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GEAR,  Product Reviews

The great wetsuit test

Not sure what you need in a wetsuit? Outdoor Swimmer editor Jonathan Cowie and contributing editor Alice Gartland tested a range of suits from under £100 to over £500 to find out the best wetsuits on the market for any budget

We headed down to

Tooting Bec Lido to test

a range of wetsuits. The

water temperature was 11

degrees Celsius so we were able to test

for warmth as well as performance, fit,

buoyancy and faff factor (how difficult

it is to put on and take off the wetsuit),

plus our overall impression.

What should you look for in a

wetsuit? It really depends on what you

want to use the suit for and your budget.

We tested suits from under £100 to over

£500. Some suits are designed for open

water swimming, while others are more

triathlon-specific. Innovations this year

include Orca’s two-piece suit – no good

for a triathlon, but a real contender if

you are looking for something just for

swimming. Other brands like Selkie

and Alpkit produce suits specifically for

open water swimmers, concentrating

on feel for the water and a more natural

swimming experience rather than just

getting you to your bike in as quick a

time as possible.

Different suits offer different levels

of warmth and buoyancy, and the

more expensive the suit gets the better range of movement you will have as

high-spec flexible neoprene is used on

the arms and shoulders. Other features

on high-end suits might include catch

panels on the forearms, breakaway

zips and stability panels. Cheaper suits

might not have thinner and more flexible neoprene, but they can often be more durable – sosomething to consider if you want your suit to last a long time or you plan on taking it out on wild swimming adventures and not just racing in it.

Wetsuits help you

swim faster by reducing

drag and improving buoyancy,

but only if you fit them correctly. Put

one on incorrectly, and it can seriously

hold you back. A wetsuit should fit

like a second skin, practically vacuum-

sealed. Do a simple test: with the suit on and well-fitted all over, hold one arm

out horizontally and check the material

underneath. If there are folds of rubber

or an air pocket, there isn’t enough of

you to fill the suit.

We would recommend you try on a

suit before buying if possible.

Look at the size guides

and make sure you

get a suit that fits you as snugly as possible – if you are on the cusp of two sizes, go for the smaller. Whatever you choose, get into the open water as soon as possible – especially if you plan on racing in the suit later in the season. We will be using the suits over the next few months to see how they stand up to a summer of racing and wild swimming adventures – and will report back with our long-term reviews later this year.

Wetsuit Test Huub Stretch

The wetsuit

dance! Jonathan

throws some shapes

while getting into

the Huub Aerious II


Women’s Wahine 1

Price: £220

They say: Aquafit buoyancy panels

in the lower core and rear, to raise

hips to put body in most efficient

swimming position. SCS coating

on chest and thighs to reduce

friction and increase speed.

Style: Fun but with a focus on


Fit: Snug and comfortable, with

strong supportive core. 

Performance: Perfect for racing

and outdoor swimming adventures 

Faff Factor: Low

We say: Part of Zoot’s new 2017

range, the Wahine had a great

balance of buoyancy, flexibility

and support. Good flexibility on

the shoulder and the neck was

comfy. I liked the fun designs on

the suit.


Men’s WikiWiki

Price: £500

They say: FLEXback design for

for full range of motion and

reduced shoulder fatigue. SCS

Nano coating all over, to reduce

friction and drag. Proarm panels

on the arms allow for stroke

feedback and 0.5mm neoprene on

the arms for a top combination of

flexibility and speed.

Style: Cool design. 

Fit: Like the Wahine, snug, flexible

and comfortable. It feels speedy. 

Performance: Fast and

comfortable in the water. Great


Faff Factor: Medium

We say: I had never worn a Zoot

suit before and didn’t know what

to expect. I loved this suit! Not

only did it feel amazing on but I felt fast in the water. The style is funky and a welcome step away from more boring men’s wetsuits. Mesh catch panels are meant to give you greater stroke feedback, but they also give you a connection with the water as you aren’t covered head to toe in neoprene. The 0.5mm neoprene on the arms gave brilliant flexibility with no restriction on shoulder movement. The only downside I could find was that my hands were a bit big for the cuffs so I had trouble getting out of the sleeves. At £500 this was one of the most expensive suits we tested, but if you have the money it is definitely worth blowing the budget.

Wetsuit Test Zoot 1 2


Women’s Explorer 3.2.2 / Men’s Explorer 3.2.2

Price: £138.99

They say: Created from very light

elastic material, well suited to all types of swimming, with “no stitching in the critical areas”.

Style: Fluorescent and highly

visible, we’ll be honest, when we

took it out of its packaging we

thought it looked more like a

surfing wetsuit. Certainly great for

visibility and actually quite fun.

Fit: Doesn’t have the snug fit of the other wetsuits we tried, but comfortable and allows a full range of movement

Performance: Very easy to put on. 

Faff Factor: Low

We say: We liked the bum loop

below the zip to help with

hoisting the wetsuit on. It didn’t

feel as buoyant as other suits. It is

a versatile low cost suit, which is

great for a splash and exploring

summer water spots, but if you’re

looking for that snug feel to boost

your performance at a swim

event, there are stronger choices.

Aqua Sphere

Women’s Pursuit SL

Price: £159.99

They say: Designed for the

weekend warrior and beginner

triathlete looking for good value.

Sleeveless version.

Style: Athletic and simple design. 

Fit: Comfortable – snug but not


Performance: Felt fast in the water

without any shoulder restriction 

Faff Factor: Low

We say: This is the first time I’ve

tried a sleeveless wetsuit and I’ll

be honest; I thought I wouldn’t

like it and that it would feel

imbalanced. Happily I was wrong.

I enjoyed the range of movement,

and it also provided nice bust

support without squashing me.


Men’s Orca Open Water RS1 top and bottoms

Price: top, £145; bottom, £145

They say: “The perfect option for the openwater swimmer,” the innovative two-piece design is designed specifically for swimmers – this would be no use in a triathlon. A velcro seal system joins top and bottom, and 3mm neoprene gives greater buoyancy in the chest panel. No zip.

Style: Fun and funky 

Fit: Minimal feel with great


Performance: A natural

swimming experience 

Faff Factor: Low

We say: Gimmick or revolution?

To be honest, we weren’t sure. But

actually this is a great idea. With

no fighting with zips and no need

to have someone else to help you

on with the suit, the two-piece

suit is a great option for outdoor

swimmers who appreciate the benefits of neoprene. Buoyancy is limited to the chest panel so

your swimming feels natural and

the neoprene is light and flexible,

so you swim normally rather

than being lifted and propelled

by strategically placed buoyancy

panels. All in all it feels a very

natural experience. Plus, the suit

is so light that it can easily be

stowed and carried around in its

own bag (included).

Wetsuit Test Head Aqua Sphere Orca


Women’s Sailfish Attack

Price: £360

They say: The “all rounder”, with

SCS Nano skin in the chest area

and SCS #39 neoprene elsewhere,

it provides a combination of

sturdy and supple, with an ultra

soft stretch inner material in the

shoulder and arm areas.

Style: Simple, sleek and fun with

the Sailfish logo on the bum. 

Fit: Comfortable, supportive and


Performance: Fast strong, supple

and versatile – this wetsuit delivers. 

Faff Factor: Low

We say: Love it. Seven years

ago when I started open water

swimming I got a second-hand

Sailfish Attack wetsuit, which got

me through my first open water

mile and three Dart 10ks. Seven

years on, this new suit still has the

balance of buoyancy, flexibility, support and streamlining that

provides versatility and fantastic

confidence in and out of the water.


Men’s G-Range

Price: £575

They say: Sailfish’s flagship wetsuit

promises a swimming experience

beyond compare. Zero Resistance

Panels allow greater movement

and flexibility, Nano Space Cell 2

Neoprene gives minimal resistance

in the water and ergonomic panel

management gives improved hip

stability and better propulsion.

Style: Simple, sleek and


Fit: The G-Range immediately feels

great on – flexible and supportive 

Performance: As you would expect

with a high-end suit, you feel as

though you are about to nail a PB. 

Faff Factor: Low

We say: Like Alice, I have worn

Sailfish Attack suits and really

rated them, so was interested to

try out their top of the range suit.

Like Alice, I love it. Unlike some

suits, you don’t feel constricted in a

Sailfish – the neoprene is soft and

flexible. Although designed for

triathlon, it feels like a swimmers’

wetsuit – very comfortable with

great feel for the water. The

flexibility gives a more natural

swimming experience.

Wetsuit Test Sailfish


Women’s Atana

Price: £424.99

They say: Designed specifically

for women athletes, allowing

the swimmer to maintain an

effective kick and waterline

position without being lifted too

high out of the water. X-O Skeleton for body alignment and buoyancy, four-way stretch lining for greater comfort and a break-away


Style: Serious, compact, ready to compete – I felt like Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games – totally badass.

Fit: A go faster, snug fit.

Performance: Excellent. Felt supported and streamlined in the water. Definitely something I’d want to be wearing for a serious race or nailing a PB.

Faff Factor: Medium – you’ll need

someone to help you put this on

and zip up, but the quick zip release

makes it super speedy to take off.

We say: A serious suit for smashing a PB – great for racing. This suit empowers – you want to work hard to make it deliver on everything it promises. Totally streamlined – my bust was on

lock down, but not squashed

and my stroke felt smooth and



Men’s Aerious II

Price: £549.99

They say: Huub

prides itself on the Archimedes having a ‘non-suit’ feel – it is designed to be so flexible that it doesn’t feel as though you are wearing a wetsuit. 1mm neoprene panels aim to help achieve this feeling while the X-O Skeleton delivers structure and control toreduce snaking, power loss and directional waste by gripping and holding the pelvis and hips.

Style: A serious suit for racing. 

Fit: Snug but flexible 

Performance: One word: fast 

Faff Factor: Medium – you need

someone else to zip you in.

We say: As soon as you put on

this suit you feel like a Brownlee.

It is designed for racing and you

immediately feel as though you

are about to smash a PB. In the

water it performs as expected –

its snug but flexible fit means you feel supported and streamlined

in the water. The low neckline

was comfy with no chafing. Like

the women’s Atana, the snug

racing fit means it takes a bit of

getting on, but the breakaway zip

makes the suit quick to remove.

At this price, the Aerious II isn’t a suit for messing around in your local pond, but for an aggressive racing suit this is a serious


Wetsuit Test Huub


Women’s Challenger

Price: £79.00

They say: Aquagrip

catch panels, Flexible Matsuda

Neoprene – 3mm on the core for

warmth and 1.5mm underarms for flexibility.

Style: Simple, modest design and

clean cut. 

Fit: True to size 

Performance: Very good. The

range of movement around the

arms and shoulders was great. 

Faff Factor: Low – I could zip

myself in!

We say: Great value for money.

A wetsuit that incorporates all

the key design considerations of

warmth, buoyancy and flexibility to feel confident on the start

line of your first swim event or

exploring lochs with friends.


Women’s Advance

Price: £169

They say: ‘Extreme Flex’ material

used for the underarm panels facilitates greater movement. Slightly thicker panels to support the legs and hips; ‘SpeedFlo’ fabric on 70% of the wetsuit to minimize drag through the water, increase speed and improve durability. The remaining 30% made from high quality rubberised smooth skin neoprene. Pro-SpeedCuffs on the lower legs to help increase speed of removal.

Style: Athletic, smart and simple


Fit: Comfortable – snug,

supportive and although thicker

than some other wetsuits around

the torso it didn’t feel overbearing. 

Performance: Sleek and smooth! 

Faff Factor: Low

We say: With really good freedom

in the shoulder, I liked this a lot.

A confidence boosting feel for

swim events but versatile for a

variety of swim adventures. A great value for money choice. It

looks and feels more expensive

– shhh!

Wetsuit Test Lomo Selkie


Men's Reaction

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Jonathan is a year-round skins swimmer with a particular love of very cold water. He has competed in ice swimming competitions around the world. He is a qualified open water coach with a particular love of introducing new swimmers to the open water.