To some experienced triathletes, it may just be another item in the surplus of triathlon gear needed to race and train. However, to the entry-level triathlete, a wetsuit is an item that you want to invest in and make sure you won’t have to repurchase year after year. Knowing what to look for in a wetsuit and how to purchase your first wetsuit becomes very crucial. Therefore At Triathlete Hub we have compiled what to look for and what wetsuits to buy in our Entry Level Triathlon Wetsuit Reviews post.
Most races whether you are doing a sprint triathlon or full Ironman distance will allow wetsuits when racing dependant on the water temperature. I would have to say that 95% of my races in the midwest have allowed wetsuits. So making a wetsuit purchase is by far one of the least foolish investments when it comes to triathlons. To give you an idea of what to look for in a wetsuit we have you covered.
Why Consider a Wetsuit –
A wetsuit will more than likely be your first piece of gear to put on for race day. (Well that is your tri-kit first I hope). However, as the sun begins to rise on the horizon and the air is a little cool for race day. Stretching your wetsuit over your shoulders and arms will mark that last finishing touch as you grab your swim cap and goggles and head down to the water. Many of my nontriathlon friends always ask me why I wear a wetsuit when I race, but in the pool, I never have one on. I always try and describe to them that the two are completely different types of swimming. To not get in a long-winded post on pool training. I’ll jump right into why you should consider wearing a wetsuit, especially as an entry-level triathlete.
First and foremost a wetsuit is going to give you a sense of buoyancy that without one you wouldn’t feel. To the naked eye, buoyancy seems quite necessary when swimming in an ocean or lake. However, there is more to it than just keeping you afloat. A wetsuit with the legal amount of neoprene will give you enough buoyancy to keep you above water. Hopefully relieving the sense of fear and panic. Rather what it really will do is keep you more horizontal in the water.
One of the most common issues I see and experience in my early years of racing was keeping my core and legs parallel to the water’s surface. What this does is makes you more streamline in the water, if you drop your legs while swimming you will create large amounts of drag equaling a much slower swim time. Hence expending a lot more energy. A full body wetsuit will keep your core and legs closer to the surface especially for the swimmers who lack the core strength to stay horizontal in the water. When given an advantage most people take it no questions asked.
The second reason to consider using a wetsuit is that when it fills up with water. Your body temp will warm that water that is between your body and the wetsuit. Hence creating a natural layer of warmth. I’ve been able to swim in water temps as low as 50 degrees and air temps in the high 30’s. Still being able to perform and swim proficiently. So if your first triathlon or open water swim is going to be early in the season or even in cold waters considering a wetsuit will make sure that when you transition to the bike you’ll be warm enough to keep moving on the bike.
What Type of Wetsuit to Buy –
There are multiple types of wetsuits available to triathletes. Some are designed for speed, affordability, training, and cold weather. Rewind 10 years and there was one kinda wetsuit. The technology required to stay competitive in the wetsuit product market is almost out of control. Nowadays there are wetsuits well above the $1,000 dollar mark. “Why?” You may ask, well if one brand can create the thinnest most skin tight suit available they more than likely will be creating some of the fastest out of the water swim times. Showcasing their wetsuits first in photos. However, for the entry level athlete, it’s not necessary to worry about that at this point. What every entry-level triathlete should be looking at is a wetsuit that fits their budget and one that fills the following criteria.
Training Wetsuit –
- Companies have started to design pants or shorts designed to help improve one’s core strength while training. The pants are designed to keep your legs parallel with the water surface, similar to what I talked about in the last section. The pants or shorts are designed to almost act in place of a swim buoy. However, they allow you to use your legs to kick. I’ve found them to be a pretty helpful training tool. But like anything don’t become dependent on the tool. Be careful some of these are only designed for training and not legal for races.
Affordable Wetsuit –
- It was back in the early 1990’s that the wetsuit was introduced into the sport of triathlons. Some 40 years after it was even invented. Along with wetsuits introduction in the sport, came controversy as the wetsuit was discovered to reduce water resistance, therefore, increasing speed. However, the purpose behind the addition of the wetsuit wasn’t because of the speed increase but rather to keep swimmers warm in colder temperatures. Therefore when they first came out there were only a few wetsuit companies on the market. Making them quite expensive.
- Nowadays we have dozens of wetsuit manufacturers and all of them provide everywhere from affordable wetsuits to outright expensive.
Speed Wetsuit –
- I probably shouldn’t say speed wetsuit, because at the end of the day. Speed is made while training in the pool and open water. However in this case what I mean is that the material selected when manufacture can determine how closely it fits the body. It also can factor how thick the material is as well. Therefore making a wetsuit that has the least amount of resistant possible for triathletes.
- The one issue most triathletes encounter with this option is that they can be very expensive and reach upwards of $1,000.
What to Look for in a Wetsuit –
Hanging on the rack wetsuits all look pretty much the same. They are usually black, have a zipper and kinda tight. Nonetheless, there are some key things to consider when looking at wetsuits.
- Be sure to look at each manufacturer’s size chart before you purchase. They all fit differently and they have sizes and fits specifically designed for tall, short, thin, not-thin…. you name it. So be sure to look at the size charts before you buy. The charts are designed as guidelines. More than likely if you do buy the wrong size you will be able to exchange with the correct size.
The areas you want to look for when trying on your wetsuit are the shoulders, groin area, and legs. Without a proper fit, you can increase your drag in the water and prevent a better swim time.
- You want to make sure you have enough range of motion to create your swim stroke without being restricted. You also want to make sure there isn’t too much material where you would create pockets of drag. A loose fit could also create a neckline that isn’t tight causing water or air bubbles to form under your wetsuit. So make sure the neck line around the shoulders is tight fitting.
- It’s not easy trying on a wetsuit, make sure to try the suit out with your tri-kit or swimsuit you plan on wearing underneath. You want to make sure you have a tight fit around your thighs and groin area. Having excess will create added drag.
Legs and Arms:
- Make sure the sleeves aren’t too long. You want them to end right before the wrist. Also, make sure that they aren’t too loose where water would enter the suit as you swim. It’s not the worst thing if the legs are a little long, one triathlete hack is to actually cut them up above your ankles. Making it easier to pull off after your swim.
- Mentioned above a few times prices can vary on wetsuits. However for a decent entry triathlon wetsuit. You can easily find one around the $100-150 mark. They can exceed $200-300 very quickly. Usually what you are getting for this price is a higher quality wetsuit built to last made of a material more suited for comfort and streamline.
Entry Level Triathlon Wetsuit Reviews
After understanding what to look for in a wetsuit you should be able to make a conscious decision on what wetsuit will fit your budget and level of experience. I’m usually someone who dives into a hobby/sport headfirst so I get drawn to spending the money now on quality gear and preventing myself from having to buy a replacement down the road. Therefore we have selected our favorite wetsuits by price range. This way it gives you a full scope and selection.
$100-$200 Range –
XTERRA Men’s Volt Triathlon Wetsuit Full Suit 3/2mm:
- Xterra makes some of the most robust wetsuits. The company was born in San Diego in 2001 and has been researching and developing the best wetsuit possible. The are committed to offering the best and in my book the most affordable wetsuit. They have everything from $100-$700 wetsuits. However, they offer a lot of steep discounts from various outlets making them budget friendly.
- Therefore the Mens and Womens Xterra Volt Wetsuit is one of their mid-range wetsuits that is offered for under $150.
- Xterra was the first wetsuit I bought when I started my triathlon trail and honestly, it still works perfectly. It has zero rips after years of racing and still fits perfectly.
- It’s very durable and comfortable for a wetsuit. Xterra integrates its X-Slice coating that reduces drag. Each seam is matched with a triple layer of glue, preventing them from separating. Which I can contest to none of my seams tearing.
- Xterra also has a 30 day money back guarantee to give you ample amount of time to try on your wetsuit for best fit. They also offer a 1-year industry leading warranty on all of their wetsuits.
XTERRA Women’s Volt Triathlon Wetsuit Full Suit 3/2mm
- Thankfully Xterra didn’t stop with making their wetsuits just unisex. Instead they designed wetsuits specifically for a woman’s figure. Providing a comfortable and fitted wetsuit that is equipped with the same X-Slice technology that reduces drag.
- Also can’t forget that Xterra Volt incorporates their X-flex technology that when it stretches when you put in on it won’t lose it’s shaping as you take it off.
$201-$300 Range –
Aqua Sphere Racer Wetsuit
- Originated in 1998 in Italy, Aqua Sphere set out to bring comfortable eyewear to swimmers. The created a face mask style goggle that provides comfort and a water tight seal. Fast forward to today and they specialize in created products designed for triathlon swimmers. Therefore working with some of the top Olympians and triathletes around the world.
- They set out on their Racer wetsuit to meet the demands of top triathletes.
- They created a Bio-Stretch Zone that incorporates 2mm neoprene panels located underneath the arms and shoulders that provide free range of motion for your arms.
- 5mm neoprene is located on the chest of the wetsuit offering superior buoyancy that keeps you streamline and above the water. As for the back as 4mm neoprene to help with body position.
- 100% UV Protection
- The collar has a tight fit that doesn’t allow water to enter. Keeping you as drag free as possible. With a little simple chaffing cream I never seem to have any neck rub.
$301-$600 Range –
Orca Men’s 1.5 Alpha Fullsleeve Wetsuit –
- Orca is a New Zealand based company founded by a triathlon age grouper who was unsatisfied with triathlon wetsuits in the early 1990’s. They teamed up with Orbea bikes in 2008 to help distribute their wetsuits. Creating top end wetsuits designed with some of the most intune technology for the sport. Orca actually created a wetsuit that was infused with small air pockets to increase buoyancy.
- As expected with a wetsuit that costs over two times the cost as an Xterra wetsuit. Orca’s Alpha wetsuit is recognized as one of the most flexible and unrestricted wetsuits on the market today.
- They have created a patented technology creating the thinnest materials underneath the arms. Creating the most free range of motion. This wetsuit is packed full with technology that I barely can pronounce. Therefore to not bore you the insane details, I’d rather just tell you that this wetsuit is so incredibly comfortable that you can barely tell you are wearing it. It easily will make you feel faster when you try this one on.
Men’s Wetsuit –
Women’s Wetsuit –
SWIMMERS TIP: Ensure that you have a proper set of goggles to match your new wetsuit. Check out The Triathlete Hubs Review on goggles here.