Parker says:

    Hi… I’m a 62 year old woman – 5’4″ – 147 pounds … signed up for Sharkfest 2020 in the San Francisco Bay. Can you recommend a full wetsuit that won’t be bulky? Apparently the water temp is somewhere at 60 degrees. thanks so much. Annette

  • Avatar Siraj says:

    Hi my name is Siraj 59 years old,i’m new swimmer learing now i’ve lower back pain and knee pain also i’ve asthma too, well please let me know what kind or wetsuit or Neoprene and thickness of suit will keep me floating to swim easily,also please let me good name brand,so i can swim better as my Orhtopedic doc wants me to swim.

  • Avatar Andy Abbas says:

    Hello. I just got SDI certified only last week. I’m planning a dive trip to Mauritius the beginning of May (in 3 weeks). I understand the water temperature will be 78 deg F. I’m 50 yrs old, 5’9″ and 190LBS. Could you please advise if I should wear a 3mm or a 5mm wet suit. I also like high performance. I would also appreciate a recommendation on what suit would be best.

    • Avatar Lauren Belt says:

      Hey Andy,

      Based off of those water temps and the fact that you want a high-performance suit, I would highly recommend checking out this 3mm Henderson Thermoprene Pro Shorty Springsuit: https://www.wetsuitwearhouse.com/PROD/AP630MB.html. This line of wetsuits offers 250% stretch and is perfect for diving. To find the best size, go off of your chest size first and then your height. If you need additional help, please feel free to contact our customer service team either via live chat, email (service@wetsuitwearhouse.com) or call 866-906-7848. Thank you!

  • Avatar Beth Burlage says:

    I need a wet suit for fly fishing, kayaking. 5’9 250lbs. What might you suggest.

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