Check out the best wetsuits review 2016
Since Aquaman, Dan Empfield of Quintana Roo and co. were making prototypes in their garages back in the mid-eighties, the triathlon wetsuit market has exploded into a multi-million dollar industry, with more brands and suit-types than you could poke a rather large stick at.
>>>What to look for in a tri wetsuit
>>> Best triathlon wetsuits of 2014
All of which is obviously splendid news for triathletes, who are spoilt for choice when sorting their neoprene necessities. But the wealth of available options also poses plenty of questions for triathletes, with neoprene thickness, hydrophobic coating, catch panels, value, zip type and flexibility just a sextet of things to consider.
Like a broken record, we can’t reiterate how crucial fit, fit and fit is when it comes to choosing a wetsuit. Although wetsuit brands are aware of this and provide up to 10 sizes to choose from (far more than you can expect on a run tee or tri-suit, for example), there are obviously more than 10 body types in existence, so we’d heartily recommend trying before buying to ensure the supreme fit.
Given the suits here range from £180 to £600 (and they can go plenty higher and lower), budget is a more important consideration than with last month’s tri-suits grouptest. As always, cheapness doesn’t necessarily represent value, so look for durability and the quality of construction on the seams to ensure the suit lasts multiple seasons.
Also be aware of what races you’ll be entering (chilly loch swims or warm Aegean waters) and your ability; a supple top-end suit won’t actually be best for the needs of beginner swimmers, who will often require more buoyancy in the legs. Likewise, an overly buoyant budget suit may not suit those of you with a swim stroke akin to a Brownlee.
With plenty to consider, it’s time then to enter the water and test 13 of this season’s contenders to help find the wetsuit for you.
Zoot Z Force 1.0
Price: £180 from www.zootsports.com
The entry-level Zoot Z Force 1.0 looks like great value at well under £200 and has bold styling that could fool you into thinking it’s a much higher-spec suit. Fit-wise (bearing in mind fit is an individual issue) it felt slightly baggy around the upper body compared to many of the other medium suits, which made it more comfortable on land but created a feeling of water washing around next to the skin while swimming.
This wasn’t helped by the fact that the wrist cuffs let in a trickle of water when swimming fast. As for flexibility and buoyancy, the Zoot felt nicely balanced in the water, with a relatively unrestricted feeling around the shoulders. It’s a decent suit and well-priced, but that chest sizing could catch you out so be sure to try before you buy.
Verdict: A good range of motion, but more roomy than some around the chest and arms, 74%
Price: £195 from www.aquasphere.com
The Pursuit is Aquasphere’s entry-level suit this season and is available in both long-sleeved (tested here) and sleeveless versions. Compared with some of the more pricey suits in this grouptest, the Pursuit obviously did feel a bit less supple all round, but not to a degree that it made it uncomfortable to swim in.
The buoyancy is good thanks to the 5mm body panel that helped to keep our torso high in the water, and the thick rubber is also of benefit in cold water. The neck seal wasn’t the best, however, and it took a few attempts to get it closed in a way that would prevent water running in the back and minimise chafing, which meant doing it up very tight. In general the suit does feel pretty robust and well-made.
Verdict: A decent suit for the price but the neck seal could be improved, 76%
Aropec Flying Fish
Price: £199 from www.aropecsports.co.uk
Taiwanese manufacturer Aropec has been around since the early 1960s, but only recently made headway in the triathlon market. The Flying Fish is its top-of-the-range suit for 2015 and uses a simple 3/2mm construction throughout to keep the price extremely competitive.
The suit is light and reasonably mobile, although buoyancy and warmth are marginally less effective than you’d expect with 4mm and 5mm suits (Aropec also offers a 5/3mm suit for colder conditions). Construction quality is high and it feels like a suit that would stand up to the general abuse of training and racing over the course of a few seasons.
The neck seal is a little stiff and might need some breaking in, but other than that there’s little to complain about, especially for under £200.
Verdict: A competent suit with great flexibility and performance for the money, 77%
We continue our guide to 2015’s best triathlon wetsuits…
Speedo Tri Comp
Price: £220 from www.speedostore.co.uk
The Tri Comp suit is largely made from a combination of 3mm and 5mm panels to provide buoyancy around the torso and flexibility in the arms and shoulders. It’s a very snug fit around the middle, possibly due to the Tri Comp’s ‘Core Stabiliser’ feature, which braces your trunk to help you swim with greater control.
But once you get in the water and get moving, it feels much less restrictive than it does on the land. Flexibility in the upper body is very good and the seals around the neck and cuffs are excellent – they barely let any water in at all.
Buoyancy is reasonable, but not as prominent as in some of the other suits tested here. As a result, the Tri Comp may suit those with a stronger leg kick a little better.
Verdict: Offers good flexibility, but marginally less buoyancy than some suits here, 79%
Price: £285 from www.racezone3.com
When it launched in 2010, the Aspire scored top marks for Zone3 in 220’s wetsuit grouptest. And it remains a competitive product even now, despite the UK brand having expanded its range with higher-spec suits in the years since.
The 2015 Aspire’s 1.5mm arm and shoulder panels combine with 5mm body sections to give excellent flexibility and floatation. Out of the water, the silicone-coated ‘Pro Speed Cuffs’ on the lower legs and wrists allow the suit to glide over itself as you turn it inside out, making for super-fast transitions.
The fit of the Aspire is snug, so it’s worth trying one on for size before you part with your cash. But in terms of performance at a mid-level price point there are few, if any, major holes to pick with this suit.
Verdict: Ticks all the major boxes in terms of buoyancy, flexibility and ease of removal, 91%
Tyr Hurricane Cat 2
Price: £289 from www.tyr.com
The Cat 2 is plucked from the middle of the Tyr range for 2015 but, it has to be said, it actually punches well above its weight in terms of comfort and performance. Despite being slightly thicker in the upper body than some of the top-end suits on test, the Tyr’s shoulder flexibility is fantastic and its neck seal and wrist cuffs do a great job of keeping everything streamlined while minimising water ingress.
It has aggressive-looking ‘Alpha Catch Panels’ on the forearms, but in reality it’s very hard to actually feel if these offer any significant benefit. The ‘Quick Release Ankle Cuffs’, however, do exactly what their name suggests, making it easy to stamp your legs out of the suit in T1 and save yourself a few valuable seconds in the process.
Verdict: Excellent – performs on a par with many costing nearly twice as much, 92%
Price: £330 from www.zoggs.com
This year sees established Aussie swimwear manufacturer Zoggs venture into the triathlon wetsuit market for the first time. A range of three wetsuits has been unveiled and the FX1 is the high-performance model aimed at faster, more competitive athletes.
It boasts a host of technical features, many intended to enhance the flexibility of the suit in key areas. The features do a great job, too, and leave the FX1 feeling very light and supple both in and out of the water.
Panel thickness varies from 1.5mm on the arms to 4mm in the body, so this makes it a touch less buoyant and warm than some of the 5mm suits out there. But if you have a strong leg kick or are more concerned about flexibility than insulation, that’s probably no bad thing.
Verdict: Not the most buoyant/warmest, but a solid performer with terrific flexibility, 81%
2XU R:3 Race
Price: £360 from www.2xu.co.uk
As the name suggests, 2XU’s R:3 Race is aimed at competitive athletes looking for a high-performance wetsuit. The long list of technical features includes ‘Rollbar’ panels in the midriff that aim to increase buoyancy around the hips, thereby improving your body position.
And, it has to be said, in the water they make the R:3 one of the most finely-balanced suits on test. Flexibility around the shoulders is good, with 1.5mm underarm sections keeping everything loose, while rigid catch panels in the forearms help increase your purchase on the water. The neck seal is a little stiff and, as a result, not the most comfortable, but it did a good job of stopping any water from flushing in, even when swimming fast.
Verdict: Flexible and finely-balanced. The slightly uncomfortable neck is a minor niggle, 85%
We conclude our guide to 2015’s best triathlon wetsuits, and pick a winner…
Price: £409 from www.mako-sport.fr
The B-First suit sits one below the Extreme, the top of Mako’s 2015 line-up, and is refreshingly light on acronyms and technological-sounding features. Even without the acronyms, it’s a solid performer in the water, with extremely mobile shoulder and arm panels and perhaps the most supple, low-cut 1mm neck seal of all the suits on test.
This small but significant feature makes a huge difference to the suit’s comfort as having a neckline that rubs can be incredibly irritating, especially in salt water. Buoyancy and warmth are more than adequate, with a 5mm torso panel and a chunky, top-down zipper.
The only niggle was a little tightness across the chest, but this could be more of a personal fit issue than the design of the suit per se.
Verdict: A high-performance suit with excellent flexibility and a comfortable neck seal, 83%
Price: £495 from www.blueseventy.co.uk
For years Blueseventy’s range-topping Helix has been the number one item on many a triathlete’s wish list. It’s probably no different this season as the latest evolution boasts more high-tech features than you can shake a stick at, including ‘Honeycomb Aqua Feel’ catch panels on the forearms and ‘Torsional Stretch Technology’ around the shoulders and back.
But the main thing with the 2015 Helix is that it still feels incredibly supple and mobile around the shoulders, while maintaining excellent, balanced buoyancy. It’s definitely a suit faster swimmers will appreciate. A potential downside is that being so thin in places means it’s pretty delicate, which is hard to ignore when you’re trying to tear yourself out of a suit that costs nearly £500.
Verdict: A super-supple top-end performance suit, albeit a delicate and pricey one, 90%
Price: £510 from www.snuggwetsuits.co.uk
At a time when most triathlon kit is manufactured in large factories on the other side of the globe, there’s something very appealing about the fact that you can still get a high- performance wetsuit handmade right here in the UK.
And not only that, but handmade to your personal measurements. Snugg’s custom tailoring is superb, so if you’re not totally at home with off-the-peg sizing or want to specify positive, neutral or negative buoyancy levels based on your natural position in the water, this is one to consider.
Manufacturing quality is excellent and, while the Slipstream may not be as flexible as some top-end models here, it does feel very robust and warm. So, not only should it last a long time, it’ll also do a good job of keeping the cold British water at bay.
Verdict: Marvellous made-to-measure option. A tad less flexible, but robust and warm, 84%
Huub Archimedes II
Price: £549 from huubdesign.com
This is the second generation of Huub’s top-end Archimedes suit and is the one worn by a host of front-of-the-pack ITU swimmers. The updates are relatively subtle, including larger super-thin panels at the calves and biceps, and thinner neoprene at the sides, back and shoulders.
These changes seem to make an already supple suit even more flexible. Huub still offers 3:5 and 4:4mm constructions for swimmers with sinking legs or more neutral buoyancy respectively; a neat touch that, as yet, few others (Snugg aside) share.
As you’d expect with such a pricey piece of kit, performance is excellent, although the breakaway zipper requires some practice – we had a couple of unexpected openings during testing, which could have been disastrous in a race.
Verdict: High-performing suit with a price to match. Fasten the zipper with care, 86%
Price: £599 from www.orca.com
The stand-out feature on Orca’s top-end 2015 suit (aside from the £600 price tag) is the super-thin 0.88mm arm and shoulder panels that aim to offer a completely unrestricted feeling throughout the entire swim stroke.
Certainly when you first put the Predator on, it does feel incredibly free around the upper body, which translates into a very natural feeling in the water compared to many thicker suits. Whether the difference is really significant over the range of motion offered by the other top-end wetsuits on test here is a more marginal call, though.
Buoyancy in the rest of the suit is nicely balanced and although the Predator lacks any other major whizz-bang technologies, it’s a very well-made, comfortable piece of kit.
Verdict: Perhaps the best shoulder mobility of all. But that comfort comes at a steep price, 88%
With an average score of 84%, the standard of wetsuits in this annual biggie of a grouptest continues to impress. There are certainly no stinkers here, with models to suit pretty much every swim stroke, ability and bank balance.
Starting at the budget end (although the likes of Aropec, Lomo and Zone3 do suits that are cheaper than those seen here), and the Zoot is certainly top dog in terms of aesthetics, looking like a suit that’s twice the price. The lower-end winner, however, is the Speedo, which manages to be unrestrictive and flexible at the affordable £220 price point.
Stepping up to the mid-priced range and there’s a noticeable jump in quality, with both the Zone3 and Tyr holding their own against suits at a far higher price point. Both are hugely flexible and offer crafty time-saving features for a speedier T1. And both are very hard to fault.
After impressing in both our men’s and women’s tri-suit tests, 2XU continue their fine run of form with another hugely impressive offering, promoting one of the best body positions in the water on test here. The B-First is also continued evidence that pro triathlete Jessica Harrison’s Mako brand is now a major force in tri design.
All of the contenders in the top-end battle are truly great suits with little to separate them. The customisable element of the Snugg stands out from the crowd, and Cornwall’s finest continue to impress with their manufacturing quality and warmth.
In the major battle for top-end honours between Blueseventy, Huub and Orca, for us the new Helix just edges the honour with its incredible suppleness and balanced buoyancy. When value is factored in as well, though, it’s the Tyr that takes the overall prize.
For lots more advice on the best kit head to our Gear guides section