July 26, 2009

Need help choosing a wetsuit?

Watersports enthusiasts in British waters have chosen a chilly hobby even at the best of times! That’s why many of them wear a watersports wetsuit to help keep them warm. Wetsuits are usually made of flexible neoprene rubber and work by trapping a thin layer of water next to your body, which your body then warms. This layer of warm water then helps keep you warm. Depending on how cold the water is and how good the wetsuit is, you can stay warm for a considerable period.

Wetsuits for use in British waters generally fall into three categories: Winter, Summer and the Shortie wetsuit. The main differences between the types are the thickness and quality of neoprene used, and the finishing of the seams in the manufacturing process.

Winter wetsuits: These usually have a combination of 5mm and 4mm thick neoprene, or 5mm, 4mm and 3mm neoprene.

Summer wetsuits: These usually feature a combination of 3mm and 2mm neoprene.

Shortie wetsuits: Shorties have short sleeves and legs. They normally have a combination of 3mm and 2mm neoprene, or 2mm neoprene throughout, or even a combination of 2mm and 1mm neoprene.

The wetsuit’s seams play an important role in its performance. Entry-level summer wetsuits generally employ “Flatlock” stitching, which is a strong flat stitch that is comfortable against the skin. However, Flatlock stitching can let small amounts of water through the seams, reducing its thermal performance. Whilst this would not be a problem in Summer, it would lead to quicker cooling in the Winter.

Winter wetsuits and high-end Summer suits have seams that are glued and “Blindstitched”, which provides a totally waterproof seam. In addition, top-end suits have various types of seal around the cuffs and taping over the seams, providing an extra level of thermal performance and making them ideal for mid-Winter outings! Top-end wetsuits also use high-quality very flexible neoprene, whereas entry-level suits use a basic neoprene, often with some stretch panels to accommodate movement. As you would expect, all these factors: thickness of the neoprene; finishing of the seams; and quality of the neoprene are reflected in the price of the wetsuit, which can range from about £30 for an inexpensive shortie suit up to around £300 for a top-quality Winter wetsuit.

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