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A good wetsuit is a must for any activity in the water in our colder European territories. With a wetsuit on, your body is insulated against the worst of the cold and can withstand the brisk UK sea temperatures as well as protect you against the wind.
Most wetsuits out there, including the ones we’ve reviewed, work by trapping a small amount of water between the suit and the body, and then use your body heat to warm that water to act as a thermal jacket. It’s a simple but a tried, tested and highly effective method.
What should I be looking for?
Wetsuit technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, especially when it comes to sustainability and thermal ability, so in this article we’ll look to guide you through a bit of the buying advice and what to look for, and additionally suggest a number of wetsuits we’ve tested and would recommend in 2021.
It might seem daunting at first. The wetsuit world is full of jargon, so if you’re a seasoned wettie buyer, scroll down, but this following information may be useful to some.
What size to buy?
If you see ‘mm’ after your wetsuit name it refers to its thickness. Generally, look for thicker wetsuits for colder water and thinner ones for the British spring and summer. The most popular sizes are 3/2mm (for the warmer summer weather), 4/3mm (possibly the most popular size and a good all-round size for spring and summer conditions) and 5/4mm (suitable for the icy waters of most winters).
Personal tastes vary however, so we’d recommend trying a few on to see what you think of each size. Bear in mind that thicker suits are harder to move and be flexible in, so have a think about the kind of activity you want to use your wetsuit for.
There are also a number of height specifics and options on that front too, but these are more nuanced so it’s worth trying a few out and asking someone for advice as brands can vary in sizing. Generally, most brands offer Small or XX-Large, with normal, tall and large offerings of each variant demarcated by an ‘L’ or a ‘T’ in the sizing guide.
Are there specialist wetsuits?
In a word – yes! You can buy diving wetsuits, swimming wetsuits (which are generally designed to be as streamlined as possible) and classic wetsuits which is what we’re all familiar with at the beach whilst surfing. If you really want a wetsuit to be multi-sport, you’re best off buying a couple designed for certain disciplines – it’ll make your life at lot easier.
Consider the fact that if you want to use your thicker wetsuit in winter (or, let’s face it, probably autumn and spring too) you’ll need to have a think about wetsuit accessories like gloves, boots and hoods. Some wetsuits have in-built hoods but they can be awkward when not in use. Keeping your extremities warm is key!
Now you know what to look for, here are our recommendations for some of the best wetsuits out there in 2022
Rip Curl Dawn Patrol Performance 4/3mm Chest Zip Wetsuit
Key Specs: Materials, Neoprene; Thickness, 4mm; Type? Surfing
This everyday Rip Curl wetsuit uses a combination of Neoprene and Thermo Lining for stretch and warmth, and we liked its lined front and back panels that funnel water rapidly out of the suit once it’s hung to aid drying.
It’s a good offering from Rip Curl that sits firmly in the mid-range but is a good basic wetsuit from a well-known brand that most beginners won’t go far wrong with.
Quicksilver Highline Pro Zipperless Men’s Wetsuit
Key Specs: Materials, Japanese Neoprene; Thickness, 1mm; Type? Pro/Advanced Surfing
One of the most premium wetsuits out there and quite possibly one of the best on the market at the moment. The innovation is what impressed us the most, with very minimal 1mm thickness but with the promise of 3mm warmth and comfort. They’ve also not skimped on the material used either – it uses the most premium Japanese neoprene constructed with no stitched seams and no zipper. Thoroughly lightweight and impressive.
Olaian Men’s 4/3mm Neoprene Surf Wetsuit
Key Specs: Materials, Neoprene; Thickness, 4mm; Type? All-Round
From one extreme to the other, this Olaian option from Decathlon is one of the best budget options out there at the moment, with still ample functionality and thermal comfort when out in the sea to make it a very worthwhile purchase.
Suitable for up to two hours in 12c to 17c seas, so ample for most largely fair-weather surfers and beach-goers in the UK.
Zone3 Men’s Aspire Wetsuit
Key Specs: Materials, Yamamoto sustainable material; Thickness, 1.5mm; Type? Swimming
Zone3 are a brand who manufacture a range of highly-regarded triathlon equipment, and this latest swimming wetsuit is an excellent addition to their range.
Fully tested and endorsed by elite athletes, the suit uses an innovative fabric technology and is well regarded in the triathlon and sporting communities. It’s lightweight, comfortable, offers excellent buoyancy and is probably, overall, the best swimming wetsuit money can buy.
C-Skins Sessions Men’s 4:3
Key Specs: Materials, Neoprene; Thickness, 4/3mm; Type? Surfing/All-Round
We’ve used this wetsuit as our own personal suit for a range of warm and cold weather sea sessions over the past couple of years, and we’re really impressed by its all-round versatility and ability to keep you insulated whilst offering a good degree of flexibility for the price.
We found the fit quite snug to start with for a 4:3 but the tough Dura Flex kneepads are an excellent addition for surfing and extra suppleness where you need it most.
Patagonia R3 Yulex Full Suit
Key Specs: Materials, Yulex plant-based material; Thickness, 4.5mm; Type? Surfing
Another wetsuit offering excellent green credentials is this contribution from Patagonia, who, liked Finisterre, have also used Yulex Rubber instead of Neoprene It’s 4.5mm thick around the chest and back, so it has enough substance to use in the slightly colder months of spring and autumn, but you might need a 5/3mm if you want to head out in winter.
It’s a little higher than some of the comparative wetsuits on this list, but it does come with a lifetime warranty, which is worth thinking ab
Finisterre Men's Nieuwland 3e Yulex Wetsuit
Key Specs: Materials, Yulex plant-based material; Thickness, 3.5mm around chest, 2.5 on arms and legs; Type? Surfing
Finisterre have quickly made a name for themselves since 2003 developing wetsuits, clothing and technical outdoor wear aimed squarely at the hardy British surfer.
With a functional design ethos and a pioneering sustainability angle, they produce some of the most respected products in the industry and the 3mm Yulex wetsuit is their first summer wetsuit offering. The men’s version launched in 2019, and the natural rubber it’s made from offers a convincing substitute to normal rubber.