There are a lot of small details that we often forget about that can make or break a good wetsuit. When talking about wetsuit we mainly talk about the neoprene types, seam constructions, special linings, zip or no zip etc. These things are very important but there is more to look out for when shopping for a new wetsuit. Quality is often in the details, simplicity, ease of use and clever use of wetsuit features that make it better instead of making a wetsuit overcomplicated.
Nothing worse than not having a place to put your key after you have suited up in the parking lot. A key pocket with key attachment elastic rope is one of the usefull wetsuit features added on most high-end. The position of this pocket is important, make sure it’s easily accessible when you are suited up to stash your key. You don’t want to get half undressed to open your car in the middle of winter because your key pocket is on the inside of your wetsuit in the back. A good place for a key pocket is on the side of your shin area or hidden inside the wetsuit close to the zip opening.
Stress point reinforcements
A high-quality, well-designed wetsuit will have small reinforcement patches heat melted to the inside of your wetsuit. These patches often called Melco dots or tape is placed to reinforce stress areas that could face some abuse. They will help make a wetsuit last longer. They prevent overstretching, which can lead to tearing the wetsuit. Melco material can be applied as heat welded tape or patches or dots. This patch is usually found on the inside of the wetsuit where multiple seams meet in one place, or where less flexible material is stitched to a more flexible material such as the end of a zip, or the area where the shoulder panel is attached to the body of the wetsuit. They create an even stress release area. Melco can also be used to secure the end of a blindstitch thread, to prevent it from unraveling.
A wetsuit drain hole is a small hole placed strategically on your wetsuit to allow for water to exit your wetsuit. Some wetsuits feature a drain hole in the shoulder area or on the ankles if the wetsuit is used for kiteboarding. Drain holes have to be placed correctly so they allow water to exit your suit after a big crash, but they shouldn’t let water into your suit at any time.
Velcro ankle straps
Velcro leg straps or ankle straps offer extra protection against cold water entering your suit through the ankle cuffs. They are often removable and offer an additional option. Velcro straps seal the gap between your wetsuit and your booties in winter. They are also commonly used by kiteboarders or windsurfers to prevent water from the spray of your board from splashing into your ankle cuffs while planing at high speeds.
Shoulder tensioner toggle
A shoulder toggle is an elastic tensioner cord with a toggle, which allows you to apply tension on the shoulder opening of a chest zip or zipless wetsuit. It prevents water from entering your wetsuit by sealing off the shoulder panel.
Sealed arm and leg cuffs
A wetsuit should prevent as much water from entering your wetsuit as possible. But It’s called a wetsuit, not a drysuit for a reason, so you will not die if a few drops come in, but the less water the better of course. No one likes a good flushing while you duckdive. An area where water could potentially enter your wetsuit, especially when wiping out hard, is your neck. But don’t forget your wrist and ankle cuffs. This is why these areas should seal as good as possible, without cutting off your blood flow and making it impossible to put your suit on and off.
A good way to get a good wrist and ankle seal is to limit the amount of stretch in the edge of the cuff. On top of that, make it stick to your wrists and ankles to create a good seal. This can be done by applying a strip of liquid rubber on the inside of the wrist. Another option is an extra stitched on cuff panel with glideskin inside to create a seal. These cuff panels seal well but can be fragile at times. If the seal is too sticky it can pull out your arm or leg hairs when pulling off your wetsuit. So there is a fine line between a good seal and an uncomfortable or leaky one. Therefore, make sure your arm cuffs have the right size for you. Besides sealing well, they should feel comfortable without letting water in.