Wetsuit Thickness and Water Temperature Guide

Wetsuit Thickness and Water Temperature Guide

Introduction

As a triathlete, you have a massive wave of thought-leadership working in your favor. Wetsuits are a necessity in sporting events all over the world in many verticals. Surfing, kitesurfing, windsurfing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and, of course, scuba diving have integrated them into their activities. That's aside from open water triathlons for training and competition. Needs are diverse, and new entrants into the triathlon arena find the learning process significantly confusing. It's not unheard of for enthusiasts to end up buying a wetsuit specific to a completely different sport through poor education.

To avoid costly missteps, I highly recommend connecting with professional wetsuit stockists, primarily if they specialize in helping tri-athletes beat their PBs time and again. These days, technology is so much on the cutting edge that the correct advice on equipment can drive your times down with no change in your fitness or DNA limits. A company that's always at the forefront of the conversation is SUMARPO - particularly its VANGUARD wetsuit.

 

Why are wetsuit metrics so crucial to my triathlon times?

 One of the intriguing things about a triathlon is it's a multi-challenge event, calling on participants to counter different terrains and weather conditions. The roughness of open waters, wind, currents, and temperature are vital considerations for the swimming leg. Essentially, manufacturers technologically design their wetsuits to keep you warm and moving fluidly through an arduous 2.4-mile swim (as in the Hawaiin Iron Man contest). It means you're in the water anything from fifteen minutes to half an hour, so you can't downplay the wetsuit's role in giving you a swim-leg advantage. Indeed, it's like your second skin and should be ready for anything the elements throw your way.

Common sense tells you that the questions top-of-mind are as follows:

  • What's the ideal wetsuit thickness?
  • How many do I need to adjust to temperatures on race day?

In this article, I will provide a valuable table relating temperatures to material thickness and more. It would be best if you also accounted for the ease of getting into and out of your wetsuit. SUMARPO deals with this extensively in another write-up.

 

Let's get into the basics of wetsuit thickness.

 Wetsuit thickness relates directly to the thermal benefits you expect to derive, on the one hand. But, on the other hand, you must consider the flexibility sacrifice it forces on you. Think of it this way:

  • If you're uncomfortable and restricted in your movements, fatigue is going to rear its ugly head a lot sooner.
  • Conversely, when your wetsuit hardly feels like you're wearing it, keeping you cool (not cold) or warm (not overheated), and stroking the water fluidly, energy conservation is on your side.

 

Finding the right balance between flexibility and comfort

 It will have a considerable impact on how well or poorly you perform. Here are some rules of thumb:

  1. Entities like SUMARPO are worth their weight in gold to give you expert advice connected to years of experience in the triathlon space.
  2. The elite athletes will lean toward flexibility when in doubt, but I advise favoring a thicker suit to ensure warmth in cold waters for the average participant. You don't want to enter the cycling leg shivering and shaking from the cold.

Injury is an aspect that sneaks under your radar when searching for the wetsuit that lasts and delivers optimal functionality. When you're cold, muscles, ligaments, and tendons are more susceptible to tears and strains. Also, catching a common cold doesn't help at all. However, you can't dismiss any of this with the most popular wetsuit fabric - neoprene. The thicker the suit, the less flexible it becomes. It means you have to decide on the monetary impact because one doesn't change wetsuits every other day. However, some athletes compete in both cold and hot weather conditions, in which case more than one wetsuit is a must. The following sections should help you a lot.

 

Key considerations when balancing flexibility and comfort in your triathlete's wetsuit.

It's important to appreciate that we measure wetsuit thickness in millimeters (mm). It can be a little mind-bending because you may see something like this: 3/2 mm or 3 - 2 mm. Simply, it means that the neoprene covering the torso is 3 mm thick, while the same on your arms and legs have a thickness of 2 mm. You'll find that almost all the suits you review have a one up to two-millimeter difference, for good reason:

  • Swimming in a triathlon submerges most of your body, with the limbs cutting back and forth, in and out of the water. The latter slide slightly below and above the surface, making water temperature a critical factor in the equation. The wind, sun, and air thermals play a relatively minor part. The bottom line is that you should give arms and legs maximum flexibility, given the water temperature.
  • Triathlon wetsuits versus surfing are generally thinner, so doubling up - as intimated in the introduction - is doable but not advisable. Triathletes are continuously seeking every technological advantage to lower their times. Wetsuits are indeed not the place to cut corners.

Inner lining in your wetsuit for some extra warmth is a good idea for specific situations. Several wetsuit brands include Thermo textiles in the upper body area that contain minerals one's body heat can activate. The latter is converted into infrared energy through a complex but effective process, thus creating a comfortable heating sensation. The idea is you can utilize a thinner suit (i.e., more flexibility) in waters that call for a thicker one, with the same bodily comfort.

 

A useful table

 

Water

Temperature

in℃/℉

>20℃

>68℉

17-20℃

62,6-68℉

13-17℃

55,4-64,4℉

8-13℃

48,2-57,2℉

<8℃

<46,4℉

WETSUIT

THICKNESS

 3mm

N-joy Wetsuit/

Swimskin

 3mm

N-joy Wetsuit/

Swimskin

 3mm

N-joy Wetsuit/

Swimskin

 3-4mm

N-joy Wetsuit/

Race Wetsuit

 4-5mm

Race Wetsuit

Vanguard Wetsuit

Victory Wetsuit

TRIATHLON OPEN WATER WETSUIT GUIDE CHART

 

Please note: Wetsuit development is a science, but unfortunately, the weather conditions you use the suits in are unpredictable. As they change, so do the parameters attached to the equipment you've selected. Therefore, please don't construe any of the details provided here as legal advice or guaranteeing the regulations. If you're entering competitions, check requirements with the organizers. 

 

We have attempted to learn all the requirements when it comes to using wetsuits. Here are our findings specific to competition:

  • There's no competition we could find that allows more than 5 mm thickness.
  • The wetsuit cannot cover the face, feet, or hands.
  • Triathlons don't permit the covering of hands.
  • Race contestants cannot deploy propulsion devices to aid their swim.
  • Caps (your own or race provided) are acceptable.

There are rules attached as determined by the ITU (International Triathlon Union), which governs Elite, U23, Junior & Youth athletes, and USAT (USA Triathlon) body. Their stipulations may override the metrics in the table above. Generally, if you want to wear a wetsuit outside their parameters, you can still compete without eligibility for a trophy or medal. It seems that these stipulations apply mainly to elite competitors.

 

Conclusion

Your wetsuit choice plays heavily into performance, regardless of where you lie on the spectrum between elite triathlete and little-tested novice. Before committing to a brand and a price, expert advice is essential. The more information you can provide a supplier like Sumarpo, the better is likely your outcome. This company, in particular, is a triathlon specialist with the resources to answer all your questions, so you never have to look back.

 

ITU (International Triathlon Union):

Elite, U23, Junior & Youth athletes

Swimming distance

Forbidden if more than

Mandatory

< 1500 m

20 °C/68 °F

< 15.9 °C/60,62 °F

> 1500 m

22 °C/71,6 °F

< 15.9 °C/60,62 °F

Age Group athletes

Swimming distance

Not allowed if more than

Mandatory

< 1500 m

22 °C/71,6 °F

< 15,9 °C/60,62 °F

> 1500 m

24,6 °C/76,28 °F

< 15,9 °C/60,62 °F

USAT (USA Triathlon):

Age Group athletes

These athletes may wear wetsuits at max. 25,56 °C/78 °F. Between 25,56 °C/78 °F – 28.89 °C/84 °F you are allowed to wear a wetsuit, however you shall not be eligible for awards or prizes.

Elite athletes

Swimming distance

Forbidden if more than

Mandatory

< 3000 m

20 °C/68 °F

< 15,9 °C/60,62 °F

> 3000 m

22 °C/71,6 °F

< 15,9 °C/60,62 °F

 

Inner lining in your wetsuit

Some extra warmth? In several wetsuits, thermo textiles are processed in the form of fibres. The fibres contain minerals and are activated by body heat. They convert this into infrared energy, which achieves a good heating effect. This expands the range of application. If, for example, you have an inner lining for a 5/3 mm wetsuit, you can also wear it in waters where a 6 mm wetsuit is actually recommended.

Even the own performance should be improved thereby. The thermal material is usually worked into the wetsuit in the area of the upper body. Quicksilver and XCEL work with this technology, whereby the thermal properties of the respective models differ again in the ratio flexibility/thermal strength.

 

CHECKLIST wetsuit thickness

– What is the water temperature of my destination at the chosen time of year?

– What is my cold sensitivity like?

– Is it a high quality wetsuit?

– What is my water sport?

– Is there an inner lining?