The wetsuit is one of triathlon’s big ticket items and one of the most crucial multisport buys you’ll ever make. While they’ve experienced a host of technical innovations since the mid-1980s, the aim of a tri wetsuit remains the same: to get you through the open-water swim both swiftly and comfortably.
How thick should my tri wetsuit be?
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What's the difference between a triathlon wetsuit and a surf wetsuit?
It’s often said a tri is won on the run, and it’s true that you’ll only spend about 10-20% of your race in a wetsuit. But the race can certainly be lost on the swim. An ill-fitting, badly-chosen suit will leave you sinking in the water with a sore neck, whereas your optimum suit will be the finishing touch to all those hours of pool training and will make you feel unbeatable come race day.
Men's budget wetsuits: 7 of the best under £250 reviewed
When it comes to buying your tri wetsuit, our mantra has always been ‘try before you buy’, as the sizes can vary hugely. Find a tri expo or retailer to try the suits, especially if this is your first tri wetsuit purchase. If not, ensure the online seller has a decent returns policy and study the size guide.
How can you tell if your wetsuit fits properly?
How we tested the wetsuits
We were lucky to test these suits in Cromhall Diving Centre and April’s warm-ish (18°C) sea waters near the Best Swim Centre in Mallorca. The latter gave us the opportunity to test them in UK summer seawater temps, dealing with waves and currents to judge their race-day form (and water ingress). Each was tested for comfort, performance, buoyancy, durability, hydrodynamics, zipper, removal speed, budget and the visual design.
Also be aware of your own swim ability when picking. Make note that many mid-end features of the £250-£500 suits here – slender neoprene and a possible reduction in buoyancy – are lost on, or even detrimental to, beginner swimmers. Those with sinking legs should look for increased neoprene thickness with enhanced buoyancy. And think about what races you’ll be entering and whether you suffer from the cold.
Do you like breakaway zippers? No, not the opening line in a triathlon speed dating event, but a key question when choosing to pick the Aeron Lab from Dhb. Because the Aeron Lab is the only men’s suit here to offer this function, which saves a few seconds in transition, but – and it’s a major but – it makes it nearly impossible to do up if you’re on your own. It’s the cheapest suit here but Dhb haven’t skimped on the tech, with 10 different variations of neoprene used in the construction (ranging from 1.5mm to 4.7mm), 39-cell Yamamoto used throughout and SCS coating for hydro gains. The result is a smooth, evenly-positioned suit for swimming in, with a snug but chafe-free fit and plenty of reach provided by the 1.5mm shoulder panels. The result is an affordable and stylish suit, but we just don’t think the zipper is justified for the slim T1 gains. wiggle.co.uk
Verdict: Cheapest here and impressive construction, but we’re not sold on the zipper 77%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk/
The Aspire has a storied history on these pages, garnering plenty of high scores since its inception a decade ago thanks to its winning mix of flexibility, buoyancy and affordability. Key updates for 2019 include an integrated one-piece shoulder and chest panel design, while the upper body freedom continues to impress in its current guise, helped by the 1.5mm thick and 39-cell Yamamoto build and swift removal. The SCS Nano coating pushes the hydrodynamic appeal and the already noteworthy buoyancy profile is enhanced further by the new air bubbles built into the fabric. Where we struggled, however, was with the new laser cut neck, which invited noticeable water ingress on the move. Beefier athletes might not suffer the same problem, but it’s definitely something to consider. A positive touch is the more eco-friendly limestone build as opposed to petroleum. zone3.com
Verdict: Outstanding flexibility and reach, a nice price but watch out for that water ingress 83%
Buy from www.tredz.co.uk
The Racer 2.0 from Aqua Sphere has some of the loudest graphics on test, but it’s a quietly-graceful suit that does everything efficiently well in the water. There’s minimal water ingress, no chafing around the neck and a blend of SCS-coated Yamamoto 39 and 40 panels for some superior comfort and suppleness. The 1.5mm thick arms are an improvement on the previous Racer in terms of reach and flexibility and they’ve retained the impressive quick-release ankle panels (and 1mm sleeves) for a hasty T1 time. The 4mm and 5mm combination of neoprene thickness in the core and back place it at the higher end here, but it’s still far from excessive. It’s also one of the warmer suits on test (but not overly so) thanks to the Thermo-Guard technology on the shoulders, chest and legs if you struggle with the cold. aquasphereswim.com/uk
Verdict: Striking graphics, a decent price and a superior build make this a winning option 91%
Buy from www.swiminn.com
The Reaction’s tech has been around for a while now, and much here has trickled down from Blueseventy’s top-end Helix suit. But that’s no bad thing, as the Helix is a tri wetsuit classic. The Reaction looks fantastic out of the box, is lean and light, and the fine form continues in the water. The catch panels of the mid-decade Reaction have been replaced with textured forearm panels (which aim to enhance the propulsion phase of the stroke), and the 1.5mm shoulders produce a range of flexibility. With 4mm and 5mm sections in the chest and legs there’s a good level of buoyancy and warmth, and their V02 chest panel genuinely assists the breathing process. While the brand tout their low collar neckline, we did have some rub here, so lube accordingly and try before you buy. There’s also a winning thermal version on offer for off-season swims. blueseventy.co.uk
Verdict: The price has gone up since 2017, but it’s still a buoyant and comfy suit; watch out for the neck though 85%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
The previous Comp won this test back in 2017 – although when priced at £250 – so is the latest worth the extra spend? Yes, yes it is. Much of our acclaim stems from the brand’s patented Arms-Up tech (more than just canny marketing and consists of the suit being constructed with the arms above the head for increased mobility) that really does produce the most natural experience of all the suits here. Elsewhere, the 3mm of the core and 5mm of the legs should provide the optimum blend of lift for a wide array of age-groupers needing buoyancy. It’s easier to remove than the first edition of the Comp, and extra features include SCS coating and a comfortable low cut neck (but not one at the expense of water ingress). Worth noting is that you’ll struggle to try before buying, but Roka’s new UK distribution centre makes shipping much easier than before. roka.com
Verdict: Superior arm flexibility and reach plus assured buoyancy make this suit highly recommended 90%
Buy from www.sigmasports.com
If the Dhb Aeron Lab on test is defined by its breakaway zipper, then the P:2 Propel here stands out with the inclusion of 2mm thick catch panels, something we thought had been dispensed with by the tri market in about 2015. They’re not as rigid as the versions from years ago, but they’re still likely to divide opinion (you can probably tell we’re unconvinced of the merits for most swimmers). Yet, elsewhere, the suit is hugely impressive as it borrows plenty of tech from the top-end Propel, including the water entrapment zone and rollbar for stabilising the body position. The P:2 is also the most buoyant of 2XU’s suits, with 39-cell neoprene and thicknesses ranging from 1.5mm to the maximum 5mm (in the front of chest and lower back) to produce plenty of lift in the open water. Upper body flexibility is enhanced by the 1.5mm upper arm construction.
Verdict: Classy tech with plenty of buoyancy and flex, but we’re unconvinced by the catch panels 82%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk