How to Buy a Wetsuit: The 5+ Essentials You Need to Know

Learn how to buy the best wetsuit by considering water temperature, thickness, style, seams, zippers, and accessories to stay warm and comfortable while surfing.

how to buy a wetsuit

Do you know what makes buying a wetsuit stressful? Trying on multiple different styles, sizes, thicknesses, and brands just to find the right one for you!

The actual buying is easy, but to find the best suitable wetsuit for you is the real challenge. That’s what happens when you’re unaware of the essentials necessary for buying high-quality wetsuits. 

But worry no more because we’ve prepared a complete list of the things to watch out for. Keep reading to learn how to buy a wetsuit.

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Checklist Before Buying a Wetsuit

To get started with your search for the perfect wetsuit, it’s essential to ask yourself the following questions for proper guidance. 

  • What are the water temperature and weather like where you’re going?
  • What are your physical proportions and physique?
  • How sensitive are you to cold?
  • How much is your budget, and what quality level do you desire?
  • How long do you want to stay in or on the water?
  • What kinds of water sports do you enjoy?
  • What colors and patterns do you prefer?
  • Do you value sustainable production?

By answering these questions, your choices will be trimmed down, and you’re left with fewer options, making it easier to take the right decision. To further assist you on buying a wetsuit that’s worth your money, below are the specific things you need to be mindful of.


BARE Manta Kid's Wetsuit, 3/2mm Thickness, Full Length. Durable, Comfortable fit - Blue 10

Are you going to wear it for summer or winter? The thickness of a wetsuit should be compatible with the water temperature at your destination.

A 3/2 or 3mm for the body and 2mm for the limbs wetsuit should be your choice for surfing during summer in non-tropical countries. 

As for the wetsuit you’ll need to wear for winter or spring in the coldest countries, the right choices are the 4/3 and 5/3 wetsuits, which are way thicker and will keep you warm while surfing in these cold seasons.

Yet, if you’re someone very prone to cold, your best pal would be the 6mm wetsuit.

Typically, wetsuits are made from neoprene which can also be very restricting for movements depending on the thickness. When wearing a 6mm wetsuit for surfing, moving can be harder than with a 5mm or 4mm wetsuit. Whereas with a 2mm neoprene wetsuit, stretching is easy but becoming loose faster is the problem.

Style / Type

NRS Men's 3.0 Farmer John Wetsuit-Black-S

The wetsuits that surfers wear come in three varieties: the full suit, the spring suit, and the shorty. Each of these styles is made appropriately for a particular type of climate.

Full suits, obviously, offer full coverage of the body except your feet, hands, and head. Expect tan lines to show up afterwards.

Spring suits are a more flexible option. They offer either a pair of long arms and short legs or short arms and long legs. Spring suits also allow you to make more movements and to get warmer in one area over another.

Shorty-style wetsuits, on the other hand, present short legs and short arms. This is what you need in waters that have a temperature above 20 degrees or during a hot summer season.

Seams and Seals

GEAR AID Wetsuit Repair Kit with Neoprene Patch, Fix Seams and Tears , Black , 6” x 10"

Another aspect you should consider while learning how to buy a wetsuit is the seams and seals. The main purpose of a wetsuit is to keep you warm even in or on the water.

For that reason, this swimwear is made with seams and seals that ensure the blockage of water from entering. 

There are several different types of seams. Here are some of them:

Flatlock type of seam is done by sewing the material overlapping to provide more flexibility and less resistance to water and air. If this is the kind of seam your wetsuit has, you’ll have to use it in warmer climates.

Glued and blind stitched, also known as GBS, offers a wetsuit that’s glued at first and then sewn from the inside without penetrating the outside to avoid making holes in the wetsuit.

This way, there’s less chance for water and air to enter the suit, thus, making it more useful in colder waters.

Taped seams, on the other hand, use elastic tapes that are stuck together inside the wetsuit to ensure its impermeability from water and air. There is more comfort and flexibility in moving with a wetsuit made with this type of seam.

Sealed wetsuits cover all that the others mentioned earlier offer. Instead of being stitched inside, they’re both glued and sealed using liquid tape for 100% resistance to water. You can achieve enough warmth and insulation while in the water.


Wetsuits, like other types of clothing, have zippers to help fit you in inside them. There are three common types of zippers, and they are the following:

The front zip is the kind of zip that is placed on the front of the wetsuit. This is ideal for warmer water or during summer. Also, front zips are typically used for Shorties or Springsuits.

Back zips are also recommended for warmer climates because of their length. You can easily manage this zipper using the leash attached to the zip.

This is most comfortable for surfers compared with the front zip which can cause discomfort when surfers lie on them while surfing.

The chest zip is shorter than both the back and front zip. It goes along the chest only which means less water and air penetration. You may also enjoy the freedom of movement and flexibility that this kind of zipper provides. Chest zips are, therefore, ideal for colder waters.

No zip or Zip Free is the last but not the least variant of wetsuit zippers. If you’re planning to go to a long, extended session of water activities like surfing, then this type of wetsuit should be your gear. It’s the most comfortable and the warmest of all.


XUKER Water Gloves, 3mm & 5mm Neoprene Five Finger Warm Wetsuit Winter Gloves for Scuba Diving Snorkeling Paddling Surfing Kayaking Canoeing Spearfishing Skiing (3mm-Black, XL)

Depending on the season and the place where you are planning to go surfing, buying some surfing accessories to be used alongside your wetsuit may be necessary, too.

To complete your checklist of things to buy, here are some of the usual add-ins you can consider before hopping on to your surfboard.

  1. Gloves – for your hands that are submerged in the icy water during winter season. This accessory will help manage the coldness that your hands might feel.
  2. Hoods – the protection your head and ears need while surfing or diving. Hoods also assist in reducing the number of headaches that might happen when duck diving in cold water, as they effectively warm your head. 
  3. Boots – useful for offering a little extra traction on your board as well as keeping your toes from growing numb. Our feet are one of the most vulnerable parts of our body when it comes to cold so a pair of boots would surely be helpful as well.

Other Tips on Buying a Wetsuit

The truth is, there’s really an easier way out of the problem “how to buy a wetsuit?”. Here’s a list of tips that were proven and tested to guide you on your search for a nice piece of wetsuit.

  1. The material’s stretch and flexibility.
  2. Observe closely its layers, lining, and measurements.
  3. Choose no rolls/no gaps in the wetsuit for better insulation and warmth.
  4. Go for fewer seams and fewer panels.
  5. Double-check the labels of each brand for the actual warmth they provide.
  6. Buy a thicker wetsuit if you’re easily affected by the cold.
  7. Wear knee pads to avoid damaging the neoprene.
  8. See if there are irritation spots that are usually found in the legs and around the arms.
  9. Be careful with the year of manufacturing; newer wetsuits are better.
  10. Stay warm in the water or while kitesurfing using a Smoothskin wetsuit.


If you still have questions about this topic, check below.

How do I know what size wetsuit to buy?

To find the ideal wetsuit size for you, you’ll need to take measurements. Measure your height, chest, and waist. Take into consideration that a wetsuit will always fit tighter than other types of clothing.  

Are you supposed to wear anything under your wetsuit?

What you wear under your wetsuit is a personal choice, but for several reasons, it’s advisable to wear a thin layer such as a swimsuit or diving shorts. This thin layer will protect you against the cold, if you’re diving in cold waters, and will prevent the wetsuit from rubbing against the skin. If you need to change cloths in a public space, you’re also safeguarded. 

More FAQs

How do I know what size wetsuit to buy?

The statement: “Knowing what size wetsuit to buy can be determined by considering your normal clothing size as a starting point. However, for a more accurate fit, we suggest measuring your body sizes carefully. Additionally, wetsuit sizes often come in short (S) and tall (T) variations to accommodate different body types.”

What is the difference between 5 3 and 5 4 wetsuits?

The difference between a 5/3 and a 5/4 wetsuit lies in the thickness of the material used. A 5/4 wetsuit, also known as a 5.4 or 5 mm wetsuit, is the most common thickness for winter use. It provides slightly more warmth compared to a 5/3 wetsuit due to the additional millimeter thickness in the arms. The main body panels and upper legs of a 5/4 wetsuit are 5mm thick, while the arms, shoulders, and back of the lower legs are made with 4mm panels.

Is weight or height more important for wetsuit size?

The most crucial factor in determining the correct wetsuit size is your weight. We are always here to assist you and guide you in finding the ideal wetsuit that suits you perfectly. It is essential to confirm your current weight by stepping on a scale, as it may have changed since the last time you checked.

Do wetsuits stretch out?

Wetsuits do stretch out slightly after being worn, similar to how a pair of jeans would. It is acceptable if the waist feels slightly tight or loose, as there is no risk of water entering the suit in that area. However, it is recommended to have a snug fit for optimal performance.

How should a womens wetsuit fit?

A women’s wetsuit should fit snugly against the body, resembling a second skin. It is important to minimize any gaps that would allow water to enter, as this can cause discomfort and make you feel cold. Proper fit around the torso is crucial for maintaining warmth while wearing a wetsuit.

How thick should a wetsuit be to dive?

The appropriate thickness of a wetsuit for diving depends on the water temperature. A 2mm shorty wetsuit or 1mm full suit is suitable for water temperatures between 77°F and 80.6°F. A 3mm full suit is recommended for temperatures ranging from 71.6°F to 75.2°F. For temperatures between 62.6°F and 69.8°F, a 5mm full suit is ideal. In colder waters, with temperatures between 50°F and 60.8°F, a 7mm full suit or 8/7mm semi dry suit is recommended.

How do I choose a wetsuit?

When choosing a wetsuit, it is important to ensure that it does not pull down on your neck and shoulders or limit your arm movement. If you find it difficult to move freely, it is likely that the wetsuit is too small. The torso is the most crucial area for the wetsuit to fit properly, and a good way to assess the fit is by checking the lower back.

What is the difference between cheap and expensive wetsuits?

The difference between cheap and expensive wetsuits lies in the quality of neoprene, flexibility, durability, and entry system. As with many products, the higher the price, the better these features are likely to be.

Is it better to have a tight or loose wetsuit?

It is important to have a wetsuit that is snug but allows for freedom of movement and breathability. The wetsuit should be form-fitting rather than tight. Before engaging in any water activity such as swimming, surfing, paddleboarding, or kiteboarding, it is advisable to try on the wetsuit to ensure comfort.

How much should you pay for a wetsuit?

You should pay an average cost for a wetsuit. A shorty wetsuit or spring suit, with shorter arm and leg coverings, can be purchased for around $50 at the low end. On the other hand, a full-body wetsuit or full wetsuit of lower quality can be found for about $75. For summer surfing, basic entry-level suits may be priced up to $130.

How thick of a wetsuit do I need for 50 degree water?

You will need a wetsuit thickness of 4/3 mm for water that is 50 degrees Fahrenheit or 10 degrees Celsius.

Do wetsuits keep you dry or just warm?

Wetsuits do not keep you dry, but they can provide warmth. Wetsuits are constructed with waterproof neoprene, a closed-cell foam-rubber material that offers insulation even when wet. The warmth provided by a wetsuit depends on two factors: the thickness of the neoprene and the tightness of the fit.

What style wetsuit is best for swimming?

The best style of wetsuit for swimming is the sleeveless wetsuit. This type of wetsuit has long legs and no arms, resembling a singlet. It provides ample coverage for warmth and offers significant buoyancy, making it ideal for swimmers. Additionally, the sleeveless design allows for unrestricted shoulder rotation during swimming.

Do I need a wetsuit for 75 degree water?

You do not need a wetsuit for 75 degree water. The ideal range for using a wetsuit is typically between 50 and 78 degrees. If the water is warmer than this, wearing a wetsuit can actually cause overheating due to its insulative properties. In fact, even in the 74-77 degree range, it is quite easy to become too warm inside a wetsuit.

Should you buy a wetsuit a size smaller?

Statement: You should not buy a wetsuit a size smaller.Rewritten answer: If the wetsuit is too small, it can compromise the thermal performance and may not provide adequate protection against the cold. Additionally, a smaller size can restrict movement and overall comfort while wearing the wetsuit.

Will wetsuits stretch over time?

Wetsuits will experience slight stretching over time due to the flexible neoprene material used. However, it is important to note that there should be no presence of air bubbles, wrinkles, or excess material in areas such as the arms, shoulders, and crotch. The presence of air bubbles can lead to water filling them and significantly affecting the performance of the wetsuit.

What is the difference between a 5 3 and 3 2 wetsuit?

The difference between a 5/3 and 3/2 wetsuit lies in the thickness of the neoprene material used. A 5/3 wetsuit has a thickness of 5 mm on the trunk and 3 mm on the arms and legs. Similarly, a 3/2 wetsuit has a thickness of 3 mm on the trunk and 2 mm on the arms and legs. Wetsuits with thinner rubber, such as 4/3 and 3/2, are not as warm as they provide less insulation.

Do wetsuits shrink or stretch in water?

Wetsuits do not shrink in water; instead, they stretch and expand due to the neoprene material. This stretching and expanding enhance the wetsuit’s skin-like sensation and allow for unrestricted movement while in the water.

Is a 3mm wetsuit warm enough for winter?

The statement: “A 3mm wetsuit is warm enough for winter.”Rewritten answer: A 3mm wetsuit can provide sufficient warmth during winter, especially when complemented with boots, gloves, and a hood.

Should I get a 4 3 or 3 2 wetsuit in Southern California?

You should get a 3/2 wetsuit if you’re riding the waves in spring, summer, or fall in Southern California. However, if you’re riding in the winter, it is recommended to go for a 4/3 wetsuit. The 4/3 wetsuit is constructed with thicker material, allowing you to stay in the water for longer periods. Additionally, the thicker material provides better insulation, ensuring you stay warm even in cold water conditions.

How warm does a 3mm wetsuit keep you?

The 3mm wetsuit provides warmth in water temperatures ranging from 17 to 21 °C (62.6 to 69.8 °F).

Do I need a wetsuit for 70 degree water?

You do not necessarily need a wetsuit for 70 degree water. However, it is worth considering that when the water temperature drops below 70 degrees, wearing a wetsuit can provide a comfortable experience. Additionally, if the water temperature falls below 65 degrees, it is recommended to wear a wetsuit to prevent any adverse reactions to the cold.

Is a 4 3 wetsuit warm enough?

A 4/3 wetsuit is sufficient for temperatures ranging from 8°C to 11°C (48°F – 54°F), but if you prefer extra warmth, you can opt for a 5/4 mm suit. When facing cold winter water, it is essential to wear a hooded 5/4 mm suit, along with surf gloves and surf boots, to ensure warmth for your hands and feet.

Can you swim in a 3mm wetsuit?

You cannot swim in a 3mm wetsuit as it is not thick enough to provide sufficient warmth and insulation. The ideal thickness for a wetsuit should be between 3mm and 5mm, although certain areas of the suit may have thinner material to allow for better mobility. The primary purpose of a wetsuit is to keep the wearer warm, so short or sleeveless wetsuits are not suitable for swimming. If you are a serious open water swimmer, it is likely that you already own a wetsuit that meets the necessary thickness requirements.

Can you wear a 4 3 wetsuit in winter?

The statement: “You can wear a 4/3 wetsuit in winter.” Rephrased answer: In western Europe, a 4/3 mm wetsuit thickness is suitable for most surfers who want to surf from spring until the beginning of winter. Although it is typically considered an all-season wetsuit rather than a full winter wetsuit, it is perfect for wearing throughout the winter in southern Europe.

What water temp is a 4 3 wetsuit for?

The 4/3 wetsuit is suitable for water temperatures ranging from 55°F to 60°F. It is recommended to wear a full suit along with optional booties for added warmth.

Can you surf in a 4 3 wetsuit?

The question is: “Can you surf in a 4 3 wetsuit?”Rephrased answer: Yes, you can surf comfortably in waters as low as 10°C with a 4/3 wetsuit. It provides the necessary flexibility for you to showcase your surfing skills. To be fully prepared for any challenges the Atlantic presents this summer, equip yourself with a 4/3 wetsuit, a pair of 5mm boots, and some 4mm gloves.

Can you swim in 4mm wetsuit?

The rephrased answer: The best thickness wetsuit for swimming depends on the water temperature and season. In Britain, a 2.5mm torso wetsuit is ideal for tepid summer waters, while a 3.5 or 4mm wetsuit will keep you warm during spring and autumn. If you’re swimming in winter, a 5mm wetsuit will help protect you from the cold, as long as there’s no snow on the beach.

What is the difference between 3 2 and 5 3 wetsuits?

The difference between 3/2 and 5/3 wetsuits lies in the thickness of the neoprene material used. Wetsuits are labeled with numbers like 5/3, 4/3, and 3/2, which indicate the thickness of the neoprene in millimeters and determine the level of warmth provided. A 5/3 wetsuit has a 5 mm thickness on the trunk and 3 mm thickness on the arms and legs. Similarly, 4/3 and 3/2 wetsuits have thinner rubber, making them less warm compared to the 5/3 option.

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