The warmth of a wetsuit largely depends on the thickness of its neoprene. Measured in millimeters (mm), a thicker suit will generally keep you warmer. However, a thicker suit will also weigh more and be less flexible, resulting in greater paddling fatigue and reduced performance. The goal is to choose a suit that is not unnecessarily thick for your local conditions.
To achieve a balance between warmth and performance, most wetsuits use a combination of neoprene thicknesses. Thicker panels are generally used in the chest, back, and lower body, while thinner panels are used through the arms and shoulders for greater flexibility and easier paddling. A suit’s particular combination of neoprene thickness is reflected in the name of the suit itself. For example, a “4/3mm” wetsuit uses both 4mm and 3mm neoprene. A “2mm” wetsuit is made entirely of 2mm neoprene. The thickness we list here refers only to the thickest neoprene used in the suit. More detailed information on the thicknesses used and their placement is listed below.
Keep in mind that additional features such as advanced seam construction, insulated lining, and hoods greatly impact the warmth of a wetsuit. The presence of these features can compensate for the reduced warmth of thinner neoprene, offering greater performance while retaining overall warmth. For example, a higher-end 4/3mm wetsuit with sealed seams and interior thermal lining will likely stay as warm as an economical 5/4mm wetsuit that does not have those features.
Back Zipper - The main advantages of back-zip suits are ease of entry and exit, and a smooth, consistent feel across the chest.
In a perfect world, wetsuits would be seamless. Until then, the goal is to make seams as light, flexible, durable, and impermeable to water as possible. While each brand has its own lingo, there are four basic seam constructions on the market: flatlock; glued and blind stitched (GBS); glued and blind stitched with taping; and liquid rubber seam seal.
Glued and Blind Stitched (GBS) - A durable, flexible, and waterproof seam construction where two panels of neoprene are glued together end-to-end and then blind stitched. Stitches are visible on the seam exterior but do not protrude through to the interior, reducing sew-through holes and water entry.
Most cold water suits now include an insulating interior jersey lining made from a variety a materials. Its purpose is to wick water away from the skin while retaining body heat. The thermal lining is typically placed on the chest and/or back core panels to retain core body heat. On higher end suits, it is often extended throughout the torso and down through the thighs.
UltraFlex DS - Super flexible, soft Neoprene that provides 4-way stretch for unrestricted movement in any direction.
FluidFlex Firewall - Measurably lighter, warmer and more flexible. Wicks away moisture and increases warmth.
Double Superseal Neck - A toasty warm two layer design featuring a 360° smooth skin interior lining, wide adjustablility and a secure lock down. Fully adjustable and watertight.
Blackout Zipper - Offset zipper teeth greatly reduce water entry.
Integrated Key Pocket - Your key is easy to access and completely secure.
Strategic Seamless Paddle Zones - An ergonomic, seamless undersleeve panel that allows for unrestricted motion and eliminates rashing.
Krypto Kneepads - Abrasion resistant, high stretch neoprene panel with ergonomic shaping designed to extend the life of the wetsuit and protect the knee while punching through waves.
LSD [Lumbar Seamless Design] - O'Neill knows even the best surfers spend significant amounts of time sitting on their boards. By using a single large panel in the rear area of the wetsuit, water entry is minimized and stretch is maximized.