Wearing a wetsuit on for the first time can feel quite restrictive and a question we are often asked is “how tight should a wetsuit be?”
Getting the tightness right is highly important – you want to be comfortable in the water (and be able to move your arms and legs!).
However, the wetsuit has to be tight enough to keep a thin layer of water in.
That’s right, you read that correctly – you want to keep the water in. A wetsuit works by trapping a thin layer of water between your body and the suit.
This thin layer is warmed by your body (which heats up pretty fast when you’re carving through the water) and creates an insulating cushion to prevent you losing body heat.
So the wetsuit needs to be tight enough to keep the water in, and keep you warm, but provide enough mobility to ensure you can swim comfortably.
Below we discuss how to ensure a perfect fit when wearing a wetsuit.
1) One wetsuit size doesn’t fit all
The first point of call is to check the manufacturers sizing guides (please see our brands size guides here). Even if you have worn a wetsuit before don’t assume that a medium size in one brand is the same as another.
Also ensure you select a size that fits your body shape or weight rather than height. The length of the arms or legs is less important than how well the wetsuit fits to your body.
It’s not an issue if the wetsuit doesn’t reach your wrists or ankles and arm and leg sleeves can be trimmed if necessary. Although we wouldn’t recommend taking scissors to a wetsuit that you’ve hired if you don’t intend to buy it!
2) How tight should a wetsuit be?
As we have mentioned, the way a wetsuit works is by warming the thin layer of water between your body and suit. Therefore, it needs to be tight enough to keep the water in otherwise it won’t do a very effective job of keeping you warm and buoyant.
When you put your wetsuit on you need to make sure that there are no areas that sag or bunch, as this will create pockets of air or water. Areas to keep a particular eye on are the small of the back and in the arms and legs.
Bear in mind that the suit will feel a lot more restrictive the first time you wear it. Not only does it loosen up once you get in the water but also mobility will improve the more you swim throughout the season.
3) Try before you buy
One of the best ways to ensure you get a wetsuit that isn’t too tight is to hire one. Yes, that may sound self-serving but a wetsuit is an expensive buy if you discover that after one or two swims that it doesn’t fit properly.
Unfortunately, most retailers don’t allow you to return wetsuits if they’ve been used.
By hiring a wetsuit you can try it out (either for a 2 weeks, 4 weeks or a season) and then decide whether you want to buy it or not. And if it doesn’t fit properly you can return it and try another.