It can be tough to pick out the best wetsuit for snorkeling. You have to consider what thickness of neoprene you want, full-length or shorty, whether the wetsuit is flexible and comfortable enough to wear for long periods, and if it has the right amount of insulation. Wetsuits are an excellent piece of snorkeling gear because it provides protection against UV rays, jellyfish stings, or sharp objects at sea.
Furthermore, depending on how thick the wetsuit is that you decide to wear, you can get some additional buoyancy from the neoprene material. So, in addition to keeping you warm, you will be able to stay along the water’s surface effortlessly for long periods of time. If you decide to dive with a wetsuit, you may need a weight belt with minimal weights to help you descend more easily.
In this article, we provide our recommendations for the best wetsuits for snorkeling. We also cover the top factors to consider when buying one, such as suit type, cut, stitching, and water temperature. If you’re looking to get a wetsuit for use on your snorkeling adventures, keep on reading.
- 1 Wetsuit for Snorkeling Recommendations
- 2 Snorkeling Wetsuit Buying Guide
- 3 What to Wear Under a Snorkeling Wetsuit
- 4 Diving in A Wetsuit
- 5 Parting Words
Wetsuit for Snorkeling Recommendations
The Seavenger Navigator 3mm Shorty Wetsuit is the perfect wetsuit for both men and women that want to snorkel in warm, tropical water. Many unisex wetsuits seem to get it wrong, often fitting poorly on both genders and allowing water to enter. Luckily, the Seavenger Navigator has managed to make a suit that fits all body shapes, both male and female, quite well.
Looking at the overall build quality of the suit, we can see numerous neoprene panels that have been stitched together using flat-lock stitching. The neoprene panels are durable, and allow the wetsuit to conform to so many body shapes while allowing flexibility in the armpit area. The flexibility it provides adds to its comfort, and you can snorkel freely without restriction.
Due to the flat-lock stitching style, some water will enter through the holes the needles made, but since this is a suit intended for warm waters this is not an issue. This stitching style is also not likely to snag or chafe, which means you can snorkel comfortably for longer sessions.
Next, the Seavenger Navigator is a back zip suit that is easy to get in and out of on your own. The YKK zipper can be zipped effortlessly thanks to the extra-long leash. You can do this without help from anyone else so you can snorkel on your own. Since this is a shorty wetsuit, it is perfect for warm waters but is not a great choice for cold water.
- Fits both men and women.
- Durable neoprene.
- Made from numerous panels which allow for more flexibility.
- Flat-lock stitching is less likely to chafe.
- Seems to run small, recommend getting a size up.
- Some water can seep through the zipper.
O’Neill Men’s Epic 4/3mm Back Zip Full Wetsuit
The O’Neill Men’s 4/3 Wetsuit is made from O’Neill’s own 100% Ultraflex DS Neoprene material. They put in tremendous resources to researching and developing high-quality neoprene that can stretch a lot, increasing the wearer’s flexibility compared to other wetsuits. Even for a relaxing hobby like snorkeling, you want to be able to move your body as naturally as possible to enjoy the experience even more.
With the 4mm thickness around your core, you can expect optimal insulation. Furthermore, the wind-resistant FluidFlex Firewall panels adds another layer of protection from the cold. In an effort to make this suit more durable, O’Neill has blind-sitched and triple-glued the seams so that no water can enter from the stitching. A seamless lumbar and double-seal neck closure design will further prevent most of the water from entering, ensuring you remain warm even after a full day of snorkeling.
Overall, the 4mm thickness is optimal for chilly waters and colder climates. The glued and blind-stitched seams will ensure very little if any water can enter. Due to the amount of insulation this wetsuit has, it is not optimal for warmer climates.
- Ultra flexibility durable neoprene construction.
- Reinforced Krypto knee pads.
- Double seal neck closure and lumbar seamless design.
- Triple-glued and blind-stitched seams prevent watering from entering.
- Too much insulation for warmer climates.
NeoSport Wetsuits Men’s Premium Neoprene 5mm Full Suit
Great for cooler waters, the NeoSport Premium 5mm Full Suit will provide incredible insulation to your core while providing flexibility to your limbs. With its back zip design, it is easy to wear and take off, and even comes with an adjustable collar that prevents water from entering from the neck area.
Furthermore, the NeoSport Full Suit also has flexible and durable pads that will keep your knees and lower leg protected. If you’re worried about how it might fit your body, rest assured that it is anatomically-cut, and will provide a uniform 5mm thickness across many body types for greater comfort and protection.
Similarly, the back zipper is also cut generously and comes with a heavy-duty YKK zipper and long leash. The glued and stitched seams provide an excellent seal against water and it is further spot taped along the intersecting seams for more durability. Furthermore, the Velcro collar seal of the NeoSport full wetsuit is adjustable, and both the wrist and ankle openings are trimmed and sealed with Lycra. All in all, a solid wetsuit for snorkeling in colder waters.
- 5mm thick neoprene provides excellent, uniform insulation across the whole suit.
- Durable and flexible knee pads keep your legs protected.
- Glued and stitched seams that are spot taped will not allow water to enter.
- Wrist and ankle openings reinforced with Lycra, preventing water from entering from those common points.
- Recommended to base the wetsuit size on your height.
- Due to the thickness of the suit, you will start to become very buoyant and will require extra weight to dive while snorkeling.
Realon 3mm Full Body Wetsuit
The Realon 3mm full body wetsuit is great for water sports like swimming, surfing, diving, and snorkeling. Constructed from 3mm super stretch neoprene, it will contour to the shape of all kinds of body types, without restricting movement and freedom while in the water. Thanks to its UPF protection, you will be safe from UV rays, as well as sea lice, jellyfish stings, or other dangers in the sea.
The breathable neoprene material is warm, comfortable, and lightweight. After a trip, the Realon wetsuit is easy to clean and quick to dry. Some wetsuits may feel too thick or bulky, but the Realon will make you feel almost like you’re wearing nothing.
Furthermore, the Realon 3mm wetsuit features an adjustable neck collar, extra long heavy duty back zipper, smooth skin fluid foam, flat lock seams and durable knee pads. Additionally, the fabric will not cause chafing, so you don’t have to worry about wearing a shirt or rash guard underneath. The ergonomic design accommodates the body well, and the chest and back panels provide protection against unforgiving ocean winds.
- Lightweight and flexible.
- Comfortable and easy to move around in.
- Comes with one year of warranty.
- Offers protection against UV rays and jellyfish stings.
- May run a little small, so consider buying a size up.
- Some users felt the suit was on the thin side and therefore not ideal for cold water conditions.
Dark Lightning 3mm & 5/4mm Men’s Wetsuit
The Dark Lightning’s full wetsuit is a solid choice for scuba diving, surfing, and snorkeling and has a women’s version as well. Constructed from durable neoprene (90%) and elastane nylon (10%), it will surely keep you warm thanks to the thick material. Furthermore, the neoprene is highly stretchable and lets you move effortlessly without restriction in the water.
Next, this product comes in two sizes: 3mm and 5/4mm, which you can decide based on the weather and temperature conditions of the snorkeling destination you will be heading to. Next, the knee padding is great for keeping your knees safe from abrasions. The wetsuit feels great to wear thanks to how smooth it is on the skin, making it easy to put on and take off as well.
The Dark Lightning wetsuit has an ergonomic design that is suited for most shapes and sizes. Next, the smooth back and chest panels will guard you against the biting ocean breeze. If is lightweight, well-constructed with flat-lock seams, watertight to keep you insulated, very comfortable on your skin and will not chafe.
- Allows for complete freedom of movement while in the water.
- Keeps water out, yet is highly breathable.
- Comfortable and warm.
- Extra stretchy and lightweight material will not chafe nor weigh you down.
- The wetsuit runs a size too large, buy one size smaller for a more snug fit.
XTERRA Men’s Volt Wetsuit
If you are looking for a wetsuit that will give you the best bang for your buck, by providing great flexibility and comfort in the water for the price, then the XTERRA Volt Triathlon wetsuit is a fantastic option.
First, the neoprene is high-quality with a 3/2mm thickness, meaning that on large areas like the torso the neoprene is 3mm thick, and around movable areas like the armpits is 2mm thick for extra flexibility. Comfort, warmth, and durability will be had thanks to the ultra-stretchy material that is highly resilient to abrasions and the cold.
Next, the XTERRA Volt wetsuit will provide a snug, watertight fit on your body and will retain its fit and shape even with repeated use. As a result of the X-Slice coating on the wetsuit, you will experience less drag in the water for a smoother snorkeling experience. Furthermore, the X-Max seam seal technology that XTERRA uses utilizes double blind stitching and three layers of glue for the ultimate watertight seams.
Lastly, the sturdy back zipper and low profile collar makes it very simple to put on and take off the wetsuit. No more trying to awkwardly fiddle with the zipper and getting stuck in your suit. The XTERRA Volt is available in 9 sizes, and comes with 12-months of warranty and a 30-day trial period.
- Performance-based suit designed for triathlons, designed to reduce drag in the water and to be easy to put on and take off.
- Comfortable, snug fit keeps water out and your core temperature high.
- Flexible and lightweight.
- Comes with a 30-day trial period and 12-months of warranty, which reduces the buyer’s risk.
- May need to size up, as many users who bought their normal size complained about tightness around the shoulders and armpit area.
Snorkeling Wetsuit Buying Guide
Wetsuits are constructed from neoprene, a synthetic rubber, and are designed to keep you warm and buoyant in the water. A wetsuits works by trapping a thin layer of water between the neoprene material and your skin. Your natural body temperature will heat up this water until it becomes warm. It is crucial that your wetsuit has a comfortable and close fit, otherwise this warm water will be constantly flushed out and replaced with cold water, defeating the purpose.
Types of Wetsuits
Full wetsuits cover almost your entire body aside from your hands, feet, and head. Typically full suits have a thickness of 6/5mm, 5/4mm, 4/3mm, or 3/2mm. The larger number refers to how thick the neoprene material is around the torso. The smaller number is how thick it is around your legs and arms.
Thus, a 6/5mm full wetsuit has a 6mm thickness around the torso to protect your vital organs. The same suit would have 5mm around the legs and arms to keep them warm as you snorkel in the water.
Shortie wetsuits only cover your torso, thighs, and upper arms, allowing for more freedom of movement for your limbs. They are often used in the summer as well, due to their flexibility and comfort in the scorching heat. Due to the way it is stitched, water can penetrate more easily and flush out the warm water trapped inside. Thus, shortie wetsuits are not ideal for lower water temperatures but excellent for warmer waters.
Thickness and Cut
The type of wetsuit you get, as well as its thickness, depends on the water temperature you plano on snorkeling in. For snorkeling, wind chill is not as much of a concern since you will be spending most of your time in the water.
You will have to look up the average water temperatures for the location you plan on snorkeling in across the entire year so you know what to expect when you decide to go. Once you’ve figured out roughly what water temperatures you will be snorkeling in, refer to the guidelines below to select the optimal wetsuit cut and thickness. We also factored in some additional snorkeling gear you might want to wear in addition to your wetsuit. You may want to adjust up or down depending on your tolerance to cold temperatures and activity level.
- 75+ F (24C): 1mm to 2.5mm shorty; Full wetsuits that are extremely thin or any shorty wetsuit are ideal for warm, tropical climates and temperatures.
- 68F – 59F (20C – 15C): 3mm – 5mm full length suit, gloves and booties recommended; suits in this range are optimal for cool water.
- 50F and below: 5mm – 7mm full length suit, hood, gloves, and booties required; suits this thick are intended for use in cold water along with accessories to keep you warm.
The most versatile suits are 4mm thick, usable in most situations, however if you plan on snorkeling year round you should buy multiple suits of varying thicknesses.
Wetsuit Zip Entry
The zip entry refers to where the zipper is located on a wetsuit. There are three types: the traditional back zip, the ever popular chest zip, and the most recent zip free.
Back zip wetsuits have a zipper that starts from the middle of the spine and zips all the way up to the back collar. This long zip length, when opened, creates a space large enough for someone to enter or exit the wetsuit quickly. Some disadvantages of back zip style wetsuits are how difficult it is to zip up alone, and the looser collar which lets water enter easily around the neck. Nowadays, back zip wetsuits are being steadily replaced by chest zip and zip free wetsuits.
With a chest zip wetsuit, the flap that runs across the chest opens up, creating an opening for you to enter the suit in and allowing more flexibility. Unfortunately, getting into a chest zip wetsuit is more difficult than back zips, but once it is zipped up it provides a better seal. For colder water, a tighter seal will keep you warmer by preventing cold water from flushing through.
Lastly, zip free wetsuits are perfect for snorkelers who hate dealing with zipping up their wetsuits. The lack of zip on the suit allows it to be the optimal lightweight wetsuit for snorkeling and is more water tight than the other options. You will experience even greater warmth since it reduces water flush by so much. With a zip free wetsuit, it is almost like you are wearing a second skin that allows you to stay warm in cold water.
In order to have the optimal fit for a wetsuit, you must ensure that it is as close to the skin as possible and prevents water from entering through the leg, arm, and neck openings. By preventing the warm water inside the wetsuit from flushing out, you will get the most possible comfort and warmth.
The goal is to get a good balance of snug fit while still allowing for sufficient freedom of movement to perform the water sport you want to do, such as snorkeling. With that said, a wetsuit that is too small will make it difficult for you to move in and putting it on and taking it off will be a hassle.
For most individuals, wetsuit sizing will depend on your chest size and height. Women may also use their dress size as a starting point for determining wetsuit size, however it must be as tight fitting as possible to maintain the insulating properties of the wetsuit. When purchasing a wetsuit, make sure to check the size chart for the product and measure yourself to determine exact dimensions.
Comfortable wetsuits and long snorkeling sessions are possible thanks to the thermal lining found inside the suit. There are sometimes known as bio-fleece layers or firewall, depending on the brand.
Thermal linings can be found on mid-range to high-end wetsuits and are typically found on the back and front panels of the torso. With it, a thinner suit can match the warmth of a wetsuit the next thickness up, but with less weight and more flexibility.
Furthermore, not only are the thermal linings more comfortable than Neoprene by itself, but they also dry faster so you can potentially use the same wetsuit two times in one day. Getting a wetsuit with thermal lining is recommended if you intend on snorkeling in cold waters or you want to stay extra warm.
Seams and Stitching
There are numerous types of stitching used when making a wetsuit depending on the price, performance, and brand. Traditional stitching techniques involving puncturing holes in pieces of Neoprene and connecting them with thread. Unfortunately, water can pass through the waterproof Neoprene barrier from these holes, so the stitching style is important if you want a warm wetsuit.
Some combination of new materials, construction style, glue, tape, and stitch-less technology are some ways wetsuits can continue to improve, providing more flexibility and warmth in cold waters than ever before. Below are some of the most popular stitching types used in wetsuits today.
Overlock stitching is the easiest way to connect two pieces of neoprene, however it is not good at keeping water out. As a result, it is not used on high-end wetsuits and is only found on summer wetsuits or lower quality wetsuits. The way it works is the edges of two neoprene pieces are rolled and then stitched together. As you’d imagine, this leaves an uncomfortable bulge. Furthermore, it lowers the flexibility of the seam, feels uncomfortable, and can chafe skin.
Flat lock stitching is stitching the seam of two overlapping two pieces of neoprene together. This zigzag stitching style is generally used on summer wetsuits because the resulting holes left behind lets some water in, making it cooler and more breathable.
Glued and blind-stitched (GBS) wetsuits are much higher in quality than the previous stitching methods. With the GBS style, pieces of neoprene are glued together and then stitched only half way through (doesn’t puncture a hole to the other side) so that the seam keeps out as much water as possible. Since there aren’t any holes, water trapped inside the wetsuit will not get flushed out and serves to keep the body temperature high, making GBS wetsuits ideal for winter.
If you want a stitchless wetsuit, then get one with welded seams. The welded seam style joins the neoprene panels using a silicon-based urethan seal that is found only on high-end wetsuits. Since this method does not puncture the neoprene in any way, it is 100% watertight. Even the GBS method will puncture the neoprene in order to stitch them together. As such, welded seams will keep you the warmest and driest out of the other stitching methods. Furthermore, the silicon-based seal provides more flexibility and durability than a GBS seam.
Buying vs. Renting a Wetsuit
If you only want to snorkel once just to cross it off your bucket list, then you should just rent a wetsuit. Most snorkeling destinations will have local shops that rent out wetsuits. But if you plan on snorkeling again in the future, you’ll want to buy one of your own. Repeatedly renting can get costly, and you will not be able to guarantee the quality of the wetsuit.
Furthermore, you don’t know how many times it has been rented out to people with questionable personal hygiene who probably peed in it (if people do it in swimming pools they also do it in wetsuits). Unless you rarely go out into the water, we recommend purchasing your own wetsuit for snorkeling.
If you’re buying a wetsuit, then you are snorkeling in cold enough water that you could make use of some additional accessories like wetsuit hoods, gloves, and boots.
Wetsuit hoods will prevent the terrible “brain freeze” feeling when you’re in cold water. Your head is a vital body part and keeping it warm will ensure you can stay in the water longer. When searching for a hood, make sure it fits tightly. A loose hood will allow water to enter and make you feel cold, which defeats the purpose.
Wetsuit gloves will keep your fingers from going numb. You want to have as much dexterity in your fingers as possible so that you can inflate and deflate your snorkel vest, or clear the water from your snorkel mask easily. Like hoods, in order for gloves to be effective, it must be close fitting and prevent most of the water from entering and freezing your hands.
Wetsuit boots are incredibly important in the winter and have utility in warmer water as well. In addition to keeping your feet warm, they can also protect the bottom of your feet from sharp rocks, coral, or any other objects that could hurt you. As always, make sure they fit tightly to keep water from entering.
What to Wear Under a Snorkeling Wetsuit
When snorkeling and diving in your own wetsuit, make sure you wear your regular swimwear underneath it. Do not wear in nude, as it is not hygienic and can chafe against the suit easily. If your skin is easily irritated, you can wear a rash guard or even a simple cotton T-shirt to protect against chafing and rashes.
If you plan on spending hours in the water snorkeling and enjoying the sights, you might want to have additional insulation. You can wear a rash guard or UV protection shirt with lycra pants or thermal undergarments to ensure you stay warm. For those who are renting, for hygienic reasons we always recommend wearing a full-length rash guard underneath.
Diving in A Wetsuit
Not every snorkeler dives; some prefer to remain along the water’s surface and that’s fine. But just know that the neoprene material will make the user more buoyant because it contains some air bubbles. With the thicker wetsuits, the buoyancy becomes even greater and it can be difficult to dive down.
For snorkeling along the surface, this is fine, but those who wish to dive down will need to wear a weight belt to counteract the buoyancy. If you are someone who wants to observe sea creatures up close, and take better photos underwater then you should consider getting a weight belt. Look for ones that don’t move around your waist, and keep the weight you put on it to a minimum otherwise surfacing will be difficult.
A wetsuit is a crucial piece of snorkeling gear you want to have, especially if you plan on snorkeling in cooler waters or for long periods of time. It provides much in the way of protection, whether it is from the temperature, harmful UV rays, jellyfish stings, or sharp objects. Furthermore, the increased buoyancy will help you stay afloat effortlessly, and is perfect for beginner snorkelers someone who wants to do some lazy snorkeling. If you enjoy snorkeling year round, you owe it to yourself to get a wetsuit.