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Best wetsuit 2022: The top wetsuits for open-water swimming, surfing and scuba diving

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Stay warm in the open water, with our guide to buying a wetsuit and our pick of the best wetsuits for men, women and children

Fancy a spot of open-water swimming? Or perhaps you’re off to the coast of Cornwall to catch some waves? The best wetsuits can help keep you warm when the water’s cold, which is an all-too-likely scenario in the UK.

But getting the right wetsuit for you isn’t quite as simple as buying a new swimsuit. The time of year and weather conditions in which you’re planning to brave the water determine, to a point, what type of wetsuit you should buy, as well as how thick the wetsuit should be. Getting the right fit is also key: too tight and you'll be restricted, too loose and you’re looking at flushing (more on this below).

Whatever your needs, our buying guide covers all the important questions you should consider before you make your purchase. After that, we’ve put together a list of the best wetsuits to buy, from full-body winter options to shorties for the warmer months.

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Best wetsuit: At a glance

  • Best for outdoor swimming: Dhb Hydron 2.0 | Buy men's | women's
  • Best high-end men's surfing wetsuit: Quicksilver 3/2mm Highline Plus | Buy now
  • Best diving wetsuit for men: Subea 5mm SCD Diving Suit | Buy now
  • Best budget surfing wetsuit: Olaian 4/3mm Wetsuit 100 | Buy men's | women's
  • Best affordable wetsuit for kids: Olaian Kids Full Wetsuit 100 2/2mm | Buy now
  • Best diving wetsuit for women: Subea Neoprene Scuba Wetsuit 7mm | Buy now
  • Best for the summer: O'Neill Reactor II Shorty Wetsuit | Buy men's | women's

How to choose the best wetsuit for you

Do I need a wetsuit?

Strictly speaking, no you don’t. Wild-swimmers and cold-water therapy enthusiasts may even scoff at the idea. However, should you not be gifted with such resilience, a wetsuit can make the experience of getting into cold water much more comfortable. And however hardy you think you are, the added warmth provided by a wetsuit can also help you to spend longer periods of time in the water.

How do wetsuits work?

As the name implies, wetsuits are not waterproof and are designed to get... well, wet. Made from neoprene, a synthetic rubber material, they let in a thin layer of water that is trapped between the skin and the suit. This water layer is then heated up by your body to keep you warm.

By comparison, a drysuit is completely waterproof and will prevent water from penetrating. Commonly used by divers, these are bulkier and more restrictive than the skin-tight wetsuits we’ll be looking at here. They’re also typically much more expensive.

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What types of wetsuit are there?

Before we even get on to sizing and thickness, it’s worth describing a few of the different types of wetsuit here:

  • A full wetsuit is what many people picture when talking about wetsuits. They're designed to cover your full body, and you can also get hoods, gloves and boots to keep you warm in the coldest of conditions.
  • A shorty refers to a wetsuit with the arms and legs cut short. It's a good choice for summer months when the sea can be cool but not so cold that you need a full wetsuit.
  • A long john wetsuit is basically a sleeveless wetsuit. Meanwhile, a short john is the same but with short legs too – a bit like a shorty, but with no sleeves at all.
  • For warmer climates, wetsuit vests and wetsuit jackets offer upper-body protection only.

What do I need to consider before buying a wetsuit?

Sizing: Regardless of what type of wetsuit you choose, one of the first things you’ll need to think about is the size. As we mentioned earlier, if your wetsuit is too tight, it will uncomfortably restrict your movement in the water. On the other hand, if it’s too loose, you’ll let too much water in through gaps in the suit. This is known as “flushing”. A wetsuit should fit comfortably like a second skin. If you’re a first-time buyer, getting all of this right might seem daunting. Wetsuit Centre has an in-depth sizing guide to help you out here. It’s also important to check the manufacturer’s sizes, too.

Thickness: As well as size, you’ll also need to choose the appropriate wetsuit thickness. This is measured in millimetres, and it goes without saying that the thicker the wetsuit, the warmer it will be. So, you should think about what time of year you plan to be out swimming or surfing.

Basing our advice again on Wetsuit Centre’s suggestions, you should aim for around 4-5mm when water temperatures are between 10 and 15°C, while a 3mm suit is more suitable towards the autumn when water temperatures should be around 15 to 17°C. In colder conditions of around 5°C, you should aim for something a bit thicker, and those looking to take the plunge in the very coldest of conditions should be looking at wetsuits around 7mm in thickness. You can easily check the current and average sea temperatures in the UK and around the world here.

It’s easy to focus on trying to keep warm, but don’t forget that you can also get too hot in a wetsuit, so wearing a 5mm thick suit in the height of summer might not be a fantastic idea. Plus, the thickness of your wetsuit will also have an impact on its flexibility, which is very important to bear in mind, particularly if you’re an outdoor swimmer.

How much should I spend?

You’ll pay more or less depending on the type of wetsuit you opt for. A full adult wetsuit on a budget could cost you as little as £90, with some high-end options costing closer to £1,000.

While none of the options on our list quite reaches the top end of this spectrum, it’s a good idea to invest in a high-quality wetsuit if you find yourself engaging in watersports or open-water swimming on a regular basis. If you’re likely to have only the occasional cold-water dip or need something for a summer surfing holiday, there are some very affordable entry-level wetsuits below.

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Is there anything else I need to know?

You’ll often hear references to open-cell and closed-cell neoprene. Closed-cell wetsuits have a thin nylon lining on the inside, whereas open-cell wetsuits don’t. This nylon lining makes it easier to get the suit on and off. In the manufacturing of wetsuits, the cutting process exposes tiny air bubbles (or cells) in the neoprene, which easily adhere to the skin. The argument for open-cell wetsuits is that they are more watertight, and thus warmer, though you might require a lubricant to get it on.

The best wetsuits to buy

1. Dhb Hydron Wetsuit 2.0: Best wetsuit for outdoor swimmers

Price: £96 | Buy men’s | women’s from Wiggle

Dhb’s popular Hydron wetsuit is designed as an entry-level suit for beginners to open-water swimming or triathlons, thanks to its buoyancy, flexibility and reduced drag. According to many customer reviews, it’s also lightweight and easy to get on and off, making it great for first-timers.

The suit is 2/3mm thick: the thickest areas are the front torso and hips, while the areas around the arms, back and rear of the legs are thinner to allow for greater ease of movement. If you’re struggling with the sizing, Wiggle provides a helpful size chart with both imperial and metric measurements.

Key features – Main materials: Neoprene, polyamide; Sizes: XS-XXL; Thickness: 2/3mm; Best suited for: Open-water swimming and triathlons; Other colours available? No

Buy men’s from Wiggle Buy women’s from Wiggle


2. Olaian Surfing 4/3mm Wetsuit 100: Best budget surfing wetsuit

Price: £80 | Buy men's | women's now from Decathlon

Made from 4/3mm thick neoprene, this budget wetsuit is designed for temperate water temperatures between 12°C and 17°C, for sessions up to one hour in length. It’s not quite warm enough for chilly climates (so no winter surfing), but it will keep you warm in cold UK waters for many months of the year. It's also great value at £80.

Decathlon has a range of Olaian wetsuits, but availability is currently not at its best. The most popular sizes (especially the largest men's sizes) of most wetsuits are running very low. This particular Olaian suit has relatively good current availability, and is also rated highly by buyers.

Key features – Main materials: Neoprene; Sizes: Women XS-XL, men XS-L; Thickness: 4/3mm; Best suited for: All-round/surfing; Other colours available? No

Buy men's from DecathlonBuy women's from Decathlon


3. Quiksilver 3/2mm Highline Plus: Best high-end surfing wetsuit (for men)

Price: £330 | Buy now from Quiksilver

Quiksilver is a renowned surfwear brand with a fantastic range of wetsuits for men and women. Its Highline series of suits is feature-packed and aims to meet a number of demands, from warmth and flexibility to eco-friendly credentials.

The Highline Plus is a comfortable, flexible wetsuit whose main aim is to keep you warm, with infrared thermal fleece lining and heat-retaining panels on the chest and back to insulate you on long, cold sessions. The suit is also designed to be wind-resistant, water-repellant and quick-drying. And as you'd expect from a wetsuit over £300, you also get high-end design features including fused edges to prevent flushing, durable yet flexible knee pads, and liquid-sealed seams.

At £330, the 3/2mm Highline Plus featured here is at the top of the Highline series, and it's also the one with the best available size range. The Highline Limited (designed for sustainability) and the Highline Lite (designed for flexibility) are also well worth a look, but their sizes are currently more limited.

Key features – Main materials: 92% nylon/polyamide, 8% elastane; Sizes: S-XL; Thickness: 3/2mm; Best suited for: Surfing; Other colours available? Yes

Buy now from Quiksilver


4. Subea 5mm SCD Scuba Diving Suit: Best diving wetsuit for men

Price: £125 | Buy now from Decathlon

Subea’s entry level diving wetsuit is designed for use in temperate waters between 16°C and 24°C. It’s 5mm thick with taped seams for thermal insulation, and comes with a hood attached to the suit. When it comes to scuba diving, this hood can be a crucial feature, as it helps to avoid heat loss through your head while underwater as well as protecting against wind chill on the surface.

Another standout feature of this Subea wetsuit is that the zipper is on the front rather than the back, which makes for easy dressing, particularly for beginners who might otherwise struggle to get in and out of their wetsuit. It’s also well-priced, at less than half what you'd pay for many diving suits (Subea’s 7mm semi-dry diving suit, for instance, will set you back £370). Those looking to get into diving without breaking the bank might also consider pairing the suit up with diving gloves or boots.

Key features – Main materials: Neoprene; Thickness: 5mm; Best suited for: Diving; Other colours available? No

Buy now from Decathlon


5. Subea Women's Neoprene Scuba Wetsuit 7mm: Best diving wetsuit (for women)

Price: £315 | Buy now from Decathlon

Full neoprene suits must be tight to be effective. With that in mind, this pre-shaped anatomically-designed diving suit was designed by women for women, and comes in women-specific sizes. The semi-dry one-piece stretch suit doesn't have a front zip like some other Subea women's wetsuits, but the back zip does have a long pull cord to help you do it up. There are also zips on the arms and legs to make it easier to get in and out of the suit, and no underarm seams to inhibit your arm movements. Along with freedom of movement, the other priority is warmth, and this 7mm suit with detachable hood will help keep you going in cold water (10-18°C). Pricey, but an excellent intermediate suit.

Key features – Main materials: Neoprene; Sizes: XS-XL; Thickness: 7mm; Best suited for: Diving; Other colours available? No

Buy now from Decathlon


6. O'Neill Reactor II Shorty Wetsuit: Best shorty wetsuit

Price: £65 | Buy men's | women's from Wetsuit Centre

If you're in a warmer climate, or just heading out on the water in the summertime, a shorty is a good option for you. O'Neill's Reactor 2 has been completely redesigned, incorporating 100% super stretch neoprene throughout the suit for maximum flexibility, so there's never been a better time to pick one up.

The back zip entry system makes getting in and out of this suit quick and painless, and the wind-resistant Smoothskin panels on both the front and back will keep you insulated against any errant summer breezes. Another great feature is the seamless "paddle zones" that O'Neill have built into the suit, designed to reduce chafing and keep you gliding across the water with optimum comfort.

Key features – Main materials: Neoprene; Thickness: 2mm; Best suited for: Summer; Other colours available? No

Buy men's from Wetsuit Centre Buy women's from Wetsuit Centre


7. Olaian Kids' Full WetSuit 100 2/2: Best affordable wetsuit for children

Price: £30 | Buy now from Decathlon

Olaian's beginner's wetsuit is the perfect way to introduce your kids to water sports. It's not designed for use in particularly cold water, but it's ideal for water between 17°C and 21°C and sessions lasting up to 1 hour. So it's a great choice for surfing lessons or a first time out snorkelling. It's also designed to let your child wear a UV sun-protecting top under the suit.

The suit is made with convenience in mind, with zips on the ankles and up the back, keeping things simple when it comes to getting in and out of it. Comfort is also a strong factor here, with the smooth lining inside the collar, lack of seams underneath the arm and padding in the knees all working together to keep your child focused on the activity, and not the suit.

The stitch-bonded 4 & 3mm neoprene does a good job keeping the water out, though it is worth mentioning that the effectiveness of this is heavily influenced by the tightness of the suit. With age ranges from 6 to 14 year olds listed on the website, you have plenty of choice in sizes to ensure that your child has the optimum experience when out on the water.

Key features – Main materials: Polyester; Thickness: 2/2mm; Best suited for: Children; Other colours available? Yes

Buy now from Decathlon


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