6 Tips to Help You Choose a Wetsuit
5/4mm means.. 5mm in the chest and legs but 4mm in the arms. I prefer 5/4/3 as I get more flexibility in my arms with 3mm. Suits these days are very flexible, warm and comfy. You can also add a poly pro layer under or a wetsuit jacket or vest over to boost the heat rating. I don't recommend 6mm as you'll loose a lot of flexibility. Armless Farmer Johns are great for light paddling but not full immersion in winter.
- Back zip or top entry? I prefer a back zip suit as I can get into it and they dry easier. Retailers will insist that zippers leak and that top entry suits are warmer. I've never had a leaky zipper and find it difficult to get in and out of top entry suits.
- Wetsuit vs Dry suit? It's a personal choice but for me wetsuits are easier to swim in, are cheaper, just as warm and less maintenance. Dry suits require taking care of latex gaskets, the zipper and fabric. If you get a hole in a dry suit, you have a very wet wetsuit. Many wetsuits above the $275 level are actually dry with waterproof seams. Wetsuits range from $150 to the $600 merino wool lined Patagonia. Dry suits start at $600 and go up to $1,500 and don't include insulation. Ocean Rodeo has a good dry suit that looks like a rain coat and pants.
- Tips for buying a wetsuit - Always try before you buy. Neoprene tends to run small. I wear a XL t-shirt but a XXL wetsuit. Last year I found a RipCurl bootie I liked and had to order a size 14 - I usually wear a size 12 shoe. Maybe you found a deal on an online site? Our local retailers like Urban Surf, Perfect Wave and Wave Hounds have similar deals and you can try it out! O'Neill, Xcel, RipCurl, NP, Roxy and Patagonia are trusted brands.
- Cost vs Quality? A $125 wetsuit will flush and is great for summer paddling but not that warm for winter or if you get cold easy (like me). Suits $175-275 are warmer and a bit less wet. Suits $350-450 will be dry, won't flush, and much warmer than the others. Higher end suits by Mateuse or Patagonia are very dry and warm but run $500 plus. If you're a crazy 7 day week all year paddler like me, your suit will only stay dry a year. A normal paddler can keep their suit in good condition for many years.
- Should I pee in my suit? Downside to wetsuits is that you don't get a pee zipper. I only pee in mine if I know I can flush it out asap. But if traveling having that stink in the car on the way home sucks, so I usually avoid it. Clean the suit in cold water soaking in Dawn or a similar non abrasive cleaner. I use Simple Green for funky smelling garnets. Some like the McNett (https://www.mcnett.com/m-essentials/wetsuit-and-drysuit-shampoo#30120) cleaners but I've found Dawn is easier to find, just as good and cheaper.
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