When YOU think of the best wetsuit, do you mean the most comfortable wetsuit? What makes the most comfortable normally come down to fit, and construction materials and the way the panels of the suit are joined. In general, you get what you pay for.
There are different types of neoprene, and different ways of joining the panels of the suit together. As a rule, the more expensive the suit, the more areas where better materials have been used, and the methods for joining the different panels is of a higher quality too.
Let’s look at ‘fit’ first
It is always important to get a well fitting suit, other wise it cannot do its job properly. With modern high quality suits, there is a lot of flexibility in the neoprene, so finding a standard size to fit well should not be too difficult.
That said, if you do not fit any of the standard size profiles, then it would be worth paying for a custom made suit. Many of the quality manufactures will custom make for maybe an additional charge of around 20% or so. Beyond this, there are a number of manufactures who concentrate on custom made suits. If you can afford them, this would be the ultimate choice as these specialists often can design anything you want into the suit. Colour schemes, additional zips and so on.
There are a number of different types of neoprene for a manufacturer to choose from when putting together a modern wetsuit. These have different amounts of flexibility and performance in the water. A more recent trend that a number of manufacturers are focusing on on is to make use of more eco friendly materials.
As a rule, usually the more stretch (and reliability), the higher the cost.
One thing to remember, is that with sufficient stretch, zips are no longer needed to help with putting the suit on and taking it off. This is why 30 years ago most suits had ankle and wrist zips, whilst most modern, suits do not need them. Suits designed for Scuba diving are often the exception.
This is arguably one of the most important parts of the suit. Over the years there have been a number of ways to join the different panels of the suit together, but some of the highest quality modern seams are fully bonded, so that NO water can get through.
The effect is that although it is still a ‘wetsuit’, you can remove the suit after a couple of hours in thee water and you will find parts of your body are still bone dry!
So how do you chose the most comfortable suit?
The starting point is to be clear what water sports you want to take part in, and what water temperatures you expect to encounter.
If money is no object then you would probably end up with 4 or 5 different suits all custom made!! The reasons are that for different sports you have a different temperature profile, and different amount of energy is expended. You may also need zips in different places!
For example, diving is very different to surfing
When diving, you are likely to be at greater depth where the water is colder. The water pressure also compresses the neoprene reducing its ability to maintain warmth. You are also likely to be moving relatively slowly, so will not be creating much warmth through expending energy. Historically, you didn’t want any zips on your back under the Scuba tanks, although with modern low profile zips this is less of an issue.
As for surfing, hopefully you will spend a lot of time above the surface, either waiting for that next wave, or riding the board. Ideally you want a suit that dries on the outside very quickly to minimise wind chill, whilst being robust enough not to get torn. The sport is also far more energetic than diving, so you will be creating a lot of heat through energy use.
And you do NOT want any zips on the front where you will be lying on the board!
Some sports such as open water swimming and triathlons require very high flexibility in specific parts of the suit such as under the arms, and greater buoyancy in different areas such as the legs. And, ideally you want NO zips!
So you can see there are a number of different things to consider when looking for the most comfortable wetsuit.
Mainstream quality Manufactures who will also custom make suits include
Specialist custom designers include
If can add any further suggestions of wetsuit manufacturers who aim to supply the most comfortable suits, then please add your thoughts below. Much appreciated!
If you are a supplier of manufacturer that I haven’t mentioned, PLEASE get in touch!