What to Know When Choosing a Wetsuit
Keep this advice in mind when choosing a wetsuit
Triathletes normally wear a wetsuit during the swim portion of triathlon. They can be advantageous in the water by increasing your buoyancy. But with so many options, brands, and prices, how do you pick what’s best for you? We break down the basics and provide you with the information needed when you begin the process of choosing a wetsuit. Pro tip: once you find the perfect wetsuit use these excuse busters so you don’t skip those swim workouts!
Types of wetsuits
A wetsuit is a neoprene insulation suit made for warmth and buoyancy during the swim portion of a triathlon. Triathlon wetsuits are different from other water sport wetsuits. They are regulated by governing bodies like USAT. Wetsuits for a triathlon cannot be more the 5mm thick.
The two most common types of wetsuits are sleeved and sleeveless. Full sleeved wetsuits are better for colder temperatures and are the most efficient. Sleeveless wetsuits are good too, but can let in water. This can cause you to slow down. Short “jammer” wetsuits have gained popularity for short distance triathlons since they are easiest to take off. Pro tip: track your workouts with these mobile apps and see how much difference a wetsuit can make.
Fit and range-of-motion
You want your wetsuit to fit snug to your body but not restrict breathing or inhibit arm movement. Putting on and taking off your wetsuit shouldn’t be a battle. If it is, it’s too small. Additionally, it shouldn’t restrict or alter your swim motion. If it does and you continue to swim, you increase the chances of injury. When choosing a wetsuit, keep in mind that the sleeveless version can allow for better range-of-motion. Learn more about swim strokes and how they can impact your training.
Nearly all wetsuits are made of neoprene, a synthetic rubber that contains thousands of tiny air pockets. The material is what increases your buoyancy and helps your body retain heat in cold water. Keep in mind that not all neoprene is the same. They also come in varying thicknesses. Check the wetsuit to see if it has extra fabric panels in areas near the butt or lower back. The location placement of the extra material can help you stay more horizontal and potentially increase your speed. Not sure where to start when choosing a wetsuit? Check out some of our recommendations.
Wetsuits can be a big investment, costing anywhere from $100 to $1000. In terms of cost, sleeveless is usually less expensive. Less expensive wetsuits will also usually have uniform neoprene. High-end suits will vary across the body and incorporate more technology into the fabric. Become familiar with the range of options and designs for all brands and price levels. Just like most things, options that were once available in higher-priced wetsuits have made their way to less expensive options. Don’t want to buy one brand new? Check with local stores to see if they rent suits. You can also find second-hand wetsuits through Facebook groups like Tri ‘n Sell It.