Best Wetsuits For Open Water Swimming 2021 | Mid-Range Wetsuits That Will Suit Everybody - Outdoors Magic

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Best Wetsuits For Open Water Swimming 2021 | Mid-Range Wetsuits That Will Suit Everybody

Elise Downing looks at the best wetsuits for year-round outdoor swimming, including options for beginners through to competitive swimmers

One of the best things about swimming, perhaps more so than any other sport, is that you really don’t need much kit at all. For casual open water swimming, a swimming costume or a pair of shorts are the only real essentials (some people would even suggest they’re optional…), plus goggles and a hat if you’re planning on putting your face under for any length of time. The back-to-basics nature of it has to be one of the main reasons behind the soaring popularity of ‘wild’ swimming. 

But while many hardy swimmers pride themselves on swimming ‘skins’ (i.e. in just a costume or shorts) all year round, it’s definitely worth considering investing in a wetsuit if you’re serious about open water swimming. Warmth is a big factor – it’s recommended that you don’t stay in the water for any more minutes than the number of degrees without a wetsuit, e.g. if the water temperature is 4 °C, only swim for four minutes. With a wetsuit on, however, you’ll be able to safely stay in for much longer, meaning you can clock up some decent length swims even in cooler temperatures. (And in the UK, that’s most of the year!)

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Then there’s the buoyancy a wetsuit offers, which both makes swimming feel easier and more efficient while also adding an extra element of safety. If you get tired, you can simply roll over and relax, and the wetsuit will stop you sinking. For these reasons, you’ll find that wetsuits are actually mandatory at many open water swimming events and venues.

What To Look For When Choosing An Open Water Swimming Wetsuit

First up, it’s important to consider the cut that’ll suit your needs. The main choices tend to be full cut, sleeveless or short cut.

You should also consider the amount of buoyancy you want from the suit and the warmth it’ll provide. These two factors tend to be determined by a combination of the cut, the grade of neoprene and its thickness. The thickness tends to be given in millimetres, usually ranging between 1 and 5mm, so keep an eye out for that measurement. The temperature rating is also commonly stated. 

Other things to consider include how easy it is to put on or to remove the wetsuit (that’s particularly important when it comes to triathlon) and think about the mobility it provides as well. If you’re looking to put in the lengths you’ll want something with a stretchier neoprene and an articulated cut that gives your shoulders a full range of motion.

The Best Wetsuits For Open Water Swimming 2021

Here’s our pick of five of the best mid-range wetsuits, which will suit everybody from the occasional dipper to open water enthusiasts.

  • Zone3 Aspire
  • Yonda Spectre
  • 2XU P:1 Propel
  • Aqua Sphere Pursuit V3
  • Sailfish Ignite

Zone3 Aspire Wetsuit

Price: £375
Thickness: Up to 5mm

Go to any open water swimming event (or popular stretch of river) and you’re likely to see your fair share of Zone 3 Aspire wetsuits. First released in 2010, it’s a bit of a cult classic and has won dozens of industry awards over the past decade.

The flexibility of this suit was something we noticed right off the bat. The shoulders and chest are made from a one-piece panel in 1.5mm Yamamoto SCS neoprene which has a 520% elongation rate. Without getting too sciencey this basically means it’s got really good stretch, something we noticed in and out of the water. Combined with Pro Speed cuffs, this makes for an easy transition – super important both for outdoor swimmers needing to get warm and dry quickly, and triathletes eager to get on the bike. Don’t worry though, you aren’t sacrificing any warmth or buoyancy, with 5mm thickness on the legs and lower torso gives extra protection and flotation. 

The Aspire suit is the priciest on this list but still good value compared to other wetsuits on the market, many of which fetch £500 upwards. Zone 3 describe this one as perfect for beginners all the way through to elites, and we have to agree – a great balance of performance and comfort.

Get the latest price:
zone3.com

 

Yonda Spectre Wetsuit

Price: £280
Thickness: Up to 4.5mm

One of British company Yonda’s newest models, the Spectre wetsuit is targeted towards first time open water swimmers and triathletes, but we actually think it has a lot to offer more experienced athletes too. It utilises Yonda’s signature Y-stretch side panel, which aids shoulder flexibility from the waist up. We definitely felt a lack of friction when pulling forwards in the stroke during testing and it would be interested to see how this helps reduce fatigue during longer swims.

A special mention has to go to the fact that we put this one to the test during an early February cold spell when air temp apparently felt like -8°C. Although it didn’t quite manage to stop the shock of dunking your face under (sadly) the Spectre felt genuinely comfortable through the legs, arms and torso. We managed a good few minutes in those temperatures before the finger freeze got too much, which bodes well for spring swimming. We’re sure Yonda don’t design their wetsuits with these extremes in mind, but it’s testament to their quality. 

Get the latest price at:
yondasports.com

 

2XU P:1 Propel Wetsuit

Price: £215
Thickness: Up to 5mm

2XU’s P:1 Propel is marketed as an entry-level wetsuit and is the cheapest on this list yet it still shares many of the same materials as more premium offerings. It uses Yamomoto 39 cell neoprene throughout with the thickness varying from 1.5 to 5mm, offering a good balance of flotation and flexibility. The Rollbar technology is especially interesting – it centres buoyancy to your core, to reduce your side-to-side rotation. It won’t fix a bad stroke but we definitely appreciated the assistance with staying in a horizontal position.

Maybe because we carried out testing mid-winter and so changing post-swim had some urgency, but again the ease of getting in and out of the P:1 was something we noticed. This could be thanks to the 520% stretch inner lining – there’s no point having a high-stretch outer if the inner can’t keep up!

Get the latest price at:
2xu.com

 

Aqua Sphere Pursuit V3 Wetsuit

Price: £265
Thickness: Up to 5mm

The Pursuit V3 is Aqua Sphere’s beginners offering and is aimed specifically at open water swimming (rather than being more triathlon-focused, as some of their top-range wetsuits are). It definitely feels catered towards comfort, rather than just speed, which makes it really nice to wear. The balance of warmth and flexibility was something that made it stand out during testing – not always easy to get right.

The flexibility is owed to Aqua Sphere’s signature Bio-Stretch Zone – two strategically placed 2mm panels under the arms and lower back which maximise your range of natural movement. Meanwhile, Thermo-Guard technology around the chest, shoulders and legs helps retain body heat, making this a good suit to opt for in cooler months. 

With open water swimming growing massively in popularity, we also love Aqua Sphere’s philosophy that ‘people are true swimmers not because of how or why they swim, but because they do swim’. After all, that’s all there really is to it!

Get the latest price at:
wiggle.com

 

Sailfish Ignite Wetsuit
Price: €299
Thickness: Up to 3mm

Safety is a huge consideration in open water swimming and visibility is key. Especially if you’re swimming ‘wild’ (aka anywhere outside of a designated swim zone), you need to be able to be seen by passing water traffic, other swimmers, etc. Sailfish’s Ignite wetsuit puts this at the forefront of its design with bright orange panels on the back of the torso and legs, helping you to really stand out in the water.

The Ignite is slightly thinner than some of the other suits we tested, with the maximum thickness being 3mm (and 1.5mm on the arms and shoulders). It was fine for a shorter dip in early spring but we’d probably hold off on wearing it for longer swims until the summer. We’re excited for when that time comes though – the soft stretch inner liner and collar were incredibly comfortable, and you really do get that ‘second skin’ feel.

Get the latest price at:
sailfish.com (free UK shipping)

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