Top budget triathlon wetsuits for men and women
Your first triathlon wetsuit is a landmark purchase on your triathlon journey. So which is the sub-£250 winner? 220 finds out...
Your first triathlon wetsuit purchase is one of the most crucial you’ll ever make, the start of a multisport journey that could last a lifetime.
But that’s not to say that the entry-level suits here are just for beginners, as many display enough quality for a host of triathlon experiences. What they are, however, are top budget triathlon wetsuits on the market, from £100 up to £250, for men and women.
When it comes to buying your triathlon wetsuit, our mantra is repeatedly ‘try before you buy’, as the sizes can vary massively between brands, and it’s paramount your wetsuit fits you properly.
If you can, find a triathlon retailer or triathlon expo to try the suits, especially if this is your first triathlon wetsuit purchase. If not, ensure any online seller has a decent returns policy and study the size guide.
Also, think about your own swim ability when picking as some features – slender neoprene and a 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 consider which races (sprint or Ironman?!) you’ll be entering and whether you suffer from the cold.
Former 220 features editor and current editor of Cycling Plus, Matt Baird takes on the men’s suits, and will provide a close examination of buoyancy for sinking bodies, comfort and fit, plus added technologies. Value and beginner benefits were other key considerations.
In the women’s best cheap triathlon wetsuits, Helen Webster and Kate Milsom look at value for money, buoyancy levels and additional features for athletes either new to triathlon and/or on a budget.
Top women’s cheap triathlon wetsuits
Dhb Aeron 2.0
Dhb’s redeveloped Aeron 2.0 packs a punch for a sub-£200 budget suit (currently £135 on Wiggle). We’re a fan of the discreet blue colourways and design with a low-profile neckline and back zip, which helped us avoid any uncomfortable chafing.
The suit is made from 80% neoprene and 20% nylon to improve flexibility, with a toasty 3mm core and hefty 5mm thigh neoprene panels that create lift and retain heat.
The buoyancy profile may be useful for beginners who are after that extra lift, but we found it translated to a little more restriction than others on test.
Swim stroke along the 2mm arm panels felt uninhibited, but not as flexible as the likes of the Orca. Out of the suits we tested, the Aeron 2.0 proved to be the easiest to pull off after a swim thanks to its strategically placed quick release cuffs. A competitive option for an entry-level suit, just remember to size up.
Verdict: A reliable budget suit with plenty of buoyancy, warmth, and lift for sinky-leg swimmers.
The The Prime stands out in this test thanks to its inclusive sizing range, with additional ‘wide’ options to appeal to a larger variation of body shapes.
The suit is made to provide ‘warmth, flexibility and buoyancy’ and it’s one of the warmest on test. The 4/3/2 buoyancy profile is ideal for sinky-leg swimmers and those looking to save energy.
The 4mm smoothskin neoprene along the legs provides a huge amount of lift, while the 2mm neoprene along the arms allows for plenty of flex during the swim stroke. As with all the suits on test, the YKK zipper is smooth to use and the suit is fairly quick to whip off.
The Prime’s geometry isn’t best-suited for breaststroke swimming, as the back zip and garage ride high and dig into the back of the neck when lifting the head. There is no degeneration along the seams, making up a well-rounded thought-out budget suit.
Verdict: Warmest suit on test, with inclusive sizing and an accessible price point both real positives.
Van Rysel SD Neoprene
The Van Rysel Short Distance (SD) wetsuit is Decathlon’s answer to entry-level short-course racing. The suit is for those who are new to triathlon and are looking to take on short-distance events (up to 750m).
The predominant use of jersey neoprene, with front and back Glideskin panels, aims to boost the material’s durability, but this does come with the caveat of making it a less buoyant suit that won’t be first choice for heavy-legged swimmers or colder temperatures.
We expected more lift for a wetsuit aimed at beginners, but the jersey does make the SD one of the most flexible suits on test, with no restriction felt across the arms, back, or low-cut neckline.
Like the Yonda, you can switch up your stroke with ease with the flexible design, whether it’s smooth breaststroke or front crawl. The bevelled ankle cut spells swift T1 changing, too.
Verdict: Great sub-£100 budget pick for shorter distances, and it’s highly flexible in the water.
Updated for the 2021 season, this latest version of the Advance is claimed to be 16% lighter and more buoyant than its predecessor. The 4mm buoyancy panels along the legs certainly helped our form in the water and we had a decent range of movement in the arms.
We like the stylish design with reflective detailing, while the wide silicone arm and leg cuffs made the suit the fastest to take off on test. It ticks the sustainability box, too, being made from limestone-derived 39-cell Yamamoto neoprene, rather than from petroleum.
There was no chafing, but the neck and legs felt a little short for our cold springtime test waters. Though fast to do up, the zip did allow water ingress, which isn’t ideal in colder temperatures.
Verdict: A comfy and stylish suit with adequate buoyancy, but a little short on the legs.
Aqua Sphere Pursuit V3
Aqua Sphere’s 2021 wetsuits have blown us away so far, and the Pursuit V3 continues to impress. The recipe is just right with the ‘Aqua Drive’ core panel consisting of 4mm 38-cell Yamamoto neoprene, the 3.5mm legs holding us up just enough for a streamlined position, and the 2mm thickness ‘Bio-Stretch Zone’ across the arms and back allowing for a silky-smooth arm stroke.
There’s no chafing thanks to the Aqua-Flex collar seal, though we did endure some water ingress via the back zip. It certainly kept us warm for an hour in 10°C waters and was second only to the Zone3 Advance in terms of removal speed. Admittedly, this suit sits just above our £250 price point for budget suits, but it’s worth the extra.
Verdict: With top-quality tech, this is one of the best cheap triathlon wetsuits for entry-level triathletes.
The Raceskin’s hydrodynamic SCS-coated suit felt sleek and high quality when on. We found the sizing was on the roomy side, so you may want to study the sizing chart closely before ordering.
Due to a varying neoprene thickness from 1.5mm-5mm across the suit, our legs felt lifted and our arms had adequate range of movement when swimming at a leisurely pace, though the men’s version delivered a limited stroke extension while on test last year.
Thanks to taped and flatlock seams, comfort was an easy win, with our only gripe being the reverse zipper. It seems unnecessary for an entry-level suit, though admittedly does make for easy removal post-swim.
This review is of the 2021 suit, the updated 2022 version does not have a reverse zip. Review coming soon.
Verdict: Not the most flattering wetsuit, but comfortable and warm while in the water.
2XU Propel P:1
Sitting at the very top end of our budget price range, first impressions of the Propel were good, helped by its flattering design and sleek fit.
The suit’s ‘rollbar technology’ of graduated 39-cell Yamamoto neoprene allows a variation of buoyancy from a thick 5mm at the core, to a thinner 3mm back and 2mm along the ends of arms, all of which aims to aid a swifter swim rotation and more power-conserving arm stroke.
We’re not sure on the sizing process here, which is based solely on height and weight. Our size small fits well except for a bunching of the zip on the back, which gave water ingress. The Propel gets top marks for comfort and shoulder flexibility is great, but we were concerned about poking holes in the thin-feeling neoprene.
Verdict: A decent suit with lots of flexibility for fast swimming, but sizing could cause issues
This is a good-looking suit for the money (not that that’s the main thing, but it’s a bonus). It feels good quality in the water with the 1.5mm neoprene across the chest and arms allowing plenty of flexibility, even for those with a wide ‘swinger’ style of swimming. The rest of the buoyancy profile errs towards stabilisation, which many new swimmers may welcome.
The 5mm in the front of the legs coupled with 4mm in the backs and a mix of 3mm/2.5mm in the body gave us a high position in the water, but it did feel a little too much, as well as restrictive.
If, like this tester, your lower back is prone to aching, then be careful of suits that lift your legs too high. This is something many female swimmers may find isn’t needed, due to lower-body fat distribution (talking to all the pear shapes out there!).
Verdict: A good budget wetsuit at a good price, but watch out for the levels of lower-body buoyancy.
Any brand that opts for bright pink on a women’s design will have some of us wrinkling our noses (men get red). Yet we have to give Orca kudos for providing the only bright-armed suit on test – which works as a safety feature so you’re visible in open water, as well as helping family spot you on race day. If you like pink, it’s pretty funky, too.
This suit felt great on and equal to Speedo’s in flexibility. Orca have clearly used their tri know-how in this budget offering as it’s easy to pull on (a big worry for many new open-water swimmers), while the 4m bottom/2mm top neoprene combo works to combine buoyancy and flexibility in a way that felt comfy and supportive.
There was a tiny water trickle in the neck, but that may be solved by sizing down from a medium to a S/M – and it didn’t really bother us in the 19°C waters of our test lake.
Verdict: A flexible, striking and comfortable option that comes with an amazing price tag for the tech. One of the best cheap wetsuits out there.
This Blueseventy staple’s £200 price tag puts it at the top of our suits here by a whole pound, and savvy swimmers may find the considerably cheaper Orca or Speedo more of a draw. The Sprint was among the snugger size medium suits on test and, after an hour in the water, we found it pulled our lower back a little, so watch sizing.
Those stretchy blue jersey panels under the arms feel a touch basic compared to the full neoprene construction of others on test but, coupled with thin 1.5mm neoprene on the outer arms, allow a wide range of movement.
You also get stretchy calf panels for quick removal and the 3-4-4mm buoyancy pattern gave us a good body position. The bottom-up zipper and rolled neck, although bulky and high at the back, prevented water ingress, as did the cuffed sleeves.
Verdict: Some nice features, but the sprint now feels dated and is the most expensive here.
Top men’s cheap triathlon wetsuits
After a few years of treading water, the once-dominant Blueseventy is back with a wealth of fresh suits (and a new logo) for 2022.
On paper, this Wiggle exclusive with trickle-down tech from Blueseventy’s £349 Fusion suit has plenty going for it, with SCS (Super Composite Skin) coating, Yamamoto materials and 1.5mm arms welcoming surprises on a sub-£150 suit (it’s also currently reduced to £82).
And in the murky waters of a Somerset marine lake? Similarly impressive for the sub-£150 (or sub-£100) price tag, those supple arms promoting a range of movement in the upper body and a well-considered but far from excessive level of buoyancy.
That said, leg sinkers might want more lift than the 3mm-thick legs give here. There’s a lack of water ingress or chafing around the neck, while post-swim removal is swift. It comes in quite small, so size-up if you’re between sizes.
Verdict: A bargain for £149, a steal for £82, but be aware of sizing and buoyancy levels.
Designed for cold open-water swims, Alpkit’s Silvertip is the outlier in this test against the tri-specific rivals. The £219 price is the cheapest thermal wetsuit around and you’ll find this type of liner on Huub’s Aegis Thermal.
It’s not the softest on the skin compared to Blueseventy’s glorious wool thermal liners, for example, but it seems to deliver the heat-retaining goods (albeit in Devonshire waters in May, not Scottish lochs in March).
The arm cuffs are fine if you’re wearing gloves, but there’s just too much water ingress for non-gloved swims. The tight elasticated neck chafes and isn’t one for long-swim comfort, but it does quell the water seeping in.
Upper-body flexibility from the 3mm neoprene is acceptable and buoyancy levels are fairly high. But as an entry-level thermal suit for off-season swimming – with an internal pocket and visibility touches – it has appeal.
Verdict: An affordable intro to thermal wetsuits, but not for triathlon racing
Dhb Aeron 3.0
Naturally, this dhb suit is already down in price to £225, and for that it’s an absolute bargain that should have Martin Lewis beaming with joy.
Worn back-to-back with the rivals here, it’s easily the supplest suit, the 38- and 39-cell levels of Yamamoto neoprene and a mix of 2, 3 and 4mm panels making this the most graceful in the water. Further spec highlights come in the form of the SCS coating that beads water and arm cuffs that make for a speedy T1.
Thankfully, dhb is continuing to ditch the reverse zipper in the latest version of its top-of-the-range suit, an issue we had with the 2019 edition, while the broad array of sizes (three alone in medium) is a further boon.
Worth noting for leg sinkers and open-water newcomers is that there’s more buoyancy in the 2XU, Alpkit and Zone3 suits on test, but this is hardly lacking in lower body lift. And it looks great, too.
Verdict: A supple, stylish and speedy suit that’s also a bargain buy with some great features for the money.
2XU P:1 Propel
The P:1 Propel has been a regular high scorer in our recent entry-level wetsuit tests, with this latest version largely going for the ‘If it ain’t broke’ formula.
Which is largely no bad thing, as the 2XU utilises a combination of classy 39-cell Yamamoto neoprene, an SCS coating and 1.5mm thick panels in the upper body.
And all for an entry to mid-level price point. It’s a noticeably thicker and heavier suit than the dhb Aeron Lab, for example, a mix of 3 and 5mm panels on the upper chest, legs and back giving a hefty dose of buoyancy in the water (more natural swimmers may well say too much).
There was a slither of water ingress around the neck, and some swimmers may prefer the visuals of the previous P:1 editions.
That said, we can certainly vouch for the 2XU P:1 Propel’s long-term durability. And this wetsuit’s two-year warranty is definitely another plus point.
Verdict: Very hard to fault but not as supple as some with the entry-level price point becoming more competitive.
Zone3’s £250 Advance has long been one of our beginner-friendly picks, but can the new Agile wetsuit undercut its celebrated older and more expensive sibling?
It certainly stands out due to the silver cuffs and back panels, which look a little too 1960s science-fiction for me. And it’s also a solid performer in the water.
The 2mm upper body panels are agile enough, while the 3 and 4mm sections deliver a considered, but not excessive, level of lift.
Yamamoto materials are seemingly absent, but an eco-friendly neoprene is present. And this is coated with a Speedflo technology that beads water to aid hydrodynamics.
With minimal water ingress and secure seams, the Zone3 Agile never failed to keep our tester warm in the English Channel in May. Like the 2XU P:1 Propel, it feels like a durable and tough wetsuit that will last through multiple seasons of use.
Verdict: A solid contender that’ll please both beginners and bank balances.
Yonda has fine form on these pages with the Ghost and Spectre triathlon wetsuits. The similarly paranormal-themed Spook is from the British brand’s open-water collection, but there’s little to give you the frights here.
Construction is high quality and the nylon/neoprene combo offers an unrestricted front-crawl stroke due to the smartly placed panels. The only mild chills we did experience came from some water ingress, and from the nylon being looser and more absorbent than neoprene. This means it takes longer to dry and can get heavier.
The classy neck, meanwhile, led to a chafe-free swim. We’re not convinced by the elasticated arm cuffs, which did lead to some water ingress, but the overall comfort and durability heightens the versatility – we’d happily use this on our paddleboard ventures alongside open-water swimming and for triathlon race days.
Verdict: Great as an open-water contender, but is tri-friendly too.
The Proton has been around a while now, but that’s no bad thing as it’s a winning budget suit. After our first swim, we had to double check the RRP as we believed it’d be more expensive, but what we actually have is Yamamoto 38-cell neoprene, and a lean, lithe and continuous 1.5mm shoulder panel for an astonishing £140.
Where budget wetsuits are often purely functional – a bludgeon of buoyancy, a flirtation with flexibility – the Proton finds the balance between keeping you afloat and maintaining a feel for the water thanks to the 1.5mm thickness of the shoulders and supple neoprene. And it’s also damn enjoyable to swim in.
Negative points are minimal, although those with sinking legs may want more buoyancy than the max 4mm leg thickness offered here. The neoprene is also quite delicate and we’d size up if you’re between sizes.
Verdict: It may not be new, but it’s still a fine budget suit offering remarkable value.
The first rule of Sailfish is to size down, with the brand’s suits regularly coming up bigger than we’d expect. The second rule of Sailfish is that the suits it makes are always top quality. That continues with the sleek Atlantic, which joins the ever-expanding pool of open-water-specific suits rather than pure tri wetsuits.
This means thinner neoprene and thus less buoyancy, with the thicknesses ranging from 0.5-2mm. The result is you have to kick your legs far more than a tri wetsuit – good for technique progression, less so for conserving race-day legs for the bike and run.
The benefit is a natural swimming experience, with the nylon/neoprene construction hugely flexible and providing excellent upper-body movement (it was the swiftest in our timed tests too). Despite that Atlantic title, it’s a suit we’d rather use in the Med, as we noticeably suffered in the cold. s
Verdict: A supple and slick training suit, but not one for race day or the cold.
Fifty quid is the cheapest wetsuit we’ve ever tested, but does a rock-bottom price ensure good value? Not in this instance, especially when you compare it to the Aptonia or Lomo’s own Prime wetsuit at £105.
The nylon construction of the arms just felt rigid and swimming was an ongoing wrestle to get the disobedient arms doing what we wanted – forget any talk of this suit acting like a second skin. The tight elasticated cuffs proved troublesome to get off or pull up, meaning we couldn’t access our sports watch pre or post-swim, and the chunky zipper head gave us serious neck-rubbing issues.
The 3mm all-over thickness felt too little in the legs and overkill in the upper body. In terms of positives, the suit’s flatlock stitching is welcome, it feels durable and looks decent enough, while the water ingress through the zip was limited.
Verdict: An incredibly cheap suit, but the price shows in the erratic performance.
Aptonia Triathlon SD
Regular readers will know that we’re personally not fans of reverse zippers, especially on entry-level wetsuits. We just can’t see why Decathlon has gone down this route with the sub-£100 Aptonia Triathlon SD when an entry-level suit should be all about making things easy for newcomers (judging by the customer reviews, we’re not the only grumpy one).
Rant over, and once we’d been zipped in (thanks, mum!), the suit’s actually pretty good, the neoprene/ polyester combo and 2mm arms proving lithe enough in the water, and both front crawl and breaststroke-friendly.
The buoyancy from the 4mm panels felt understated but efficient, but water ingress was noticeable around the neck and zipper. It’s a fine-looking suit as well and – yes, we’ll admit it – that reverse zipper coupled with the shorter cut of the legs did make it swift to remove.
Verdict: So close to being a corker, sort that zip and come back stronger!
The Advance was once this tester’s top entry-level suit recommendation, but it’s recently been superseded by the £179 Orca S7 and 2XU P:1. The 2020 Advance instantly takes the eco award with its recycled rubber construction, and there’s no pre-swim faff with the standard zipper (unlike Aptonia and Raceskin).
Zone3 don’t list the panel thicknesses, but it’s 2mm on the shoulders, a 3/4mm core and 2mm again in the calves. Buoyancy is far from excessive (leg/bottom sinkers may want more) but it’s evenly balanced. There were no neck or water-ingress issues, yet the suit only placed third in our timed speed tests.
While not an exact science, we found it tight around the shoulders (and we’re more Woody Allen than The Rock in shoulder width), which could’ve lessened efficiency. Getting it off is speedy thanks to the Pro Speed Cuffs.
Verdict: Efficiently ticks the boxes for entry-level triathletes, but edged here by the 2XU and dhb.
Aptonia Neoprene LD
The Aptonia was second out of the testing bag and looked odds-on for the Best Buy award until the Dhb swept to the title. Plus points include the ability to try before you buy at a Decathlon store, which is tricky for the Dhb and Raceskin suits on test, and a visual design that’s our top pick here.
Into the emerald waters of Vobster (once we’d wrestled, breathed in and been fastened up due to the reverse zipper – see also Raceskin), you can feel the buoyancy levels are high thanks to air bubbles inserted into the fabric and the 5mm neoprene thickness on the chest, hips and thighs. Some stronger swimmers will find this excessive. As a leg sinker we didn’t mind too much, and the LD wasn’t far behind the Zone3 in our timed lake tests.
It’s slightly baggy under the arms and that zipper loses it points, but a two-year guarantee is welcome.
Verdict: Looks the part, adequate in the water and a nice price, but we have to question the reverse zipper
2XU Propel P:1
2XU have won the lion’s share of Best on Test wetsuit awards for the past few seasons, and the 2020 P:1 Propel boasts an impressive feature list for the £215 tag. There’s a SCS coating, high grade 39-cell Yamomoto neoprene and 1.5mm neoprene in the upper body. Fairly high buoyancy levels are provided by a mix of 3mm and 5mm on the upper chest, legs and back, while 2XU’s ‘rollbar’ tech adds to the controlled body position.
Similar to our mid-range tester on p60, water ingress was felt around the neck and along the rear zipper – something that was bearable in 19°C waters, wince-inducing in less (it also trickled into the arms). Yet this didn’t hugely affect its aquatic chops, as this was the fastest on test loops. We personally prefer the visuals and feel of 2018’s edition of the P:1, but a two-year warranty is another plus.
Verdict: Top tech, swift in the water and a decent price tag make this the budget suit to beat.
The 2021 Magna’s price tag flirts with mid-range wetsuit territory, and there are features here you’d expect from loftier wetsuit companies.
These include a lean 1.5mm neoprene thickness in the arms and shoulders, Yamamoto’s hydrodynamic SCS coating and a reverse zipper, though the latter is something we question on an entry-level suit for the pre-swim toil it brings (you’ll need to ask someone to zip you up).
While Raceskin’s Summa is a hit for our mid-range tester on p61, no matter how many times we tried, the Magna just felt restrictive around our shoulders and limited our stroke extension.
Whether it’s down to panel placement (our shoulders are far from broad), that lithe 1.5mm neoprene failed to do the trick and resulted in our slowest times on test. It’s a shame, as the suit is stylish, durable and has limited water ingress (please note, Raceskin have now brought out an updated 2022 version, review coming soon).
Verdict: Impressive tech, stylish visuals, durable… yet we just struggled once in the water.
The Hydron 2.0 is a budget suit that’s very hard to fault. The construction is durable, the fit true to size and the visual design – for a circa £100 suit – is decent enough.
Into the 36m-deep waters of Vobster Quay in Somerset, and the buoyancy is surprisingly moderate for an entry-level suit thanks to the 3mm thickness on the hips and 2.5mm on the thighs (usually this thickness can be up to 5mm).
We’re a leg sinker but still managed our second fastest lake splits in the Hydron, even if the 2mm back/arms thickness and flexibility understandably felt less flexible than the £215 2XU. The zip’s a standard bottom-up affair, while removal is swift thanks to the calf panels. Water ingress, meanwhile, was minimal.
Verdict: A sequel that easily betters the original and is hard to fault for triathlon beginners.