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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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47 Comments

  • Avatar Rigo says:

    I am 6’1″ and 215 pounds. I surf in southern California and I DO NOT get too cold in the water, but want something to protect from rashes on chest and the inside of my legs which rub on the surfboard. So I was thinking of getting some type of spring suit which hopefully will alleviate the rash situation. I want something that will not restrict me from paddling etc. What would you recommend?

    • Avatar Lauren Belt says:

      Hey Rigo,

      For the protection you are looking for and since you do not need anything that adds warmth, a shorty springsuit is a great option. Since you don’t want anything that might restrict your paddling, we recommend a 100% stretch shorty. We have a few great options and based on your height and weight, you should try a 2XL. However, measure your chest and compare your chest measurement to the size chart listed on the product page. Here is a link to our selection of 100% stretch short sleeve springsuits in a size 2XL: https://www.wetsuitwearhouse.com/wetsuits/category/mens-springsuit-wetsuits.html. Thank you!

  • Avatar Jason says:

    Hi Gina. Gonna go Canyonnerrring in the Sierra Nevada. Probably 50degree water for 6hrs a day…in and out of water all day. Outside temp will be about 80 85 ish. What do you recommend? Thanks.

  • Avatar 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?

  • Avatar 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!

  • Avatar 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!

    • Avatar 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!

  • Avatar 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

  • Avatar 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

    • Avatar 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.

  • Avatar 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?

  • 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

    • Avatar 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!

  • Avatar 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!

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