Triathlon wetsuits as a very important and vital tool for triathletes to wear as they compete in such a demanding event.
The right triathlon or “tri” wetsuits can increase your results, keep you safe, and keep you feeling comfortable throughout the entirety of such a long and grueling event. Wetsuits are most heavily encouraged for those that are beginner triathletes.
We will discuss this further in the buying guide below. However, others are more than welcome to wear a wetsuit as it will also help you finish as best as you possibly can!
In our buying guide today, we’re going to take a look at why tri wetsuits are so important. We’ll break down the things you need to know, and then we’ll take a look at the top ten wetsuits for this purpose and review them.
The importance of a tri wetsuit should not be understated, especially in regards to beginners. New triathletes are susceptible to a few things that other people simply don’t have issues with.
For instance, new triathletes are probably not used to swimming nearly as far at one time as seasoned triathletes would be. As a result, a wetsuit can help you out for a myriad of reasons, and we’ll discuss them later on.
This is also a case, keep in mind, for those that would consider themselves to not be very good swimmers. You have been warned here!
What Do Wetsuits Do for Triathletes?
Wetsuits aren’t just something to keep you dry. In fact, no wetsuit is going to keep you completely dry. There are some out there, though, that will get pretty close to doing so. But those are quite often the most expensive ones on the market.
Tri wetsuits help you in a number of ways, whether you are a seasoned veteran or just learning the ropes of the sport. A wetsuit can give a triathlete added confidence because of these factors:
under the right conditions, the water can be pretty cold. And you will be, too, unless you do something to help fix that issue.
Now, not all competitions allow you to go without a wetsuit to begin with because of this, but warmth is a major benefit to having and wearing a wetsuit.
Depending on the temperature of the water, different types of wetsuits are preferable. We’ll look into that more later as well.
tri wetsuits actually can make you swim much quicker. This is probably puzzling to a few people at first, but it makes perfect sense. A wetsuit simply makes you become more in tune with the water.
You move faster because there is less drag from your body. This is called being more “hydrodynamic.”
It’s aerodynamics for the water! Instead of having things sticking up everywhere to slow you down, the suit streamlines your body to help you move just a little bit faster.
tri wetsuits also can help you save your energy just a little bit more than you’d probably be able to do without it. Whether it’s because you are trying to go faster or stay warmer, you will have a bit of an advantage with the use of the wetsuit. Remember, you’ll have a bike ride before a long run to come up soon, so you know you will need to conserve as much energy as you possibly can early on.
Tri wetsuits are very much encouraged for those that are beginners at triathlons or for those that are new or poor swimmers because of this.
The wetsuit will actually help you with your form some, which can and will, to an extent, help protect you over the long haul. This doesn’t make up for a lack of training and it doesn’t just tow you along or make you a magical mermaid of a swimmer.
But it does help make you more confident and efficient, which will make you safer and ultimately quicker in the end as you get to the two more ‘familiar’ stages.
Rules Surrounding Triathlons and Wetsuits
Triathletes should know that there are guidelines in regards to wetsuits. More than likely, your race will follow these rules, so you must be aware of them.
If you are racing in water that is at 78F or below, you will have to wear a wetsuit. This is no optional. If the temperature of the water is between 79 and 84F, you are free to wear a wetsuit if you choose to do so.
It is not required, but many prefer to do so. If the temperature is at a balmy 85F or higher, then you are not allowed to wear one at all. This is not the case most often, but you should be made aware of the rules just in case.
In regards to crafting your race, it’s important to note that it’s vital to practice taking off your wetsuit. Some wetsuits are simply easier than others to take off.
You’re going to probably want to take them off when you are through with your swim, so it’s smart and well worth your time to learn how to do it as quickly and efficiently as you possibly can.
Just a reminder as some people forget this step until race day and then they are in trouble!
The Three Different Looks
The rules above are pretty much set in stone, but they do not tell you what kind of wetsuit you are required to wear. There are three main kinds, and you should know that there are pros and cons to each one of them that you see.
For each of these three kinds, there are options out there that can make them either a one-piece or a two-piece. You just have to look and determine for yourself which one is the type that you want to wear.
The full cut is the wetsuit that will cover the most area of your body. This is the type that would be wisely used on very cool days. It’s able to be used, typically, in temperatures that run as cold as about 50F.
This is extremely cold in the water, so this type usually will hold up very well in that extreme weather.
This kind is for those that are basically just wanting to either have something to meet the rules or for those that are going to want something for warmer days.
This type is best for weather that runs in excess of 75F, and you can see them frequently called “Farmer John” wetsuits.
The shortcut is the suit that provides the least coverage. In addition to having no sleeves, it also only covers you to about the knees.
This type is also suggested for use in water that is 75F and up, so you can count on this type being used by the really tough guys and gals out there.
It must be noted here that triathlon wetsuits are not the same thing as those that you would encounter with snorkeling, scuba diving, or windsurfing even.
These types are more about warmth and protection, which has made them essentially become sponges for most people. The swimming wetsuit, however, is made with some sort of material that is “hydrophobic,” meaning that it is resistant to water.
This is what provides the hydrodynamic properties, the more efficient manner of swimming, and the warmth all at the same time.
It is also worth noting that most companies have three different price points to choose from for each type of look. So you should be aware of that as it does affect the durability and even the hydrodynamics of it.
Something to Consider
Wetsuits are not cheap. That should be known right off the bat by you. Even a good entry-level wetsuit is likely to put you back a fair amount of money.
But it is important for your safety and your performance to go ahead and make sure that you are protecting yourself with one.
When it comes down to it, your comfort and the fit is the most important thing in the end. You need something that will make you feel comfortable and that fits well for the entire race, not just at the beginning.
One thing that some people find happening is concentrating on clothing during a race. Whether it’s a bad fit or just something annoying, it can really slow a person down because they lose focus. So, here are some tips of finding a the wetsuit for you:
Full or Sleeveless?
this is a question that has to be answered by you. You’ve got to decide what feels better to you. For some people, they never find a full cut suit that makes them comfortable. So they choose to go without sleeves as a result.
Wetsuits should be snug, but they should not be tight. You don’t want to have to jump into them like you are trying to squeeze into a pair of jeans that are two sizes too small.
Look for zippers. Some zippers can help you save time taking off the wetsuit. Others can hinder you. Some zippers are in terrible places, others are in good ones. This is very person-specific.
Neckline- this is an important factor for you to take a look at. The neckline can help make you feel like you are literally being choked if you have one that fits too tightly. Don’t let this become an issue by trying some on!
Shoulders- it’s vital that you are able to easily and quickly move your shoulders. Imagine swimming but feeling as if your shoulders were in a bind. This is a phenomenon you do not want to find.
Top & Bottom
Top and bottom- the top and the bottom, or the arms and the legs, should have the same amount of snugness to them. If you find this to not be the case, then you will likely take on too much water in one place and will lose time as a result.
Extras- if there is extra material flopping around, this is a bad sign as well. One of the points of the wetsuit is to help you get from point A to point B in a quicker manner. You can’t do that with unnecessary things flying around you!
Best Triathlon Wetsuit Reviews
O’Neill is likely the best-known name in the wetsuit industry and its easy to see why! The Epic includes a zipper closure, 3mm Ultraflex torso material and 2mm thick Fluidflex arms and legs.
The seams are blindstitched and glued for superior durability and longevity, while the covert black-out zipper reduces water flow. The design of the suit features something called LUMBAR SEAMLESS DESIGN that allows for ultimate stretch in all the right places.
There’s no way you can go wrong with O’Neill.
- Excellent for colder water
- Blindstitched and glued for durability
- Ergonomic seamless paddle zones
- Not great for hot weather/water
- Might be thicker than some would like (not me man!)
Category 1 refers to this being a more entry-level priced wetsuit. But it still has great features used on it that hearken toward the more expensive offerings. This wetsuit is 5mm, which means that it is great for weather around 50F.
This is exceptional really, and especially for the price. It is a full cut, by the way, and it also has wrist cuffs that fit your form as well as ankle cuffs that can easily be taken off in a pinch.
- Good price
- Good for very cold water
- Full cut
- A little too warm for warmer days
- A little prone to tears
Here is more of a moderately priced option, but it’s been named the Triathlete Magazine Editor’s Choice Award winner.
This suit is great for the warmer waters approaching 65F and up, helps you most faster and save energy, and is great for swimmers at various levels on the triathlon scale.
The neck is interesting as it looks very open despite its full cut design, so you shouldn’t have too many problems with the choking sensation here!
- Award winner
- Good for moderate waters
- Nice neck design
- Price is a little high for some
- Not the best for long distances
This wetsuit is eerily similar to the men’s wetsuit we just saw, but it has a pink color to it and is much more fitting and forgiving to the female shape that its male counterpart could ever be.
It’s also a moderate price, and it gives you the same great features that you saw before with the neck and full-cut design.
- Specifically fits the ladies
- Neck still great
- Award-winning suit
- Not great for shorter women that find themselves in between sizes
Roka calls this suit an “entry-level” suit but I’m not sure I agree. It has features that “not-so-entry-level suits would be happy to have! To be fair, Roka does say it’s “by far the best entry-level wetsuit EVER made!”
Okay, that’s a bold statement and it is more than a little biased. However, they can put up so they don’t have to shut up! Of course it has the best Japanese Yamamoto neoprene.
By the way, Yamamoto neoprene is limestone-based and that adds a different cell structure to the material than does more commonly used petroleum-based neoprenes.
It’s stretchier, returns to form faster and has a better insulation-to-weight ratio than the cheaper, oil-based fabrics.
The rear ankle panels of our wetsuits use a 2mm panel at the base of the leg to help you kick your heel out of the suit in T1. The suit should fly off if you have the right technique (just a little practice will do it!).
The suit features a patented RS Centerline Buoyancy which allows more efficient and quicker side-to-side rotation, and it has a graduated buoyancy profile for optimum body position.
Oh, we could go on, but you can do the final stage of research by clicking the link in the title (or the photo) and check it out yourself!
- Increased shoulder mobility
- Better comfort
- Good for warmer days
- Made with Japanese neoprene
- Virtually unbelievable quality and features for an “entry-level” wetsuit
- Not as good for the cool water
- More expensive than cheaper models that may look similar
Orca’s entry on our list is with a pretty high priced item for our top ten. The first thing of notice is that the calves have ‘speed transition’ panels that will help you speed up your times between swimming and biking.
It is very flexible and allows you to move easily and efficiently in the water. It does take some learning to perfect getting in and out of it, though!
The high-performance neoprene is manufactured by the world’s main supplier of this exceptional fabric (Yamamoto Corporation). It offers ZERO water absorption and no weight variation as well.
Super Composite Skin (SCS) has become the benchmark for coating the smoothskin neoprene used in triathlon wetsuits, to reduce friction and increase speed through the water.
Orca uses Yamamoto Corporation’s latest Nano SCS for an even lower drag co-efficient, ensuring the fastest swim possible. The underwater co-efficient of dynamic friction of the Nano SCS is 0.026 in comparison to 4.0 of regular neoprene.
Less friction = more speed!
There are so many high-tech features in the fabric of this suit, you can read WAY more about it by clicking on the green button below!
- The full suit keeps you warm
- Speed transition panels
- Very flexible
- Takes time to learn how to get out of
The ‘Wetzoot’ has a very unique look to it, perhaps the most unique on our list. It’s designed to help you kick better when in the water, which is great for anyone that is starting out or still mastering their skills.
It can get very pricey, but it the thickness varies depending on the area of the suit. This is done to help make you faster and more efficient while still being comfortable.
- Unique look
- Helps you swim
- Faster because of polyester makeup
- Sometimes too tight
Do we even need to introduce you to the ZOOT brand? It’s the best-known brand for making all things “TRIATHLON” so it should come as no surprise that this wetsuit makes it onto our list.
The suit if filled with features including the grooved neoprene panels for increased stretch (for maximum lung expansion/contraction) during competition. The arms offer maximum flexibility to increase your distance per stroke efficiency.
A special hydrodynamic coating increased swimming speeds by reducing drag in the water significantly. Zoot even added a raised back tab of luxuriously soft neoprene on the back to protect the back of your neck from chafing during use.
Zoot is a must-buy if you have the cash!!
- Great name (biggest in the triathlon world)
- Very flexible
- Reduces water drag over other suits
- Fingernails can puncture it
- Too expensive for some
Unlike many we’ve seen in this review, this wetsuit has four different colors to choose from to help you stand out a little better. Depending on the size and color, you can find some really great deals or pay a moderate price.
It’s got no sleeves, so you have some extra flexibility for your shoulders while still remaining warm. It’s also great in the transition as well.
- Good price
- Shoulder flexibility
- Multiple colors to choose from
- Too warm for veterans
- Prone to small tears
While this is an entry-level suit, no others in its class features thin 1.5mm Yamamoto high-quality neoprene in the arm and arm gussets.
The Blueseventy features SCS coating which is a protective layer on the surface that provides a barrier against fingernails and other enemies of wetsuits! The arm gussets are oversized and stretchy for ease of use.
Blueseventy has over twenty years of design experience in the wetsuit industry and that’s helped give Blueseventy some industry accolades. For example, their traditional zipper is now an industry standard, and the curved closure flap reduces chaffing.
This suit’s design helps lift the lower half of the body in the water (from your waist down) to improve efficient body positioning which creates less drag in the water. This helps conserve energy while vastly improving efficiency and speed!
- Great name and features
- Keeps your comfortable in moderate water and increases drag efficiency
- Very flexible
- Industry leader
- Maybe too warm on some days
- Not ideal for the coldest of swims
Conclusion & Recommendations
Finding the right wetsuit for a triathlon can be tricky business if you allow it to be.
But through our guide and the top ten reviews, you should be able to have a much easier time looking for, finding, and purchasing a great wetsuit for your specific purposes.
No matter what the temperature, the length of the competition, or your skill level, a wetsuit can help you gain invaluable time and give you added confidence and protection out in the open water.
Don’t let money hold you back, get out there and find something that will aid your performance and help push you to a new personal best!