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Wetsuit Temperature Guide

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choose wetsuit thickness

Today we will discuss how to choose the right shape and thickness of a wetsuit depending on the water temperature and conditions at your choice-spot.

How Is the Wetsuit Thickness Measured?

Wetsuit thickness is measured in millimeters and can be represented with one, two or three numbers separated by a slash. The first number represents the thickness of the neoprene in the torso area or the thickness of the whole suit if it’s the only number. The second number represents the thickness of the neoprene in the extremities (or just the legs if there is the third number), and the third number (if present) represents the neoprene thickness in the arms. The neoprene in the torso area is usually the thickest, this helps to maintain your core body heat. The thinner neoprene is used for your extremities since you need more flexibility there.

What Factors Do I Need to Consider When Choosing Wetsuit Thickness?

1. Activity.

The very first question you need to answer is what will you be doing in the water? Will you be moving a lot (the more active you are, the more heat your body produces)? Are you going to spend most of your time underwater or on the surface (the body loses heat much faster in water than in air)? The recommended suit thickness for a given water temperature will differ depending on what sport you are into - for active surface sports, such as surfing, you can normally use a thinner suit than for scuba diving, for example.

2. Water Temperature.

This one is the main factors and the most obvious one – in colder water you need a thicker wetsuit. If you are choosing a suit for diving, you also need to think about diving depth, as the deeper you dive, the colder the water gets in most parts of the world. Moreover, the pressure of the water will compress the tiny air bubbles in the neoprene, decreasing the wetsuit efficiency.

3. Cold Sensitivity.

How quickly do you usually get cold? Some people naturally feel colder than others in the same environment. Part of the reason for this is that different people have different “normal” body temperatures. Women also often report that they feel colder than men. So if you don’t handle cold well, consider wearing a few extra millimeters.

Are there any General Guidelines on Exposure Protection Based on Water Temperatures?

As we have discussed, water temperature is not the only factor to consider when choosing the thickness of a wetsuit, so any recommendations provided in the chart below or even by wetsuit manufacturers are not set in stone and should be used as general guidelines only.

Wetsuit Temperature Chart for Divers

Water Temperature

Wetsuit Thickness

Wetsuit Type

>75F / >24C

1-3 mm

Springsuit / Top

65-75F / 18-24C

3-5mm

Springsuit / Fullsuit

50-65F / 10-18C

5-7mm

Fullsuit + Hood + Boots + Gloves

35-50F / 2-10C

7-9mm

Fullsuit + Hood + Boots + Gloves

Wetsuit Temperature Chart for Surface Water Sports

Water Temperature

Wetsuit Thickness

Wetsuit Type

>75F / >24C

N/A

Rashguard

68-75F / 20-24C

1-2mm

Springsuit / Top

62-68F / 17-20C

2-3mm

Fullsuit

58-62F / 14-17C

3-4mm

Fullsuit + Boots

48-58F / 9-14C

4-5mm

Fullsuit + Hood + Boots + Gloves

<48F / <9C

5-6mm

Fullsuit + Hood + Boots + Gloves

Please note: For cold air temperatures, more wind, an activity with less movement or if you get cold easily, consider a thicker wetsuit.

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