Wetsuits are an essential piece of equipment when it comes to open water swimming and triathlons. Unless you are a hardened cold-water swimmer and prefer to swim in “skins” (just a costume), a good swim wetsuit can make or break your swim.
The primary purposes of a swim wetsuit are to keep you warm and help you to stay comfortable throughout your swim and help prevent hypothermia. Wetsuits also offer some physical protection against cuts and scratches when swimming in natural water environments such as rivers, lakes, and the ocean. And lastly, they also make you slightly more buoyant in the water, which can help you to swim faster.
A good wetsuit is an essential piece of equipment for open water swimming.
Choosing the Best Swim Wetsuit
Wetsuits designed for open water swimming are vastly different from traditional surfing or diving wetsuits. Open water swim wetsuits are specifically designed for comfort and performance with a focus on flexibility, compression, and buoyancy.
There is a wide range of swim wetsuits for all levels of open water swimming and triathlons from basic training suits to high-end competition suits.
What to Look for When Buying a Swim Wetsuit
The buoyancy of a wetsuit comes from the type and thickness of the rubber from which the suit is made. When it comes to deciding on the thickness of a wetsuit for open water swimming, avoid suits with thicknesses over 5mm as these can be too buoyant and quite bulky in the water. If you are planning on taking part in competitive triathlons, Ironman and USA-Triathlon limits racing wet-suits to 5mm and below.
Buoyancy plays a vital role in the efficacy of the wetsuit.
2. Shoulder mobility
One of the most important aspects of a swimming wetsuit is shoulder mobility. Even though wetsuits are quite constrictive, you want a free range of motion around your shoulders and arms and your wetsuit should cater for this. Most open water and triathlon wetsuits are designed to provide good shoulder mobility with thinner and more flexible material around the shoulder joints.
Open water and triathlon wetsuits are designed to provide good shoulder mobility.
3. Easy to put on/take off
This aspect is particularly important for triathletes as you want to be able to slip your wetsuit off quickly during your transition after the swim. Look for a wetsuit with quick zip “transition panels” on the back and ankles which will help you have a quick change.
A good wetsuit should be easy to put on and take off.
The cut and design of the wetsuit is also an important factor to consider when buying a swim wetsuit. There are several styles of swimming wetsuits from full suits with long sleeve arms and legs to “Long-John” style suits with full legs and no sleeves.
You can also get wetsuits with short sleeves and legs (known as “shorties”) and neoprene shorts that mimic the buoyancy of a full-body wet-suit. If you can afford it, it’s a good idea to have both a long and short option for different open water environments and temperatures.
The cut and design of the wetsuit is also an important factor.
Best Swim Wetsuits for Training and Racing in Cold and Warm Water
There are a plethora of wetsuits on the market for open water swimming with a wide range of features and state-of-the-art technology to enhance agility and speed in the water. From long-sleeve options with multi-textile construction to sleeveless wetsuits with super-insulation for use in cold water, here are some of the best swim wetsuits around for open water swimming and triathlons.
Roka Maverick X Open Water Wetsuit – Best Performance Wetsuit
The Roka Maverick X Open Water Wetsuit is my top pick for the ultimate performance-orientated wetsuit. It is by far the most innovative competition wetsuit ever designed and one of the fastest wetsuits I have ever worn with many performance features that put it ahead of the rest.
The Roka Maverick X wetsuit is constructed from premium grade Yamamoto SCS #40- and Aerodrome #39 neoprene which makes it super-fast in the water and very durable. The two fabrics are heat-taped together and finished off with proprietary stretch inks that help to prevent cracking and environmental degradation.
The multi-textile construction of the wetsuit offers excellent stretch, muscle support, and water absorption, as well as comfort and flexibility in the water. It has a low-cut neck design with an independent suspension panel for an ultra-comfortable fit around the neck, and a high-quality and easy-to-use YKK back zipper.
Top features of the wetsuit include support taping and compression liner technology, which improves body alignment, core compression, and stabilization, and rotation while swimming, as well as reducing fatigue. Special arms-up construction allows for a full range of motion in the shoulder area and intelligent area-specific buoyancy technology, which optimizes your body position and contributes to speed and efficiency in the water.
The Roka Maverick X Open Water Wetsuit can be used in water temperatures as low as 54,5℉ / 12.5℃.
- The multi-textile construction offers excellent stretch, muscle support, and water absorption
- Special Arms-Up construction provides excellent shoulder flexibility and full range mobility
- Patented IXI Taping and tricot liner improves power transfer
- Unique RSX Centerline Buoyancy allows for core compression and stabilization, and rotation
- Graduated buoyancy profile for optimal body position
- Surface drag is reduced with the SCS (Super Composite Skin) Hydrophobic Nano Coating
- This is one of the most expensive wetsuits on the market
Blueseventy Reaction Open Water Wetsuit – Best Value for Money Wetsuit
The Blueseventy Reaction Open Water Wetsuit is a fantastic value-for-money suit when it comes to getting bang for your buck. It has a high-quality design with several excellent features and is an ideal wetsuit for both beginner and advanced open water swimmers.
The wetsuit is made with Yamamoto #39 Cell Neoprene fabrics that offer good insulation, a comfortable, superior fit, and high flexibility. There is a curved closure flap around the neck that lowers the collar at the back of the wetsuit and makes it very comfortable to wear around the neck. It also reduces chafing that commonly occurs when wearing a wetsuit.
Four-way stretch Aquaseal cuffs offer an excellent seal around the wrists and prevent water from getting to the suit and a conveniently placed zipper at the back of the suit makes it easy to get on and off.
The Blueseventy Reaction Open Water Wetsuit is available in full-sleeve and sleeveless options. The full sleeve option is your best bet if you are looking for good insulation and the sleeveless wetsuit is a good choice if you want a wide range of motion in the shoulder and the arms.
Reactive Stretch Technology in the suit ensures an optimal range of motion in the arms and legs, lessening arm fatigue and increasing speed. The suit’s 4:5:4 buoyancy profile creates a hip lifting effect, which optimizes both your body position and stroke efficiency while swimming.
S-Grip panels on the arms of the wetsuit increase the grip and feel for the water, which helps you maximize propulsion and speed, and the central split VO2 chest panel allows for greater chest expansion and efficient and unrestricted breathing while you are swimming.
- Yamamoto #39 Cell Neoprene offers good insulation and flexibility
- Reactive Stretch Technology is great for optimal range of motion in the arms and legs
- Buoyancy profile creates a hip lifting effect to optimize body position
- S-Grip panels offer excellent grip and feel for the water
- Central split VO2 chest panel helps with efficient and unrestricted breathing
- The lowest temperature that the wetsuit can be used in is 54,5℉ / 12.5℃
TYR Hurricane Cat 1 Open Water Wetsuit – Best Overall Budget Wetsuit
If you are on a budget, then look no further than the TYR Hurricane Cat 1 Open Water Wetsuit. It’s a great-looking suit with good features at an affordable price and can be used for both training and racing. It has excellent insulation and can be used in water temperatures as low as 50°F / 10°C and has a lightweight construction that offers good buoyancy.
The TYR Hurricane Cat 1 comes in a full-sleeve and sleeveless design and is constructed from 100% slick skin neoprene, which makes the wetsuit super comfortable. It is coated with an abrasion-resistant film for extra durability and features speed wrap paneling technology that optimizes your body position, improves your buoyancy, and reduces drag while you are swimming.
The wetsuit has free-range-of-motion zones that offer great flexibility around the arms and legs for unrestricted swimming and maximal power output in the water.
- Great for both training and racing
- Full-sleeve and sleeveless design options
- 100% slick skin neoprene provides excellent insulation
- An abrasion-resistant film promises extra durability
- Speed wrap paneling technology for optimal body position
- Sizing is on the small side so be sure to try it on for a good fit
HUUB Axiom Open Water Wetsuit – Best Entry-Level Wetsuit
Designed for triathlons or open water swimming, the Huub Axiom Open Water Wetsuit is a great entry-level wetsuit for beginner triathletes and leisure swimmers. The wetsuit is very comfortable with full, smooth-skin neoprene built into the suit that offers super flexibility, buoyancy, and comfort. The neoprene is designed to improve speed in the water, ensuring the best results.
One of the best things about this suit is that it is specifically designed for swimming. HUUB wetsuits are designed and developed by expert swimming coaches and tested by swimmers at the HUUB test center in Perth, Western Australia.
The Huub Axiom Open Water Wetsuit has a 3:5 buoyancy rating, which makes it highly durable and super-flexible underarm panels provide a full, unrestricted range of motion in all directions. The neckline adds flexibility and helps with optimum breathability and a full zip on the back makes it easy to take on and off.
- The smooth-skin neoprene offers super flexibility, buoyancy, comfort, and speed
- Great flexibility in all directions from super-flexible underarm panels
- Tested by swimmers for swimmers
- Comfortable neckline for maximum breathability in the water
- Budget-friendly, entry-level wetsuit for both triathletes and leisure swimmers
- The neoprene is quite thin so care needs to be taken when putting the wetsuit on
- The lowest temperature that the wetsuit can be used in is 54,5℉ / 12.5℃
Blueseventy Sprint Open Water Wetsuit – Best Budget Performance Wetsuit
The Blueseventy Sprint Open Water Wetsuit is a fantastic budget-friendly wetsuit that can be used for racing. The suit is designed for racing with a 3:4:4 buoyancy profile that lifts the legs and contributes to a better body position in the water.
It is made with high-quality Yamamoto neoprene coated in an additional SCS layer for extra durability and has a super stretch that allows for maximum flexibility and range of motion in the water. The back of the suit has a curved closure flap that lowers the collar and reduces chafing around the neck.
- Great racing wetsuit
- Good buoyancy profile that helps with a better body position in the water
- A lower back collar makes it very comfortable to wear and reduces chafing
- Designed for shorter events of up to a mile
- The lowest temperature it offers comfort in is 55℉/ 12.5℃
Zone 3 Vanquish Open Water Wetsuit – Best High-Performance Wetsuit
If you want a lightweight, high-performance open water wetsuit then the Zone 3 Vanquish Open Water Wetsuit is a great choice. This award-winning wetsuit has an ultra-light design and is made with superior quality Yamamoto SCS #40 Neoprene which gives the suit a “barely-there” feel. Even though it feels super light, the wetsuit provides excellent insulation for colder waters of as low as 50℉/ 10℃.
The wetsuit has a 1.5mm thickness around your arms and shoulders, which provides a wide range of motion and excellent flexibility. Good buoyancy allows for the perfect body position in the water, allowing you to slip through the water without much resistance.
The Zone 3 Vanquish Open Water Wetsuit also comes with a premium vanquish dry bag for protecting and storing your wetsuit when not in use.
- Won multiple awards for its design, innovation, and performance
- Super lightweight and comfortable
- Great buoyancy for streamline and resistance-free swimming
- Wide range of flexibility and motion around the arms and shoulders
- Premium vanquish dry bag for storage and protection
- One of the more expensive wetsuits on the market
- Only available in a long-sleeve design
Roka Maverick Pro II Wetsuit – Best Wetsuit for Training
The Roka Maverick Pro II wetsuit is a slightly more affordable version of the Roka Maverick X suit with an array of great features. The wetsuit is made with a combination of premium quality Yamamoto SCS #40 and Aerodome #38 neoprene, which creates the perfect balance between stretch, flexibility, and support with buoyancy and water absorption.
The suit has a comfortable, low-cut neck design with an extra suspension panel that provides a super seal and prevents water from leaking into the suit. It also allows you to breathe freely and prevents chafing. It also has an excellent range of motion around the arms and legs that reduces shoulder strain whilst swimming.
The Roka Maverick Pro II has intelligent area-optimized buoyancy technology that contributes towards perfect body positioning in the water and patent-pending RS2 technology offers additional buoyancy that helps to reduce drag and resistance.
- Affordable training and competition wetsuit
- Intelligent area-optimized buoyancy technology for good body-positioning
- Excellent range of motion in arms and legs
- A low-cut neck design reduces chafing and makes for a comfy fit
- Patent-pending RS2 technology adds extra buoyancy to reduce drag
- Not suitable for very cold water (under 54,5℉ / 12.5℃)
ORCA 1.5 Alpha Triathlon Wetsuit – Best for Range of Motion
The Orca 1.5 Alpha Open Water Wetsuit is a high-performance wetsuit with a particular focus on a range of motion for the arms and shoulders, making it an ideal suit for open water competitions. It is highly-priced but is packed with top features ranging from super flexibility to a titanium inner lining for ultra-insulation.
The wetsuit features a fabric combination of Yamomoto #44-, Yamamoto #39-, and Hydrolite neoprene, which makes it lightweight, very flexible, and super comfortable. The wetsuit’s interior titanium coating liner keeps you warm in lower water temperatures (50℉/ 10℃).
The Orca Alpha wetsuit is designed to maximize stroke efficiency and power with a full range of motion in the arms and shoulders. It has an easy-to-use reverse zipper system that makes the suit comfortable and quick to take on and off during triathlon transitions.
This wetsuit has an SCS (super composite skin) coating on the exterior that helps with speed in the water and reduces rubbing against the skin while swimming. Hydrolite panels in the lower body of the suit provide a wide range of motion from the hips and legs which is great for kicking with power.
- Hydrolite panels provide a superb range of motion in the hips and legs
- Super composite skin coating helps with streamlining and speed in the water
- Multi-material combination makes the suit lightweight and very flexible
- An easy-to-use reverse zipper system makes it easy to take on and off
- Suitable for low water temperatures (50℉/ 10℃)
- The buoyancy is not as good as other wetsuit models
Zone 3 Aspire Open Water Wetsuit – Best for Training and Competition
The Zone 3 Aspire Open Water Wetsuit is another great value-for-money option that has some good performance specs and is ideal for both training and competition. Made from 100% Yamamoto materials, the wetsuit is lightweight, flexible, and super comfortable and has excellent insulation for cold water.
The laser-cut collar is one of the best features of this wetsuit as it provides a soft seal around the neck and doesn’t cause chafing. The Zone 3 Aspire Wetsuit is also available in both a full-sleeve and a sleeveless design allowing you to choose the style you most prefer.
Performance-wise, the Zone 3 Aspire Open Water Wetsuit features a new and innovative one-piece shoulder and chest panel, which has been specifically engineered to enhance flexibility and distance per stroke. This new feature allows you to swim more efficiently and ultimately, faster.
The suit has Aerodome buoyancy panels strategically placed on the legs and hips which provides over 30% more buoyancy than standard neoprene, allowing for a good body position in the water, better streamlining, and maximum efficiency and speed. An SCS nano-coating reduces water friction and drag and contributes to the durability of your wetsuit.
- Aerodome buoyancy with buoyancy panels on the legs and hips
- A laser-cut collar is very comfortable and reduces chafing
- SCS nano-coating reduces drag and resistance and enhances durability
- Suitable for low water temperatures (50℉/ 10℃)
- Only available in long-sleeve design
Xterra Vortex Open Water Wetsuit – Best All-Round Wetsuit
The Xterra Vortex Open Water Wetsuit is a great all-round wetsuit for training and competition. It’s priced at a mid-range and comes with several features that make it well worth it. It is made from Super GKA Neoprene and has innovative seam seal technology that promises a snug and leak-proof fit.
A triple layer of bind stitching and glue ensures good durability of the wetsuit. It also allows for an excellent range of motion. The Xterra Vortex has a low-profile neck collar with a fully adjustable velcro neck closure that makes it a great fitting wetsuit and prevents chafing around the neck area.
Flexible arm and shoulder panels offer a good range of motion and reduce fatigue in the upper body and an X-Flex liner provides a four-way stretch motion throughout the suit. It’s available in both a full suit and sleeveless option for cold and warm water temperatures.
The best feature about this wetsuit is the scale-like forearm catch panels on the arms. These allow you to catch the water efficiently and increase your speed.
- Forearm catch panels for catching the water efficiently
- X-Flex liner and innovative seam seal technology make it super flexible with a great range of motion in both the arms and legs
- A low-profile neck collar with a fully adjustable velcro neck closure create a chafe-free and leak-proof seal around the neck
- Suitable for cold water (50℉/ 10℃)
Arena R-Evo One Open Water Sleeveless Wetsuit – Best Sleeveless Wetsuit for High Performance in Warm Water
The Arena R-Evo One Open Water Sleeveless Wetsuit is one of the best high-performance wetsuits for racing in warmer waters. It is one of the few FINA-approved wetsuits on the market and can be used for competing in FINA-regulated competitions.
This suit is amazing to wear – it feels as if it’s a second skin and is super flexible and lightweight. It is made with Z-Raptor fabric which has a material composition of 65% polyamide and 35% elastane and is similar to the high-level performance tech suits used by competitive pool swimmers.
The Arena R-Evo One Open Water Sleeveless Wetsuit has a 50+ UPF rating which protects the suit from the sun and exposure to the elements and it’s coated in Teflon which reduces drag and helps with streamlining and speed in the water.
Tight internal grip strips hold the suit in place while swimming and the suit has strong compression that enables optimized muscle activation and blood circulation for superior performance in the water. The sleeveless option allows for maximum mobility in the shoulders and arms.
- FINA-approved wetsuit
- Z-Raptor fabric makes it super lightweight and flexible
- Teflon coating reduces drag
- 50+ UPF protects the suit from the elements
- Internal grip strips hold the suit in place while swimming at speed
- Strong compression allows for optimized muscle activation and blood circulation
- This wetsuit isn’t ideal for cold water
- Only available in sleeveless options
Orca RS1 Sleeveless Open Water Wetsuit – Best Budget Open Water Wetsuit
The Orca RS1 Open Water Sleeveless Wetsuit is a versatile, budget-friendly open water sleeveless wetsuit made from high-quality neoprene that is suitable for cold water swimming. The wetsuit is constructed with Yamamoto #39 neoprene and features SCS lining on the arms and Hydrolite panels on the legs for maximum flexibility.
The suit has a micro-cellular structure that repels water and reduces drag while swimming, and an SCS coating that cuts down water friction and enhances efficiency and speed in the water. It has good buoyancy for an optimized body-position and an unrestricted range of motion in both the arms and legs.
- A micro-cellular structure that repels water and reduces drag
- Yamamoto #39 neoprene offers good buoyancy and enhances efficiency and speed
- Unrestricted range of motion and great flexibility
- Only available in sleeveless options
2XU Propel Wetsuit – Best Compression Wetsuit
The 2XU Propel wetsuit is a high-performance triathlon wetsuit with excellent compression features. The Propel has a 1mm thick Super Composite Skin (SCS) designed to reduce resistance and friction in the water and panels with different thicknesses around legs and shoulders provide good flexibility and range of motion.
It has a floating zip panel which makes it easy to put on and take off and a concave water entrapment zone which enhances streamlining and speed in the water.
- Hydrodynamic silicone coating repels water and reduces resistance
- Buoyancy panels create optimal body positioning in the water
- Concave water entrapment zone reduces drag
- Enhanced lateral flexibility
- Two-year warranty from an authorized 2XU seller
- Only available in long-sleeve options
When it comes to choosing a wetsuit for open water swimming be sure to find one that meets all your needs from comfort and flexibility to good insulation. The top elements of a good wetsuit are comfort, flexibility and range of motion in the arms and legs, insulation against the cold, and performance features for competitions.
Whether you are looking for a wetsuit to train in or one to race at high-level competitions, there are a wealth of options on the market. Before deciding on brand, style, and model, your best bet is to get out there and try them on before you hit the water.
Happy open water swimming!