Wetsuits are essential for many water sports like surfing, swimming, and kayaking.
They provide a layer of protection from the cold waters and help you stay afloat when in deep water.
Wetsuits are designed to provide maximum buoyancy and warmth during cold water activities such as surfing or diving.
They come in various sizes and materials, depending on their intended use. A wetsuit is a type of full-body suit that provides insulation from the elements.
The material helps prevent heat loss and keeps you warm. Wetsuits are made up of neoprene, which is a synthetic rubber that provides excellent flexibility and durability.
The thickness of your wetsuit will depend on what type of activity you plan to do in it. Many factors go into choosing a wetsuit and the thickness is one of the most important.
With wetsuits often being quite an investment it is best to be as informed as possible. So keep reading to make sure you know all you need to about wetsuit thickness!
How Is Wetsuit Thickness Measured?
The thickness of a wetsuit refers to how thick the neoprene is. This measurement is usually given in millimeters (mm).
The most common way the thickness of a wetsuit is marked is through a notation like 4/3, 3/2, 5/4/3, or some variation of this.
These notations indicate the variable thickness of the suit in millimeters.
For example, a suit marked 4/3 will be at a maximum thickness of 4 millimeters and a minimum thickness of 3 millimeters.
This notation of thickness is often quite easy to find and if you cannot, you should contact a salesperson, the manufacturer, or distributor.
The thickness notation does not always specify what thickness each area is, but it can generally be assumed that the torso will be the thickest coverage, with the legs being a bit thinner and the arms generally the thinnest area.
This change in thickness is to balance protection and flexibility depending on what areas need it most.
So now you know how to find out the thickness of a wetsuit, what does this factor affect?
How Does The Thickness Of A Wetsuit Affect The Temperature?
When you wear a wetsuit you want to stay warm, so you don’t get too cold.
If you are wearing a thicker wetsuit then you will have more thermal mass than if you were wearing a thin wetsuit.
Thermal mass is basically just the amount of heat stored by something.
When you put on a wetsuit you store a lot of heat because the neoprene acts like a sponge absorbing the heat from your skin.
This means that you will stay warmer longer while wearing a thicker wetsuit. This also applies to when you take off the wetsuit.
As soon as you remove the wetsuit you lose the heat stored inside, and you start cooling down again. This is why it’s important to choose the right thickness for your wetsuit.
If you are planning on swimming in colder waters then you need to consider the temperature of the water before purchasing a wetsuit.
You want to ensure that the wetsuit you buy will work well in the temperatures you expect to encounter.
If you are going to swim in very cold water then you may want to look at buying a thicker wetsuit than if you are only planning on swimming in warmer water.
In Fahrenheit, if the water you are planning to swim in is over 75 degrees you probably will not need a wetsuit for temperature control.
But if the water is around 62-75 degrees then 2 to 3/2 will be best for this temperature.
Between 62-52 degrees you will need to get thicker, getting closer to 5 millimeters the lower you go but largely staying around the 4-millimeter range.
Going any lower than this will necessitate a 6-millimeter maximum thickness as well as strongly considering a hooded wetsuit.
The temperature of the water is the most important factor to consider as it can be the most dangerous if not properly considered leading to bad consequences such as hypothermia.
What Else Does Wetsuit Thickness Affect?
Thickness plays a small part in the durability of a wetsuit. Predictably, the thicker the wetsuit the longer it will last, and tears will be less likely to fully break through the material.
If you are using a wetsuit for largely casual roles but want it to last as long as possible, maybe consider going a bit thicker than you need as it will generally be less prone to breaking.
However, there are factors going against choosing thicker than you may need, as thickness can affect the fit of a wetsuit.
Generally speaking, a thicker wetsuit will fit tighter than a thinner wetsuit of the same size. This is generally a side effect of the flexibility.
This leads to people sometimes tending to choose a thinner wetsuit to avoid a tighter fit, and if they need a thicker wetsuit, they may go a size up, however, a baggy wetsuit will not function as well as a well-fitted one.
And a final important factor you have probably picked up from the other points is that a thicker wetsuit will generally limit flexibility more than a thinner one.
This is worth considering but is usually prioritized under other factors as it is much easier to adapt to.
Hopefully, through this guide, you will now understand how important the thickness of a wetsuit can be, how to accurately understand the measurements used for wetsuit thickness, and what the thickness of a wetsuit affects.
As you now know from this guide, if you are planning on using your wetsuit in colder waters you should definitely go thicker as this will prevent harmful consequences that can come from the lower temperature.
However, if you are planning to use your wetsuit more casually, or in warmer waters, and want it to fit easier, then choosing a thinner wetsuit will make all of this easier.