/ What thickness wetsuit?

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knighty - on 12 Jun 2017

I need some advice about wetsuits.

I'm looking to spend more time in the sea in the future, involving (hopefully) a mixture of body boarding, surfing, kite surfing and general dicking about (read: swimming, though not serious open water swimming).

Really I only want to buy one wetsuit (budget wise) for use all year round. I'd rather have one decent one than two average ones. I know the best one is the one that fits, but when it comes to thickness what should I get?

I am torn between a 5mm one which would leave me comfortable in winter but hot on the rare summer scorchers or a 4mm one which may be too cold in winter but still too warm in the summer.

If I went for a 5mm I would certainly be willing to get a cheap crappy shortie to see me through the hot days.

Any advice from personal experience UKC?
Post edited at 20:30
summo on 12 Jun 2017
In reply to knighty:

It will depend on where and when you'll be in the water most. There is a major difference between late winter of Aberdeen and Cornwall in Sept.

Swimming in a 5mm full suit in sw England in summer is my idea of torture. I would buy two 2nd hand suits.
knighty - on 12 Jun 2017
In reply to summo:

Good point. I'll mainly be in the SW of the UK.

My reasoning behind not buying second hand is that I want to go into a shop and buy the one that fits best.
Climb Hamster - on 12 Jun 2017
In reply to knighty:

I wouldn't worry about being too "hot" surfing during the summer in the UK. Ever...
I use a 5mm suit surfing/windsurfing during the summer and a 6/7mm suit (plus boots, gloves and a hood!) during the winter. Main problem with the thicker suit is that it's slightly restrictive movement wise. But then so's being frozen solid....
Dave B on 12 Jun 2017
In reply to knighty:

Then buy a shorty for the summer.

This year I went straight from my 5mm to a shorty in sea in the space of two weeks. I haven't used my 3mm this year.

Even the work 4mm won't be used....
Post edited at 21:06
Cheese Monkey - on 12 Jun 2017
In reply to knighty:

5mm. Get too hot and you can just open the neck and flush some cold water through. Wouldn't swim in one mind, but fine for the rest
haworthjim on 12 Jun 2017
In reply to knighty
I wouldn't bother with a shorty. go for a 5/3 and if you get too hot you can always chuck a bit of water down your neck. have a look at wetsuit centre, decathlon, wetsuit outlet.
hope that helps
bouldery bits - on 12 Jun 2017
In reply to knighty:

5mm - Def 5mm.

In the summer you can always just flush through to cool down if you need to - or get the boardies out!
haworthjim on 12 Jun 2017
In reply to Cheese Monkey:

haha great minds and all that.
knighty - on 12 Jun 2017
In reply to Dave B:

Thanks for the advice all! I guess I was worrying about nothing with the being too hot in a 5mm.

Unless there are any ardent 4mm supporters about..?!
mountain.martin - on 12 Jun 2017
In reply to knighty:

I would think the cost of an extra "sunmmer" suite (3/2) that you can wear from June - october would not be be much compared to the cost of the other watersports kit you are talking about.

Your good, warm, more expensive winter suite will last a lot longer if you only wear it for 6 months if the year.

You will then be more comfortable in your summer suite for the summer/autumn months.

Some are saying they are happy in 5mm year round, but I certainly get too hot if I am doing serious activity (windsurfing for me).
bouldery bits - on 12 Jun 2017
In reply to mountain.martin:

> You will then be more comfortable in your summer suite for the summer/autumn months.

Don't buy a suite. They don't float.
La benya - on 12 Jun 2017
In reply to knighty:

A decent winter suit can cost £300plus. You don't wanna be wearing that unless you need to and wearing it out. Summersuits you can buy cheap around £150.

As for swimming in a winter suit. It's not fun, if you truly are going to try then spend more and buy an expensive 4mm as the neoprene is really stretchy and won't wear you out as much.

Same as anything though, try and buy an all rounder and end up with something that isn't great at a lot of things.
Wainers44 - on 12 Jun 2017
In reply to knighty:

Hi, unless you are going regularly in the cold months, Feb and March, I wouldn't go for the winter suit.

Although I have got both now, for many years I used the same summer suit all year, which is a 3/2, ie 3mm body, 2mm arms and legs.

The problem with a 5mm suit, which again would be a 5/3mm is the bulk and lack of flexibility. That is unless you spend real big bucks on one. If you are going to do various things might you risk damaging a very expensive suit?

If I didn't want to buy 2 suits, I would go for a good quality 3/2mm summer suit, Excel are really good for the money, and also buy a titanium rasher to wear under the suit in the depths of winter. Unless you are staying in for 2hrs+ you won't get that cold, especially if you get a hood too!
Toby_W on 12 Jun 2017
In reply to knighty:

Mhmm, my brother surfs in a summer suit all year round and I've swum for hours in my try wetsuit which is only a few mill thick in water at 7 degrees.

The first and most utterly important thing is it fits you well. Can't offer more advice than that as we're all different temp wise and I swim but don't yet surf and surf wetsuits are different to swimming ones. My brother is forever meeting people in thick badly fitting suits who are cold though.

Cheers and good luck


alan moore - on 13 Jun 2017
In reply to knighty:
Seems everybody's different.
I wear a 4mm for everything (mostly summer in Devon though) and occasionally a thin neoprene vest underneath. Cost £160 but that was ten years ago....
Dave B on 13 Jun 2017
In reply to Wainers44:

For real year round use you must be much harder than most. I feel cold in a 3/2 in much less than 30 mins in winter.

Especially with windsurfing etc is not the air temperature, but the water temperature. Dress for immersion even if you don't plan to be in. Comfort and survival time in winter, not making do.

I don't windsurf, but my colleagues do, I prone board Paddle and Surf ski. Prone boards are a wet experience (especially though Surf), skis slightly dryer, both are very active. I will swim in the winter, but prefer not to. Face in water brain freeze is painful and disorientating.

The **general** advice I would give... In the UK your first suit should be a 5/3, gbs with a proper back yoke, or a chest zip . In winter add boots, gloves and hood. (gbs glued and blind stitched - essentially waterproof seams to reduce water flush)

Your second suit should be a long summer 3/2. Gbs.

Your third suit should be a shorty. This could be stitch flatlocked. (mine is long sleeve gbs, and it adds comfort and extends it's usage by a few weeks)

Your fourth suit...


Adjust to specific circumstances and personal knowledge.

You will be too hot now with a 5/3, but a cheap summer shorty would be ok for quick excursions.

Brands do fit differently, but a good suit using more expensive neoprene will be more flexible and forgiving of different body shapes, and generally have better lining materials (eg Flashdry) than cheaper suits.

I'm using a ripcurl suit that's about 3 years old for winter and spring and my summer suit is O'Neil. Both good, ripcurl better made (IMHO) O'Neil fits me better. My colleagues use a mix of Excel, alder, billabong etc suits. All are pretty happy.

knighty - on 13 Jun 2017
In reply to alan moore:

> Seems everybody's different.

It does indeed seem that way! What started out as a clearcut decision is now not so clear.

Thanks all for your input and keep it coming!
knighty - on 13 Jun 2017
In reply to Dave B:

Cheers Dave. Really good advice there. Especially with what makes to look out for too.

I've seen this suit elsewhere for £200 which I am looking to go and try on, but it is 5/4 rather than 5/3 which i imagine affects flexibility?

Wetsuits seem really complex!!
Dave B on 13 Jun 2017
In reply to knighty:

Looks interesting. I like the idea of a hood for winter. Hope it fits well.

I doubt you'll notice too much the 4 and 3 mm especially on a good suit.

It'll be hot to try it on, so maybe in a freezer? ;-)

It'll be good for winter time.

the sheep - on 13 Jun 2017
In reply to knighty:

Hi, Im just about to flog my semi dry, would be good for all the winter stuff, its a 5mm two piece so worn together 10mm over the torso. Under layer is full legs and short sleeves, so maybe good for warmer times, over layer full sleeves and hood. Wouldnt be the best for swimming in though but pretty robust for the rest, have dived in it in December (now got a dry suit), Anyway im 6'4 and is nice and snug on me, was going to ask fifty quid or so. Let me know if you mare interested.
Noo Noo - on 13 Jun 2017
In reply to knighty:

Not what you want to hear but I have 2 suits.

5/4 for when its cold
and a 3/2 shorty with long arms for when the suns out.

if it has to be one I'd get the 5mm and then save your pennies until you can get the other. You can always leave the zip open!!!!!
LastBoyScout on 13 Jun 2017
In reply to knighty:

5mm in summer will be a miserable experience - you'll sweat like mad and it'll be hard work to swim in.

I'm going to agree with Alan Moore here - if you want the most versatile suit for all year round for SW, then get a 4/3 and add a 2mm neoprene rash vest (+ boots + gloves + hood) in winter.

I used to do that with my BodyGlove Matrix 4:3, which was a brilliant suit, but now rather battered and starting to give up at the seams. It was good for a couple of hours in the winter with everything else and a good breakfast.

These days, I use an Xcel 5mm winter suit with fleece lining on the chest and back and it's amazing, but a sod to get out of when you're tired and battered. In the summer, I use an O'Neill Psycho and the Matrix still comes out occasionally. I've also got an O'Neill Hammer 3/2 with short sleeves and flatlocked seams for when it's REALLY hot - originally bought for windsurfing.

Definitely go for a suit with a back yoke or chest zip and glued/blind stitched/latex seams and look for hydrophobic coatings, as they'll dry quicker when you're out of the water and this reduces windchill and weight.

As always, go for what fits you by a reputable make - I don't get on with RipCurl suits, as I find them too tight in the thighs. My wife, however, fits their women's suits perfectly and doesn't suit the neck line on O'Neill. A stretchy suit will be more forgiving of perfect fit, but you need to be pretty close to start with. The first Matrix I had was a "tall" which was fine on paper and in the shop, but when it got wet, it was too long in the body and the crotch started creeping towards my knees. So I sold it on and bought a "regular" which was perfect.
WaterMonkey - on 13 Jun 2017
In reply to knighty:

I windsurf all year round and I use a 5mm in winter and a 3-4mm convertible suit in the summer or a 3mm shorty.
When it's really hot just rash vest and board shorts.

Windsurfing/kitesurfing means you are generally affected in the winter by windchill in addition to the cold water (although water temp is coldest about March time) I wouldn't even contemplate going out in winter without a 5mm minimum.

I don't think you can realistically buy one suit to meet all your needs I'm afraid.
knighty - on 13 Jun 2017
In reply to WaterMonkey:

Thanks again for the continued responses!

Everyone seems oh so very different.

Just been in a shop and tried on a very nice O'Neill Hyperfreak suit. They very much pushed us towards the 4/3 and supplementing with boots/gloves/thermal vest when it gets cold.

I still don't know what to do which is very unlike me. Pros for 4/3: better flexibility, wear in all conditions other than hottest summer (get a shortie) or deepest winter (get boots, gloves, thermal vest) Cons: trying to be the jack of all trades means that temperature is almost always a compromise.
TeeBee on 13 Jun 2017
In reply to Dave B:

> I like the idea of a hood for winter

This does help a lot. I use one that's separate, but long enough to tuck under the suit's collar, and it makes a big difference in cold water - less sloshing down the neck (or at least less noticeable), and no biting cold to the top of the head. If it gets too hot it can just be pulled down and worn as a monster tight neck gaiter.
Dave B on 13 Jun 2017
In reply to TeeBee:

That's like mine... My friends have got them attached to a vest top, which seems to work better than mine which just tucks in.

LastBoyScout on 13 Jun 2017
In reply to Dave B:

Another vote for a separate hood. My winter suit is neck entry, which means any sort of vest underneath just rides up when pulling the suit up and is a bugger to tuck down properly.

My old hood was barely more than a neoprene hat, but was ok for all but the worst of winter. The problem with the ones that tuck in is flexibility and makes the neck of your suit very tight.
Dax H - on 13 Jun 2017
In reply to Wainers44:

Like you I used a 3mm through winter with a titanium rash vest.
Summer was just a pair of swim shorts and the same rash vest.
To give the OP more insight though, I get hot fast and the UK summer is far too hot for me, in winter working outside is done in just a tee-shirt, a jumper will come out of the van if the temp reads - but inveriably once working it comes off.

Question to the op, do you run hot or cold?
If your still wearing a jacket whilst people around you are in shirt sleeves then 5mm could be for you, if your the first each year to ditch the extra clothing then 3mm might be your thing.
knighty - on 13 Jun 2017
In reply to Dax H:

Again, thanks all for all of the advice.

I ended up buying the 4/3 based on the experiences of the guys in more than one surf shop saying that they use a 4/3 all year round.

I don't think I run either particularly hot or cold, so hopefully this is good advice! I also realise that they weren't giving me advice from a kite surfing point of view, which may very well be different, but only time will tell!

Going for a paddle in it tomorrow. Happy days!
mountain.martin - on 13 Jun 2017
In reply to knighty:

For windsurfing, I guess kitesurfing is similar, you need to ensure that the forearms and constricted, I used one wetsuit once that was pretty tight on the forearms and got really pumped a lot more quickly than I normally would, even though I was using a harness.

I imagine the tightness was restricting the blood flow in the forearms and interfering with the clearing if lactic acid build up.

Hope yours is ok in that area, or maybe that's not so critical for kitesurfing?
shantaram - on 13 Jun 2017
In reply to knighty:

I use a 5/3 wetsuit all year round in the uk for kitesurfing and surfing and supplement it with hood, gloves and booties in the winter. I can honestly say I've never been too hot in it in the summer.

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