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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 Bob Martinez says:

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

    • Avatar 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!

  • Avatar 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

  • Avatar 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?

  • Avatar 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!

  • Avatar 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.

  • Avatar 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

    • Avatar 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!

  • Avatar 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

  • Avatar 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!

  • Avatar Michael says:

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

  • Avatar Derek says:

    Hi,

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

    Thanks,

    Derek

    • Avatar 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!

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