How to Choose the Right Thickness of Wetsuit

Choosing the right wetsuit thickness is crucial for warmth, flexibility, durability, and fit. Thickness impacts performance and varies by activity and environment.

what thickness of wetsuit do i need

Wetsuits are highly functional clothing for activities like swimming and watersports. Wetsuits help keep swimmers warm in cold weather conditions where the water temperature may drop.

It keeps you warm and fuzzy – especially in freezing conditions! This may make you wonder “what thickness of wetsuit do I need?”

Like all clothing used for sports activities, they have varying specifications. They have different attributes which make them useful for sports activities.

Wetsuits are no exception. Their thickness directly impacts their performance. Here are four ways to choose the right thickness for your wetsuit.

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What Thickness of Wetsuit Do I Need?

To properly determine wetsuit thickness several parameters can be used to identify the thickness of your wetsuit. You can determine wetsuit thickness through measurements that measure material thickness inside the wetsuit. 

The thickness of wetsuits can be measured in mm or millimeters, and the standard sizing patterns are 4/3mm, and 3/2mm. Wetsuit thickness directly affects four key attributes, which are essential for you to determine, and answers the question, “what thickness of wetsuit do I need?” With all this in mind, let’s see how you can choose the right wetsuit thickness for you.

Wetsuit Warmth

Wetsuit thickness directly determines how warm you’ll be when you enter the waters. The material used in wetsuits, neoprene, works like an insulator that keeps your body temperature high, even if you submerge yourself in cold water. 

For this attribute, consider the wetsuit thickness that gives you an insulating factor that is just right for you. This warmth factor also depends on where you want to use the wetsuit; as for colder regions, a thicker wetsuit helps keep you warmer. In contrast, thinner wetsuits are just fine for temperate and areas with mild weather conditions.

Wetsuit Flexibility 

Mens 3mm Shorty Wetsuit, Premium Neoprene Front Zip Short Sleeve Diving Wetsuit Snorkeling Surfing (Shorty Wetsuit Black, XL)

The thickness of wetsuits also affects how flexible they can be. The thicker your wetsuit is, the harder it will be for you to move, and you’ll have to put a little more effort into your strokes if you are swimming.

There are added weights on your body, albeit just a tiny bit, enough for you to feel the water resistance as you move your body through the water. 

This attribute is critical to consider as it affects your range of movement underwater. If you prefer thicker wetsuits (or wearing layers underneath), this will limit your movements. But hey! It won’t stop you from getting an extra burn of calories!

Wetsuit Durability

Wetsuits also protect you from obstacles you might encounter underwater, such as reefs, corals, or stinging jellyfish! 

Wetsuit material protects against minor scratches or stinging fauna that might find their way to your arms. If your wetsuit has high durability, this means that your wetsuit will last longer.

Wetsuit thickness doesn’t directly determine its durability, so this leaves you room for consideration in choosing the right balance between durability and thickness. 

Wetsuit durability is determined by its construction and paneling. The weakest points in a wetsuit are usually the seams found between patches of material.

There are different types of seams used for different types of wetsuit construction; each type affects durability, as well as the weight of the wetsuit.

Wetsuit Fit 

Last but not least, you’ll need to consider if your wetsuit is a good fit for you. Swimming around with a loose material around your body doesn’t seem so great, doesn’t it?

The thickness of a wetsuit does not impact how well it fits you, as much as different wetsuit sizes have different thickness levels. How well you fit in your wetsuit is linked more to the wetsuit size.

However, choosing the right fit for your body is an important parameter to consider, as a loose wetsuit wouldn’t be able to make you warm properly. 

An adequately fitted wetsuit should keep you comfortably warm. It can help maintain your body temperature.

What’s Inside My Wetsuit? 

Wetsuits are usually made from foamed neoprene which is excellent for keeping you warm while under the water. Figuring out what thickness of wetsuit you need is one of the first things you must consider when using wetsuits—using a loose wetsuit when swimming is not a comfortable experience, so much so that it would affect your activities. 

Wetsuits have varying thicknesses, determining their suitability for different swimming environments and activities. Wetsuit thickness determines its ability to keep you warm and flexible.

Flexibility affects how you swim or move under the water and determines how long you can stay underwater in cold weather! 

Wetsuits are designed to keep in a small amount of water, hence why it’s a ‘wetsuit’ as it is always wet. This feature allows it to create a separate barrier of warm water between your skin and the neoprene, which helps to keep you warm when submerged in water. 

You can begin to identify what thickness of wetsuit you need by considering all four important attributes mentioned above. These will help you determine the best thickness for your wetsuit of choice.

Remember that wetsuits have different types, and you must also consider the best wetsuit variant for your choice of activity.


Aside from these, you can ask many questions to help you choose the right thickness of wetsuit you need. These are important to know when judging wetsuits’ thickness, the environment where each thickness level is good for, and where specific wetsuits are best used.

Does a wetsuit absorb water? 

Wetsuits do absorb water. When you hit the water, a small amount will be absorbed between the linings of neoprene which is responsible for keeping you warm. Foamed neoprene keeps the water inside, which allows it to match your body temperature and keep you warm.

How does a wetsuit keep me warm? 

As you enter the water, you will get a brief rush of cold. Water enters the suit primarily through the neck, legs, and arms openings. Seams allow it access, and it quickly condenses into a thin sheet of liquid between the neoprene of your wetsuit and your skin. 

Your body heats the water rapidly, turning it into a thin layer of cozy liquid insulation that feels good on your skin. Because neoprene, a rubbery material with tiny air bubbles that is excellent at keeping heat inside, has natural insulating characteristics, the water stays warm. Due to its tightness, the neoprene continues to keep new water out. 

That explains why you aren’t getting any fresh chilly rushes. However, if you take a hard dive or are struck by large waves, new water will leak in. The entire process is then repeated. The neoprene’s carbon black coloring, added for aesthetic purposes, also aids in absorbing heat from the sun and the outside air temperature, increasing total heating effectiveness.

What are the different types of wetsuits? 

There are generally six main types of wetsuits with numerous names. However, a full wetsuit, a short arm steamer, a shorty, a long john, and a short john are the most popular. They differ in a few ways, including whether they have hoods or not and whether the legs and sleeves are longer or shorter. 

More FAQs

What wetsuit for 70 degree water?

The appropriate wetsuit for water that is 70 degrees Fahrenheit is a wetsuit with a thickness of 2/1 mm.

What happens if your wetsuit is too thick?

If your wetsuit is too thick, it will not effectively perform its function. A properly fitting wetsuit is crucial as it prevents water from entering through the neck or cuffs. The purpose of a swimming wetsuit is to allow a small amount of water to enter, which then stays close to your skin and gets warmed by your body heat.

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

The appropriate wetsuit thickness for 50 degree water is a 5/4mm full hooded suit, along with booties and gloves or mittens.

Is a 3 2 or 4 3 wetsuit better for Southern California?

A 3/2 wetsuit is recommended for riding the waves in spring, summer, or fall in Southern California. However, if you plan to ride in the winter, it is advisable to use 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 increased thickness provides better insulation, ensuring warmth even in cold water conditions.

Is 5mm wetsuit too thick for summer?

The 5mm wetsuit may be too thick for summer if you only plan to use it during warm water conditions. However, if you intend to use it throughout the year or in colder months, it would be advisable to consider purchasing a 5mm wetsuit as it can still be used during the summer.

Do I need a 3 2 or 4 3 wetsuit?

You should wear a 5/4/3 wetsuit if you want to stay warmer in the water. The thickness of a wetsuit is directly related to its warmth, so a 5/4/3 wetsuit will provide more insulation than a 3/2 wetsuit. Additionally, thicker wetsuits tend to be more durable due to the increased amount of material, making them less likely to tear all the way through the neoprene.

Is a 3mm wetsuit warm enough for winter?

The statement: “A 3mm wetsuit is warm enough for winter.”Rephrased answer: A 3mm wetsuit can provide sufficient warmth during the winter season, especially when paired with boots, gloves, and a hood. However, it is important to consider the specific location and conditions, as a thicker wetsuit may be required in colder areas.

What temp is a 3 2 wetsuit for?

The 3 2 wetsuit is suitable for water temperatures ranging from 60°F to 65°F and is designed with a flatlock seam seal.

Can you swim in 4mm wetsuit?

You can swim in a 4mm wetsuit. The best thickness of a wetsuit for swimming depends on the water temperature and season. In Britain, a 2.5mm torso 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 is no snow on the beach.

Can you swim in a 3mm wetsuit?

The main purpose of a 3mm wetsuit is to keep you warm while allowing free movement. It is recommended to have a wetsuit between 3mm and 5mm thickness, although certain parts of the suit may have lower thickness. Short or sleeveless wetsuits are not permitted as they do not provide sufficient warmth. If you are a serious open water swimmer, it is likely that you already own a wetsuit.

What wetsuit for 17 degree weather?

The appropriate wetsuit for 17 degree weather would be a wetsuit with a thickness of 3 mm around the core and 2 mm at the extremities, or a wetsuit with 4 mm around the core and 3 mm at the arms and legs – depending on personal cold sensitivity and activity level during the fall season when temperatures typically range from 12° to 17°Celsius (55° -64°Fahrenheit).

Is a 3 2 wetsuit warm enough?

The 3 2 wetsuit is warm enough for days when full coverage is needed in warm to cool water temperatures, typically 58 Degrees Fahrenheit and above, depending on the wetsuit seams.

Does a 3mm wetsuit help you float?

A 3mm wetsuit does provide some flotation, but it is important to note that it does not offer as much buoyancy as dedicated flotation devices such as lifejackets or throw-able cushions or life rings. The thickness of the wetsuit determines the amount of float it provides, with thicker suits offering more buoyancy.

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

The difference between 4/3 and 5/3 wetsuits lies in the thickness of the neoprene material, which is measured in millimeters and determines 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, while a 4/3 wetsuit has slightly thinner rubber and is therefore not as warm.

Is a 5 4 wetsuit too thick?

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 because of the additional millimeter thickness in the arms. The main body panels and upper legs are 5mm thick, while the arms, shoulders, and back of the lower legs consist of 4mm panels.

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

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

Is 5mm wetsuit too thick?

The 5mm wetsuit is not too thick for cold water conditions. It is suitable for temperatures as low as 11°C, making it appropriate for cold water activities in the UK between December and March.

When should I wear a 4 3 wetsuit?

You should wear a 4/3 wetsuit when the water temperature ranges from 58°F to 63°F (14°C – 17°C).

What is a 4 3 wetsuit good for?

A 4/3 wetsuit is suitable for cool and colder water temperatures. It is a fullsuit/steamer wetsuit that features 4mm neoprene around the torso and 3mm neoprene around the arms and legs.

What is the most versatile wetsuit thickness?

The most versatile wetsuit thickness would be a 4/3mm. If you can only afford one wetsuit, I recommend starting with this thickness as it will be suitable for various seasons, including fall and early spring. Similarly, for booties, it is advisable to invest in a 7mm pair that can be used throughout the year. When it comes to gloves, opting for a 5mm thickness instead of 3mm is preferable.

Do I need 3mm or 5mm wetsuit?

The rephrased answer would be: If you find yourself getting too warm in a 7mm wetsuit but too cold in a 3mm wetsuit, the 5mm wetsuit is the perfect option for you. While the 7mm is commonly chosen for cold water/winter seasons and the 3mm for summer/warm tropical waters, the 5mm wetsuit is ideal for those in-between seasons when the temperature is not cold, yet not warm.

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).

How thick should a wetsuit be for 40 degree water?

The wetsuit thickness for 40 degree water should generally be in the range of 6/5/4mm. It is recommended to opt for extra thickness on booties and mittens, aiming for around 7mm, to ensure maximum insulation in these conditions.

How thick should a wetsuit be for 70 degree water?

The wetsuit thickness for 70 degree water should be between 2 mm and 3/2 mm.

What temperature can you wear a 4 3mm wetsuit in the sea?

The temperature at which you can wear a 4/3mm wetsuit in the sea ranges from 8°C to 11°C (48°F to 54°F). However, if the conditions are particularly cold, it is advisable to opt for the added warmth of a 5/4mm wetsuit. During cold winter water activities, it is essential to wear a hooded 5/4mm wetsuit, along with surf gloves and surf boots, to ensure the warmth and protection of your hands and feet.

What is a 3mm wetsuit good for?

A 3mm wetsuit is suitable for various purposes. It is ideal for individuals who experience cold temperatures and find shorty wetsuits insufficiently warm during the summer. Additionally, it is particularly useful for surfers who engage in early morning or late evening sessions and require more protection than a shorty wetsuit can provide. Moreover, as summer transitions into autumn, a 3mm wetsuit becomes increasingly beneficial.

How much extra weight for 3mm wetsuit?

The extra weight needed for a 3mm wetsuit varies depending on the individual’s body weight and the type of suit they are wearing. Generally, a 3mm wetsuit may require around 6 to 8% of the person’s body weight in lead. However, if they are wearing a 7mm wetsuit or a dry suit, the weight needed could be 10% or more, depending on the undergarments worn. To determine the exact weight needed, one can try on the suit and test it in a pool while holding a 2lb block of lead.

Does a wetsuit keep you warm in 60 degree water?

A wetsuit can provide warmth in 60 degree water, as it is generally recommended to wear a wetsuit when the water temperature is below 65 degrees to prevent any adverse reactions to the cold.

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