Purchasing Your First Wetsuit

Open Water Swimming, April 04, 2019

With so many different types of wetsuits to choose from, how do you know which one to purchase? Read our article with comments from club members on their first wetsuit purchases.

More and more people of all abilities and ages are entering into the world of triathlon and taking on challenges that consist of open water swims.  However, how do you know what wetsuit to purchase with the vast choice and price range available?  It becomes quite confusing as to what you should buy, therefore, we have asked some of our club members to comment on their first wetsuit purchases which will hopefully help you to decide.

First of all, we had some very helpful information from our club member Gillian Kennedy, who is also a Technical Official for triathlon.  Gillian pointed out that British Triathlon Federation rules with regard to wetsuits include the following;


  • Wetsuits are mandatory below 14c and forbidden above 22c water temps.
  • When suit is mandatory, neoprene socks are also allowed if the wetsuit leg covers the top of them.
  • Gloves are never allowed in races.
  • Wetsuit cannot exceed 5mm thickness anywhere. Full details available at: http://www.triathlonscotland.org/.../1.-2016-British.


Orca and Huub seem popular choices of first time wetsuits and looking around, you can get one for a reasonable price of around £90-£100 or even a good quality second hand one.  Ensure that it is a wetsuit suitable for triathlon and not a surfing wetsuit.  Here are some quotes of what our members had to say about their wetsuit choices.


“I have an Orca Equip. I have found it very durable and sizing according to the charts were spot on, I'm a size 9 at 188cm and 95Kg. Check out their website for the type of swimmer you are, which will help to determine what wetsuit model will be most suitable to you.”

“I also had an orca equip that has lasted 9 years of me not looking after it at all! Worth looking through the other models to see which would suit your swim style best.”

“Orca TRN. Bought about 4 years ago when started wild-swimming on the recommendation of the Mid Argyll Wild Swimming group - most of whom (who wear wetsuit) wear TRN. As a newbie, its price was attractive (around £100) - thought that if I got serious, I could get a serious wetsuit later; but the suit is so good that I've never found need to 'upgrade'. Highly recommend!”

“Also have an Orca TRN – great suit, good fit.”

“A good wetsuit is probably a good idea... but if you don't want to spend lots of money before establishing if open water is for you.... I got my suit second hand off eBay….. Orca TRN …. £40. Found out two things.... orca sizing very accurate and …I love open water. Still using same suit 4 years later!  If you do decide to move up market it is worth hanging onto the old/cheap suit for salt water/rocky sites etc. to avoid damaging your good racing suit while training/playing.”

“I started with the Aqua Sphere pursuit wetsuit which I got for £110. This served me very well for my first couple of years of OW.  I then upgraded to the Zone 3 Aspire for £180 and the difference was noticeable with lots more flexibility in the upper body.   I've found the cheaper wetsuits protect better from the cold as they have thicker neoprene around the upper body and the more expensive wetsuits are thinner.  It's a case of weighing up, thick and warm or thin and fast.”

“Huub wetsuits are what I wear now, had my last one for two years it was entry level and under £200 did well but not much flexibility moved on to a higher end model this year and it is the best thing I’ve used so far! Legs are super buoyant while having a 1-3mm top half means the flexibility is fantastic! Also a big bonus to Huub is the club gets discount.”

“I have a Zone 3 vision wetsuit as my first tri suit. Mid line cost but doubled up Tesco vouchers on Evans to get it cheaper! It's a snug fit but really easy to get off with its flexibility round the arm cuffs and ankles. Not overly buoyant, feels really nice in the water.”

“Blue Seventy wetsuit. Purchased as a first wetsuit at the budget end of their range from a reputable brand. Seems flexible and buoyant, but having not tried anything else so I’m not sure how it compares.”

 “I had an aqua man pulsar suit as my first one, at the time it cost £280. It was good had reverse zipper etc... It was about 15 years ago though. Newer suit I've got now is the blue seventy helix cost around £500. Legs and torso are buoyant has a dimpled effect. Arms are thin 1-2mm in places and forearm catch panels are 1mm. super flexible. Reverse zipper. The suit is night and day compared to the last one.”

“My first wetsuit was an £89 DHB one from Wiggle. It was a great starter wetsuit to see whether it was something I was going to enjoy. It's a great suit which I still use for training and it's in good nick despite many years of use. I also have a Huub one for races which is marginally quicker but obviously more expensive (however I got it from the Huub Ex Demo section so it was half price). If you're looking to get started the speed/quality difference between a budget and high end suit isn't very much at all, so my advice would be start with something affordable then 'level up' once you're happy it's something you're going to continue with.”

“I bought my first wetsuit one year ago, Orca TRN (2-4mm Smoothskin Yamamoto neoprene, hidden seems and thermal protection) as recommended by many other club members as a good first time suit.  Cost around £90 from Wiggle (got a discount as shop there so much!).  Currently the price is £120 on Wiggle.  It is comfortable and good flexibility around the shoulders as it 2mm around that area.  Around 4mm over the hips and bottom area helps lots with buoyancy and correct body position. Haven’t done that much open water swimming, but so far it feels good in the water and is a good fit.  I am 5ft 5 and 67 kilos and my wetsuit is a size M – feel like a superhero in my wetsuit, now if I could just swim like one!”


Hopefully our member’s comments will help you with regard to your first wetsuit purchase.  You can also buy neoprene swim caps, gloves, booties/socks and vests (for underneath your wetsuit) which you might want to get for training (especially in Scotland!).  Always wear a brightly coloured swimming cap (I tend to just wear two ordinary silicone swim caps with the top one being a bright colour) this is so you can be seen in the water.  Also a swim safety buoy is a good idea.  It attaches around your waist and bobs along in the water behind you, again, so you can be seen especially if you are swimming where there might be boats, jet skis etc passing nearby, or you can hold onto it and float if you need a wee rest (these are not allowed when racing though unless specified by the race organiser).