What is wetsuit lining?
Wetsuit lining is a thin layer of knitted fabric laminated onto neoprene wetsuit panels on either outside, inside or both. People mainly think about the lining of being the fluffy quick-dry stuff off the inside of most recent high-end wetsuits. However, there is more to the story. After a neoprene foam sheet has been sliced into the required thickness it is put through a lamination roller machine where a thin layer of glue is applied to the neoprene foam. At the same time, the knitted lining is applied on top of the neoprene foam and pressed together between the lamination rollers. The lining is required to reinforce the neoprene foam, as foam by itself is fragile. It also gives colour to the neoprene panels if required.
Wetsuit lining ingredients
Lining can be made out of different knitted materials such as polyester, nylon, or recycled versions of these yarns. They are knitted together with spandex yarns to maintain flexibility. The higher quality the lining, the more flexible and soft it is. The combination of foam type and lining type determines the final elongation capabilities of the wetsuit panels. Usually, the more flexible the lining is the better your wetsuit.
Double lined vs single lined neoprene
You might have heard about single lined, double lined or double nylon neoprene before. So what is this exactly? In the beginning, when wetsuits were invented, they looked like you were wearing a shiny rubber seal skin. This original material is called single lined. A much-improved version is still used in many wetsuits today.
Single lined neoprene
The black, smooth or textured rubber skin type neoprene is better known as single lined neoprene, also referred to as mesh, glideskin or smoothskin. Single lined neoprene can be used as an outside finish of a wetsuit panel. These types of single lined neoprene have a heat-sealed outside skin surface which seals the raw sliced neoprene foam to make it durable and water repellant. This creates a fine mesh texture on the surface. The finer the mesh, the smoother and shinier the skin. So-called mesh neoprene is often less flexible and has a matt textured finish, while glideskin and smoothskin have a more shiny and smooth surface.
Single lined neoprene is often used on chest and back panels of a wetsuit to keep you warmer in windy and cold conditions. The sealed neoprene surface makes the water droplets run down faster without being absorbed in the lining, this protects you against windchill and makes it warmer than double lined neoprene. The inside of single lined panels are lined with a nylon or polyester knitted lining for comfort to the skin. This lining can be plush or quick-dry lining on more high-end wetsuits. Be aware when taking a single lined wetsuit off, the neoprene is easily damaged by sharp fingernails. Full single lined wetsuits are not used for surfing but are still used mainly for triathlon and diving.
Double lined neoprene history
A few years after the invention of the wetsuit used for surfing, a stronger, more durable version of wetsuit material was invented in the late 1950s, by adding a knitted lining to both sides of the wetsuit panels. It made the wetsuits much stronger and easier to get into them. This also means you could add colour to a wetsuit by using coloured lining. You might remember the crazy neon coloured wetsuits that became popular in the early ’80s. Because lining was added on both sides of the neoprene panels this type of neoprene was called double lined.
What is double lined neoprene
Double lined neoprene, also called double nylon. The type of neoprene where both inside and outside have a textile looking surface rather than a rubbery surface. After a neoprene foam has been sliced into sheets of the right thickness, it’s laminated with a stretchy fabric layer on the outside of the wetsuit. This makes wetsuits more durable and protects it against outside influences like UV and ozone. Outside lining also offers protection from fingernails cutting through the fabric when pulling on the wetsuit and sitting on the wax of your surfboard. The inside of most wetsuits is lined with an extremely flexible and soft lining that is comfortable to wear on the skin. This leads to double lined wetsuits often being stronger than single lined wetsuits, but single lined wetsuits being warmer due to protection against windchill.
A good modern wetsuit often has single lined panels used in strategic places on the wetsuit where you need windchill protection, such as your chest and back. Double lined panels are mainly used in the wetsuit parts that need more flexibility and need to be stronger, such as arms and legs. Plush quick-dry inside lining gives extra warmth on the body panels where you need it the most. This plush lining makes it possible to use full double lined wetsuits without single lined chest and back panels, this is suitable for summer suits where windchill is less of an issue.
Plush inside lining
Most modern high-end wetsuits use some form of plush lining. Plush insulation, also known as quick-dry lining is used to describe the fluffy, wool-like inside lining. Plush lining is mostly used to add an extra layer of insulation. Achieved by using hollow nylon fibres that trap air bubbles and therefore act as insulation. Some high-end plush linings have a quick-dry function. This means that 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. Plush lining is mainly used on the body and upper legs only as it takes away a fraction of the stretch of the neoprene. The arms, shoulders and lower legs often use the most flexible stretch lining to enhance mobility in these areas.
360° stretch wetsuit lining
In high-end wetsuits, most panels use some kind of super or hyper stretch lining such as 360° stretch nylon lining. This refers to the knitted jersey lining made from a combination of nylon and spandex. Both the inside and outside of most wetsuits are laminated with a stretchy jersey unless single lined panels or plush inside lining is used in these panels. 360° stretch lining is a high-end lining that stretches in all directions. This material is laminated onto the neoprene sheets before they are cut into wetsuit panels. This results in a flexible, soft to the skin, comfortable wetsuit and makes it easy to take your wetsuit on and off.
Nylon vs Polyester lining
There are differences between Polyester and Nylon lining that are not easily visible by looking at a photo of a wetsuit but have an effect on the performance of the wetsuit. The main difference you will notice is the difference in stretch and soft hand feel. Colour brightness is also different, especially in neon or other bright neoprene colours.
Polyester lining is made from a combination of polyester and spandex knitted together. This lining is slightly less flexible and less soft compared to the more high-end Nylon lining. The advantage is that it’s more affordable and can be dyed in very bright colours such as neon colours.
Nylon lining is the most flexible lining with a smooth handfeel and therefore feels better to the skin than the polyester lining. It’s made from a combination of nylon and spandex knitted together. Usually, the more flexible the lining is the better your wetsuit.
In recent years new technology has emerged to colour neoprene lining. Dope dyed yarns are an energy-saving and environmentally friendly fabric dyeing process used to colour the outside and inside nylon or polyester lining on wetsuits. Usually, the fabric is knitted first, then dyed into the colour needed afterwards, which causes more pollution. Doped dyed yarns are created by adding masterbatch colourant to the polymer melt in spinning before the knitting process to save water, energy and polluted rinsing water. The colour is deeper and fades less too. Dopedye is not available in all bright colours yet. You will mainly see it in deep black and some other dark colours.