How Many Wetsuits Do You Need?

November 24th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Dawn Hinz

WAIT! Am I really saying that you should have MORE than one wetsuit? … Possibly.

I have to confess that I have 3 wetsuits. Yes. Really. One for very cold water. One for regular cold water. And one for warm water. In water below 60* I wear my cold full sleeve suit with a neoprene hood, booties and gloves. In water below 68* I wear my regular full sleeve suit. In water below 78* I wear my sleeveless suit.

Let’s think about this. A wetsuit’s main purpose is to keep you warm in “cold” water; temperature below 78*F according to USAT. As an added bonus it also makes you more buoyant, improving your body position and helps you slip through the water faster than without it. 

Cold water is a relative term. What’s cold to me might be comfortable to you. Michigan gives us a large range of water temperatures throughout the year. Down right frigid to balmy.

Does that mean you should go buy the thickest full sleeve wetsuit? … Again, maybe or maybe not. You’ll want to consider how cold the water you’ll be swimming in will be and how comfortable you are in “cold” water. Also, a thick wetsuit can decrease your range of motion or could cause you to overheat.

For example; I am very cold blooded. I’m always colder than the people around me. So I lean towards a warmer or full sleeve wetsuit. Whereas some people naturally feel warmer and would overheat in a full sleeve suit but they would be comfortable in a sleeveless suit. 

I try to extend my open water season as much as possible so I swim in cold water, water below 60*, by wearing my warmest wetsuit with a neoprene hood, gloves and booties. Still I would be too warm in that wetsuit during the summer months but I want to take advantage of a wetsuit’s buoyancy so I also have a sleeveless suit for those occasions. 

Do you want to swim in as much open water as possible? Will you possibly race in a range of water temperatures? Perhaps you should consider having more than one wetsuit in your arsenal. 

Use this simple guide to help you choose the best wetsuit or wetsuits for you. Remember this guide is anecdotal and based on my experience swimming in Lake Michigan and Inland lakes.

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