One silver lining to the pandemic we’ve all endured is how it’s encouraged us to reconnect with the great outdoors. Whether to escape the monotony of lockdown or maintain some form of a fitness routine as gyms and pools remained closed, many took to the water to let off some steam.
The result? Wetsuits sales are booming, with several retailers reporting shortages in recent months - and it’s no wonder. Investing in a wetsuit will give you more options year-round, plus a record number of Brits are considering a UK staycay this summer and our seas are far chillier than their Mediterranean counterparts.
Stephanie Micci, head designer at female-only brand Roxy, notes that searches for wetsuits have quadrupled in the UK alone. When picking a wetsuit for any activity, the three most important factors to consider are comfort, fit, and material, she says. “Fit plays a key role in both comfort and performance. The wrists, neck, and ankle openings should all fit a snug as possible (to prevent water entering the suit, known as flushing) and/or creating drag from excess fabric.
“Swimming wetsuits tend to be thinner (around 3mm or less) than those used for surf because a swimmer is constantly moving, and therefore creating more body heat,” she continues. “They are also usually made with thicker neoprene over the hip area to allow the body to lie higher in the water (to aid buoyancy), thus further reducing drag,” Meanwhile, opt for glideskin (single lined neoprene with a smooth rubberized surface) if you’re focused on performance, “the smoother surface reduces drag, helping you move faster.” If you’re surfing, research the water temperature and weather conditions when picking a wetsuit.
When assessing the fit of a wetsuit, Jessie Watts, a buyer at Mountain Warehouse, which has seen a more than 1200 per cent surge in sales and 500 per cent lift in searches compared to last year, says “once on, there should be no excess room in the torso, crotch, shoulders or knees - a proper fitting wetsuit will be challenging to put on when dry. Lift your arms over your head and stretch out your shoulders, this move should only be slightly restricting, if you feel a lot of pressure doing this then the suit is too small. You should be able to squat down and move your arms easily (wetsuits above 5/4mm are inherently restrictive).”
Below, we’ve rounded up a selection of the best wetsuits for every activity and budget.
Roxy 3/2mm Syncro Back Zip Wetsuit for Women
Roxy’s Syncro fits like a glove, the back zip entry makes it easy to get in and out of and the all-black design feels chic compared to most other designs out there.
The suit is primarily made for surfing in water between 13°C and 18°C, but as it’s a light and flexible 3/2mm material, it can also be used for swimming.
Features include chest and back panels designed to retain heat, as well as a far-infrared thermal lining which converts body heat into infrared energy to generate extra warmth while waiting to catch those waves. Add to this an adjustable neck closure and hydroshield water barrier to keep water out, and you have a very sophisticated wetsuit.
Mountain Warehouse Shorty
Some people prefer shorter wetsuits in the warmer months and Mountain Warehouse’s Shorty is ideal for the beach this summer, having been designed with bodyboarding and surfing in mind.
The contoured and sculpted fit, means there are different levels of thickness around the body (lighter fabric on the sleeves and thicker fabric on the body) to offer extra ease of movement.
Extra handy features include a key pocket, adjustable neck closure and back zip for easy entry and exit.
This suit is extremely good value compared to most other wetsuits on the market and we love the fun retro pop of purple in this style.
Finisterre Women’s Nieuwland 3e Yulex Wetsuit
Finisterre created the world’s first fully recyclable wetsuit in 2019, and has been leading the way in the sustainability stakes ever since.
The Nieuwland 3e is the brand’s first summer wetsuit for women and is made using 85 per cent yulex (FSC-certified natural rubber, a sustainable alternative to neoprene) and uses recycled polyester in the lining.
The 3mm suit is primarily designed for surfing in water temperatures of between 14°C and 18°C and design elements include a custom neck pattern and tension wrist bands to reduce flushing.
Patagonia R3 Yulex Front Zip Full Suit
Patagonia makes all of its wetsuits using 85 per cent yulex, too. All are also Fairtrade sewn and use a recycled material to make the zip entry.
The R3 is available in both women’s and men’s. With a thickness of 4.5mm on the chest and 3.5mm on the arms/legs it is best suited for surfing in cooler waters between 9° and 13°C.
The fabric is flexible and soft and lining on the torso and thighs will keep you extra toasty. All seams are externally sealed and triple-glued to shut out water and add to durability.
Quiksilver 1mm Highline Pro Goofy Zipperless Wetsuit for Men
Quiksilver’s full-length 1mm Highline Pro is the most expensive wetsuit on this list - how does it warrant the eye-watering price tag? The answer is with some pretty cool features.
The 1mm suit offers the warmth of a traditional 3mm thanks to its StretchFlight neoprene and WarmFlight thermal fleece lining throughout.
The zipless style makes it lighter, so you can catch those waves faster. For those unfamiliar with the lingo, the ‘goofy’ element refers to the entry point being located on the back arm, so that when you fall over, flushing is prevented through the front arm. This obviously isn’t an entry level wetsuit, rather an investment buy for super surfers and contests.
Alpkit Terrapin Natural Swimming Wetsuit
Alpkit’s Terrapin wetsuit has been specifically created for open-water swimmers, with features that are designed to support your natural swimming position in the water. It’s made using a thinner, more flexible glideskin neoprene (1.5mm to 3mm thickness) to reduce drag so you can swim more efficiently with unrestricted arm movements. The rear zip makes it easier to get on and off and a zipped pouch keeps valuables safe.
dhb Aeron Ultra Womens Wetsuit
dhb’s Aeron Ultra Wetsuit (available in both women’s and men’s) is designed with performance in mind, and is ideal for open water swimming and long-distance triathlons. Aerodome technology offers optimum leg buoyancy and prevents leg fatigue while minimising drag in the water.
This is also a good option for new swimmers who need a little extra support in the water. The SCS (super composite skin) coating allows you to glide through the water, while the super stretchy Yamamoto neoprene (2mm shoulder/3mm chest) offers 360-degree freedom of movement with every stroke.
Zone3 Women’s Azure Wetsuit
The Zone3 Women’s Azure Wetsuit caters to both newbies and pro open-water swimmers. The extreme flex material is designed to offer flexibility and unrestricted arm and shoulder movements, while a 4mm core buoyancy panel on the hips and legs for supports a swimmer’s position in the water.
The 2mm/4mm suit uses SpeedFlo (70 per cent) and Smoothskin (30 per cent) neoprene material to boost your speed in the water and minimise drag, while silicone-coated cuffs on the wrist and ankle help with speedier removals.
2XU P:1 Propel Wetsuit
The Propel wetsuit boasts a number of performance-focused technical features, making it ideal for triathlons.
The 39 cell neoprene (varying from 1mm to 5mm across the body) is SCS coated which works to repel water when in contact with the air and reduce surface resistance when in the water for faster swims.
The 520 per cent stretch adds flexibility and rollbar adds core buoyancy. The durable material makes it easier to get on and off, so you can smash those PBs.