Best wetsuit 2018: head to warmer climes with the best wetsuits for surfing, swimming, diving and triathlon

Get digging the scene with some neoprene: these are the best lightweight wetsuits for summer (ie: abroad)

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Surfing, Stand-Up Paddleboarding, open water swimming and diving is far more appealing in those countries that boast temperate climates, azure waters and warm waves but that doesn't mean you can't frolic around in, say, Southend-on-Sea.

The seas around the UK are at their warmest from July to September, often reaching a balmy 19°C in late August, but now our heatwave summer is over temperatures are dropping fast. So it pays to get kitted out in the latest wetsuit technology that is designed to keep you warm and enjoying the water for longer.

Thankfully, wetsuit technology improves every year, with new materials and suit construction improving flexibility, warmth and the ease at which it can be removed with aching arms following a long session.

On top of this, many big name manufacturers are turning their backs on neoprene in favour of natural materials, such as plant-based rubber and other renewables that don't completely screw up the planet.

How to buy the best wetsuit

A wetsuit comes in all shapes and sizes... quite literally. But by far the most important factor is the thickness of the rubber it uses, as this determines the warmth but also affects flexibility.

You might also hear varying terminology when it comes to suit types but the ones we've focused on here are 'steamers' - those that trap a small amount of water between the body and rubber, then use your body heat to warm up the liquid layer and act as a thermal jacket.

Suits designed for cold water climates and the chilly depths reached by divers tend to measure from 5mm to 8mm thick and often come with built-in hoods for extra warmth.

Alas, it's important to remember that a wetsuit allows a small amount of water to enter the garment (unlike a dry suit, which locks all water out), so there will typically be a few moments when the sharp bite of the sea is tangible.

But a good suit will stop 'flushing', or the scenario when new (and bloody cold) water enters the suit on a regular basis, which is the thing you really want to avoid.

So, although appealing for their increased cosiness, once the thin layer of water has warmed via body heat, thicker suits will be cumbersome to wear and can drastically restrict movements when surfing, swimming and partaking in other cardio-intensive activities.

Size and fit is also extremely important, which is why most manufacturers will offer variations on the standard sizes. Long and short alternatives help cater for a variety of body shapes but every manufacturer is different.

The best way to get a snug fit (that allows for plenty of movement) is to physically try on a range of suits, so we recommend going in-store or at least ordering a few and sending a bunch back.

Finally, suits are designed specially for numerous disciplines, meaning the latest surfing offering from O'Neill probably isn't suitable for a triathlon, which is why we've ranked a load based on their intended use and pointed out any additional features that we think are worthy of your attention.

What's the best summer wetsuit to buy?

The best summer suit for surfing has to be the Rip Curl Flashbomb 3/2 Chest Zip, simply because it is so damned easy to get on and off, the E5 Flash Lining is both warm and flexible, while the magnetic closure key stash pocket is a nice touch.

Oh, and Rip Curl claims it's the fastest drying wetsuit on the market, which we are sure is largely true if you live in a country that receives a decent amount of sunshine but we had to make do with drying ours in the shower.

The Finisterre Nieuwland 3E comes in a very close second, as it was most certainly one of the warmest suits tested here and seemed to fit like a glove, even if it was a little tricky to get in and out of.

Swimmers and triathlon enthusiasts will require something lighter, more hydrodynamic in its design and a suit that offers plenty of freedom of movement, so should look towards the 2XU model mentioned below. Divers can't go wrong with Xcel suits, which are arguably some of the best wetsuits on the market but come at a price and are clearly rather more niche.

The best wetsuits for warmer weather

Rip Curl Flashbomb 3/2 Chest Zip

1. Rip Curl Flashbomb 3/2 Chest Zip

Best wetsuit overall

Specifications
Material: Neoprene
Seams: Glued & blind stitched
Thickness: 3mm chest/2mm arms and legs
Entry: Front chest zip
Main use: Surfing
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Warm+Super stretchy
Reasons to avoid
-Could lose shape over time

Designed with surfers and extreme water-based lunatics in mind, this suit puts particular emphasis on stretch in the areas that require it most.

That means there's plenty of give under the arms to allow for easier paddling motions, while panels in the legs make it simple to pop up on a surfboard or dig deep on a SUP.

A new E5 generation of Flashlining is lighter than ever and features multiple layers that funnel water out of the suit quicker to keep the warmth locked in side, where it's needed most.

Better still, the fuzzy warm stuff features throughout the Flashbomb, not just the vital chest and abdomen area, so you stay ridiculously warm in the water.

We found the suit incredibly easy to get in and out of, but even a hardy front zip closure system didn't completely negate the 'flushing' sensation occurs when cold water enters the back of suit.

However, it's a super suit and the latest E4 neoprene is brilliantly stretchy and so easy to don, while the furry lining was arguably too hot for some of the sunnier days on the water in the UK, but we're not complaining..

Finisterre Nieuwland 3E

2. Finisterre Nieuwland 3E

Best wetsuit for surfers (especially hardy eco-surfers)

Specifications
Material: Yulex Pure
Seams: Taped
Thickness: 3.5mm chest/ 2.5mm arms and legs
Entry: Front zip
Main use: Surfing
Reasons to buy
+Great fit+Environmentally friendly+Warm and tough
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey

Designed with the hardier British surfer in mind, Finisterre gear has always been about protecting the wearer from the elements and the Nieuwland 3E is no different.

Where other summer suits mentioned here are a little sparse on the rubber, the St. Agnes-based company have thrown in some extra thickness to help take out the bitter chill of the Atlantic.

That generosity continues in the extra wide taping that covers the seams and ensures the Nieuwland 3E can withstand abuse in rough conditions, while internal pile on the chest and back adds another element of heat.

We found the fit to be excellent - although the suit was rather tough to get into at first - while the ace and eco-friendly Yulex natural rubber performs as well as its petroleum-based counterparts, even if it isn't quite as flexible.

But what you lose in the ability to shed the rubber skin quickly after a session, you gain in great fit and leak-free surfing experience and it did loosen up after two or three wears.

Best wetsuit for women

O'Neill Hyperfreak 4/3

3. O'Neill Hyperfreak 4/3

Best wetsuit for women

Specifications
Material: Technobutter Neoprene
Seams: Glued and Blindstitched
Thickness: 3mm to 4mm
Entry: Front zip
Main use : Surfing
Reasons to buy
+Curved seams+Warm+Easy entry
Reasons to avoid
-Maybe too thick for warmer water

O'Neill's latest Hyperfreak offering features curved seams in all the right places, ensuring a snug fit that allows of plenty of movement when in the water.

Its patented Technobutter neoprene is some of the most flexible around and makes it stupidly easy to get in and out of, while the clever double 'superseal' neck locks out any unwanted water.

The 4/3mm rubber might be slightly too thick for warmer waters and sunnier days but this is a suit that's designed to span over a longer season, making it a solid investment for those on tighter budgets.

Patagonia R3 Yulex FZ Full Suit

4. Patagonia R3 Yulex FZ Full Suit

Best wetsuit with impeccable green credentials

Specifications
Material: Yulex & synthetic rubber
Seams: Triple glued & taped
Thickness: 4.5mm chest/3mm arms and legs
Entry: Front zip
Main use : Surfing
Reasons to buy
+Stupidly warm+Environmentally friendly+Solid construction
Reasons to avoid
-High price-Tough to get on and off

Patagonia prides itself on its green credentials and its latest line of wetsuits ditches the toxic neoprene of yesteryear and instead uses a plant-based derivative for most elements.

The suit itself is solid and we'd argue the 4.5mm thickness in the chest is slightly overkill, even for British summers, but it will be a welcome element to anyone thinking of spending long hours in the water.

Again, the R3 has been designed with surfers and other such gnarly dudes in mind, so offers lots of stretch for paddling movement, but we did find it a little bit restrictive around the shoulders and it felt like it would remain stiff after a number of wears.

The front entry zip is very robust and protects the user from any horrible 'flushing' moments, while all the seams are triple glued and then taped inside, as well as sealed on the outside for unrivalled water tightness.

We particularly liked the 'Supratex' kneepads and ankle cuffs, which protect from any abrasion caused on a rough surfboard deck, but it all comes at a price.

A staggering £390 for a summer wetsuit is a hefty outlay but this ultra-warm unit will probably last well into the autumn before it needs swapping out for something thicker and warmer.

Best wetsuit for triathlon

2XU P:1 Propel

5. 2XU P:1 Propel

Best wetsuit for triathlon

Specifications
Material: Sponge rubber, Nylon laminated
Seams: Glued
Thickness: 1mm to 5mm
Entry: Rear zip
Main use : Swimming & Triathlon
Reasons to buy
+Super slippery+Aids swim stroke+Easy on and off

Where some wetsuits are fashioned for surfing and other relaxed aquatic pursuits, this 2XU number has been designed specifically with the athlete in mind, meaning it majors on the technical stuff.

Not only does it have a plethora of rubber throughout the body, with thickness varying on almost every panel, it is also coated in a Super Composite Skin.

In real talk, that essentially means the micelle structure sprayed onto the surface repels water when in contact with air and reduces the surface resistance for faster swimming times.

There's loads of movement throughout the body, which helps mitigate fatigue, while the 520% stretch lining makes it much easier to rapidly get out of when transferring from water to bike, for example.

Best wetsuit for diving

Xcel Polar Thermoflex TDC Dive Fullsuit

6. Xcel Polar Thermoflex TDC Dive Fullsuit

Best divers' wetsuit

Specifications
Material: Ultra-stretch Neoprene
Seams: Glued & Blindstitched
Thickness: 6mm to 9mm
Entry: Front zip
Main use : Diving
Reasons to buy
+Ridiculously warm+Smart technology
Reasons to avoid
-Really thick-Reduced movement

Diving to the deep, dark depths of this planet's vast oceans requires a suit that is up to the challenging task, but simply using tons of rubber to increase warmth isn't going to cut it with the chaps at Xcel.

Nope, they've added their signature Glideskin material to the access areas that require increased slipperiness for ease of entry and exit.

That means ankles, cuffs and the face seal hood feature the slippery stuff, while Xcel's clever Polar Protection System zip entry makes it easy to get in and out of this ridiculously thick suit.

The Polar TDC also packs smart Thermo Dry Celliant low and high pile hydrophobic linings throughout the key areas, specifically the chest and core, to increase warmth in really chilly conditions.