Best Wetsuits for Diving In Saltwater and Freshwater: 2020 Buyer’s Guide

PaddleGo is supported by its readers. If you buy through our links we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn more.

diver

If you’re new to diving, then choosing the best wetsuits for diving can be a confusing process since you won’t know what features to look for, such as the thickness level to choose or the size. If you’re in desperate need of a new suit, or you’re a beginner and you’re not even sure where to start, then this guide will go over the exact features you should pay close attention to, what to look for in a suit that’s designed to last, and what type of suit can best meet your diving needs.

Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that lists all of the wetsuits that made it to my top five list, and many of the standout features that make them some of the best-selling models on the market.

Wetsuits for Diving Comparison Chart

Product ThicknessMen/WomenSizes Rating
ZCCO Ultra Stretch
Shop On Amazon!
3MMMen12
REALON Womens Wetsuit
Shop On Amazon!
3MMWomen5
Leader Accessories Wetsuit
Shop On Amazon!
5 MMMen5
Layatone Diving Suit
Shop On Amazon!
3 MMMen5
Dark Lightning Wetsuit
Shop On Amazon!
4/5 MMWomen20

ZCCO Ultra Stretch 3mm Neoprene Wetsuit


Our Rating: (5/5)

This wetsuit is made out of three-millimeter thick neoprene material and features a total of four small zippers at each wrist and leg, all of which make exiting the suit much easier and faster. At the neckline, wrists, and ankles, you’ll find neoprene collars that do an excellent job of minimizing water seepage. The reinforced knees feature anti-abrasion padding, which significantly increases the lifespan of the suit. The overlapped construction ensures durability and a higher level of protection compared to what you’ll get from competing models. The suit itself features a blend of neoprene, rubber, and nylon.

Pros

  • Overlapped construction
  • Anti-abrasion padding
  • Neoprene collar
  • Four zippers

Cons

  • Suits run two sizes small compared to competing brands

Conclusion

Durable and designed specifically for serious diving enthusiasts, this suit features reinforced knees, zippers at the wrists and legs for easier entry and exit, and an overlapped construction that does an excellent job of preventing the suit from constantly being flushed with cold water. This is a must-have suit for the serious diver and the beginner alike and one that allows you to enjoy diving in a wide variety of water temperatures and conditions.

REALON Women’s Wetsuit


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

Equipped with durable flatlock stitching and CR neoprene complete with stretchy panels, this suit promotes user comfort, so you should have no problem wearing it for several hours at a time. The knees are reinforced with anti-abrasion padding, which is essential for the wearer who prefers to dive in challenging environments. This model is designed to handle water temperatures ranging from forty-five degrees up to fifty-five degrees, so it can easily keep you warm during the fall and winter months. Additionally, it offers superior buoyancy and wind resistance, thanks to the back and chest sharkskin panels.

Pros

  • Sharkskin panels on the chest and back
  • Durable
  • Comfortable
  • Can handle colder water temperatures

Cons

  • Not recommended for warmer water temperatures above sixty degrees

Conclusion

The suit’s wear-resistant materials on the shoulders and knees will significantly lengthen the lifespan of this suit, allowing you to take on challenging dive sites and freezing temperatures. While most thicker diving suits can make it difficult to move around freely, the included stretchy panels that are found throughout the design promote full range of motion, which is a must for the wearer who loves exploring old wrecks or coral reefs. A great buy for the woman in need of a suit that offers a more comfortable fit, this model by Realon is a steal for the price.

Leader Accessories Wetsuit


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

If you’re looking for durability and you need a suit that’s designed to handle colder water temperatures ranging from forty degrees up to sixty degrees, then this suit is probably your best bet. Not only is it durable and comes in a heavy-duty five-millimeter neoprene design, but it’s also equipped with zippers on the ankles, wrists, and neckline, for easier entry and exits. The big drawback here is the five size options, which can be limiting for smaller and larger divers alike. For added protection against seepage, the suit comes with a ring seal layer at each wrist and ankle. The back of the suit comes equipped with the classic zipper and leash combo, which allows you to quickly unzip and exit the suit in a matter of seconds.

Pros

  • Five-millimeter neoprene
  • Zippers at neckline, wrists, and ankles
  • Ring seal layer at wrists and ankles
  • Low price

Cons

  • Only five size options available

Conclusion

Finding a five-millimeter thick neoprene suit in this price range is often a challenge, which is what makes this affordable, thick wetsuit such a popular model. Aside from its low price, it also offers a unique design that adds further protection against flushing, which is essential for people who often find themselves diving in colder water temperatures. The manufacturer did an excellent job of reinforcing high-stress areas and creating a suit that’s designed to keep you warm and comfortable throughout the duration of a dive.

Layatone Diving Suit


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

The blind stitched seams, which are triple glued, make this one of the most durable suits on the market. Despite the rigid three-millimeter neoprene material, the suit feels flexible, not rigid, so you’ll have an easier time moving around in the water. For increased durability, the knees of the suit have been reinforced, which is a huge selling point if you often find yourself diving in challenging water conditions or terrain that includes sharp rocks, coral, or debris that can potentially damage the suit. The back of the suit comes equipped with the standard YKK zipper and leash, for easy exit and entry.

Pros

  • Reinforced knees
  • Flexible
  • Durable
  • Three-millimeter neoprene

Cons

  • Only available in five size options
  • Runs one size small

Conclusion

This suit is triple-glued and blind stitched, so you won’t have to worry about cold water constantly flushing the suit. It can handle water temperatures of fifty degrees and higher and is a durable suit that can handle pretty much any type of challenging diving environment, so it’s a great buy for coral reef divers and those that love exploring wrecks.

Dark Lightning Premium CR Neoprene Wetsuit


Our Rating: (4/5)

This suit is made out of premium CR neoprene material that’s four and five millimeters thick. The thickness of the suit will allow you to swim in water temperatures as low as forty-five degrees. The stable CR material improves the lifespan of the suit while keeping you warm hour after hour. The material is very rigid, so it doesn’t offer the type of flexibility some divers may be looking for, however, this is fairly common in suits with this level of thickness.

Pros

  • Perfect for water temperatures forty-five degrees and up
  • Blind stitched
  • Durable
  • Low price

Cons

  • Very rigid material can hinder range of motion

Conclusion

This women’s diving suit is blind stitched and designed to prevent the suit from constantly flushing, however, the thick four and five-millimeter material can make it difficult for some divers to move around freely. Overall, it offers a solid performance in even the coldest water temperatures, which is exactly what most divers are looking for.

Wetsuits for Diving Buyer’s Guide

A diving wetsuit will work by trapping a very thin layer of water next to your skin, which is then warmed up by your body heat. This water will keep you warm, but the big drawback is the fact that freezing cold water must first flood the suit. When you first get in the water, you’ll begin to feel a cold trickle of water that will enter the suit. Fortunately, it should only take a couple of minutes for your body heat to warm it up. These suits are often made out of neoprene material, which is durable and designed to withstand heavy-duty use.

A suit that’s made for diving is made much differently than a wetsuit for surfing. Instead, it’s designed to handle the compression and pressure at depth. If you wore a surfing wetsuit for diving, it would crush under the pressure and lose any of its warmth as you descended deeper under water. A good diving suit will only get warmer the deeper you go.

Length

There are a couple of different lengths to choose from: full and shorty.

Shorty wetsuits are the best choice when you’re diving in warmer water. The short legs and arms will keep you nice and cool, offering better than average range of motion. These suits typically consist of neoprene that’s two to three millimeters thick.

Choosing between these lengths will be a no-brainer for even beginners since it will be a matter of what time of year you’re diving and the location. Colder water temperatures in the winter will require a full-length suit, while warm weather equals warmer water, so a shorty will be a better choice.

Full suits are basically the same as a shorty, however, they come equipped with full sleeves and legs. These suits will provide the type of added warmth that you need when you’re diving in frigid water conditions. They can also provide extra abrasion protection in key areas, which is what makes them perfect for use when you’re diving around coral reefs or in any environment that has sharp rocks or debris.

Material

Neoprene

As I mentioned earlier, neoprene is often the go-to choice for wetsuit material. This material dries fast and is flexible, so you can move around easily.

However, there are some neoprene alternatives that you may want to check out as well. These alternatives will work in a similar manner, by trapping a thin layer of water against your skin, while preventing the water from flushing around. However, these alternatives tend to be neutrally buoyant and will not suffer from compression.

Neoprene Thickness

The thickness of the wetsuit can have an impact on comfort and freedom of movement. The thicker the neoprene, the more difficult it can be to move around freely in the water. A thinner suit can offer improved flexibility, but it will have less buoyancy and warmth. A thicker wetsuit is more cumbersome and buoyant, which is definitely a tradeoff for flexibility.

If you’re not sure what thickness level to go with, this will often depend on where you swim and the time of year. Do a little research to learn more about the water temperatures in your area. This will go a long way toward determining what type of thickness level is suitable for your neck of the woods.

Sixty-Five to Sixty-Eight Degrees

In this type of water temperature, you’ll want to go with a suit that’s three millimeters thick.

Fifty to Sixty-Five Degrees

Over fifty degrees and you’ll need to use a wetsuit that’s at least five millimeters thick. A five-millimeter thick suit during the colder months should be sufficient in most water conditions, although some divers may prefer to go for a seven-millimeter thick suit.

Below Fifty Degrees

In water temperatures below fifty degrees, you’ll need to use a seven-millimeter suit to stay warm, in addition to gloves and a hood.

Seal Styles

The edges of a wetsuit around the neck, ankles, and wrists, must be very snug, but not tight enough that they will negatively impact circulation. Rolled neoprene is the most basic type of seal and it doesn’t do the best job when it comes to slowing water from flushing in and out of the suit.

Rolled glideskin is a better option over a basic neoprene seal. This option consists of a shiny lining that’s somewhat sticky. This shiny gray material does a great job of creating a seal that will allow some water to get through, but very slowly, which is exactly what you want. Top of the line suits will come equipped with very long sections of glideskin that create a wide, longer seal along the forearm and wrists.

Panels

Some suits will come equipped with thinner neoprene panels. While thinner neoprene isn’t warmer, it’s definitely more flexible. These suits will come with thick areas over the suit’s torso to keep the wearer warm but will incorporate these panels on certain areas such as the joints and under the arms, in order to improve the user’s range of motion under the water.

Reinforced Areas

Many divers will benefit from having reinforced padding on the elbows and knees, especially those who explore wrecks.

Zippers

Did you know that putting on and taking off a wetsuit can be both challenging and uncomfortable? There are a couple of different types of zipper options to choose from that can allow you to easily get in and out of your wetsuit, but the key will be finding a suit that features a durable zipper that’s designed to last and can handle frequent use.

The suit will have either a zipper located on the front or back that you’ll use to step in and out of to enter or exit the suit. Zippers on the back will come with a leash, which will allow you to reach around, grab the leash, and pull the zipper down. Most divers agree that suits with a zipper on the back are easier to get in and out of, while others claim that the front zipper placement is a better option since the back zippers add more rigidity to a suit, making them less flexible compared to suits with a front zipper. Ultimately, both do a great job of allowing you to get in and exit the suit, so it will all boil down to personal preference.

Diving suits also often come equipped with ankle and wrist zippers that must offer a snug fit that prevents water from rushing in. Zippers in these areas will make it much easier for the wearer to take the suit off. Remember, stiff neoprene can be very difficult to remove, so zippers in these keys areas will definitely help to make the job easier.

Stitching

Freediver

When you’re shopping around for a new diving suit, you’re bound to come across product descriptions that include terms that refer to how the suit is stitched. While this may not seem like an important spec, it actually is. The following stitches are the most common options you’ll come across when you’re searching for a new wetsuit.

Overlock

This type of stitch is stitched from the inside, which means the stitches will not be visible on the outside. Suits with this stitching style are usually perfect for water temperatures over sixty-five degrees since the design allows some water to seep through the seams.

Flat

Flatlock or flat stitches appear similar to railroad tracks and will be visible on the outside of the suit. The interior seam design is flat, so it will feel comfortable against the body, more so than suits that use an overlock style stitch. Some water will still be able to seep through these seems, so suits with this type of stitch should not be used in temperatures below sixty-two degrees.

Blind

While these stitches look a lot like flat stitches, they’re actually narrower. This design is best for cold water conditions since the seams are first glued and then stitched. This process is done in order to prevent water from seeping inside the suit.

Blind with Tape

A suit that uses blind stitches and seam tape is basically the same as traditional blind stitched suits, however, the inner seams are covered or reinforced with tape. Not much water is able to seep through these seems, which is why it’s considered the best option for extremely cold temperatures. Suits with this type of stitching can be worn in water temperatures of fifty degrees and below.

Hoods

Some suits will come with a built-in hood, or you can purchase a hood separately. These hoods will prevent twenty percent of heat loss, providing essential protection when you’re diving in water below fifty degrees.

Fit

A wetsuit must be form-fitting and should not be too loose or too tight. A suit that fits well will allow the warmed water to stay in place throughout the duration of the dive. This is especially important when it comes to recreational diving since the material compresses somewhat as you go deeper. If the suit is too loose water is then able to move in and out of the suit constantly, which can prevent the water from being warmed by your body heat.

Since the wetsuit must trap your body heat, it should fit like a glove. Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean it should be restrictive. If your skin starts to tingle or it pinches your wrists or ankles, then the suit is too small. Keep in mind that when a suit fits perfectly, it will still restrict your range of motion, which can be impacted based on the thickness of the neoprene.

Once you have your wetsuit, I recommend trying it on and standing in front of a full-length mirror. If you notice any bulges anywhere, then the suit is too big. These spaces will allow water to flow in and out easily. If there is a slight puckering at the bend of the knees or elbows, this will not be an issue. If you feel somewhat restricted when you try to take a deep breath, this is also common with a wetsuit that fits well.

If you’re not sure which size will fit you well, check out the manufacturer’s sizing chart and look at the measurements. This can give you a better idea of what size will work best for you.

Buoyancy Control

For both new and experienced divers, buoyancy control can be very difficult. A diver needs the right amount of weight to make them neutrally buoyant at the end of a dive. The wetsuit is one factor of their buoyancy. You can find calculators that can help you to better understand how much weight you’ll need in order to adjust when you change from one wetsuit thickness to another, however, these calculations are based on new wetsuits. As a wetsuit ages they tend to lose their buoyancy. Many divers will note that when they replace their wetsuit they found they needed to add five pounds of weight, which clearly shows just how much weight buoyancy a suit can lose over the period of several years. So, with a new suit, you’ll want to keep an eye on this during your first dive and check if you’re negatively or positively buoyant. Then you can make an adjustment of three to five pounds.

The neoprene that’s used in diving suits is designed to withstand repeated changes in pressure. As you go deeper, the suit will lose buoyancy as it compresses. It will also have a reduced ability to hold water. Wetsuits that will not be used at depth don’t need to use the same type of expensive material that a diving suit does. While both use neoprene, the neoprene used in diving suits is processed differently, in order to accommodate the changes in pressure. Additionally, since a surfer will need to use their arms more frequently, the style of the cut is also much different and offers a better range of motion than what you’ll get with a diving suit.

How Often Do You Dive?

This is another question you need to ask yourself before you buy. Not all neoprene is created equal. High priced wetsuits will come equipped with neoprene that’s more durable. However, if you only dive a couple of times a year, then a lower priced suit may be all you need. Where you dive will also have an influence on the suit you purchase since it will determine how thick of a suit you need in order to remain comfortable.

How Sensitive are You to Cold Temperatures?

If you live in a hot climate, then the odds are that you’ll get colder much faster than a person who lives in a colder climate. If you’re used to colder temperatures then you may be more comfortable wearing a thinner wetsuit when you dive. There are some people who are naturally more sensitive to colder temperatures and people who just tend to run hot. In either case, you can choose a suit based on how sensitive or tolerant you are to both the heat and cold. If you’re not sure whether a particular style of suit will be overkill for you, then you can always rent different types of wetsuits for your dives and buy one based on your experiences with each type and style. Most diving schools will rent out all the gear you need for a dive including a suit, but if you’re planning on diving more than once or twice a year, then I definitely recommend purchasing a suit of your own.

Final Thoughts

This guide on the best wetsuits for diving includes all the information you need to make an informed decision once you’re ready to purchase your fist wetsuit. Remember, the type of suit you buy can depend on many factors including your sensitivity to cold and heat, where you dive, what time of year, what type of range of motion you’re looking for, and even your budget. I’m confident that you’ll find the perfect wetsuit for your first dive in my top five lineup, but if you do happen to look for a new suit elsewhere, you now have the knowledge you need to choose a suit that’s specific to your diving needs.