This 4 step guide helps the undecided triathlete choose a wetsuit that is right for him or her. It is a comprehensive and easy step by step process.
It’s important to know why and how a triathlon wetsuit (wet suit) will help you. Here are some benefits a triathlon wetsuit has over a diving wetsuit, surfing wetsuit, or no wetsuit at all. (The word wetsuit/wet suit can be spelled two different ways. For the sake of consistency we choose to use the one word version wetsuit for the rest of the guide.)
Here are a few of the more popular triathlon wetsuit brands today: 2XU, Zoot, Orca, Blue Seventy, De Soto
There are many triathlon wetsuits to choose from. Every year the top triathlon brands offer more and more options than the prior year. To help narrow your search we divided the wetsuits into four categories based upon the variety of options and selection of wetsuits offered by the top brands. It is worth noting here that more expensive suits generally have more flexibility and buoyancy. This usually equates to more comfort. It is not uncommon for beginners to get a higher end suit for added benefit and comfort, especially those who are less experienced swimming in open waters. However, we understand that purchasing can be quite an investment, which is why we offer high quality triathlon wetsuit rentals at affordable prices.
Generally beginners and the budget-minded fall into this category. If you’re just getting started in swimming you’ll need a solid suit that will get you through training and races. Fortunately you don’t need to spend much to satisfy these needs. A general rule is that more expensive suits are designed for speed, comfort, and fuller range of motion. So if you’re just looking for a basic functional suit then you can save some money. These suits help you “get your feet wet”.
If you train regularly or plan compete in several wetsuit-legal races, you’ll more than likely fall in this category. You may also fall into this category if you are an intermediate swimmer looking for a more comfortable fit, giving you fuller range of motion. Experienced triathletes and triathletes with a competitive swimming background most often consider Category 2 or Category 3 wetsuits. Triathletes who are looking for a wetsuit to enhance their speed without breaking the bank will typically consider Category 2 wetsuits.
If you’re looking for a fast and comfortable wetsuit with proven technology then you should consider Category 3 triathlon wetsuits. These wetsuits generally have high quality, buoyant rubber. They aren’t the most expensive suits but they are great options for people looking for high performance without paying the highest price. These wetsuits are designed with efficiency, flexibility, and performance in mind. In some cases, the makers of these triathlon wetsuits have implemented innovative features and unique materials to create high performance triathlon wetsuits.
If you’re looking for the most comfortable and fastest wetsuit with the newest technology then you should consider Category 4 triathlon wetsuits. If you’re looking for every little edge and don’t mind spending more for the top of the line wetsuit then these are the ones for you. These wetsuits generally have the best quality and most buoyant rubber. As well they are designed with efficiency, flexibility, and performance in mind. In almost every case below the makers of these triathlon wetsuits have taken extra effort to utilize innovative features and unique materials to create high performance triathlon wetsuits.
At this point you’ve narrowed down your price point, but which wetsuit should you purchase? The best way to find the right suit for you is to try on all the wetsuits that you are considering. However, if you don’t have this option, try to stick to the manufacturer’s sizing suggestions as closely as possible. Here are some things to consider when trying on or selecting the right wetsuit:
When selecting a wetsuit you’ll want to make sure that it is not loose and fits you well between your crotch and shoulders. Arm and leg lengths may vary and shorter lengths are acceptable. In fact, a shorter leg is often preferable as it will allow for quicker removal of the suit. Also, look out for a good neck and wrist seal so water doesn’t flow into the suit. Allowing water to enter the wetsuit creates more weight for you to carry as you swim and will generally slow you down. To maximize your speed, minimize the amount of water inside the wetsuit. Be sure to note the arm and shoulder reach for a wetsuit. This area is most important to make sure you have an unrestricted swim stroke.
Most wetsuits will vary in thickness (1.5mm-5mm) and “stretchability” throughout. You’ll want thinner and generally more flexible material around your shoulder and arms where you will be moving most. Thicker material is generally used in the chest and leg area to help with buoyancy, helping you float on top of the water. The various brands will for the most part offer the same type of rubber/neoprene in their price ranges.
Most methodologies for fitting are taken from the perspective of performance, some wetsuit brands more so than others. In our experience many people find a performance fit to be tight and uncomfortable. If you are looking to just “make it through” a short course swim you may feel more comfortable in a less restrictive suit. In this case, consider a size up if you are between sizes. The following are some concerns people may have when considering leaning towards a more relaxed fit:
This is mostly up to personal preference but some would argue that sleeveless arms allow for freer arm movement thus a faster wetsuit. Another consideration for sleeved versus sleeveless would be temperature. You’ll see more sleeveless wetsuits in warmer waters. Some people prefer the unrestricted range of motion that they get from a sleeveless suit as as an issue of personal comfort. If you have no preference and want to go with the majority then purchase a sleeved wetsuit. Sleeved wetsuits are far more popular than sleeveless wetsuits world wide. This isn’t to say there aren’t pockets around the world where sleeveless is more popular.
Specially coated rubber, break away zippers, reverse zippers, special panels, etc… There are a lot of features to consider and again these are personal preference. Special coatings are found on almost all triathlon wetsuits and will cause for less friction (more hydrodynamic) through the water. Once you’ve determined that a fit is good, the rest is up to you.
This has nothing to do with function but I mention it because the appearance of your wetsuit is a legitimate consideration. If you look fast and feel fast who’s to say you won’t be fast? This bullet might not float the boat for some but for me and others it’s plays some role.
A triathlon wetsuit is not a trivial purchase but it is one that will make a difference in your race. Make sure you purchase your wetsuit from a source that will assist you after your purchase to make sure you have the right suit. If you purchase online you’ll want a policy like One Tri’s that allows you to exchange the suit for another if it doesn’t fit. (One exchange free of freight for purchases over $250.)
If you are brand new to wetsuits try on a friend’s or rent a suit you are planning on purchasing. Unfortunately wetsuit rental locations aren’t designed for “trying-on” wetsuits. Many rental businesses usually only rent one brand or one line of wetsuit and in many cases you can’t choose the suit you want to rent. This won’t give you a good idea of the wetsuit you are considering to purchase. Check out our triathlon wetsuit rentals. We offer several styles that you can rent that you can also purchase.
We want you to get the best wetsuit for your race. As triathletes we know how much of a challenge this process may be so we’ll make sure you’re comfortable with your purchase every step of the way. If you need any more information that you can’t find here or online please contact us by phone or email. Our OneTri.com wetsuit shopping process:
If you’d like to find out more about triathlon wetsuits here are some helpful resources:
DeSoto.com – How to care for your De Soto wetsuit http://www.desotosport.com/wetsuits/care.asp
This section is a supplement to the OneTri.com wetsuit buying guide. Are you thirsting for more knowledge? Read below for more nuanced details of our beloved triathlon wetsuits.
Almost all triathlon wetsuit brands achieve their buoyancy from a combination of thickness and type of rubber. Also most brands will have the thickest part of their wetsuits no more than 5mm. This is because USAT and WTC (Ironman) have rules that limit wetsuit thickness to 5mm. You will find that all the brands put the 5mm sections of their wetsuit in the front torso and leg areas. The reason for this is that these are the heaviest and most dense parts of your body. By giving the greatest lift in these areas they are making it easier to swim in an efficient and streamlined position. Buoyancy is only one part of the equation when designing a great triathlon wetsuit. Another major consideration is flexibility. Flexibility is important for comfort, dexterity during the swim, and speed when running to your transition.
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