Why 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 no more. Modern hooded wetsuits will handle cold water no problem, but make sure you get a high-end wetsuit that is flexible, warm 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 most heat through your head, so keeping your head warms is the most effective way to maintain body heat and defeat hyperthermia. So wearing a neoprene hood is the best way to stay warm for 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 built-in hood, so you will never be cold in winter, even on those subzero days in the middle of winter.
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 free seams.
Water temperature vs neoprene thickness:
4/3 mm hooded wetsuit, use in water temperatures around 10~15°C
5/4 mm hooded wetsuit, use in water temperatures around 4~10°C
6/4 mm and thicker hooded wetsuit, use in 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 and the UK. 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. It works 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 the windchill factor and prevents your chest and back to cool down. Chest and back panels often have a plush insulated inside layer to help 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 can be damaged 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 by 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, knees, etc. 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 fibers 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 channeling 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 blindstitched seams. The durable seal can be applied on top of the stitching to create sealed outside seams, mainly used on high-end wetsuits only. 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 blindstitching. 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. 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 one and the new neotape version that is heat welded on. Traditional neotape is applied by hand with normal glue, which can leave some hard glue residue on the tape’s edge. The newer tape 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 the cold wind to prevent surfers-ear. This means a hooded wetsuit can be worn throughout the year, so it doesn’t have to be the thickest winter wetsuit, but it can also be an all-season 4/3mm hooded wetsuit.
Neoprene booties 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 blindstitched) seams or sealed seams. Avoid flatlock booties, these seams will leak water. When buying gloves, make sure you get the most flexible neoprene ones you can afford. 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 cms. Always wear your boots and gloves over your wetsuit cuffs to prevent water flushing in, especially during a wipeout.