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, Blind Stitched, Critically Taped - A durable, flexible, and highly 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. A thin strip of soft, waterproof, and highly flexible tape is then fused over the interior side of the seam at critical sections only, enhancing waterproofness and durability.
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.
Patagonia's Hand Selected Neoprene - Patagonia uses only the finest neoprene to craft their suits, this is why they start every suit with a high-density nitrogen cell structure neoprene that maximizes warmth, flex and durability. The recycled polyester exterior increases the durability of the wetsuit while minimizing environmental impacts.
Hand-Ironed Seams - Patagonia's seams are all single needle blind stitched and triple glued for a seam that is among the most durable on the market. Once seams are sealed and bonded they are inspected and then hand ironed on the inside of the seam to flatten and melt any glue that might be left over from the bonding process. Hand-Ironing eliminates glue edges and maximizes durability and comfort. Then Patagonia goes back and hand tapes high stress areas such as the crotch to fight leakage and enhance durability.
Iron-Clad Warranty - Patagonia stands behind their products. Period. Damage due to wear and tear will be repaired at a reasonable charge.
Strategically Placed Panels - The panels and seams are strategically placed for easier paddling.
Patagonia Regulator 1 Insulation - Made for warmer water (65-75°F) with 2mm neoprene and recycled polyester.
R1 Lining - Lightweight green recycled polyester grid laminated to front, torso and thighs for stretch, comfort and fast dry times.