When choosing a wetsuit, one of the most important things to consider is the thickness you’ll need. This will vary depending on where you’re planning to use the wetsuit, what time of year you’ll be in the water, your budget and how many months of the year you plan to be in the water.
Wetsuits tend to be a combination of different neoprene thicknesses, usually with a thicker neoprene covering the core body areas for warmth. For example, a 5/3 wetsuit will have 5mm neoprene in the central body and 3mm elsewhere for flexibility. So, keep in mind that the thicker the wetsuit, the more restricted your movement might become, which is particularly important with activities like stand up paddling or kayaking.
It’s important to remember the sea heats up slowly so, although the sun may be shining in Spring, it will take a few months for the sea to heat up. Many surfers will wear a winter wetsuit through the Spring but, you’ll find them still wearing a summer wetsuit through Autumn as the sea remains warm. February is often the coldest month; the sea temperature has had time to drop to match the air.
One thing you may need to take into consideration when choosing a wetsuit is your budget.
If money is no object (and you’re going to be using a wetsuit all year round) we’d recommend purchasing several wetsuits. A 3mm for the summer, a 4mm for spring and autumn and a 5mm for winter – you may also need to invest in some gloves, boots and a hood if you’re planning to go into cold winter waters. Then, you’ll be covered for all temperatures and can get in the water, no matter what conditions. It may be an expensive option but, wetsuits can last a long time if cared for and each suit will last you much longer.
If you have a ‘medium’ budget, we’d recommend purchasing a 5mm wetsuit for colder sea temperatures (you may still need some accessories too) and a 3mm for the warmer months. Investing in a well-made 5mm means you’ll stay warmer in colder waters but, you could save some money by purchasing an entry-level 3mm as you’ll be using this when the water temperature has risen.
If you’re on a tight budget but still want to get in the water, you may need to consider a few things: where will you be using it? What time of year? How often? What activity?
If you’re only planning to use the wetsuit when the water is warm (during the summer), you’ll most likely be fine with a 3mm wetsuit. But, if you’re wanting to use it all year round (or at least in some of the colder months), you may want to purchase a 5mm wetsuit as these can still be used in the summer. If you get too hot, you can always loosen the neck on the suit and let some water flush the suit – it’s much easier to cool down when you’re too hot than warm up when cold!