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How to Select the Right Wetsuit Thickness

   January 28th, 2016   Posted In: How-To  

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:

 

Wetsuit temperature guide
 

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 for: Men’s RashguardsWomen’s RashguardsKids’ Rashguards, Baby Rash Guards

 

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 for: Men’s Shorty Wetsuits, Women’s Shorty Springsuits, Kids’ Shorty Springsuits

 

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 for: Men’s Long John Wetsuits, Women’s Long Jane Wetsuits

 

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 for: Men’s Fullsuits, Women’s Fullsuits, 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.

Lauren Belt

Merchandiser at Wetsuit Wearhouse
When Lauren's (LoLo) not picking out the latest and greatest wetsuits or being the social media queen for Wetsuit Wearhouse, you can find her outdoors running, hiking, or reading a good book. She also spends her time practicing yoga and scouring the web for travel deals.

35 Comments

  • Derek says:

    Hi,

    I have a question. Should my shorty suit be the same size as my full suit?

    Thanks,

    Derek

    • Lauren Belt says:

      Hey Derek,

      It depends. The easy answer is probably. However, if you are comparing different brands, or say a winter thickness wetsuit (like a 5/4/3 or 6/5/4) then it may be different. Every brand fits differently and sometimes a winter suit is one size bigger. If you’re unsure, give us a call (866-906-7848) or shoot us an email (service@wetsuitwearhouse.com) with more specifics and we’ll get your size figured out!

      Thank you!

  • Michael says:

    I am 5’9″ & 235lb want size of suit should I wear? 3-4m

  • Sue says:

    I am 5 foot 10, 150 lbs women. I swim in cold lake water all year round. What type of wetsuit should I purchase for the coldest months with warmth being the highest priority with some flexibility to swim? I have begun using 2 wetsuits recently: a shorty under a 3/2 hyper flex full suit which works quite well but would be easier to just use one suit re keeping warm on exit from lake to re-clothing? Thank you!

  • Kathy says:

    I am a female, 5′ 6′, 145 lbs. I need a wetsuit for southern Mexico, water temp apparox 68+degrees. It would be used for snorkeling and possibly kite surfing. I tried 2 wetsuits size large, that have not been worn in several years, that I used for surfing. I am about the same size I was but the suits seem very tight. Does neoprene shrink with age? One is a shorty and the other is a full suit. thanks

  • sally eschrich says:

    Hello, I am a 55 year old female looking for a fullsuit for our trip to the Galapagos in Feb. I understand that the water can be quite cold in some areas (70 degress ). I tend to get cold in the water so I want to make sure I am warm enough. I am 5′ 7″ and weigh 135. I am looking at the Hendersen 5mm in a size 8 or 10. Do you think this is a good choice and if so what size would you suggest. Thank you

    • Lauren Belt says:

      Hi Sally,

      Thanks for asking! The 5mm Henderson is a great choice for what you’re using the wetsuit for. As far as sizing goes, we’d need your bust measurement to give you the best fit but, from your height and weight, it sounds like you should try the size 8. If you need more help with sizing, please feel free to contact our customer service team either by phone, 866-906-7848, or email, service@wetsuitwearhouse.com. Hope that helps!

  • Mary says:

    I am trying to get a wet suit for a partner 5 feet 7 inches weighs 160 waist 34 . He swims in chlorinated pool 4x’s a week making laps swim in an outside pool 45+ temp. He likes front zip . What should I get him. Thank you.

  • Robert says:

    I am looking for a wetsuit to carry on my sailboat…to be used on an infrequent basis (hopefully) for emergency scuba dive and/or underwater maintenance purposes…anticipate time in water to be 15-20 minutes max’ at a time, perhaps 2-3 times in succession, with breathers in between (e.g., to unwrap a line fouling the prop/drive shaft. I sail in the Puget Sound/Salish Sea waters that are about typically around 45 – 55 degrees F (winter vs. summer). I am 5’9″, hover around 170 lbs., have a long upper torso, 29″ inseam, 33″ waist, and wear a size medium polo shirt). Can you point me in the right direction for style, thickness, material(s), etc. in a durable, but not overly costly wetsuit? Thanks!

  • bill dais says:

    Im six ft three. Never wore a wetsuit. All I need is warmth in the pool and ocean playing w grandson. Is .5 all I need?

  • Milton Eisenbeis says:

    Hi my wife is wanting to do work out with weights In our unheated pool. We live in so cal. Water can get to around 60 winter then 80 summer. She is 5’5 120 lbs. she hints that she needs a full suit Thanks

  • Bob Martinez says:

    I have some questions about purchasing a wet suit.
    Please call 254-498-0953

    • Lauren Belt says:

      Hey Bob,

      We have passed this information on to our customer service team. Someone will be in contact with you shortly. Thank you!

  • Bob Martinez says:

    Should I buy a “skin suit”? Will that add warmth?

    • Hey Bob! Typically, skin suits are made of lycra and not neoprene, so they don’t provide any added warmth. Some skin suits can be made of polyfleece which serves as a baselayer under your wetsuit at best. You’re better off with a sufficient wetsuit to meet all of your needs!

  • Hi! How much buoyancy can I expect from a 3mm jacket or best alone. I’m thinking of getting one for a big guy 4XL to use for snorkeling. The snorkel vests I’ve seen don’t come that big. Thanks.

    Mike

    • Lauren Belt says:

      Hey Mike,

      You’ll probably expect nothing noticeable. A lot goes into calculating wetsuit buoyancy (individuals weight, thickness of suit and type of suit) and with such little coverage as a vest gives, and its relatively thin neoprene, I would not expect you to notice any significant buoyancy. Hope that helps!

  • Kate Denkers says:

    I’m a size 6 female. Im 5’10”. I weigh 133 lbs. 29″ waist, 36″ bust and 36″ hips. I have a 35″ inseam and long arms. I waterski in Oregon in the spring, summer and fall. It’s about 50 degrees in the mornings in the spring and fall, so it’s pretty chilly. Any recommendations?

  • Paula chapman says:

    Hi I am looking for a wetsuit for my son who lives in Israel he is 5 10 about 165 lbs 32/33 waist and 40/42 shoulders. He does tend to be cold . It sure what to aim for he wants a full suit but economical

    • Lauren Belt says:

      Hi! Thanks for reaching out. Tough to recommend a suit unless we know what sport he is using the suit for. He will probably need a size L. Do you mean a 40/42 chest (you wrote shoulders. This measurements should just be around the chest under his arms)? If he is a 40-42 chest, a large from most brands should fit well. If you need more help for a sport specific suit, check with customer service at 1-866-906-7848 or service@wetsuitwearhouse.com.

  • Craig says:

    Hi im 6′ 2″ 49″ in chest broad shouldered 43″ waist scuba dive in cold rivers in 6 Celsious metric water for long periods of time what size 2 piece 7mm would you recommend thanks Craig

  • Melissa says:

    I am wanting to make my very first wetsuit purchase for swimming in freshwater lakes in Canada. I will be swimming in the spring, summer and fall. I generally am a little colder so I was thinking about getting a 4/3. My problem is that my size measurements fall all over the chart! I have no idea what to get. I am 5 foot four, my neck is 13 inches, my bust is 37 inches, my inseam is between 30 and 31 inches, my waist is 29 inches, and my hips are 39 inches. I am looking to purchase one of your Roxy full length wetsuits for snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, surfing.

    I could really use a hand in order to help avoid a return.

    Thank you!

    • Lauren Belt says:

      Hi Melissa,

      Based on what you said, it sounds like you’d fit into a 10S but we don’t have much in the way of the thickness you need that’s also in a size 10S, so perhaps a size 10 would work for you. The 4/3mm Roxy would be a better choice (warmth and comfort-wise) than the Henderson Thermoprene suit, unless you wanted to consider the 5mm Henderson Thermoprene PRO model (which costs a little more) but it offers a lot more flexibility: https://www.wetsuitwearhouse.com/PROD/AP850WB.html. If you decided on the Thermoprene PRO, the size 8 would fit well.

      Also, how much do you weigh? This will also help us determine what size you need.

      If you need additional help, please reach out to our customer service team either via live chat, email (service@wetsuitwearhouse.com) or call us at 866-906-7848. Thank you!

  • Melissa says:

    Continued from comment above. After chatting with a few other people I think I need a 5 mm suit. Wondering about your Henderson thermopreen 5 mm. Can you tell me what size I would need according to my measurements in the post above for this suit, as well as The Roxy Syncro suit in the 4/3 mm?

    Thank you!

  • Gina says:

    I’ve just taken up surfing, I’m not a good swimmer so I wear a life jacket (very uncomfortable) Is there a shorty suit that has a lot of buoyancy to help me feel more comfortable in the water without a lifejacket?

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