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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The Wetsuit Test

June 30th, 2020 by JoAnn Cranson

By Brian Reynolds

A question I get asked often by triathletes is “what is the fastest wetsuit”?  I usually just shrug my shoulders and say “you just have to try out different wetsuits to find the fastest one”.  It’s not the answer most people want to hear but it’s true especially based on a wetsuit test I did this year.

The wetsuit test I did was 5x 100 at race pace effort with about 10-15 seconds rest.  This test set needs to be done in a pool to ensure an accurate/repeatable distance.  You need to wear a different wetsuit per each 5x 100 set to determine which wetsuit is the fastest.  Ideally you should only test 2 to 3 wetsuits at a time.  Any more than 3 wetsuits and you risk getting fatigued which will negatively affect your 100 pace later on into the test set.  When doing this test you need to have someone time you so it’s a blind test.  After the test you take the average time for the last 4x 100s and that is your 100 pace for that particular wetsuit.  The first 100 doesn’t count because it’s usually the fastest and it could falsely inflate your “true” 100 pace average.

When I did my wetsuit test my friend, Eric Abbott let me try out two of his wetsuits which were the Blue Seventy Helix ST and the Roka Maverick Pro II S.  To test the wetsuits I did a baseline test with my current wetsuit which was the Aquaman Goldcell.  I did the 5x 100 at half ironman effort with 10-15 seconds rest in between the 100s.  Below includes my warm up and 5x 100 results:

Warm up:  250 swim, 3 x 50 strong

Aquaman Goldcell

Comments: The shoulder mobility was poor because I could feel the suit pulling down on my arms.  During the swim my arms were getting fatigued.  There was water filling up in my suit and arms.

4 avg 100s – 1:12.47

Blue Seventy Helix ST

Comments: The shoulder mobility was good.  The fit around my neck and torso was snug.  The suit was pulling down around my neck which may be due to the fact I didn’t have the suit pulled up all the way.  No water got into my suit.  The suit was made with a stiffer material which helped keep my body taunt.

4 avg 100s – 1:08.93

Roka Maverick Pro II S

Comments: The shoulder mobility was good.  It felt like there was extra bounce in the legs and a better torso fit.  No water got into my suit.

4 avg 100s – 1:09.15

Conclusions:  The 100 pace times between the Blue Seventy and Roka were almost a dead tie.  The Roka was a little more comfortable around the neck area.  Both wetsuits were 3.5 seconds faster than the Aquaman wetsuit.

I was surprised by the results.  I did not expect a 3.5 seconds difference between wetsuits! If you do the math that calculates out to being 1:06 minutes faster in a 70.3 Ironman and 2:13 minutes faster in a full Ironman swim.  As they say “free speed”!  I probably couldn’t shave this amount of time from 1 year of swim training only since it becomes harder each year to shave more time especially when you’re already a proficient swimmer.  Hopefully when the gyms and pools open up you can give this test a try!


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