If you’ve ever been wetsuit shopping for an upcoming trip, you know that choosing the right wetsuit can be a nightmare. There are so many different thicknesses and types of wetsuits that you never really know which you should choose.
Even worse, when you try to figure the right size, you realize all the companies have different sizing charts and none of them really seem to be correct. Something as simple as wetsuit shopping can quickly become frustrating if you don’t go in armed with the right information.
We’re here to help.
We’re going to cover the different types of wetsuits, what materials each one is made out of, and what temperatures each suit is good for. We’ll also provide a few recommendations for each of the different types to help you more easily make a decision.
What should you look for in a wetsuit?
Buying a wetsuit doesn’t have to be difficult. But, if you want to get the right one for your needs, there are a few things you need to first take into consideration.
Where You Dive
The first thing you should think about is where you spend the most time diving. If, for example, you live in an area that is very cold, you want to get a 7mm or even a Semidry wetsuit. We’ll explain exactly what those are a bit further down. The important thing to know is that you don’t want to get the wrong type of suit.
If you are diving in warmer waters, then you may need to consider getting yourself a 3mm or even a shorty for diving. If you go for anything thicker than this you run the risk of being too warm when diving and becoming dehydrated.
This is obviously going to be a big one. You won’t be doing very well in a suit that doesn’t fit you. But what does that mean in terms of wetsuit sizes?
You may be surprised to find out that wetsuit sizes run quite similar to clothing sizes. What we mean by this is that they run in XS, S, M, L, XL and so on. The nice thing about this is that once you’ve figured out your size it is much easier to find a new wetsuit in the future.
Different companies have slightly different sizing methods. They aren’t going to differ too much, but it will be enough that you can’t go by a one size across the board measurement.
The best thing to do when you are first trying on wetsuits is to go to a dive shop and try them on. This will allow you to find your exact size without any problems. After that, you can order the exact wetsuit you want online.
Remember that the purpose of a wetsuit is to keep you warm by limiting the movement of water. The suit traps a layer of water between you and the suit and your body heats that water up. A good wetsuit will keep any more water from getting in and will limit the movement of water so that you stay warm. You want a wetsuit to be tight enough that it achieves this purpose but not so tight that it feels uncomfortable.
The last thing you want to check for is how well the wetsuit was made. Not all wetsuit manufacturers are created equal. Some go out of their way to make sure their suits are going to withstand the test of time. Others create only the minimum of what they need whenever they create wetsuits.
When it comes to durability, you want to look at how well the suit has been put together. This means checking the stitching, looking at the zipper, and paying attention to the seams. Make sure that the seams have been double stitched so that they are less likely to break. This is incredibly important in heavy use areas such as under the armpits and where the zipper is attached to the wetsuit.
You also want to make sure that if you choose a semidry or full wetsuit, there are pads in heavy wear areas. Primarily, the knees and the shoulders. The knees generally are one of the first things to blow out in a wetsuit from sitting at the bottom so much. After that is the shoulder area where your BCD is resting. When not in the water, all of the pressure from the BCD is placed on your shoulders. Over time, this can cause your BCD to wear out.
The last high impact area is where the zipper is attached to the BCD. For most people, this is going to be the first part that wears out. Especially, if you don’t take the time to zip your suit and unzip it properly. You want to hold both the top and the bottom before zipping and unzipping the suit so there isn’t as much tension around the seams.
What are the different types of wetsuits?
You may be surprised that there are actually quite a few different types of wetsuits. Many people equate all diving wetsuits with the full-body type you usually see divers wearing in the movies. But, this is just one style with so many more types to choose from.
This is the thickest type of wetsuit before you need a dry suit. Semi-dry wetsuits are the same as a full wetsuit only thicker. They also are built wit better stitching around the seams so that they are more sturdy.
They are not dry suits. Semi-dry suits still allow water to enter into them. But, that water heats up to keep you warm and does not move around. These are the warmest type of wetsuit or cold water diving.
Since this is the most popular type of wetsuit, it makes sense to start with this. This type of wetsuit covers you from your neck to your ankles. These are best for colder waters where you need to be fully covered. You can add extra protection for extremely cold waters by adding gloves, neoprene socks, dive booties, and a hood.
These types of wetsuits come in different thicknesses ranging from 1mm to 7mm. They are usually made from neoprene and are made to be resistant to compression. You can find a wide variety of patterns and colors ranging from solid black to vibrant camouflage colors.
A long john is similar to a full wetsuit with the exception being that it doesn’t have sleeves. These types of wetsuits were traditionally associated with surfing. The lack of arms on the wetsuit made it easier to paddle as there was less restriction in upper body movement. These are also quite popular with open water swimmers such as triathlon competitors.
Divers in areas where there is spring season tend to use these. They are still warm as it is a full-body wetsuit. But, because the sleeves are missing, they are not as warm as a full-body wetsuit.
A shorty is a great option for warm waters that are still a little chilly at depth. These are wetsuits with short sleeves and short legs. These are one of the most common types of wetsuits in tropical waters as they will keep you warm without being too hot out of the water.
Spearfishing wetsuits are a bit different than scuba diving wetsuits. Most scuba diving wetsuits zip up from the front or the back. A spearfishing wetsuit is instead made from two different parts. Usually, pants and a jacket but some can be a long john and jacket.
The reason for this is for improved mobility. Scuba diving wetsuits are usually stiff and do not allow for a full range of mobility. They are made to be compressed and decompressed many times without breaking down. For spearfishing wetsuits, by removing the zipper and improving the range of motion, it is easier for spearfishers to hunt.
Spearfishing wetsuits come in different thicknesses depending on how cold the water is. They also come in different patterns and with features specially made for spearfishing. This includes a padded chest piece to protect your chest and wetsuit when loading the speargun.
Many people think that a rash guard is a very thin type of full wetsuit. But, it actually isn’t a type of wetsuit at all. Rashguards are usually made from lycra or some other type of polyester. They are made to protect you from the sun as well as minor stings from jellyfish and abrasions from rocks. Many divers also wear these underneath their wetsuit to make it easier to get into.
What temperatures are best for each suit?
Now, for the most important and often most confusing part of choosing the right wetsuit for each dive. You need to figure out the temperature range that each wetsuit is good for. So, we’ve created a little table below that should help you decide more easily.
|Semidry Suit||10°C – 16°C (50°F to 60°F)|
|5mm Full Suit||16°C to 21°C (60°F to 70°F)|
|3mm Full Suit||20°C to 27°C (70°F to 80°F)|
|Shorty||25°C to 30°C (75°F to 85°F)|
Anything above 30C (85F), you should wear a rash guard instead of a wetsuit to avoid overheating. Overheating can cause you to become dehydrated extremely quickly which can lead you to suffer heatstroke and passing out. This is obviously not the desired outcome so be mindful that you don’t go overboard with wetsuit thickness.
Remember that this is a rough guide to helping you choose the right suit for the right temperature. There are no hard rules for picking which wetsuit you should wear when. At the end of the day, it will come down to personal preference. Some people are more sensitive to cold and will need to wear a thicker suit at a lesser temperature than someone who is less sensitive to the cold.
The more you dive and the more experience you have with different water temperatures, the easier it will be to decide which is the right wetsuit. Until then, though, you can go by this chart and it will give you a good idea of what you should start with.
The above may only be a rough guide but it should give you the perfect starting point for figuring out which wetsuit you need when. Remember, figuring out your exact needs is going to be a matter of trial and error. So, start from the above recommendations and work from there. It all depends on your personal preference and how sensitive you are to the cold.
Do you have any more tips for deciding on the perfect wetsuit for each occasion? Let us know in the comments what you think. Your tips are always appreciated and you never know when your advice might help a fellow diver.
This page was last updated on 2022-01-19. Affiliate links and Product Images are from Amazon PAAPI