There’s quite a choice of wetsuits. We’ve prepared this guide to help you choose the right suit for you and the conditions in which you dive.
In this guide, we cover the best wetsuits for men, if you’re looking for a female-specific wetsuit reviews head over to our guide of women’s wetsuits. Otherwise, here’s our wetsuit ratings for the best wetsuits 2020.
ScubaPro is one of the best wetsuit brands. They have used every trick in the book to deliver a wetsuit that is flexible, comfortable, and warm.
Made from ScubaPro X-Foam, the ScubaPro Everflex uses pre-formed shapes the reduce the number of seams giving great movement and thermal protection. The outer seams have been double blind stitched, and the inner are single, which reduces water flow to almost zero. Over the torso Heliospan lining traps water for insulation, elsewhere Diamond Span lining assists draining once out of the water. Wrist and ankle seals are zippered and use Glideskin so that you can layer gloves and boots effectively. The neck seal uses Glideskin too plus there’s a short front zip at the throat for increased comfort. The rear zip is by YKK. The zip has a flush guard and padding and runs in a diagonal for comfort and ease of getting in an out. The shoulders and knees are padded, and the knee and bum area has extra protection.
X-Foam neoprene has been designed specifically for scuba diving to be flexible, warm, and water shedding. It’s the only neoprene the complies with PAH testing which means it’s both hypoallergenic and environmentally friendly.
ZIP: YKK, diagonal across back with leash
THICKNESS: 3/2 mm and 5/4 mm
SUITABLE FOR: Scuba diving in a variety of locations
- Diagonal back zip
- Hypo-allergenic and eco-friendly
- Uses flexible, warm, X-Foam with Glideskin seals and blindstitching
This suit is made with Cressi NeoPro material, which is durable, elastic, and soft. The lining is Cressi’s patented Ultaspan nylon. The cut is ergonomic, which aids with ease of donning and doffing. The rear YKK zip runs vertically and has a flush guard and leash. The knees have extra protection from abrasions. The neck is shaped to fit and features a Velcro fastening. It’s one of the best wetsuits for diving that doesn’t break the bank.
ZIP: YKK, rear vertical, with flush guard and leash
SUITABLE FOR: Cooler water
- Shaped neck with Velcro fastening
- Flush guard on the zip
This Xcel suit is a full body wetsuit with a clean no fuss look. The neoprene is Japanese Limestone Superprene designed to fit like a second skin and offers great stretch. Seams are glued and blind stitched and stress points have been reinforced with FusionX tape. It’s a great value, sleek looking, lightweight wetsuit. An ideal suit if you are looking for a layering combination.
SUITABLE FOR: When 5mm is too much, but 3mm is not enough
- Japanese Limestone Superprene
- Smart, clean design
This Aqua Lung suit is ideal for warm water, and it’s flexible enough for comfortable, sunburn free snorkeling too. The neck is adjustable, and the seams are flatlock stitched for comfort. The zip is at the back and runs vertically and features a water shield to reduce water flow.
ZIP: Rear with a flush guard
SUITABLE FOR: Warm water
- Adjustable neck
- Flatlock stitching against skin
- Best wetsuit for snorkeling
The CRESSI Morea suit is ideal for diving in the tropics. This suit uses large panels for great flex. The body is made from a rubberized neoprene which not only keeps the core warm but dries quickly. The arms and legs are lined with Ultraspan, which is a nylon lining designed for ease of movement. The back zip is YKK and has a flap to reduce water flow and a leash to aid with zipping. The knees have a protective cover against abrasions. Wrists and ankles have an overlocked cuff to seal and reduce water flow.
ZIP: YKK, vertical, rear
SUITABLE FOR: Diving in the tropics, snorkeling, freediving
- Ultraspan lining
- YKK Zip
- Overlocked cuffs
Thermoprene is Henderson’s bespoke neoprene which has been created for ease of getting into and out of. Seams are glued and blind stitched to reduce water seepage. The zip is YKK, has a leash, and is fitted at the rear running vertically. There’s padding along the spine, and the cuffs feature lycra finishing for comfort. The knees are padded and coated to resist abrasions. Wrists and ankles have an overlocked cuff to seal and reduce water flow. Amongst wetsuits brands, Henderson’s is one of the smaller companies but has a long tradition of producing cool wetsuits.
ZIP: YKK, vertical, rear, padded with a leash
SUITABLE FOR: Diving in the tropics, snorkeling, freediving
- YKK Zip
- Padded spine
- Glued and blindstitched seam
The Mares Flexa features three different thickness of neoprene for warmth and comfort: 5, 4, and 3 mm. It’s as easy to wear as a 3 mm suit but has the thermal protection you would expect from the 5 mm. The neoprene is 100% ultrastretch and has a thermoplush lining. The zip runs vertically up the back and is padded with an extra layer of neoprene for comfort.
ZIP: Rear, vertical and padded
THICKNESS: 5/4/3 mm
SUITABLE FOR: Cooler water
- Thermoplush lining
- Padded zip
The Aqua Lung AquaFlex uses 5 mm neoprene throughout the suit. Mares AquaFlex neoprene has increased stretch to make it easy to get on and off. The neoprene conforms to your body for the best fit.
It’s so easy to get on and off that Aqua Lung has not used zips on the ankles or wrists. Not using zips reduces water flow. The nylon outer layer has a tight weave which is designed to be durable and resist abrasions. The weave is effective against wear caused by Velcro. The inner lining is a soft and comfortable thermal loop laminate designed to keep you warm.
The zip runs vertically up the back and has a three-way seal to reduce water flow. Seams are sealed with liquid rubber; cuffs are treated with X-Tend to prolong their life. The left wrist has a silicone grip to keep your gauges in place.
ZIP: Rear, vertical
SUITABLE FOR: Colder water
- AquaFlex neopren
- Abrasion resistant outer layer
- Wrist traction for gauges
Bare’s Elastek range is designed to stretch and fit for comfort. Their design employs 3D shape patterning for anatomically correct fit. Seams are taped using SEAMTEK liquid tape on the outside which waterproofs them but also protects from unraveling. The rear zip is double sealed and padded. Bare has a patented PROTEKT material which they have used on the shoulders, elbows, and knees to reinforce these areas against abrasions. The inner elbow and knee backs have flex panels for ease of movement. The ankle and wrist seals use Glideskin.
ZIP: Back with a leash
SUITABLE FOR: Diving in cooler water
- External liquid SEAMTEK taping
- Flex panels
Hollis has used a mix of 8/7/6mm thickness to deliver flexibility in a thick suit. The zip goes across the upper chest, which makes it easier to get on and fasten. The zip includes a neck dam and internal bib designed for comfort and to reduce water flow. The suit incorporates a hood and has a pocket on each thigh too. Neck, wrist, and ankles are sealed with an internal damn, and all seams are blind stitched and double glued with a liquid seal.
The suit is lined with ThermaSkin, a material designed by Hollis for warmth. This suit is one of the best wetsuits for scuba diving in cold water.
ZIP: G-Lock horizontal across the chest
THICKNESS: 8/7/6 mm
SUITABLE FOR: Diving in cold water
- Thigh pockets
- Integrated hood
- Front zip
BUYERS GUIDE AND TIPS
There are a few things to know and consider when choosing a wetsuit. Below you will find information to help you choose the best wetsuit. We’ve covered the types of suits available as well as a guide to temperature and the key features to consider when reading a wetsuit review.
How do wetsuits keep you warm?
A wetsuit keeps you warm because it traps a layer of water between you and it. Your body warms the water, and the wetsuit keeps it in place. Hence why it’s essential that a suit fits well, if it’s baggy, the water you warm will flow out and chill you as it carries your body heat away.
To work effectively, a wetsuit needs to fit snuggly but not so snugly that your breathing or circulation are restricted.
New wetsuits are a struggle but don’t assume it’s too tight because you have to wriggle into it. The critical thing to do is to take your time and work slowly. They do begin to fit more comfortably with wear but don’t make the mistake of going up a size to make it easier to get on. Remember, if it’s loose, it won’t keep you warm.
Because cut and fit are so crucial to a wetsuits effectiveness, if you’re female, please take a look at our best women’s wetsuit guide.
Types of Wetsuit
This guide focuses on full-length suits. Rash vests and shorty wetsuits can be used in combination with full suits to give you some flexibility for varying water temperatures. We have offered a summary of them too.
A rash vest is a thin, stretchy t-shirt like garment. Choose them for tropical waters where you don’t need to keep warm but do need protection from the sun. Rash vests offer protection against stingers too. When worn underneath a wetsuit, rash vests provide increased comfort and immediate sun protection after you remove your wetsuit.
Typically, shorty wetsuits are made using 2-3mm neoprene and are designed to give your core a little extra warmth. Shorty wetsuits are easier to get on and off, but they’re only suitable for warmer waters where you don’t need a lot of thermal protection. Most styles cut off above the knee and elbow, which means you have less sun protection. Their cut also makes for some interesting tan lines.
A shorty wetsuit is great for layering. If you dive in a variety of conditions you can wear a shorty under or over a long wetsuit for extra warmth.
Long wetsuits, as the name suggests, fit to the ankles and the wrists. These come in a variety of thicknesses allowing you to choose a suit based on the conditions in which you dive. Many scuba divers refer to long wetsuits as full-body wetsuits or jumpsuits.
These are usually 7 mm or thicker, and they’re a hybrid of a wet and dry suit. Yes, you will get wet, but the seals and zips are fashioned on a dry suit design to restrict water flow. Most commonly the main zip is the same as a dry suit zip, and it runs horizontally across your shoulders.
The majority of suits are one-piece, but two-part suits are available. A two-piece suit is made up of a top and a bottom. The bottom covers the legs and comes up to fasten over the shoulder in a dungarees fashion. The top can have an integrated hood and fastens with a beavertail which comes through the crotch to fasten at the front. This fastening is necessary to stop the top riding up, but some find it uncomfortable. These styles can offer increased warmth in the core as both parts overlay.
Key Wetsuit Features:
Wetsuits are made using neoprene;
- The best wetsuits are made from good quality neoprene that resists pressure but is flexible.
- Petroleum-based neoprene is cheaper but less flexible and more prone to rips and tears.
- Metallurgical specialist developed Yamamoto neoprene for triathletes. This unique form of neoprene ensures a rational combination of flexibility, strength, and warmth.
- Open cell neoprene has no internal lining. It bonds well with the skin and traps water well, but it’s not very robust.
- Suits are made from 1 mm thick. However, these suits, like rash vests, offer minimal thermal protection but excellent sun protection.
- More commonly, divers opt for wetsuits starting at 3 mm thickness for tropical water.
- A 5 mm wetsuit is the choice for cooler water and is a great all-rounder.
- 7 mm suits are for colder water and come in a semi-dry format too.
- The thicker the neoprene, the better thermal protection it will deliver.
- Thicker neoprene is less flexible and will affect your range of motion.
- Thicker neoprene is more buoyant. You will need to take more weight.
- As you descend, neoprene compresses. Thicker neoprene can increase your speed of descent, requiring you to offset this loss of buoyancy.
As such – when designers consider thickness – they are required to counteract the trade-off between thermal protection and flexibility. Suits come in a variety of thickness options, allowing the consumer to decide what trade-off would best suit them. Thicker materials are used to warm the core, whereas divers use thinner materials where flexibility is required. A 3/2 mm wetsuit means it has 3mm over the core and 2 mm for the arms and legs.
When looking for the best range of motion, look for suits made using large panels. A suit that has a lot of stitching won’t allow as much freedom of movement.
Choosing the correct suit thickness does depend on your susceptibility to cold. Another critical factor to consider is how long you will spend in the water because the longer you’re in the water, the colder you will get.
Also, temperatures do vary throughout the year, so consider your options for layering.
As a guide, these are the common choices for each water temperature
- 27°C / 80°F – rash vest, shorty or 1 mm suit
- 25°C / 77°F – 3mm full-length suit
- 15-25°C / 59-77°F – 5 mm full-length suit
- 10°C / 50°F – 7 mm wetsuit or semi-dry with hood and gloves
- For colder water, wear a dry suit
- Wetsuit lining is the internal layer that rests against your skin and assists with thermal protection and comfort.
- Weave is common. It’s soft against your skin. It traps water well and dries quickly for comfort on the surface.
- Titanium maintains heat by reflecting it to your body.
- Wetsuit zips are made from either plastic or metal. Plastic won’t corrode, but metal is more durable. Look for quality zips like YKK.
- The most common design has a zip running down your spine. Some suits feature an offset back zip which runs diagonally to reduce the pressure from the tank. Rear zips should come with a leash to help you fasten them.
- Front zippered wetsuits have either a vertical or diagonal zip. Some people struggle with front zips due to shoulder mobility. The diagonal version is easier to manage than the vertical design.
- A zip that’s backed with a flush guard stops water flow which keeps you warmer.
- Wrist and ankle zips can make a suit manageable to put on. Wrist and ankle zippered wetsuits that have a double seal have another purpose. Double seals allow you to fit your gloves and booties over the first layer and zip the second layer up over them. These zips slow the water flow as well.
- Semi-dry suits should use a dry suit zip.
Seals – Neck, Wrist, And Ankle
- Wetsuits can have primary neoprene seals. These are like a traditional hem that folds the same material back to make an edge. Basic neoprene seals offer less thermal protection, but they are easier to get in and out of.
- Glideskin is a soft skin-like material that grips kindly to your skin to slow water flow. At the neck, specifically, the width of Glideskin used will affect the suit’s warmth. Options range from a thin edging to a roll neck design that the offers optimum seal.
- An overlocked stitch is on the inside. Water can seep through this, so it’s best for warmer water suits.
- A flat stitch looks like train tracks on the outside. Inside, the seam is flat against your skin; this is more comfortable. A flat stitch is more watertight than the overlocked stitch.
- A blind stitch is the optimum stitch for cooler water suits. Seams are already glued and stitched. You can reinforce them with tape, which is ideal for colder waters.
Padding and Grip
- Knee pads offer robust, durable protection. If you’re taking a professional level diving course, you’ll spend a lot of time sitting on your knees. Consider this feature, if this is you.
- Elbow pads are lighter and more flexible than knee pads and offer increased protection for an area that often sees bumps and scrapes.
- Spinal padding offers comfort down your spine where your tank rests.
- Dive wetsuit shoulders sometimes feature grip or protection for BCD wear.
Some suits have extra grip on the bum, which is useful if you dive a lot from RIBs.
- Some suits are fitted with pockets on the thigh, which are handy for small accessories or a spare mask.
- Suits are available with wrist strap retainers. These stop your computer, dive watch, or compass moving around.
Divers wear gloves, hoods, and booties. Again, these come in different thicknesses. Don’t overlook their value. A hood conserves a surprising amount of heat and will make a significant impact on your warmth.
Scuba Diving Wetsuits Versus Wetsuits for Other Water Sports.
You’re always better to buy a wetsuit made for its particular sport.
Surface sport suits have a different cut as they need to allow the wearer to move in different ways. As an example, a windsurfer would struggle to move in a scuba wetsuit. A scuba diver in a windsurfing suit may find it loser on the shoulders which is not optimal for maintaining warmth.
Surfing suits are often cheaper than diving suits, and they might tempt you. A surf suit would be passable to dive in tropical water but know that surfing suits are made to be flexible. Surf suit manufacturers do not design surfing wetsuits with scuba gear in mind. The surf suit neoprene hasn’t been made to withstand pressure and cannot bear scuba gear. Surf suit neoprene will quickly lose thermal protection as they compress. Whereas, suits for scuba diving are made to stand up better under pressure and retain more of their thermal protection, although they do still compress.
Some tips for your new wetsuit.
- New neoprene is very buoyant. You are very likely to need extra weight, so do a buoyancy check first. If possible, do a checkout dive in shallow calm water.
- The more you dive, the less buoyant it will become. It will lose thermal qualities too, at which time you can consider adding layers or a hood.
- New wetsuits can be particularly problematic to get on. Divers have a range of solutions for this. Baby shampoo can help ease the way, as can a plastic bag over your feet and hands. If you use the bag method; make sure it doesn’t go overboard and is small enough to cover your hand or foot. Use a large bag, and you’ll never free it from your suit.
- Like all dive gear, rinsing in freshwater and hanging to dry is good practice. If you pee in your suit, you might want to consider regular soaking with wetsuit shampoo or disinfectant to keep any odors at bay.
- Note that wet wetsuits become cumbersome, and many scuba divers use reinforced hangers.
- If you’re packing your suit away for a while, make sure it’s thoroughly dry first. Loosely fold it and store it in a cool dark place in a black garbage bag.
As always, we create our content with you, fellow divers, in mind. So, how’d we do? Did you find this informative? Did it help you make a decision? Did we miss anything? We’d love to hear from you below. Thanks for reading and we hope your next dive is a great one!