The triathlon wetsuit is one of tri’s big ticket items and one of the most crucial multisport buys you’ll ever make. Here are the best triathlon wetsuits on the market today, starting from around £100, all the way up to an eye-watering £1,250, all independently reviewed by our experts.
Best triathlon wetsuit reviews
- Best budget triathlon wetsuits under £250 reviewed
- £250-£500 triathlon wetsuits reviewed
- Best top-end triathlon wetsuits over £500 reviewed
- Best thermal wetsuits reviewed
What to look for when buying a triathlon wetsuit?
The fit of your triathlon wetsuit is paramount. The wetsuit needs to be snug rather than loose. However if it’s too tight, your swimming experience won’t be pleasant and movement could be restricted. if it’s too loose it’ll allow water into the suit, which will seriously slow you down.
You also need to be truthful with yourself about your swim level. If you’re a beginner you might need one that will help you maintain your swim position in the water.
- How thick should my tri wetsuit be?
- What’s the difference between a triathlon wetsuit and a surf wetsuit?
- How to store a wetsuit
- How to mend a wetsuit tear
- How long should a triathlon wetsuit last?
The clever folk at Huub rarely rest on their laurels and, with the Varman, they believe they’ve launched a revolution in wetsuit development. With their trademark +43 system, Huub claim to have a material that offers 43% more buoyancy than standard neoprene. Testing certainly backs up the theory with plenty of uplift around the hips. The thinner panels, especially around the arms, meant there was no real restriction of the stroke. Huub’s team have created an ‘Arms Neutral’ design that delivers on its promise to allow freedom and rotational movement. The only criticism is that the neck was a little tight out of the water, but less of an issue once swimming. An interesting suit with the potential to shake up the market.
Verdict: New tech has produced a good wetsuit but with a big mid-range price tag, 91%
Buoyancy is the name of the game here. It’s no coincidence that the titular 3.8 marries perfectly with the 3.8km distance of an Ironman swim leg, as this wetsuit is aimed at long-course athletes who need a little extra assistance to hold their body position during an extended period in the water. Orca claim the suit has the most advanced buoyancy technologies on the market and it certainly helps to keep a streamlined body position in the water. A simple zip operation and decent shoulder flexibility are the other highlights. The rest of it feels more in the simple and straightforward bracket rather than luxury, which probably means it isn’t one for a more advanced swimmer (see their winning Alpha suit for that). But for a long-course novice? There’s plenty on offer here. orca.com
Verdict: Ideal for those needing a buoyancy boost, but less suited to stronger swimmers, 82%
Triathlon wetsuit pioneers Quintana Roo are pretty blunt about what they’re offering with the HydroFive. It’s basically similar technology as their fancier HydroSix, minus a few frills to keep the quality high but bring the price point down. It’s hard to argue with the results. This was probably the most unique suit on test, with some very interesting panel cuts and stretch materials that delivered superb flexibility in the water. The thick legs helped with buoyancy and the unique fit – boasting a very different style of collar via a comfort seal neck design and extremely long sleeves – somehow all worked. This is certainly a quirky suit and very different to everything else, but it was a high performer and proves that different can also be good.
Verdict: Unique features deliver a wetsuit that performs extremely well for the price 88%
Zoot have tried to pack as many features of their high-end wetsuits as they can into the Kona and reduce the cost, and it’s fairly successful. The most notable feature is the GLIDEflex grooved panel in the chest. Zoot have developed the feature to allow full expansion of the lungs while swimming, particularly important when getting going in those anxious moments at the start of a triathlon. That proved true on test, but it’s arguable whether it felt that much different from the other suits here. The AQUAlift buoyancy tech worked effectively, with the suit providing significant uplift in the hips. The Kona wetsuit had a more conventional fit, possibly due to the price tag, and there was a little more water ingress than some others on test (but not so much it was a cause for concern). zootsports.co.uk
Verdict: Not the most premium suit here but delivers highly on value for money 85%
Anybody who struggles with wrestling off a wetsuit in transition should give serious consideration to Yonda’s Spirit II. The first thing you notice about the suit is the unique materials used in the lining. This is the Y-Kick System that allows the most incredibly quick transitions imaginable thanks to the remarkably soft and smooth fabrics. The rest of the wetsuit is no slouch, either. There was decent buoyancy on offer in the thick Yamamoto 39-Cell neoprene and, as we’ve come to expect from the British brand, it was an eye-catching design as well. The ‘10k collar’ is comfortable, providing a good seal and no rubbing at all. However, shoulder flexibility just didn’t feel as good as some of the other wetsuits on test, which is something to be considered. yondasports.com
Verdict: Silky smooth to get on and off; a decent all-rounder; imperfect shoulder flexibility 84%
This Wiggle exclusive is the updated model of the original Albacore, and it’s made of 80% neoprene plus a combination of nylon, metallic fibre and cotton. When we unzipped it for the first time, the zipper became stuck at the bottom. Yet, having watched Huub’s video of their Breakaway Zipper system, the mystery was solved. The reverse zipper feels counterintuitive but, when you get it right, it opens swiftly and you soon have the top of the wetsuit already halfway down your chest. Also worth noting is that the material becomes more forgiving after some test swims, and once in the water over 3.8km at Ironman Estonia, the Albacore II felt incredibly comfortable, buoyant and stretchy on the shoulders. A top-notch suit.
Verdict: Initial zipper concerns give way to a comfy, buoyant wonder, 90%
Which is the best triathlon wetsuits in the £250-£500 range?
The men’s suits here show that there’s a pretty obvious pay-off between price and features, even within this range in the wetsuit market. The Huub Varman and Albacore II are very high-end products, yet come with higher-end price tags. Yet both are outstanding for their speed in the water and the pure number of features, with the Varman fully warranting our Best on Test award.
In contrast to its Alpha or Predator suits, the Orca 3:8 here goes down the line of targeting those in need of buoyancy, and will have appeal for newcomers to Ironman especially.
The other suits did a good job in delivering broader results, with the Zoot and Yonda at lower prices. Quintana Roo was the best of this trio and worthy of very serious consideration, actually delivering something fun and different. Yet you wouldn’t feel shortchanged with any of these suits, whatever your ability or budget choice.
As you’re eyeing up a wetsuit from this selection, which all cost over £500, it’s likely you’ll either have a swim background from your youth, or have worked hard in adulthood to hone your skills and are emerging from the swim placed inside the top 10% in the majority of your triathlon events.
If that’s not the case, unfortunately spending more won’t necessarily lead to faster swim splits. Though there are high-end wetsuits with higher buoyancy ratios aimed at those with sinky legs, this may do the same job as a cheaper suit with the same buoyancy levels. And if you don’t have the rapid arm turnover to take advantage of thinner neoprene in the arms and shoulders that often appears on high-end suits, it could even be detrimental.
With our warnings out the way, the rest of you reading this will require a wetsuit that doesn’t feel like you’re wearing one. One that allows you to swim as close to how you would in a pool as possible, but with the speed benefits of top-of-the-range, hydrodynamic neoprene, plus some extra warmth and a lift in the hips and legs.
All suits were tested in open water and the pool to determine which we thought offered the smoothest swim experience, with value and practical features such as comfort and rapid removal also factored in to determine our final verdicts.
2XU’s top-of-the-range Propel Pro has proved a favourite of both our male and female testers recently, and nothing has changed in 2020. Featuring Yamamoto’s 45-cell neoprene, which 2XU claim is the most flexible in the world, this tester finds the suit almost unrivalled for freedom of movement. Strong swimmers who want a natural swimming experience to support their technique should get on instantly with the Propel Pro due to the flexibility and, while it’s not the most buoyant on the market in the legs, the blend of 2mm and 3mm leg panels will do more than enough to support your kick without putting you too high up in the water. The ‘Concave Water Entrapment Zone’ – essentially a jagged section on the back of the forearms – is said to offer extra strength through the pull phase, and additional panels offer more lower-leg propulsion.
Verdict: An incredibly flexible suit that sets the standard for other high-end suits to follow, 92%
With Jan Frodeno and Daniela Ryf switching to Deboer, are there any pro endorsements that could make you drop £1,250 on a wetsuit? Deboer make a strong case, with their limestone-based ‘Whaleskin’ neoprene said to be 20% lighter than oil-based neoprene to make it extremely buoyant. The Flo–h is recommended for colder water down to 12°C (their Fjord is for warmer water) and has Deboer’s Ultraflex 1.5mm neoprene arms. The high stretch made putting it on easy, and a polymer treatment prevents rips. A large flap over the zipper keeps the cord tucked away, and while the neck looks jagged and almost unfinished, Deboer say this is because each suit is handmade. It netted us quick swim splits, with no shoulder fatigue after long sets. Yet it didn’t feel markedly better or worse than the other suits here. deboerwetsuits.com
Verdict: An enormous price tag that feels very hard to justify for us mere mortal triathletes 71%
With ‘ultimate flexibility’ proudly printed on the front, Zone3 present their Vanquish as the suit to turn to if you want superior movement. It has a comfortable inner lining and neck line, which is ideal for Ironman, and the ‘Aerodome’ material on the legs has air bubbles between the fabric that Zone3 claim make it 30% more buoyant than standard neoprene. The arm panels feature Yamamoto BRS SCS material that is just 0.3mm, claimed to be the thinnest neoprene in the word. While we found it delicate and couldn’t help being quite cautious when taking it off at speed in a T1 mock-up, through the water the reduced weight and heightened feeling undoubtedly reduce arm fatigue. While it didn’t feel quite as unrestrictive as some of the competition in the shoulders, the Vanquish is up there with the best and is the most affordable here. zone3.com
Verdict: Impressive tech and flexibility, if a little delicate on the arms; the least pricey here 86%
The updated ‘Plus’ version of the flagship Ultimate IPS suit now has ‘Nano Aerodome’ neoprene included in the hip, chest and leg areas, claimed to be 20% more buoyant. Sailfish say the air cells within it provide extra buoyancy to give you a better body position in the water to complement the class-leading flexibility in the top half. The ‘Nano Space Cell 2’ neoprene remains from the first iteration, which feels hugely flexible through the water and is on par with our test winner. As you’d expect from £800 worth of wetsuit, the Ultimate IPS Plus feels like you’re not wearing it on the arms and shoulders, allowing you to maintain a rapid turnover when sprinting. The new forearm panels give a powerful pull phase, and the inner lining is designed to absorb less water, which assists with rapid removal. If you can afford to make it yours, you won’t be disappointed. sailfish.com
Verdict: yes, a mighty price tag, but one backed up by a mighty performance in the water 89%
Unchanged for 2020, the sixth iteration of Blueseventy’s Helix is still one of the best suits around, with numerous technical features that justify its sizeable price tag. The 1.5mm shoulder panels and thin 40-cell Yamamoto neoprene in the arms make for a smooth and unrestricted swimming experience, while Blueseventy claim the ‘L.I.F.T’ panels on the back of the legs made of NBR foam give you an extra lift when your legs start dragging. They go as far as to call it a ‘downhill’ swimming position and, while we’d consider this a slight exaggeration, the Helix feels impressively buoyant for a top-end suit. A top-down breakaway zipper and 2mm lower leg panels that flare out at the ankle ensure the Helix can be removed quickly in T1. The neck lining is thicker than the other suits on test, though, and can irritate on very long swims.
Verdict: The original modern high-performance wetsuit is still the business 88%
So which top-end triathlon wetsuit was the best?
With all suits coming in at well over £500, we were inclined to simply give our top score to the very best suit regardless of price. While you may think that means Deboer would win hands-down, we couldn’t quantify any marked performance benefits compared to the other suits: it’s very good, just not £1.2k good.
The Sailfish Ultimate IPS felt slightly smoother than the two sub-£600 suits from Blueseventy and Zone3, and when you’re prepared to pay this kind of cash, an £800 spend could be justifiable if you’re a front-pack swimmer and demand supreme freedom of movement.
That leaves the 2XU Propel Pro, which again picks up our ‘Best on Test’ award. It feels lighter and more supple, and we felt it offered the same superior freedom of movement as the Sailfish Ultimate IPS, while giving you just the right amount of buoyancy. It’s simply a great choice for top-end swimmers who want a suit to give them the edge.
Blueseventy became cold-water wetsuit pioneers when they launched the Helix Thermal (£600) to great acclaim in 2016. And for 2018 they’ve launched the slightly cheaper Thermal Reaction (£495).
The Thermal Reaction boasts the same zirconium liner used in the Helix, providing a plush and fluffy feel on the body that’s proven durable after a couple of seasons’ use. We used it in temps of 6.5°C and 8°C, but Blueseventy pitch it for a minimum of 8.5C. And yet the suit still performed admirably in the bracing water, limiting water ingress around the neck and through the zip. How much comes down to a psychological boost is open to question, but we really felt the warmth benefits of that soft zirconium liner.
The 5/5/4mm neoprene thickness is only marginally different to the 4/5/4mm of the conventional Reaction (with an extra millimetre on the chest) and produces a buoyant suit, but not one compromised by flexibility and the upper body is especially lithe. It’s quick to remove, and we’ll be using it at the Slateman in May. We’d now like to see if the zirconium tech can be applied to their £275 Fusion suit, opening up the thermal benefits to a wider audience of swimmers.
Verdict: a brilliant suit gets the thermal upgrade with warmth-gaining effects, 92%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
Huub’s entry into the thermal wetsuit market is their mid-level Aegis II, which showcases the Derby brand’s winning buoyancy mix of 3mm core/5mm leg neoprene thickness. We’ve long been fans of the standard Aegis, but it’s tighter across the chest than the Reaction – a theme with Huub suits, so keep an eye on sizing – and the thermal variation isn’t easy to get on (not helped by the breakaway zipper), which frustrated us while trying to retain some warmth pre-swim in a windswept beachside car park.
In the water, however, the Aegis – when swimming well – felt swifter than the Reaction, aided by that lean fit, Smoothskin coating and that buoyancy profile. But in terms of thermal properties? Less so. While still evident, we just didn’t feel as protected from chills in the Aegis II, with the internal 0.7mm nylon/polyester lining lacking the warm blanket feel of the Reaction. We also felt more water ingress through the zipper. But if you suffer from the cold, we can see the benefits of using the Aegis Thermal during the season, and combined with Huub’s Varme Thermal Balaclava (£34.99) it offers a more affordable package than the Reaction.
Verdict: Still a fine and fast suit, but it just lacks the warmth of the reaction, 80%
The Aspire Thermal is a warmer version of Zone3’s popular mid-range Aspire wetsuit. For an extra £50 more than the regular Aspire, you get Zone3’s Heat-Tech fleece lining, constructed to maintain body heat around key muscles and organs. The collar, chest panel, arms and legs have been modified to increase warmth, while it retains features such as Zone3’s Pro Speed Cuffs for swift removal and a SCS Nano coating to reduce drag.
In bone-chilling 6.5°C waters, we weren’t expecting miracles as the suit is best recommended for water temps between
10-18°C, but we noticed our midriff was discernibly warmer than when we’ve swum in regular wetsuits in very cold water. While 2mm arm and shoulder panels aren’t going to offer the flex of a high-end regular suit with rubber half as thick, sacrificing fractions of seconds during start-line sprints won’t be a deal breaker for many. The blend of 4mm and 5mm neoprene on the chest, leg and body panels give more than enough buoyancy.
For a mid-range thermal suit it’s priced fairly – less than BlueSeventy’s Thermal Reaction yet £75 more than the Huub Aegis III Thermal – and it did a fine job of keeping us warm(er) than a standard tri wetsuit. If you struggle in the cold and/or do all your events in the UK, this could be the only wetsuit you need.
Verdict: Impressively light and flexible for a thermal suit, and warm in bracing waters, too, 88%
How we tested and reviewed the triathlon wetsuits
We tested these suits in UK waters within 2020’s disrupted season. Both lakes and the sea were the bodies of water, the latter especially allowing us to access how the suits dealt with 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.