Why use a hooded wetsuit?
Hooded wetsuits are a winter essential for any surfer that wants to maximize time spent in the water all winter long. The times of having to take a winter break because the water is too cold to surf are a thing of the past. Modern hooded wetsuits will handle cold water without a problem. But make sure you get a high-end wetsuit that is flexible and warm and has the perfect fit and size to eliminate any trapped air or water pockets inside your wetsuit.
A warm head is a warm body
You lose a lot of heat through your head, so keeping your head warm is an effective way to maintain body heat and prevent hyperthermia. So wearing a neoprene hood is a great way to stay warm longer. There are wetsuits available with a built-in hood, or you can buy a separate hood to wear with any wetsuit. However, a fixed hood seals off much better, so it is worth it to spend the money on a dedicated winter wetsuit with a built-in hood. This way you will never be cold in winter, even on those subzero days.
Hooded wetsuit thickness
Hooded wetsuits usually come in thicker neoprene thicknesses, such as 4/3, 5/4 or 6/4mm. Read more about wetsuit material thicknesses here. The hood itself can be made out of single lined or double lined neoprene. High-end versions feature plush quick-dry lining on the inside combined with neotape for extra protection and rash prevention.
Water temperature vs. neoprene thickness
- 4/3 mm hooded wetsuit: water temperatures around 10~15°C
- 5/4 mm hooded wetsuit: water temperatures around 4~10°C
- 6/4 mm and thicker hooded wetsuit: water temperatures below 2~8°C
A 4/3 mm hooded wetsuit can be worn from September until December and during spring in most of western Europe. While a 5/4 mm wetsuit with a built-in hood would be the best option for most surfers in western Europe from October until April. A 6 mm or thicker hooded wetsuits could be considered in the middle of winter in northern European countries such as Norway or Denmark.
Single lined vs. double lined chest and back panels
Single lined neoprene, such as smoothskin or mesh, are the more rubbery looking neoprene types. They work especially well in extremely cold or windy conditions when used on chest and back panels. These panels are smooth and water repellant. Therefore, water runs down immediately and doesn’t get absorbed by the lining. This eliminates windchill and prevents your chest and back from cooling down. Chest and back panels often have a plush insulated inside layer to keep you even warmer. Single lined neoprene is made by heat sealing the surface of the neoprene foam to make it smooth and waterproof. The only disadvantage of single lined neoprene is that it damages easier than double lined neoprene. Therefore always take care when putting on and taking off your wetsuit. Make sure that you prevent your fingernails from touching the single lined panels.
Double lined neoprene
Most other panels other than chest and back are made with double lined neoprene. This neoprene type has knitted nylon or polyester jersey laminated onto the surface of the neoprene inside and outside panels. Double lined neoprene holds water in the lining. Therefore, it is prone to cooling down faster, especially when the wind chill factor is high. Double lined neoprene, however, is often more durable and slightly more flexible than single lined neoprene. This makes it most suitable to be used on panels that need more flexibility. Panels that benefit from double lined neoprene, are panels that get more abuse, such as arms, legs, shoulders and knees. Single lined chest and back panels are essential in a winter wetsuit for extra warmth, insulation, and reduced windchill.
Plush insulation quick-dry lining
Plush insulation inside lining with quick-dry function is a must for any cold water winter wetsuit. Most modern high-end wetsuits use some form of plush lining. Plush or quick-dry is used to describe the fleece inside lining of some neoprene wetsuit panels. The hollow nylon fibres in the lining trap air bubbles, which creates a layer of insulating air between your body and the neoprene. Quick-dry means the material dries quicker than the normal inside lining. When wearing it, it feels comfortable, warm and dry on the skin by channelling the water to the back of the fabric, so it can run down the wetsuit, away from the skin. The lining helps with drying your wetsuit quicker between sessions. The main areas where plush inside lining is used are body panels that require extra warmth but don’t require maximum flexibility.
Liquid sealed seams
A hooded wetsuit will benefit from the use of liquid sealed outside seams. Reinforced liquid neoprene sealed seams are a step up from the traditional glued and blind stitched seams. This durable seal can be applied on top of the stitching to create sealed outside seams, mainly used in high-end wetsuits. It functions as an extra layer of protection from water entering the wetsuit. Sealed seams make a wetsuit last longer compared to a normal GBS seam wetsuit. The technical name for this seam construction is S-seal. S-seal is similar to Powerseam, a thinner, neater sealed seam that doesn’t use blind stitching. However, S-seal can take more abuse without cracking, which makes the wetsuit more durable and last longer.
Taped inside seams
Neoprene taped inside seams is another way to reinforce quality wetsuit seams of your hooded wetsuit. Neotape seams make the seam even more waterproof and durable by forming an extra layer of protection against water leaks. It also protects against seam irritation to the skin. There are two types of neotape: The traditional hand glued neotape and the new neotape version that is heat welded onto the seam. Traditional neotape is applied by hand with normal glue, which can leave some hard glue residue on the tape’s edge. The newer neotape is neatly machine applied by using a hotmelt glue layer. This thin Neotape 2.0 leaves no residue which allows for better protection against skin rash.
Surfers ear protection
In addition to keeping you warm in extreme winter conditions, hooded wetsuits can also be used to protect you against cold wind and water to prevent surfer’s ear. This means a hooded wetsuit can be worn throughout the year. So a hooded wetsuit doesn’t have to be the thickest winter wetsuit available. Instead, it can also be an all-season 4/3mm hooded wetsuit.
Neoprene boots and gloves
To maximize the use of your hooded wetsuits, make sure your hands and feet stay warm. Your hands and feet often get cold first, so it’s important to buy a good set of neoprene booties and neoprene gloves. Winter booties should be between 3 and 6mm thickness and should have GBS (glued and blind stitched) seams or sealed seams. Avoid flatlock booties, these seams will leak. When buying gloves, make sure you get the most flexible neoprene ones you can afford. There’s nothing worse than not being able to move your fingers. This will make you tired quickly and it definitely doesn’t help when paddling and duck diving. Make sure the wrist seals well and is long enough to overlap your wetsuit sleeves by a few centimetres. Always wear your boots and gloves over your wetsuit cuffs to prevent water flushing in, especially during a wipeout.