What kind of wetsuit do I need for certain water temperature? This is one of the most asked questions. On one hand you want to wear as little neoprene as possible. Less neoprene and thinner wetsuit means less strain on our muscles when we move. As soon as you put on a wetsuit you not only have to move your arms to propel yourself forward, you also have to pull and stretch the wetsuit you are wearing. Because of the extra work you get tired sooner. So, boardshorts all the way, right? Great, but on the other hand you do not want to be cold the whole time. There are limits to where you feel comfortable in cool water and there are limits when cold water becomes just plain dangerous to your health and finally to your life. Cold water also makes you slower, more numb and drains your energy. So choosing the right wetsuit for the certain water temperature is a trade-off between these two facts. You want a wetsuit that is thick enough to keep you warm and thin enough not to put unnecessary strain to your muscles. So how to choose the right wetsuit for different water temperatures? Follow our wetsuit thickness and water temperature guide to find out!
What kind of wetsuit thickness should I get?
When we are choosing wetsuit thickness it is not just the water temperature that counts. There are a few factors to consider: water temperature, air temperature, wind, cold sensitivity and activity. Let's take a look at each of them.
True. This is the most important one. And the most obvious one, colder water = thicker wetsuit. Neoprene acts as an insulator against outer weather elements and the thicker it is the more insulation you have. But how thick?
This one can be in sync with the water temperature. Usually its warmer water in the summer, and colder water in the winter. But there are also a lot of places on Earth where this isn't completely true. Places where cold ocean currents flow past hot desert coastlines. Where the air is hot and the water is cold. Here warm sun and warmer air can allow you to wear a thinner wetsuit than you normally would.
This is a really big factor. It's our guess that most wetsuit water temperature charts are written like there is absolutely no wind. Even your average everyday weather has some wind, not to mention windsurfers, surfers who surf wind swells etc. What does wind do? It cools the surface of your body and increases the feeling of cold. So if you use your wetsuit in wind then it should be thicker.
This is just something the changes from person to person. How quickly do you feel cold? For some people it is anything under 75F, some are comfortable in 60F... partly this might be conditioned with your body and blood circulation and partly this is just how used you are to coldness. For instance, a mountain climber spends weeks at high altitudes and low temperatures and when they come back home, they say that they constantly feel hot. Normal apartment temperature is just to hot for them, so they keep opening the windows if it's colder outside. So if you want to surf, windsurf etc. in cold weather and cold water there is some amount of could that you have to get used to.
This is also a major factor. If you are active you burn energy and produce heat while you do it. You can paddle up and down, try to catch every wave you can and you will be smoking hot. Or you can sit and wait for your wave to come or there might be a lack of swell and you need to wait 10 minutes for every wave and sure, you will be cold. Slowly gliding through cold water depths requires much thicker wetsuit than doing something more aerobic and active does.
With so many factors that influence the right wetsuit thickness for certain water temperature you can understand that no wetsuit water temperature chart can be 100% right. The problem with wetsuit temperature charts is that they don't tell you that. Well, now you know! This water temperature and wetsuit thickness chart is therefore just for your orientation and is a bit on the safe side. Also, just choosing the right wetsuit thickness is not enough. When the water gets colder you also need to wear booties and later also gloves and a hood.
We were complaining all the time how wetsuit manufacturers thickness charts suck and that they only want to make an impression. But wetsuit quality is also a big factor. A good wetsuit will not easily let water penetrate to the inside. Things like double blindstitch, liquid sealing, taped seams, batflap will stop cold water entering your wetsuit. So a good one is a must in cold weather and water and this is also the reason that a good winter wetsuit is not cheap.