What thicknesses are used in a wetsuit?
Different wetsuit neoprene thicknesses can be used in different water temperatures. What thicknesses are used in a wetsuit? Thicker neoprene makes a warmer wetsuit due to the higher thermal insulation grade of thicker neoprene. Neoprene thickness ranges from 2 mm for summer wetsuits to 7 mm for extreme winter conditions. What kind and thickness of wetsuit you need, depends on your location, season and water temperatures.
Neoprene thicknesses, how does it work?
Wetsuit neoprene thicknesses are mostly advertised as 3/2, 4/3, 5/4, 6/4, etc. This indicates the different thicknesses in millimeters mostly used in the wetsuit. 3/2 for instance, means this wetsuit’s main panels are 3 and 2 mm thickness. It can also be marketed as 3.2 or 5.4 mm. Normally, the chest and back areas are made out of thicker neoprene foam for extra warmth. Arms, shoulders, and legs are usually thinner for more flexibility. Thin summer wetsuits range between 1 and 3 mm. Spring or autumn wetsuits are normally made with 4 and 3 mm panels. You’ll find winter wetsuits in 5/4mm or 6/4mm.
How is neoprene thickness measured?
Neoprene thickness is measured by measuring the neoprene foam thickness only before the inside and outside lining are applied. Remarkably the overall thickness including lining results to be thicker than the neoprene thickness specified. However, be aware that some brands create this system, and measure the thickness including lining. This results in a thinner foam thickness than advertised, which makes a colder wetsuit than you might expect. It’s easy to see the neoprene thicknesses used on the arm, leg and neck cuffs where the neoprene foam is exposed. The chest and back panel are harder to see the thickness as these panels don’t have cut off edges to inspect. There are special material thickness gauges available to check neoprene thicknesses in case you want to double-check your wetsuit’s thickness.
Thick or thin neoprene?
To cut a long story short, to stay warm when you surf, you need a wetsuit that keeps the water where it belongs: in the ocean. Add a millimeter when you feel cold quickly or when it’s very windy out there. Vice versa, you can go a bit thinner when the ocean surface conditions are a bit more favorable. When the water temperature drops below 10 degrees Celsius it’s advisable to wear a hood.
The location and season you are planning to use the wetsuit plays a huge role in choosing the right thickness. This is mainly determined by the water temperatures at the time of the year. To give you an idea, below are the general recommendations of the best wetsuit neoprene thicknesses to use in different water temperatures.
2/2 mm wetsuit, water temperatures above 20°C
A 2/2 mm, also called a 2.0 or 2 mm is a very thin summer wetsuit or springsuit. 2/2 mm wetsuits usually have flatlock stitching which is not waterproof. 2/2 mm refers to the main neoprene thicknesses used in individual panels to stitch together a complete wetsuit. In this case, the neoprene is 2mm thick in most panels.
3/2 mm wetsuit, use in water temperatures around 15~20°C
A 3/2 mm, also called a 3.2 or 3 mm is a regular thickness summer wetsuit or springsuit. The main neoprene thicknesses used in individual panels in a 3/2 are 3 and 2 mm. Usually, the thicker 3mm panels are used in the main body panels for extra warmth and the 2mm thick panels are used in the more flexible areas such as arms, shoulders and back lower legs.
4/3 mm wetsuit, use in water temperatures around 12~15°C
A 4/3 mm, also called a 4.3 or 4 mm is the most common thickness for a spring or autumn season wetsuit. The 4mm panels are located in the body and upper legs panels. The 3mm panels are in the arms and lower legs where they allow for more flexibility. The collar panel is usually thinner than 3mm, but this is usually not mentioned in the thickness description of a wetsuit.
5/3 mm wetsuit, use in water temperatures around 9~11°C
A 5/3 mm, also called a 5.3 or 5 mm is a common winter wetsuit thickness. Similar to a 4/3, the thicker 5mm panels are used in the main body panels for extra warmth and the 3mm thick panels are used in the more flexible areas such as arms, shoulders and back lower legs. A 5/3 mm thickness can have panels used that are in between 5 and 3 mm, but are not always mentioned in the thickness description. Thus, it could be that your side panels are 4mm for example. Here the collar panel is also thinner than 3mm and not mentioned in the wetsuit’s thickness description.
5/4/3 mm wetsuit, use in water temperatures around 8~10°C
A 5/4/3 mm, also called a 5.4.3 or 5 mm is a slightly thicker winter wetsuit, similar to a 5/4 and 5/3 mm. Usually, the thicker 5mm panels are used in the chest and back panels for extra warmth. The 4mm panels are mainly used in the upper legs, while the 3mm panels are used in the more flexible areas such as arms, shoulders and back lower legs. A 5/4/3 mm thickness uses panels that are only 5, 4 or 3 mm, except the not mentioned thinner collar panel.
5/4 mm wetsuit, use in water temperatures around 8~10°C
A 5/4 mm, also called a 5.4 or 5 mm is the most common thickness for a winter wetsuit. It is slightly warmer than a 5/3 mm due to the extra mm thickness in the arms. The same story applies here where 5mm panels are used on main body panels and upper legs, while the 4mm panels are used on the flex areas such as arms, shoulders and back lower legs. A 5/4 mm wetsuit can have panels used between 5 and 4 mm, but are not always mentioned in the thickness description. So it could be that your side panels are 4.5mm for example. The collar panel is usually thinner than 3mm and is not mentioned.
6/4 mm wetsuit, use in water temperatures below 8°C
A 6/4 mm, also called a 6.4 or 6 mm is a less common thickness for an extremely warm winter wetsuit, usually combined with a built-in hood. Panel thicknesses range between 6 and 4mm, with thickest panels chest and back panels, and thinner 4mm panels used in arms and shoulders for easier paddling in this thick wetsuit. It could be that your side panels are 5mm for example, but this is not always mentioned in the thickness description.
6/5/4 mm wetsuit, use in water temperatures below 6°C
A 6/5/4 mm, also called a 6.5.4 or 6 mm is a rare thickness for an extremely warm, but stiffer winter wetsuit, usually combined with a built-in hood. The panels range between 6 and 4 mm with thicker panels used in the body as usual and thinner panels in the flex areas.
6/5 mm wetsuit, use in water temperatures below 5°C
A 6/5 mm, also called a 6.5 or 6 mm is also an uncommon but extremely warm winter wetsuit, mostly combined with a built-in hood. Panels range between 6 and 5 mm. These suits are the warmest due to the highest wetsuit neoprene thicknesses.