How Are Wetsuits Rated for Warmth?
Patrick Kirk February 8th, 2023 Posted In: Articles
How Are Wetsuits Rated?
When it comes to purchasing the right wetsuit for the water, you need to find not only the right size but the right rated suit thickness for the temperatures you’re diving into. Whether you’re a surfer, SCUBA diver, kiteboarder, or professional long-distance swimmer, the right wetsuit thickness matters. Here’s why.
What is the Rating of My Wetsuit?
So, how are wetsuits rated? The thickness of the neoprene material at different portions of the wetsuit is measured in millimeters. There are several different neoprene thicknesses around your suit. For instance, 6/5/4 is a measurement for frigid cold-water temperatures between 32- and 46-degrees Fahrenheit. 6/5/4 reads as neoprene thickness. 6mm is the rating for the torso, 5mm is for the leg thickness, and 4mm is for the arms.
The rating below the 6/5/4 wetsuit is the 5/4/3, also rated for cold water temps between 44 to 55-degrees. With less thickness comes less insulation, but this cold weather suit still does the job. Then there are thinner wetsuits like the 3/2 and the 2/2. Still holding your body heat, these suits are rated for 59-degree to 71-degree water temperatures. Keep in mind thin wetsuits are more flexible because they use less neoprene.
Different Types of Wetsuits
Aside from the wetsuit thickness rating is the type of wetsuit. The most popular and probably the most bought wetsuit is the full-body wetsuit. This variation covers the arms down to the wrists and the legs all the way to the ankles. It also covers the neck area. It holds the most heat and is best for SCUBA diving and surfing in colder water temperatures.
If the water is cool, but the air is warm, most choose a spring suit. A spring suit covers the main torso, arms to the elbow, and legs down to the knees. It is not a full-body wetsuit and allows for more ability. The spring suit keeps you warm but leaves your arms and legs exposed to the water.
A long sleeve top wetsuit is ideal for cool or warm water temps. Covering the waist of the torso to the neck and the wrists, the thickness rating for the wetsuit top ranges between 1mm and 2mm.
What Wetsuit is Right for Me?
If you’re wondering what wetsuit fits your need for cold water conditions, it can get tricky to align yourself with a wetsuit that matches your comfort level and maneuverability. When diving in ice-cold weather, go thick with a full body 6/5/4mm. You may notice that this thickness feels stiffer around the body, but if you are floating and swimming slowly to conserve your oxygen tank, the thicker, the better.
If you’re partaking in watersports, this thickness may be too stiff. Shoot for the 5/4/3 if you want more flexibility. But remember, you will not be as insulated, so you may sacrifice time depending on your tolerance for the cold.
If the water isn’t freezing, such as in fall or spring seasons diving or surfing, choose a spring suit with a 3/2 or 2mm spring suit. Ideal for the diver or surfer who needs full arm and leg flexibility. Great for sunny weather with water temps above 60 degrees too. Learn more about how a wetsuit keeps you warm if you want more information on how are wetsuits rated for warmth!
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