Wetsuits keep us warm and provide protection from stings, the sun and cuts from rocks. One of the most important selection procedures for them is their thickness. A wetsuit at the right thickness will provide the needed protection especially from the cold.
Wetsuits range from about 0.5mm to 8mm in thickness. Generally, the colder the water you plan to dive in, the thicker the wetsuit should be. While thicker wetsuits tend to limit your motions, they’re much better at giving you warmth and protection.
In this guide, we take a look at the various wetsuit thicknesses and how each one fits into which situation. The assumption is that all the suits are made of neoprene or other suitable material. The other assumption is that the wetsuit is worn on its own without an undergarment; or a similar undergarment is worn all across the board to level the effects.
Why is thickness important?
The thickness of your wetsuit determines to a great extent the level of comfort you’ll have in the water. As stated before, the thicker the wetsuit, the warmer and more protected you will be in the water.
Although individuals differ in terms of how they respond to temperature, there are standard thicknesses for wetsuits for given water temperatures. They’re as follows:
This type of wetsuit is made of neoprene that’s 2mm thick all over the body. As one of the thinnest pieces of wetsuits, it’s best suited to warm waters between 64 and 71°F. This means that you can use this type of wetsuit in tropical waters where the water and the air are warm. You can get this level of thickness for any type of wetsuit you pick on.
The 3/2 wetsuit combines different thicknesses of neoprene for different parts of the body. For this wetsuit, the torso is made of neoprene at 3mm of thickness while the legs and arms are made of 2mm-thick neoprene. It’s best suited to neoprene. It’s also suited to providing moderate mid-season warmth with the water temperature between 59 and 66°F.
The 4/3 wetsuit is 4mm thick on the torso and 3mm thick on the arms and legs. This is enough thickness to take a dive during the winter without suffering from the cold. It can protect you quite comfortably in temperatures between 53 to 60°F.
As you might have noted, the wetsuits are thicker on the torso than the arms and legs since your body generates most of the the heat from the torso. To stay warm, you have to keep the torso warm with a thicker piece of neoprene.
This one has three different levels of thickness for the wetsuit with the torso having 5mm, the legs having 4mm and the arms having 3mm of neoprene thickness. For the really cold water, this is one of the best wetsuits given that it allows for diving into waters with a temperature range of between 44 and 55°F.
This suit is the best for the very cold waters as it combines 6mm of neoprene thickness for the torso, 5mm for the legs and 4mm for the arms. It’s suited for waters between 39 and 46°F which is really cold.
For any temperatures below 40°F, the 7mm wetsuit is an easy choice for the user. While it’s heavy and a bit restrictive on the movements you make, it guarantees warmth in very cold water. This type of wetsuit is best suited to deep sea scuba diving in the winter and other cold waters. It weighs about 8 pounds for s full body suit.
The 5mm wetsuit is suited to water temperatures above 40°F. It’s too thick for tropical waters which are a bit warm yet too thin to handle the cold waters in the winter.
The thickest of wetsuits, the 8/7 wetsuit has 8mm of thickness on the torso while the arms and legs have a 7mm-thick layer of neoprene. This type of wetsuit is enough to tackle the coldest of waters. If you still feel cold in this one, you’re better off getting a dry suit since this is the thickest in wetsuits. It’ll be a bit heavy on the body but it does the job really well.
This one is for the warm waters and can be either a full body suit or only for the torso. The waters need to be about 63 to 68°F to be comfortable. It’s a light weight that doesn’t weigh you down as much but provides enough protection from the cold whether you’ll be diving or surfing.
The 1mm wetsuit is among the thinnest and is best suited to the warm tropical waters or during the summer. It’s comfortable with temperatures at least 65°F and above. Most of them aren’t actually full body suits and can be found as tops, shirts and vests.
The thinnest of the wetsuits, the 0.5mm wetsuit is suited for temperatures above 70°F. Most of them are found as tops, shorts or even vests. They’re best suited to the hot summers or warm tropical waters.
You should always get a suit you’re sure will help you keep out the cold. Too thick a wetsuit will be too hot to use while too thin a wetsuit will only make it uncomfortable to swim due to the cold.
Wetsuit Thickness and Temperature Chart
The wetsuit to put on and the corresponding water temperatures are as follows:
|Water Temperature (°F)||Wetsuit Thickness||Wetsuit Type|
|75 and above||N/A||Shorts, board shorts, jackets.|
|65 to 75||2mm or 3/2mm||Full suit, spring suit.|
|62 to 68||2mm or 3/2mm||Full suit, spring suit.|
|58 to 63||4/3mm or 3/2mm||Hooded full suit, full suit.|
|52 to 58||5/4/3mm or 4/3mm||Hooded full suit, full suit.|
|43 to 52||6/5/4mm it 5/4/3mm||Hooded full suit|
|42 and below||6/5/4mm||Hooded full suit|
Additional Factors to consider when selecting Thickness
Beyond the temperature of the water, other factors that determine the thickness of your wetsuit include the following:
- Air Temperature
Like the water temperature, air temperature determines the thickness of the wetsuit in that the lower it is, the thicker the wetsuit would be.
- Wind Speed
Wind takes away heat from the body. Besides that, it helps the water evaporate faster by carrying away the water from the wetsuit and the body. As such, the faster the wind is, the faster you’ll feel cold. You’ll thus need a thicker wetsuit the windier it is.
- Your Sensitivity to Getting Cold
This one is an obvious one in that, if you’re very sensitive to the cold, you’ll need a thicker wetsuit and vice versa.
- Activity Level / Rigor
With the level of activity on the water, the more you’ll have the thinner the wetsuit you’ll need. This is because with higher activity, you’ll raise the body temperature leading to less need for a wetsuit’s input.
What is the thinnest wetsuit?
The thinnest wetsuit is 0.5mm thick.
What is the thickest wetsuit?
The thickest wetsuit is 8mm thick.
More on Wetsuits
- How do Wetsuits Work?
- What are Wetsuits Made of? Types & Top Brands
- Wetsuits Colors: Why Black? What is the Best Color?
- Wetsuit vs Dry Suit
- How to Properly put on a Wetsuit, Remove+ Dos & Don’ts
- What to Wear Under Wetsuit: Female, Men & Triathlons Undergarments
- How Tight/Fitting should a Wetsuit be?
- How to Wash a Wetsuit + Best Cleaners, Shampoo & Soap
- How to Dry a Wetsuit + Best Drying Hangers & Racks
- Wetsuit Storage and Care Tips