Best Women’s Wetsuits - An In-Depth Guide
Mar 01, 2023
Water activities, such as surfing and scuba diving, are engaging and often become a life-long pursuit for some. Without the proper gear, like a good wetsuit, it would be difficult and potentially dangerous to stay in the water for a long time.
However, with the sheer number of choices available when it comes to women’s wetsuits, how do you find the right one? What factors do you need to consider when checking out surf wetsuits? Here’s how you can find the best women’s wetsuits, so you can enjoy your favorite aquatic sports all year round.
What are Wetsuits?
Wetsuits are special suits that are typically made of neoprene, a type of synthetic rubber that’s highly resistant to water, heat, and damage.
Neoprene is known for its insulating properties and is also used for cushioning, like in laptop sleeves and coating for workout equipment. When used in wetsuits, it provides insulation against cold temperatures and prevents hypothermia.
Wetsuits are usually worn by scuba divers, surfers, swimmers, and other individuals who engage in water activities. Women’s wetsuits come in a range of styles, from full-body wetsuits that cover the wearer’s entire body to spring suits or shorties, which are designed to cover the upper part of the body.
Women’s wetsuits also come in a range of thicknesses. The thicker your wetsuit is, the more insulation it provides, making it suitable for colder water temperatures or cold weather. However, because of its thickness, it may compromise mobility.
Why Do Women Wear Wetsuits?
Open waters are fascinating, but they can also become a threat. Water temperature tends to fluctuate, depending on location or where activity is. Furthermore, each person’s ability to tolerate or withstand certain temperatures can vary greatly.
Women’s wetsuits provide a number of benefits to the wearer, including:Protection
Women’s wetsuits act as a layer of protection against sunburn and skin damage, like scratches or cuts from sharp surfaces and stings or bites from small sea creatures. A full suit, for example, provides an almost complete layer of protection against the sun.Insulation
The best wetsuits provide the right amount of insulation. A wetsuit should be able to help you retain body heat and keep you warm, especially in colder waters, by trapping a thin layer of water between the wearer’s skin and the suit. Your body warms up the water, thereby giving you a layer of warmth.
Ideally, a wetsuit should prevent this layer of trapped water from getting out. If you wear an ill-fitting piece or one that isn’t properly sealed, warm water may get flushed out and cold water may get in.Better buoyancy
Aside from being able to retain heat even in colder temperatures, the best wetsuits can also be worn in warmer temperatures. In such cases, they may be able to help wearers conserve their energy by improving their buoyancy.
Wetsuits can help you float easier because neoprene is naturally buoyant, with thicker neoprene being more buoyant compared to its thinner counterparts. If you go for women’s wetsuits with a thicker layer of neoprene, you may find that these aren’t as flexible as thinner wetsuits.
This increased buoyancy also mean less water resistance, which makes it easier for you to swim. This is an important consideration, especially if you’re planning to join aquatic sports competitions like a triathlon.Enhanced speed
Certain wetsuits, particularly those used in triathlons or open-water swimming, have “skins” that repel water. This reduces water resistance, helping you swim faster and save time.Improved overall performance
Wetsuits are designed to compress your muscles and joints, which may contribute to enhancing your performance in the water.
How Do Women’s Wetsuits Work?
Like typical wetsuits, wetsuits for women are designed to keep you warm, like what clothes or layers of them do in cold weather.
A wetsuit lets a small amount of water pass through its material. Unlike a dry suit, which is designed to keep a wearer, well, dry, wetsuits keep your body slightly wet. The water that goes into the suit is gradually warmed up by your body’s heat, thus providing you with insulation underwater by keeping your natural body temperature consistent.
Women’s wetsuits, whether it’s a spring or a surf wetsuit, is supposed to be snug to prevent the warm water from escaping. A wetsuit that’s a bit looser will lead to flushing, or the constant going in and out of water, which could cause you to expend a lot of energy to maintain the temperature inside your wetsuit.
Wetsuits are usually made with several layers of different materials like neoprene and metal, forming multiple layers. These layers then trap and reflect your body’s heat for added insulation.
However, not all women’s wetsuits are the same. Some may have thinner layers or have an extra layer or exterior “skin”. Furthermore, it’s crucial to note that each person’s body is unique. Some might have a better resistance to the cold and can get away with using a thinner wetsuit, while others may not be able to manage cold water temps that well and would thus need thicker wetsuits.
What Should You Look for When Buying Surfing Wetsuits for Women?
Finding the best women’s wet suits is more than just taking a cursory look at surf suits and going, “Oh, this might fit my needs.” You need to take a closer look at a women’s wetsuit selection and examine it for the following components:
How thick should your wetsuit be? Wetsuit thickness can vary greatly, and a particular thickness will perform better under certain circumstances.
This ultimately depends on what you’re planning to do. For example, if you want to go swimming in cold weather or venues, then you should go with a thicker wetsuit, something that’s around 5 to 6mm thick. If you’re doing water sports in warm or moderate climates, like a quick summer surf, then something thinner, around 1 to 3mm, would suffice.
Now, this isn’t absolute—you also have to consider factors like wind chill and how sensitive you are to cold temperatures. It also helps to think about whether you’re wearing additional accessories like a hood or diving boots.
Flexibility and durability
Wetsuits for surfing, swimming, or diving should be easy to wear and easy to take off. They should also be flexible to prevent becoming an impediment to your activities. More importantly, a good wetsuit for women should be comfortable and durable. Given that wetsuits don’t come cheap, you want to make sure that your cold-water wetsuit is durable enough to last for a couple of years. Taking good care of your new wetsuit also helps prolong its lifespan.
- A layer of nylon
You also want to check if your wetsuit comes with a layer of nylon or some soft fabric, which prevents the neoprene material from rubbing excessively against your skin. You may also opt to wear a bathing suit or a thin rash guard to prevent chafing.
Its heat-reflecting material
The best wetsuits for women should have a thin thermal lining that’s made from heat-reflecting metal like copper or aluminum. Aside from the insulation provided by the neoprene material, this lining helps reflect your body heat to maintain optimal temperatures.
The neoprene layer in women’s wetsuits can vary, depending on the area. For example, a 5/4mm wetsuit can have a thicker layer of neoprene on areas like the torso (5mm) and arms and legs (4mm). Some surfing suits may also have thinner neoprene around the arms and legs to facilitate ease of movement.
Wetsuits for surfing are typically made by sewing panels of neoprene together. This creates seams, which are usually the weakest part of a wetsuit. Repeated or heavy use can further weaken the seams, which can lead to cold water going inside your wetsuit. The type of seam can also affect how watertight your suit is, how comfortable it is, and whether gives a good stretch or is rigid.
To strengthen the seams, manufacturers use different stitching and sealing methods, which include:
Flatlock wetsuit stitching
Flatlock stitching creates durable and flexible seams. Panels overlap each other and are stitched through the neoprene material. However, despite offering good stretch, flatlock seams tend to let in water. Suits with this seam type may work well for warm temperatures but not for cold water temps. Flatlock stitching is also commonly found on cheaper wetsuits or summer wetsuits.
Glued and blind stitched seams (GBS)
Sealed seams or glued and blind stitched seams have panels that are glued and then blind stitched. Blind stitching simply means that the needle doesn’t go through the neoprene layer. This gives you a closed, fully watertight suit that doesn’t allow water to seep through, making it a good choice of surfing wetsuit for colder waters or climates.
Sealed and taped seams
This seam type combines the GBS method and adds another layer of seam protection by way of interior taping, which enhances the suit’s durability and water tightness, as well as reinforces the seams themselves.
With welded seams, the panels are glued together instead of stitched. If you want a wetsuit to have maximum flexibility and enhanced water tightness, go for a wetsuit with welded seams
When choosing a wetsuit, also look at its entry or zip system. There are three main entry systems:
With a back zip, your wetsuit opens from your back to your waist. This configuration makes it easy for you to wear or take off a wetsuit. A suit with a back zip comes with a leash that you can use to zip yourself up. While it makes getting in and out of a suit easier, a back zip may reduce the stretchability of the back part of your wetsuit.
Front or chest zip
A chest zip entry opens at the neckline through a cut-out. To wear a chest zip suit, you need to “drop” down into your suit through this neckline cut-out. While chest zip suits offer better watertightness, they may be more difficult to get in and out of.
Unlike the back and chest zip types, a zipper-less or zip-free wetsuit lets you step into the suit through a hole in the chest or neck area. A zipper-less wetsuit is ideal for wearers who want better mobility.
4 Key Considerations to Find the Best Women’s Wet Suits
Aside from the abovementioned factors, here are four key considerations to think about to help you find the best women’s wetsuits for your needs:
The type of water sports you’ll be doing
The type of activity you’ll be doing will influence what kind of wetsuit you’ll choose. If you’re planning to surf, then a spring suit is a good option. If you’re doing cold water surfing, then you may want to go with a full suit or a full hooded wetsuit instead for extra warmth.
For paddling or kayaking, opt for a dry suit, long janes, or short janes for better mobility. While long and short janes are made with thinner neoprene, they’re still capable of providing extra warmth and protection in case you capsize.
Aside from water temperature, you also need to think about the air temperature and wind chill, or how cold you might feel when the wind is blowing and you’re experiencing cold weather. Because of the wind chill, you may feel colder than you actually are. If you’re able to withstand the cold better, then you can get used to a thinner suit. Otherwise, you’ll need to pick one that’s thicker and better able to provide extra warmth.
Yes, your style matters especially if you’re spending hundreds of dollars for a wetsuit. You want a suit that you’d love to keep on wearing for a long time. The good news is, women’s wetsuits now come in a variety of colors, from traditional neoprene black to white to suits with colored panel accents.
The best women’s wetsuit can fetch a high price tag. If you have a tight budget, you can go with a versatile wetsuit—something that’s 4/3mm thick—which you can use for both surfing and swimming.
Different Types of Women’s Wetsuits
Women’s wetsuits come in different styles, with each providing different levels of coverage and functionality. Below are the common wetsuit types to help you narrow down your search:
Also known as the steamer, this wetsuit type is typically made from neoprene and covers your entire body, including your limbs, wrists, and ankles. It comes in different thicknesses, starting from 1mm and up to 9mm, making it versatile and suitable for warm and cold dives. At its thickest, this wetsuit offers maximum warmth.
Spring suit or shorty wetsuit
A spring suit is a good option for warmer dives. It offers full coverage for your torso, similar to the full suit, but it comes with shorter legs. When it comes to sleeves, a spring suit may have short or long sleeves.
Long janes are like a full wetsuit with full coverage for the chest and lower body, but they have a sleeveless upper. This suit type is typically made with thinner neoprene, making it suitable for warmer waters.
A short jane is a cross between a spring suit, with its short legs, and a long jane, with its sleeveless upper. This type of wetsuit is made with thinner neoprene, giving you better mobility and making them great suits for surfing or paddling.
One-piece wetsuits for surfing
Wetsuits for surfing can come in a one-piece style, instead of the usual rash guard and wetsuit bottom pairing. These are often made with thinner neoprene (1mm) and are designed to offer more warmth and durability compared to a wetsuit that’s originally intended for swimming, which prioritizes buoyancy, flexibility, and lower water resistance.
The Best Women’s Wet Suits from Buell
Regardless of the type of suit you opt for, the right wetsuit should provide you with ample protection and insulation, especially when you’re in cold waters. Here are some of the best women’s wetsuits from Buell for different water temperatures:
80°F or above (26°C+)
If you’re surfing or swimming in warmer waters and there’s warm air, you don’t necessarily need to have a wetsuit on. You can opt for a rash guard instead.
- 71°F-79°F (21°C-25°C)
While rash guards still offer some level of protection, you may want to look into a wetsuit top or vest that’s around 1mm thick.
- 65°F-70°F (18°C-20°C)
- As temperatures start to drop into the 65°F to 70°F range, a shorty or spring suit that’s around 2mm thick is usually a good option.
Our Jane Bond 002 2MM Shorty has a chest zip entry and comes in different color combinations like black/white and electric blue/black. It’s made with our “Ninja Neoprene” V-Foam, an ultra-gummy material that’s equipped with an Ultraspan flex fabric. This shorty has glued seams with blind stitching, giving you a watertight suit that’s suitable for cold waters.
Alternatively, you can opt for a spring suit or shorty with short sleeves.
- 55°F-64°F (12°C-17°C)
In colder water, you want to have fuller coverage. Go with a full suit that’s 3/2mm thick. For added protection, you can also wear booties.
Buell offers a range of these thick wetsuits, including the following:
Featuring a back zip entry, this suit is water-resistant and easy to wear and take off. It’s made with Ninja Neoprene and comes with a smooth “Snake Seal” neck. It has triple GBS seams to enhance its durability and water tightness. For added protection, it’s equipped with Supratex knee pads. It’s a great pick for surfers, whether you’re a beginner or a pro.
The RB1 lets you experience unparalleled warmth and flexibility. It has a handy chest zip system and is made with soft and stretchy Ninja Neoprene and Ultraspan flex-fabric on its exterior. It has glued seams and comes with a handy and secure key pocket on its left calf.
- 48°F-54°F (8°C-11°C)
The best wetsuit for this temperature range is 4/3mm thick. For maximum warmth and protection, pair your Buell RB2 4/3 Fullsuit with gloves and booties. The RB2 is easy to use thanks to its one-sided slant-zip entry system. It’s equipped with an F3 thermal lining to keep you warm even when temperatures dip. If you like something that’s low-profile without compromising its functionality, then this one’s for you.
- 40°F-47°F (4°C-7°C)
When doing water activities in this temperature range, you need full coverage. Aside from donning a thick hooded women’s wetsuit, you also need to have gloves and booties. Not only is the RB2 5/4 Hooded Fullsuit our warmest suit for this temp range, but it’s also the most watertight. It has glued and blind stitched seams that are reinforced by power-lite Sizzle seams on the exterior. For added warmth, it comes with an internal thermal insulation barrier on the chest and back.
- Below 39°F (below 3°C)
Temperatures below 39°F need thicker suits. A thicker layer of rubber neoprene offers better protection and insulation in cold waters, protecting you from hypothermia. Aside from a hooded suit, you need to wear gloves and booties.
For this temperature range, the best wetsuit is one that has a thickness of 6/5/4mm or higher. The RB2 6/5/4 Hooded Full Wetsuit has all the features of the RB2 5/4 Hooded Full Wetsuit but it’s optimized for temperatures below 3°C. It has glued seams with blind stitching, making it an extremely watertight wetsuit for barrels.
Do Wetsuit Brands Really Matter?
When it comes to a good wetsuit, brands don’t really matter. However, some brands do put an emphasis on quality. What should ultimately inform your choice are crucial factors like fit, stretch, and how appropriate the suit is for your water activities.
Note that some brands command a higher price because of the quality of their suits. Furthermore, brands may differ in fit and sizing when it comes to women’s wetsuits. To ensure that you get the best fit, you can follow your preferred brand’s size guide or try on women’s wetsuits yourself.
Fitting Tips for Your Next Wetsuit
As we mentioned earlier, different brands can vary when it comes to their wetsuit’s sizing and fit. You can use your body measurements to find a suit with a good fit. The type of women’s wetsuit you choose will determine what areas of the body you’ll be measuring.
For example, if you’re going for a full or a spring suit, you need to measure your height and chest to ensure that it’s not going to be too tight around your chest area—and make wearing your wetsuit difficult—and not too short that it becomes uncomfortable. For a short wetsuit-like spring suits, you need to measure your chest and waist. Height doesn’t really matter when it comes to this type of wetsuit for women.
Alternatively, you can visit your local surf shop, scuba diving store, or wetsuit outlet to try on suits for yourself. When trying on wetsuits for women, take note of the following points:
- Check to see if there’s any excess room (folds or gaps) in areas like your shoulders, knees, crotch, lower back, and torso.
- How easy is it for you to move your shoulders or lift your arms over your head? Can you crouch down and move your legs freely?
If a wetsuit is too loose, you run the risk of flushing out the warm water and letting cold water into your suit. If it’s too tight or too small, then it may affect your mobility and can keep you from wearing undergarments. Remember that a tight-fitting dry wetsuit is normal because neoprene becomes more flexible once you’re in the water.
Find Your Perfect Match at Buell Surf
Ultimately, the best wetsuits for women combine form and functionality. Our products are not only designed and built to keep you warm and comfortable in the water,- but also to keep you safe.
Buell Surf offers a wide selection of the best women’s wetsuits, including fullsuits, hooded wetsuits, and springsuits. Our women’s wetsuit range comes in different thicknesses, including 6/5mm to 2mm, with various entry systems.
At Buell, we’ve got your back. Ready to go on your next big adventure? Check out our website to find the latest wetsuit offers or visit our outlets to find the best wetsuits for women.