The swim leg of a triathlon is often the most challenging part for most athletes. Whether you’re new to these races or have competed for many years, you will understand that the swim can take a lot more preparation.
While swimming with tri wetsuits might take some getting used to, the added buoyancy panel could make quite a big difference.
The last thing you want to do is just head down to your closest sports store and pick just any one of the wetsuits.
Take it from someone that learned the hard way. Using a triathlon wetsuit for swimming is very different from using one for surfing, and it took a triathlete magazine article for me to realise that.
For swimming, you’ll need to be able to move your arms more naturally. When your motion is restricted, you may end up working a lot harder.
To help athletes of all experience levels, I’ve sat down with some fellow competitors to come up with a list of the best triathlon wetsuit buying guide. We managed to eliminate a load of pretty poor ones in the process as well.
Our Top 10 Best Triathlon Wetsuit Brand Recommendations
| #1 - XTERRA Men's Vortex Triathlon: Editor's Choice || For Performance Athletes||5.0 stars out of 5|
| #2 - Women's Synergy Endorphin Fullsleeve || Specifically Designed For Female Anatomy||4.5 stars out of 5|
| #3 - XTERRA Men's Volt Triathlon Wetsuit || Sleeveless For Better Range Of Motion||4.5 stars out of 5|
Table of Contents
If you’re a professional or performance athlete, then you know how important the right fit and design is. It makes a huge difference to your swim stroke. One of the best triathlon wetsuits you can focus on is this Xterra one.
With a 5 mil thick material around the front, it will help you float a lot easier. This added buoyancy will make a big difference, especially on longer distances. When you first put this on and get in the water, you’ll also notice that the material feels a bit different.
That’s because you get the advantage of less drag in the water. The surface will feel as smooth as anything you could imagine. More buoyancy and less drag mean you can gain some valuable time.
The arms and legs are designed to essentially stay out of your way. That means you don’t have to adapt to your swimming style when you wear this.
One downside is that if you have a larger than average neck size, then you can feel some chaffing the first time you wear it.
- Front material is 5mm thick to provide maximum buoyancy
- Designed for professional athletes to reduce drag in the water
- Very comfortable to wear, so you don’t feel it’s in your way
- Very flexible and durable for high-end intensive use.
- Arms are designed to help with natural swim stroke
- Some chaffing around the neck is possible
- Tight-fitting takes some getting used to
When it comes to sportswear, sometimes unisex works fine. But that is not the case with wetsuits. Women’s anatomy is significantly different around the chest and hips.
That means that there really is no way to make it universally fit. This Synergy product is a popular option for female athletes and may work well for performance and professional tri-athletes.
It provides comfort without any pressure points from seams or zippers. Your arms may have a full range of motion by having more flexibility and stretch around the shoulders and armpits.
That means you won’t have to adapt your swim stroke and might help you swim faster in open water. The 5mm neoprene may provide extra buoyancy, which could reduce the amount of effort you have to put in.
You might find that the design could be a bit tight around the neck, which can take some getting used to.
- Specifically designed for women’s anatomy for a comfort fit
- Award-winning design for all types of competitive events
- Good flexibility, so you don’t have to adapt your style
- 5mm neoprene body may provide more buoyancy and help keep you warm
- Good value for money
- Neck area can feel a bit tight
- Getting the sizing right is a bit time consuming
If you train in warmer waters, or you’re heading for a warmer climate race, then you should really consider going sleeveless. Even with the best designs, you will still feel a bit unnatural when it comes to swimming.
No matter what style. This Xterra product is ideal for performance results when you don’t have to worry about your arms getting cold. They are precisions engineered to reduce the amount of drag.
Water will flow around your body much more easily, which may have a significant improvement in your time. If it’s good enough for Olympic athletes, then why not for you.
This particular product is designed for warmer waters with a thickness ranging from 2 to 3 mm dependent on the area. This also makes it lighter and feels a lot more natural to wear.
At the same time, it is thick enough to help retain body heat. And when your muscles stay warm easier, they will perform better and give you faster times.
The armholes can be a bit difficult to place in the best way. The legs can also feel a little tight if you have built up a lot of muscle.
- Sleeveless for better and natural swim stroke
- Designed to reduce drag in the water
- High-quality material retains its shape over long periods
- Thickness ranges from 2 to 3mm for a very light experience
- Keeps your body warm for better performance
- Getting the arms holes positioned right takes a bit of practice
- Legs can feel a bit tight
For intermediate athletes, this O’Neil product is a great solution. It provides excellent heat retention but is not suitable for very cold water temps. The 2 to 3 mm thickness is great for being lightweight and making it feel like a light piece of clothing.
What really stands out with this product is the easily adjustable neck area. Unless you’re a professional athlete, you will find that to be an area that feels least natural. Generally, it’s tight to keep water from entering the suit.
But it can be a bit uncomfortable if you don’t use it several times a week. As a triathlete, you will rush out of the water and often kneel down to change into different triathlon gear and your cycling shoes.
The knee areas are, therefore, one place where wear and tear will first appear. To help avoid that, this product comes with extra padding around the knees. For beginners looking to make some improvements and start competing for better times, this is an excellent choice.
And it comes with a great price tag. The only downside is that the zipper can open a little bit too easy, so just keep an eye on that.
- Adjustable neck for more comfort
- 2 to 3 mm thick material provides good warmth
- Knee pads increase lifespan and reduce damage
- Provides excellent protection in warmer waters
- A good choice for beginners
- The zipper can open easily
- Slightly loose around the stomach
One of the best triathlon wet suit options for beginners is this Seavenger one. It is very affordable and comes in both a male and female version. That ensures the most comfortable feel, which makes it so much easier to get used to wearing one.
Despite the low price, you will get specially stitched seams that reduce the risk of pressure points and chafing. That’s not something you can afford in training or a race.
You will also get stretchable knee and shoulder areas. This may help you get more flexibility for a natural swim style. As a beginner, one of the toughest things is getting into the suit in the first place.
And that includes being able to do up the zipper. To help with that last part, there is an extra-long cord on it. That way, you can simply reach around and pull it up with no problem. The knee and shoulder areas are generally the fastest wearing parts.
To help avoid them wearing thin too soon, there is some extra padding in these areas. It’ll help a lot to make it last you a lot longer. One of the downsides is that the waist area can feel a bit tight, even once you find your best size.
- Reduced seam chaffing with specialty stitching
- Shoulder and knee areas have extra padding to make it more durable
- Knee and armpit areas are super stretchy for more flexibility
- Back zipper leash is extra-long for easier reach
- 3mm thickness is suitable for most conditions
- Wrist area can be very tight
- Sizing can be a bit difficult to get right
TYR is a leading maker of swim gear and specializes in a lot of their range on triathlons. This sleeveless product is a streamlined version of their high-end professional suits. That means you get a lot of professional features at a fraction of the price.
Because it doesn’t have sleeves, it will give you the maximum range of motion for your arms. That means you won’t have to adapt your stroke technique resulting in better performance and overall times.
Unlike many other sleeveless designs, this one has a completely open arm and shoulder area. This allows you to fully rotate your arms in all directions without any chaffing or pressure points. You will not feel the cold in water temperatures as low as 60 degrees.
For most times of the year and races, that will be more than enough. Anything colder and you’d really want to avoid sleeveless and go for thicker materials. And because at the end of the swim you want to be able to get out of the suit as fast as possible, the designers have implemented an ankle area that allows you to get out of the suit very quickly.
On the downside, you should be aware that the sizing runs a bit small, and you have to avoid drying the suit in direct sunlight, as that can cause severe damage.
- Sleeveless design to give you full natural range of motion
- Design based on the company’s professional series
- Complete open shoulder means there are no chafing or pressure points
- Suitable for temperatures as low as 60 degrees
- Quick removal ankle design can save a few valuable seconds
- Fit is a bit on the small side
- Not to be dried in direct sunlight
When you’re training or racing in warmer waters and just need the maximum range of motion, then this Synergy product is the best option. It is fully sleeveless, and the legs are cut off above the knee.
That gives you a totally unhindered movement of your arms and legs. With less slick skin neoprene, you’d expect to have less buoyancy effect. But the designers have allowed for this by making the chest to knee section 5mm thick.
You will notice this making a huge difference. The YKK zipper is made from materials that avoid corrosion, which is one of the main problems with zippers getting jammed.
Nothing is more annoying than finding a great fitting wet suit, only to find the zip stops working after a few months. To avoid water entering at the top, it does have a high neck design.
But the materials here are very soft and elastic, so you will barely notice it, allowing for easier body positioning. The main downsides to mention is that if you have a large chest size, then it can feel very tight at first. And getting at the zip to open and close it can be a little bit of a challenge.
- Sleeveless and short-legged gives a maximum range of motion
- Chest to knee area is 5mm thick for extra buoyancy
- Anti-corrode YKK zipper means it won’t get jammed any time soon
- Super soft neck area means you barely feel it
- Very wide range of sizes to make sure you get the perfect fit
- Back zip can be a bit awkward to reach without help
- Can be tight fitting for larger chest sizes
For a full length 3/2mm construction design specifically for women’s anatomy, you won’t go far wrong with this Xterra product. It is very reasonably priced, making it ideal for beginners to intermediate athletes.
Despite being relatively cheap, you get some great features that are usually only included in professional suits. The first product design to mention is that the suit is coated with a specialty material to reduce the drag in water as much as possible.
Even for shorter swims, you’ll find that makes a big difference to your performance and times. The areas of stitching are generally weak points on any type of product.
That’s why Xterra has used a technique of multiple layers of stitching and glue to ensure maximum durability. Despite having full-length sleeves and legs, you will get an excellent range of motion due to the flexibility in the material.
The main downside is that it will take a bit of time to get into. That’s not uncommon with full-length designs.
- Very affordable professional-grade suit
- Specifically designed for female athletes
- Specialty coating reduces drag in the water to improve your times
- Multiple layers of stitching and glue ensure long-lasting seams
- Excellent full range of motion for arms and legs
- Difficult to get neck tight enough
- Can take some time to get into
This Blueseventy Helix model is a significant step towards the professional gear. As a result, you will find your times improving for several reasons. First of all, the legs and torso have a thickness of 3 and 4 mm that will help you be more buoyant.
But what will really help you save some valuable seconds is the way the ankles are designed. This is usually an area where you’ll have difficulty to get in and out of. The faster this is possible, the sooner you can get out of the suit and onto your bike.
In contrast to the thick leg material, the arms are very thin at just 1.5mm. That makes it a lot easier to fully rotate your arms and keep your regular swimming stroke. But even the rest of the body and leg material is super stretchy.
The Blueseventy Helix will tightly hug your body, but at the same time, it won’t restrict your movement. No matter what style of swimming, you’ll feel perfectly comfortable. The collar area is also very low on the neckline.
This is commonly an area where you can quickly get some chaffing due to the movement of the head. The only real downside is that the zipper can take a bit of getting used to. Especially the opening is something you want to practice.
- Chest, torso, and arms range in thickness from 3 to 4 mm for added buoyancy
- Thin arm sections with 1.5 mm ensure excellent flexibility
- Very easy to get in and out of ankle section
- Super stretchy design makes it far easier to keep a natural swim style
- Low collar means there is no rubbing around the neck
- Sizing can be a bit tough to get right
- Zipper takes a bit of getting used to
The final product we have on this list is the NeoSport. It is a popular product, but we have seen some issues being reported with it. It does feel comfortable around the chest and torso, and it is tight-fitting.
With a 5mm thickness, you will get extra warmth for cold conditions, and the extra buoyancy helps as well. Your legs will be able to move very naturally, which all makes it a reasonably good option.
But for triathlons specifically, it has some drawbacks. Firstly, the neck is a bit high and can cause some discomfort and chaffing. The shoulder areas are a little bit restrictive, so you could find your stroke is a bit compromised.
And getting in and out of this model can be a bit of a pain if you don’t have someone to help you. That will lose you some valuable time, especially in a race. There are also some issues with the material quality showing some early signs of wear.
If you’re going to be using it a lot, then you could be looking at a replacement sooner than you think
- Comfortable fit around chest, torso, and legs
- 5mm thickness gives extra warmth and buoyancy
- Provides natural leg movement
- The neck is a bit high and can become uncomfortable
- Can be difficult to take off without help
- Not made with long-lasting materials which is a shame at this price
- Shoulder areas are a little bit restrictive
What Features You Need To Focus On
Unlike surfing, a triathlon wetsuit for swimming has some very different requirements. There are features you would get with a surfing one that just wouldn’t work that well. First of all, there is not a huge amount of give and arm flexibility. Especially around the arm and wrist cuffs, that is a big problem.
You would just end up having to change your swimming stroke. Plus, there would be a lot more effort, as well.
Here are the main things to focus on.
When it comes to a triathlon wetsuit, the main distinguishing factor to look out for is the thickness. In very basic products, the thickness will be the same from head to toe. That is mostly the case with suits designed for surfers and water skiers.
But for a triathlete, it is important to look at the detailed information about the closed cell neoprene thickness is at each body position. Overall the thickness will vary from 1.5mm to 5 mm .
How are those variances important?
Essentially, the thicker it is, the more insulation it will provide, the better it may be to keep you warm. So, if you’re heading for cold open water swims (especially beginner swimmers), then you really want to make sure you get something quite thick.
But that same suit in warm waters will cause excessive sweating. And that can lead to a lot of fluid loss .
Some of the best solutions out there will have a 5mm thick torso. This provides excellent buoyancy which helps you float a lot easier.
Then the back, arms, and legs will range mainly from 3 to 4mm thick. More professional models will then have 1.5mm in the shoulder and hip areas to make it more flexible; shoulder flexibility is especially important.
That additional flexibility will allow you to keep a much more natural swimming position . If you have the budget to spare, then invest in such a product, as it will make a huge difference not only to professionals.
Sleeve And Leg Length
Another very obvious factor for all women’s and men’s tri wetsuits is the length of the arm and leg panels. If you’re heading into warmer waters, then you can opt for shorter ones and even completely sleeveless.
Your body will cool down a lot quicker , but that might not be an issue if you’re not spending a very long time in open water.
The advantage of sleeveless and short legs is that it gives you a full and natural motion . You can swim in your natural style with a full shoulder movement, and that will give you a better swim time. Having to adapt even slightly to a restrictive suit will not be an ideal solution.
For all triathletes, it’s important to be able to get in and out of a triathlon wetsuit easily. You want to be able to do that without the help of someone else. This is especially the case when the swim ends, and you have to get ready for the cycle.
It is vital that you not only can get out of it without someone pulling or holding you. You want to be able to get out as quickly as possible so that you don’t waste valuable seconds . The main area where that can be an issue is around the ankle panels and catch panels.
Tight-fitting products will end up being difficult to get off. But some options have clever ankle cuffs that allow you to loosen the area and just slip out.
Easy Reach Zipper Panel
One of the most annoying things about poorly designed wet suits is that often the cord attached to the zipper is too short. When that happens, you’ll have a pretty tough time trying to reach it to open and close the reverse zipper.
The longer the cord is, the better as it will ensure that you’ll always be able to reach it. Just as important is the material used for the zipper. It’s vital that it’s strong and corrosion-free.
Many cheaper products out there can quickly end up with zippers that get caught and jam. More advanced and professional option have breakaway zippers, that open all the way with a hard pull.
Preparing A Triathlon Wetsuit For Race Day
Getting prepared for race day is a huge task. We’re not talking about the physical preparation. But getting all your equipment ready and to the right place at the right time. You definitely don’t want to be leaving these things to the last minute.
Everything from your bike and cycling shoes to your running gear and tri wetsuit need to be ready and fully tested.
What does that mean for your swim gear?
Essentially, you don’t want to be buying a new suit a few days before the race. Just like your running shoes, you will need to wear it in and get used to it. That means going for a few swims, checking the water absorption and even practicing getting out of it quickly .
The more comfortable you are with the design, the higher your levels of success will be. So, you’ll want to wear it regularly before race day so that you know exactly how it feels and affects your swimming.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is SCS coating?
SCS coating is a Nanotechnology material known as Super Composite Skin. It may help to reduce friction and water retention, which means you would glide through the water more easily.
Should you wear a triathlon wetsuit for your first race?
Yes, you should wear a triathlon wetsuit for your first triathlon, as it might significantly improve your performance. Not only will triathlon wetsuits keep you warm in open water, but they may also make floating that bit easier, kind of like a safety device.
Do you wear anything under a triathlon wetsuit?
You should wear a pair of shorts under a triathlon wetsuit in order to prepare you for the next leg of the race. This may also speed up the transition times, as you simply need to take off the wetsuit, and you’re ready to go.
Should a triathlon wetsuit be tight?
Yes, a triathlon wetsuit should be tight, as this is how it can protect your skin from direct open water exposure. If you find that there are parts of the body where there is a bit of flapping going on, then you don’t have the right wetsuit for your size.
Is it easier to put on a triathlon wetsuit wet or dry?
It’s easier to put on a triathlon wetsuit when it’s wet. This may reduce friction and help you slide into the arm and leg areas more easily.
That basically concludes our triathlon wetsuit reviews and buying guide. You now have a great list of quality products for every type of budget. Whatever you do, don’t head down to a surf shop and pick up a cheap option there. It will be a disaster to swim in, and you’ll just end up losing time.
After all the planning and preparation, you really don’t want such a simple mistake to hold you back. Decide on your budget and then pick the best option for the water temperature you’ll be training and racing in.
If you’re going to swim in different water temps throughout the year, then you will need to consider investing in at least two.
And then it’s just down to training hard and working towards that ultimate sense of achievement.