When it comes to water sports and outdoor activities, wetsuits are essential for providing protection and warmth. But the question on everyone’s mind is: are wetsuits actually comfortable?
Yes, when properly fitted, a wetsuit should be comfortable, warm, and not restrict mobility in any way. The first few times you wear a wetsuit, it can feel uncomfortable because you are not used to the sensation and you haven’t broken it in yet. Eventually, it will feel like a second skin on you.
In this article, we’ll explore the factors that contribute to wetsuit comfort, including finding the right fit, understanding wetsuit materials, and addressing common concerns about discomfort. By the end of this article, you’ll know all about wetsuit comfort and how to make sure the wetsuit you choose is perfect for your water adventures.
Understanding Wetsuit Comfort
Wetsuits can be quite comfortable when you find the right fit and thickness for your needs. In fact, they were designed to keep you comfortable while engaging in water activities, regardless of the temperature. The primary purpose of a wetsuit is to maintain your body temperature and protect you from the sun’s UV rays.
To ensure that you feel comfortable in your wetsuit, it needs to be properly fitted. A well-fitted wetsuit should be snug but not too tight, allowing you to move freely without any restriction. If your wetsuit is too loose, it will allow cold water to enter, reducing its effectiveness at keeping you warm.
A key factor in wetsuit comfort is the material, which is typically made of neoprene. This flexible, synthetic rubber material is designed to trap a thin layer of water between your body and the suit. Your body heat then warms this water, creating a barrier to keep you warm.
So, while it may seem counterintuitive to wear something tight and wet, it’s actually this close fit that helps maintain warmth and comfort.
Another aspect that contributes to wetsuit comfort is selecting the appropriate thickness based on the water temperature and your activity. Wetsuits come in various thickness levels, usually measured in millimeters (mm).
Thicker wetsuits are better for cooler water, while thinner ones are suitable for warmer temperatures. Make sure to consult a wetsuit thickness chart before making a purchase, and understand that the thicker the wetsuit, the more restrictive it will feel.
Materials Used in Wetsuits
In this section, we’ll discuss the materials commonly used in wetsuits to ensure they provide maximum comfort and protection for your water activities. These materials are the key players in ensuring you have a comfortable and enjoyable experience while wearing a wetsuit.
When it comes to wetsuits, neoprene is the primary material. This is a synthetic rubber with numerous qualities and attributes that make it the go-to choice for wetsuit construction. Some of the great aspects of neoprene include:
- Insulation: Neoprene is great at trapping a thin layer of water between the suit and your skin. This layer of water heats up, keeping you warm in colder water temperatures.
- Flexibility: Neoprene is a stretchable material that adapts to your body shape, allowing you to move freely while in the water.
- Durability: The material is incredibly resilient, able to withstand wear and tear from water, salt, and other elements you might encounter during your water activities.
Another material you might find in wetsuits is lycra. This synthetic fabric offers certain advantages as well, but it will not keep you warm like neoprene will:
- Lightweight: Lycra is lighter than neoprene, making it an excellent option for warm water activities or for those seeking a more breathable wetsuit.
- Elasticity: This material is known for its incredible stretchiness, ensuring that your wetsuit fits snugly without restricting your movement.
- Quick-drying: Lycra dries quickly, preventing the feeling of heavy, wet fabric clinging to your skin after your water adventures.
Fit and Sizing of Wetsuits
Getting Your Measurements
To find a comfortable wetsuit, you first need to get your measurements. Grab a tape measure and note down the following dimensions:
- Chest: Measure around the widest part of your chest, just under your armpits; women should include their breasts in this measurement.
- Neck: Measure about an inch above where your neck connects to your shoulders.
- Waist: Measure around the smallest part of your waist.
- Hips: Measure around the widest part of your hips.
- Inseam: Measure from the top of your inner thigh to just above your ankle.
- Height: Stand tall and measure your height from head to toe.
Having these measurements handy will make it easier to compare your measurements to a wetsuit sizing chart.
Finding Your Perfect Fit
Once you have your measurements, it’s time to find a wetsuit that fits you like a glove. A well-fitted wetsuit should be snug, but not so tight that it restricts your movement or blood flow.
In general, the sleeves and legs should end just at the wrist and ankle bones, and there should be no gaps or rolls of neoprene.
When trying on wetsuits, remember these tips:
- Thickness: Choose the right thickness for your activities and water temperatures. Refer to a wetsuit thickness and temperature chart to help you decide.
- Seams: Look for a wetsuit with flatlock, blindstitched, or taped seams to minimize chafing and ensure a comfortable fit.
- Flexibility: A good wetsuit should not restrict your range of motion. Test this by raising your arms, bending your knees, and performing other movements similar to those you’ll execute in the water. Brand new wetsuits will feel inflexible until you break them in.
Importance of Proper Sizing
Proper sizing is crucial when it comes to wetsuit comfort. An ill-fitting suit can lead to chafing, water flushing, and restrictions in movement. A well-fitted wetsuit should be comfortable, warm, and not restrict your mobility in any way (unless the wetsuit is particularly thick).
Don’t be tempted to wear a wetsuit that is too tight or too loose. Too tight and you’ll feel restricted and uncomfortable. Too loose and you won’t be efficiently insulated from the cold water. In both cases, the effectiveness of the wetsuit will be greatly reduced.
Wetsuit Features Impacting Comfort
There are a few different zipper types commonly found in wetsuits:
- Back Zip: This is the traditional zipper style. It runs down the length of your spine and is easy to put on and take off. However, it can be less comfortable when lying on a surfboard and may allow more water to enter the suit.
- Chest Zip: This type is becoming increasingly popular and offers a higher level of comfort and flexibility. The zipper runs across the upper chest and provides a more watertight seal. But, it can be slightly more challenging to put on and take off.
- Zipperless: As the name suggests, these wetsuits have no zippers and rely on stretchy material. They allow for maximum flexibility and comfort, but can be difficult to put on and take off.
The seam construction of your wetsuit plays a vital role in both comfort and warmth. There are three main types:
- Flatlock Seam: This type of seam is flat and comfortable against your skin, but allows more water to enter the suit, making it more suitable for warm water temperatures.
- Glued and Blind-Stitched (GBS): These seams are first glued together and then stitched without fully penetrating the neoprene. They offer a better seal against water, but may sacrifice some flexibility.
- Taped Seam: This high-end seam construction offers maximum comfort and water protection. Taped seams are reinforced with a thin, flexible tape and provide the best combination of flexibility and warmth.
Thickness vs. Flexibility
The thickness of a wetsuit’s neoprene material impacts both its warmth and flexibility. Thicker wetsuits provide better insulation in colder water but can reduce your range of motion. On the other hand, thinner wetsuits offer greater flexibility but may not provide enough warmth in colder conditions.
For warm water diving, look for a wetsuit that is around 1-2mm thick. Otherwise, a 3mm wetsuit will suffice. A 5mm wetsuit is optimal for temperate water temperatures, and 7-9mm wetsuits or drysuits are suitable for cold water diving.
Keep in mind that neoprene flexibility is very important, as it allows you to move comfortably in the water. Therefore, when selecting a wetsuit, it’s essential to find a balance between thickness and flexibility that meets your specific needs and water temperature conditions.
Tips to Improve Wetsuit Comfort
Acclimatizing to Your Wetsuit
To make your wetsuit more comfortable, it’s essential to acclimatize to it. Start by choosing a wetsuit that perfectly fits your body – avoid buying online if you’re unsure about your size. Ensure the wetsuit isn’t too tight around the neck, as this can make it difficult to breathe.
Give yourself some time to get used to wearing the wetsuit. You can do this by going for a short swim or practicing water-based activities before your main adventure. Gradually increase the time you spend wearing the wetsuit to familiarize your body with its fit and feel, and to break it in.
Remember, the end goal is a well-fitted wetsuit that is comfortable, warm, and does not restrict your mobility. Try different body positions and movements to ensure you’re at ease when wearing the wetsuit.
Maintaining Your Wetsuit
Proper maintenance is crucial for wetsuit comfort. Always clean your wetsuit with fresh water to remove salt, sand, and other debris after wearing it.
Avoid using harsh chemicals such as bleach, as they can damage the wetsuit’s material. When drying, keep it out of direct sunlight to prevent fading and deterioration. Hang it up on a wetsuit drying rack or lay it on a regular drying rack in a well-ventilated, shaded area.
Store your wetsuit properly by hanging it on a wide hanger or laying it flat. Avoid folding or squeezing the wetsuit, as this can cause creases and make it less comfortable to wear.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does it feel like to wear a wetsuit?
Wearing a wetsuit feels snug and form-fitting, like you have a second layer of skin, as it’s designed to hug your body for optimal thermal insulation. At first, it might feel a bit odd, but as soon as you start moving in the water, you’ll appreciate the warmth and flexibility it provides.
Are you supposed to wear anything under a wetsuit?
It’s up to your personal preference. Some people choose to wear a swimsuit or underwear beneath their wetsuits, while others prefer to wear nothing at all. Keep in mind that wearing undergarments may cause bunching or discomfort during your activity.
Should a wetsuit be comfortable?
Yes, a wetsuit should be comfortable to wear. It should not restrict your movement or cause any discomfort when bending, reaching overhead, or moving your arms and legs. If you feel uncomfortable in your wetsuit, it may be too tight or not the right fit for your body type.
Do you feel the water in a wetsuit?
Wetsuits work by trapping a thin layer of water between your body and the suit. This water warms up from your body heat, acting as an insulator to keep you warm. While you might feel some water seeping into your wetsuit, you won’t feel cold because the suit is designed to maintain your body heat.
How to choose the right wetsuit size?
Choosing the right wetsuit size is essential for comfort and performance. You should measure your chest, waist, hips, and height, and use a sizing chart specific to the brand you’re interested in. Try on the wetsuit, ensuring it feels snug, flexible, and comfortable without being too tight.
Do wetsuits keep you warm?
Yes, wetsuits are designed to keep you warm in cold water conditions. They insulate your body by trapping a layer of water that gets warmed by your body heat. The thickness of the wetsuit materials, usually neoprene, will also impact its ability to keep you warm. Thicker wetsuits are recommended for colder water.