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!)
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
Here’s our pick of five of the best mid-range wetsuits, which will suit everybody from the occasional dipper to open water enthusiasts.
- Best Overall Wetsuit for Swimming: Zone3 Aspire Wetsuit
- Best Value Wetsuit for Open Water Swimming: 2XU P:1 Propel Wetsuit
- Best Beginner’s Swimming Wetsuit: Yonda Spectre Wetsuit
- Warmest Swimming Wetsuit Tested: Aqua Sphere Pursuit V3
- Best Swimming Wetsuit for Visibility: Sailfish Ignite Wetsuit