How to Choose a Wetsuit, Thickness, & Other Considerations?
Wetsuits are an amazing piece of kit (having worn a selection of styles and thicknesses I can safely say that a good wetsuit will make all the difference to a day or more on the water) that let stand-up paddleboarders, wild swimmers, kayakers, rafters, and water lover’s alike stay in the water all year long.
Choosing the right wetsuit is key to making sure you are well prepared, comfortable, and protected from the elements.
Try before you buy – in-store, local activity providers, friends are all worth asking to get this right.
Choosing the right wetsuit for the time of year and adventure activity that you will be doing is the first step to staying warm and happy, able to enjoy the activity to its fullest.
In addition to water temperature, consider the following factors when choosing the right wetsuit:
- Air Temperature – do you live in a warm or cold climate – or the full mix of all-weather?
- Wind Speed – inland or coastal conditions vary a lot and worth consideration.
- Your Sensitivity to Getting Cold
- Activity Level
Please note: For cold air temperatures, more wind, and an activity with less movement or if you get cold easily, consider a thicker wetsuit or conceder adding windproofing layers.
Choosing the right wetsuit – How Do Wetsuits Work?
Wetsuits work by trapping a thin layer of water between your body and the suit – thermal protection. This layer of water is warmed by your body which prevents you from losing too much heat while in the water.
Wetsuits are not meant to keep you entirely dry. Neoprene is made of small closed cells that are filled with air which provides insulation against cold water by trapping heat in. The thicker the suit’s neoprene, the warmer the suit will be because it has more heat-trapping insulation.
It is important to research the water temperature (keeping in mind the different seasons) in the region where you will mainly use your wetsuit. If the temperatures are cold enough to make your extremities go numb, think about using boots, gloves, and hoods too.
Choosing the right Wetsuit Thickness – what thickness should my wetsuit be?
One of the most important aspects when considering wetsuit warmth is the thickness of the neoprene. Wetsuit thickness is measured in millimeters, represented with two or three numbers separated by a slash.
The first number represents the thickness of the neoprene in the torso area, the second number represents the thickness of the neoprene in the extremities (or just the legs if there is a third number), and the third number (if present) represents the neoprene thickness in the arms.
The thicker the neoprene, the more warmth but less flexibility; thus the thicker neoprene is placed where you need less flexibility (your core benefits from extra thermal protection) and the thinner neoprene is used where your body is constantly in motion (arms and legs).
Choosing the right wetsuit – How Should A Wetsuit Fit?
Make sure the suit fits properly
Fit and level of flexibility is a very important consideration when choosing the right wetsuit. If your wetsuit does not fit properly it will not be able to keep you warm or allow you the mobility you need for your activity.
Consulting brand-specific size charts for wetsuits are the best way to start finding the correct wetsuit size and fit.
A wetsuit should fit like a second skin with no sagging or excess material in the back or excessive bunching in the arms or legs. It should fit tight in order to keep only a thin layer of water between your body and your suit.
If your suit is loose, an abundance of water will flush through, making the suit less effective at keeping you warm.
Is it better to have a tight or loose wetsuit?
Wetsuit Fit Checklist – does my wetsuit fit correctly?
Once you have your wetsuit on there should be no excess room in the torso (skin tight), crotch, shoulders, or knees. A properly fitting wetsuit will be challenging to put on when dry.
(Top Tip: Keeping your socks on will allow your feet to slide in much easier:)
Once on, 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 during this movement then the suit is too small.
You should be able to squat down and move your arms easily (wetsuits above 5/4mm thickness are generally a little more restrictive).
*Each brand has is slightly different; make sure to shop for your body type when choosing the right wetsuit.
Type of Wetsuit & Lengths of Wetsuits – wetsuits for all shapes and sizes.
There are many different kinds of wetsuit that are best suited for different conditions and body shape – winter wetsuit or colder water, summer surfing wetsuit, back zip or chest zip wetsuit, even salt water suitability.
By type, I mean the cut and sleeve style. These different kinds of wetsuits range from tops or bottoms to full suits with hoods for those extreme weather hero’s.
Full Wetsuit & Swimming Wetsuit
A full wetsuit covers your entire body — these suits can be found in many different thicknesses made for different water temperatures. Full suits cover the entire body including arms and legs up to wrists and ankles and can include thermal lining technology depending on brand and cost.
Shorty Wetsuit / Springsuits / Short Johns
Shorties, springsuits, short johns and wetsuit shorts – they all feature thinner material and short legs and arms and are primarily used in warmer water temperatures, but can be an excellent extra layer for extra core warmth when tackling Scottish weather conditions – turn a 5mm core into 10mm.
Long John /Jane Wetsuits
Exactly like a full suit but made with thinner neoprene (usually 1.5 to 2mm) and no material at the arms, for warmer waters.
Tops or vests made out of 0.5-2 mm neoprene that can be paired with boardshorts or a bikini bottom, primarily used for warmer water sports. Wetsuit vests can also be layered under a full suit for extra warmth in cold water.
Neoprene pants, leggings or shorts primarily used in warmer water temperatures.
Are you supposed to wear anything under a wetsuit?
Wearing nothing under your wetsuit is totally acceptable, and a matter of personal preference. However, consider these factors: Chafing: Wetsuits can chafe. Give it a try, and wear a swimsuit if it’s uncomfortable. Most people prefer to wear a swimsuit or boardshorts, and others may need to wear sport-specific gear underneath their wetsuit depending on the activity they’re participating in.
A light shirt made out of Lycra or other UV-resistant materials. Used to protect against sun and sand, sometimes worn under a wetsuit to prevent irritation, this can make all the difference if in your wetsuit for long periods of time – but cotton should be avoided as it can wick body heat away and offers no extra protection.
Choosing the right Wetsuit Accessories
When the temperatures drop it’s time to add a little extra; wetsuit accessories such as gloves, boots, and hoods help you stay warm.
Neoprene gloves or mittens for cold water activities. Five-finger gloves provide the most dexterity, while mittens are best suited to very cold water. Three-finger hybrid models also exist (think lobster hands).
Neoprene and rubber boots for cold water activities. Wetsuit booties can have a round toe or split toe. External split-toe designs have a separate big toe for better dexterity, while internal split-toe models combine the dexterity of split-toe with the warmth of a round-toe design.
Hoods can be added to hoodless wetsuits for additional warmth in colder waters. Some wetsuits have hoods built-in.
Wetsuit Suppliers Links of interest:
LOMO (Glasgow Based):
Here at Lomo, we sell our sports gear directly to you through our own website in order to keep the costs as low as possible. Our wetsuits, dry bags and other accessories use only the finest materials, we simply cut out the middlemen of other retailers to keep the costs down.
The Tiki surf shop is one of the UK’s oldest surfboard and wetsuit retailers. Originally developed as a surf outlet for Tiki surfboards and the licensed classic Californian surfboards of Bing and G&S, it is now one of the largest surf shops in the UK.
Good quality affordable gear with a great selection of equipment for all manner of sports, activities, and requirements.
Check out other relevant articles: What to wear Paddleboarding?
I hope this information gives you a good place to start your search for the ideal wetsuit and activity gear to suit your water-based adventures, if you are interested in trying out some adventure activities while in Scotland take a look at the links below for more detail on tours and activities.
Interested in finding out more?