The 5 Best Wetsuit Hood Picks
Getting a good wetsuit hood as part of your whole wetsuit protective clothing along with a good pair of neoprene boots and neoprene gloves is essential for cold-water sports activities.
Whether kayaking, diving, paddle boarding, surfing, kite diving, or whatever else you want to try during the colder season, it’s important to maintain your core’s temperature and protect your head as the most sensitive part of your entire body to changes in temperature.
In fact, statistics show that a diver can lose 40% to 50% of their body heat through their head, which is why a good neoprene hood can be worth its weight in gold. Especially because water takes heat from the body at a rate of up to 20 times faster than air. Regardless of whether you’re diving in warm or cold water.
So, by using a surf hood to insulate your head and a wetsuit to insulate your core temperature, you are retaining heat throughout your body and are preventing fatigue and conserving energy so that you can stay longer in water and be comfortable.
Otherwise, if your body is cold, it has to work twice as hard to replace lost heat, which decreases your time in the water.
Now that you know all the facts about what it means to invest in a good wetsuit hood, I bet you are sold and can’t wait to see the top picks! However, before spending your hard-earned money and just buying anything, I want you to make an informed decision and get what you truly need based on your activities in the water.
So, before heading to the top 5 models of wetsuit hoods, I have done all the research and comprised a full buyer’s guide with all the info on wetsuit hood materials, construction, maintenance, proper use, and so on.
This way, you save your time but are still able to learn a lot and make an informed decision when purchasing a neoprene hood.
A buyer’s guide to a good wetsuit hood
Different Types Of Surf Hood Models
On the market today, there’s a huge variety of wetsuit hood designs, models, materials, and fits that can leave you clueless as to what’s good and what to pick.
So, let’s make a distinction between the different surf hood materials.
Surf Hood Materials
The majority of the wetsuit hoods are made of neoprene. If you have read any of my other wetsuit guides or buyer’s guides, you know what neoprene is and what its benefits are instead of different fabrics like rubber or mesh, Lycra, or anything else used in watersports gear.
Namely, neoprene is a must-have in a wetsuit hood today. Without digging too deep into the chemistry of it, you should know that neoprene in hoods is a carbon-based organic chemical-filled nitrogen gas bubbles inside.
It is made of repeating building blocks called monomers, which trap heat more efficiently than any other material, even rubbers, and prevent it from leaving into the water. Because of this, neoprene has become the golden standard for dive gear.
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Alongside neoprene, there is Lycra, which is ideal for protecting your head from UV rays in warmer seasons as well as for snorkeling in warm water. It does not provide the same heat regulation level and production as neoprene, but it is still better than nothing. For this, Lycra can even be worn under a neoprene hood for added protection and warmth.
Lastly, the Tech materials are also being used for hood manufacturing in 7mm thickness for the coldest waters, and they show superb heat retention. These materials are actually a combination of nylon outers and synthetic-lined inners.
Cold-Water vs. Warm-Water Wetsuit Hoods
As a general rule, as with the rest of the watersport gear, the colder the water, the thicker the neoprene in your dive hood should be.
For instance, at 70°F (21°C) water, you will need 1-3 mm thickness of wetsuit hood.
At 60-69°F (15.5-20°C), you will need a 4 mm to 5 mm thick wetsuit hood.
At 50-59°F (10-15.5°C) needs 6 mm to 7 mm thickness.
However, don’t be led by the thickness of the neoprene only. The warmth a wetsuit hood retains largely depends on its design too. So, let’s talk about that too.
You see, almost all wetsuit hoodies for cold water have a large bib that you can tuck inside your wetsuit to prevent water from flowing in and an insulated neck for added warmth. If your neoprene hood doesn’t have these two, no matter how thick it is, it can fail in temperature regulation.
Another important aspect is how well it is fitted around the forehead and jaw. It should be snug while still allowing your mask to fit and a regulator to be used comfortably.
On the other hand, wetsuit hoods for warmer water are made to cover less of your face and don’t have a long of a bib to be tucked inside your wetsuit. Some people even use the wetsuit hood in spring/summer for UV protection of the head without any wetsuit on, hence the shorter bib that doesn’t need to be tucked in.
Additionally, these wetsuit hoods for warmer water are made from Lycra or nylon and may have a little neoprene but probably not, so they won’t be as good for insulating as the full neoprene surf hood.
However, these warmer water surf hood models with their Lycra or nylon materials will be easier to don because of their lower thickness, so keeping one on for the sake of UV protection and other sea irritants is a good idea.
In Search of the Perfect Wetsuit Hood Fit
Getting your wetsuit hood to fit well is just as important as getting the right model and thickness when it comes to effective protection against cold water.
When trying on your wetsuit hood, make sure it fits snuggly over your head and around the face. This way, you won’t have any loose material or empty spaces around that will gather water flowing in. However, make sure your surf hood isn’t too tight either because it will be uncomfortable for you to have it on for a more extended period.
So, even though your neoprene hood will stretch a bit and memorize your head shape if you buy it a size smaller, it will be uncomfortable and too tight.
There are also surf hoods with zippers on the back, which makes them easier to fit. Or there are those with hook and clip straps that sit beneath the chin securing the side of the face. If you have long hair, these can make donning and removing less cumbersome.
Sealed hoods are the best option if you want to decrease water penetration. So, look for a neoprene hood that has taped seams on the inside for added protection.
Feeling comfortable over or under water is key when buying gear of any kind. Get a wetsuit hood with double or triple-blind stitching, Vapor Loft Fleece, or integrated layers of air vents, glued or taped seams. They are designed to flush out water and air and limit the water flow overall.
Also, look for surf hoods with quick-dry lining, which will dry you fast while paddling but will also be very practical when washing and storing them later on.
Thickness: When looking for a wetsuit hood, you should get the right thickness for the water temperature you’ll be in. Otherwise, no matter how well-sealed or high-quality hood it is, it won’t regulate your temperature as good if it is too thin for the cold water or too thick for a higher water temperature.
The zipper: There are surf hoods with shorter and longer zippers. When you have the possibility to choose, you should go for the one that will provide the most comfort to undress most easily. If you want a shorter zipper, you should still pay attention to whether it gives you the most access.
Additional Notes to Help You Choose the Right Neoprene Hood
Before moving on to the most popular brands that manufacture wetsuit hood models and their best products, here are some additional tips to know when buying. The reason why it’s essential to do all this research is that all the options presented on the market have some similar features. However, there are nuances between them that makes the real difference.
For instance, the O’Neill Psycho 1.5mm Hood will give you good insulation against cold water temperature of 60 degrees F. However, when diving, you will need something thicker, like the 3mm that will protect you against water temperatures of 45 to 59 degrees F.
A 5mm thick wetsuit hood will be even better for diving in temperatures from 45 to 59 degrees F, so the SEAC Tekno of 5mm here in this list will be more protective with your 7mm full-body wetsuit.
For even more protection, you will want to go with a 7mm hood, but being that thick, it is only for diving in cold waters, and unless you only do that, you won’t have much use for it in regular surfing or diving conditions.
For surfing, something like the Rip Curl Flash Bomb Neoprene Hood is an excellent choice because of the visors in its design that block sunlight and keep water from running into your eyes. Plus, its wind-resistant layer blocks cold wind in unfavorable conditions.
The SEAC Tekno you’ll see below, along with the Neo Sport Multi-Density, both have flow vents on the top of the head for releasing trapped air. This may happen when breathing through a regulator. These two, on the other hand, don’t have wind-proof neoprene but have a much more flexible nylon outer-layer that makes them super snug and comfortable.
Also, it’s important to mention that your wetsuit hood should include a bib to create an effective seal that helps prevent cold water from entering. The Neo Sport Multi-Density will have this, so if blocking water is your most important thing, then consider a bibbed option.
The most popular wetsuit hood brands
O’Neill is originally a Californian surf wear, and surfboard brand started in 1952 by Jack O’Neill. The man perfected the first wetsuit in the 1950s, and since then, O’Neill has been at the forefront of not just developing high-performance wetsuits but surfing as a whole.
Being popular for almost 70 years now, the brand has expanded towards a clothing line, but they have also perfected their water suits line for men, women, children, and plus-size models.
Combining a classic feel with groundbreaking technologies at its exclusive Area 52 facility, O’Neill is always ahead of the game when it comes to wetsuit feature possibilities. You can learn more about the company here.
Founded in 1969 in Torquay Australia by Brian Singer and Doug “Claw” Warbrick, Rip Curl is one of the world’s most recognized and respected brands. It has been at the forefront of the surf and snow scenes since its creation. Rip Curl is a designer, manufacturer, and retailer of surfing sportswear and accompanying products.
It has also become a major athletic sponsor. The company has become one of the largest surfing companies in Australia, Europe, South America, North America, and South Africa. You can learn more about the company’s history here.
Seac, Since 1971
Founded in 1971, Seac Sub develops, designs, and manufactures everything for diving, freediving, snorkeling, swimming, and spearfishing. With such a wide range of high-quality products, it’s easily understandable why this company is among the best globally in water sports gear. Learn more about the company here.
Neo Sport, Since 1960
As part of the Henderson Sport Group, Neo Sport products come from a company founded in the 1960s. Since the beginning, Henderson Sport Group has specialized in diving gear, and up to date, they innovate in the field, becoming among the top companies for water sports equipment.
The Top Wetsuit Hood Picks of The Year
When speaking of durability and performance, the O’Neill’s Psycho wetsuit hood is at the top. Myself, and other users I have talked to, rate it as very protective, flexible, warm, and exceptionally durable, which can be said about very few other surf hoods on the market.
When wearing it, it feels very light and comfortable, so I can safely say it ticks off every category in my buyer’s list!
The reason why this neoprene hood is very flexible is that it’s made with the TechnoButter material, the same technology used in their most expensive wetsuits. So, this makes the wetsuit hood extremely tough for how flexible and stretchy it is.
I have a friend overseas who has a rental shop, and he’s telling me that they use these surf hoods in their shop for years now, and all renters are extremely satisfied with the gear. Their customers say the neoprene hood feels like a second skin once it’s on. And if it’s on the looser end, there’s a handy cinch cord to tighten it a bit, which ensures the proper snug feel.
Although I have listed the 1.5mm neoprene hood here, you also have the 3mm, which protects against colder water temperatures, so be sure to get what you need.
Karen M., a verified Amazon customer, says:
“Maybe these run small? Originally bought a 3mm size L but it was headache tight, so I returned it. No size chart, but took a guess. Reordered a 1.5mm in size XL and if fits snugly yet comfortably.
I have used it a few times recently in SoCal not-really-chilly water but cool air temperatures in the early morning. On a sunshiny day my head felt hot. I think it will help when the water cools down into the high 50s.
I wear it without tucking it in. It is just long enough to cover the neck of my wetsuit and cut down water rush through the neck on wipe-outs and duck-dives. It has a small bill which i think would help when the sun is overhead.
I usually use it in the morning and the bill doesn’t help much with low-angle sun. Hood provides wind-chill protection and UV protection. Seems to be well-made of premium materials and should last a few seasons.”
The Flash Bomb wetsuit hood is truly the Bomb in Rip Curl’s gear line. Made of E5 neoprene rubber, with 3mm thickness, this surf hood guarantees lightness and flexibility with increased durability thanks to the solid E5 liner throughout the seams of the neoprene hood.
The reason why this wetsuit hood is so good at retaining warmth is precisely the E5 liner, the orange material you have undoubtedly seen before at surf shops. Namely, this material dries in as little as 15 minutes when exposed to sunlight, so you could dry it out while taking a break between surfing in the same day.
Now moving on to slightly thicker models, we have the Tekno 5mm wetsuit hood by SEAC that will get you through colder waters from 60 to 70 degrees F (15 to 20 degrees C) without an issue.
However, do not worry. Even though thicker, SEAC uses its ultra-flexible neoprene material that doesn’t limit your movement or hinder your agility, and you can move just as you would with a thinner wetsuit hood. The only difference is that it’ll protect you in colder temperatures, which I would say is a big plus!
The Tekno wetsuit hood has an “Air Release” flow vent system on the top to release any trapped air, which is extremely helpful when using this neoprene hood for diving.
When choosing a size, keep in mind that this wetsuit hood has super elasticity, so do not get a size larger than your usual because this hood needs to fit snuggly on your head, and thanks to its elasticity, it will conform to your contours without any issue.
The neck is designed with a smooth neoprene layer, so if tucking it into your wetsuit, it will provide a much better grip between the hood and the diving suit.
This suit is available both for women and men in 5 sizes.
- Thermal fiber lining
- Anatomical cut on the bib and smooth surface neck for better grip when tucking under a wetsuit
- Comfortable around the neck when wearing without a wetsuit
- Designed with Ultraflex construction for greater freedom of movement
- The wetsuit hood seams are glued and flat lock stitched for added durability
Mike, a verified Amazon customer, says:
“It is smartly designed and quality built. Has all the features u can put in a good. Seams to run a slight bit smaller than size. All in all a very nice good.”
The PANDAWOODS 3mm neoprene hood is a thermal diving hood made of eco-friendly neoprene and nylon for added heat preservation.
It is glued and blind-stitched, which ensures durability and comfort. And what is even more important, this type of design reduces the irritability of the material to the skin. Plus, such a model limits water flow to the maximum that otherwise might penetrate through.
Additionally, the integrated flow vent releases any trapped air when diving without letting any water flow inside. This wetsuit hood also has a single-side sponge inside the inner face part. This makes the hood fit better and conform to your head more snuggly.
Even when not diving, you can still wear this as a surf hood that will protect you from the sun and other sharp objects and sea irritants that might be found in the water. You can even trim it to your satisfaction so that it fits your unique facial features.
When sizing, it is important that you refer to PANDAWOODS’ unique size chart, which will ensure the best fit. The manufacturer also has a 30-day money-back guarantee and excellent customer service for any issues or questions.
Devon, a verified Amazon customer, says:
“Fits perfect even though I ordered a size large instead of xl like I was suppose to. Fits around my ffm for snorkeling!”
Last but not least, the Neo Sport multi-density wetsuit hood has an anatomical fit and comes in slightly different thicknesses than the rest of the neoprene hoods.
What this means is that it comes in 3/2mm – 5/3mm – 7/5mm, hence the name multi-density. Of course, you choose the same as you would with the other hoods based on the water temperature. It also has a smart flow vent design that helps eliminate trapped air when diving without letting water in.
Its SCUBA regulator exhaust and surface entry reduce ballooning or the collection of air inside, which increases the anatomical fit and optimal performance.
You can easily trim the face seal made of neoprene for a custom fit to your face contours if wearing a diving mask or goggles.
The additional bib of 3 different thicknesses is easily tucked into wetsuits and available for warm, cool, or cold water use.
The seams are glued and sewn, which ensures maximum durability and use without the risk of overstretching.
Neo Sport, confident in its quality, offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and an excellent customer service team that is there to answer any question or address any issues with your gear.
Drew, a verified Amazon customer, says:
“I like this hood and the price is right. I went to the manufacturer’s website and looked at the sizing recommendations. As a point of reference, I am 6ft 2in tall, on the thinner side of average and have a larger than average sized head for my height.
In oxford shirts (American Sizing) I wear a 16.5 neck because I don’t like things too tight on me, but I could probably wear a 16 and be a bit less comfortable.
Based on the manufacturer’s recommendations and the opinions by some here that this runs a bit small, I got the Extra Large, which turned out to be too big for me.
I ordered the large and it fits better. Both actually were fine on my head and face, but the neck was too baggy on the extra large.
In fact, I might even be able to go down to the neck on the medium, although I have not tried it, as there is still a little bit of space in the neck for me in the large, but I don’t think that my head would be able to go down a size, so I didn’t bother trying it out.
Just throwing my experience into the mix here to help others pick the right size.
From my perspective, if you go to the manufacturer’s website and are between sizes, I would order the size down rather than the size up as that is what turned out to be the best for me, but of course YMMV depending on your own head and neck. Cheers!.. and happy diving!”
Frequently Asked Questions – buying a wetsuit hood
1. Why are wetsuit hoods needed?
I mentioned above in the buyer’s guide that your head is the most sensitive to changes in water temperature. In fact, you lose most of your body’s temperature through your head. This is why it is optimal to protect it when diving from the cold water temperatures.
However, when surfing or paddling and you want to protect your skin from the harmful UV rays, then again, a wetsuit hood is fantastic protection all over. Additionally, a neoprene hood minimized the effect that cold water has on a surfer’s ear canals, which can protect you from getting the surfer’s ear problem.
2. When is the best time to wear a wetsuit hood?
Although it is up to you and your personal preference, from experience, I would say when temperatures from below 55, it’s a good time to consider a wetsuit hood, no matter the watersport activity you are doing. Of course, you might want to wear a thinner surf hood when temperatures are above that to protect your face from the UV rays too.
3. How do I choose the right size for a neoprene hood?
Go for a wetsuit hood that fits snug just like the full-body wetsuit, but if you don’t have the chance of trying it out before purchasing it, then take a measuring tape and measure around the circumference of your head from the forehead (just between your eyebrows) back around, above the ears.
When you get your measurement in inches or centimeters, just compare it to the manufacturer’s size chart to see what size you need to order based on that.
Remember that all manufacturers have different sizing, so it’s important to look at the one for the specific wetsuit hood you are buying.
- How to keep my wetsuit hood clean?
Just like you would wash a wetsuit, it is the same with a neoprene hood. You need to gently hand-wash it without any chemicals or detergents that might damage the neoprene’s elasticity.
Do not forget that cleaning thoroughly with fresh water is the most important part of keeping your wetsuit hood clean and prolonging its lifespan.
4. How to dry my wetsuit hood?
Drying in the open air away from direct sunlight is the best method for drying your neoprene hood. Don’t put it in a dryer as this might ruin the seams and the elasticity of the neoprene.
- How can I take proper care of my wetsuit hood?
Apart from cleaning with fresh water and drying in the open air away from direct sunlight, there are a few other things you can do to care for your neoprene-made water sports gear.
Firstly, do not use regular detergents, soaps, or cleaners that you use for your clothes. This will damage the neoprene. However, if your hood stinks or starts to develop unpleasant smells, there are detergents and neoprene cleaners specifically made for neoprene accessories like wetsuits, gloves, hoods, and shoes.
So, simply soak your hood in fresh water and then clean it with such detergents. This will remove any bad smells, excess dirt, oils, chemicals, and chlorine from the material that had built up over time.
Additionally, keep in mind that the neoprene hood and any other gear should be washed after each use. When salt sits on the neoprene for a longer time, it degrades its quality, so if you want to maintain your optimal performance, wash it each time.
5. Can my wetsuit hood be washed in the washing machine?
Washing in the washing machine is a big NO unless you let it run on a low-setting without any fast spinning and at a cool temperature. Still, just for the sake of maintaining your neoprene water gear the longer you can, I would recommend hand washing each time. Also, don’t forget to use only a capful of special wetsuit detergent.
6. How to properly store my wetsuit hood?
After washing and drying, the proper storage of your wetsuit hood is extremely important in maintaining their efficiency and optimal performance for the years to come.
If left unwashed, the neoprene might degrade from the salt or chlorine, and if left slightly damp, then bacteria and mold will grow out and cause unpleasant smells.
When stored away, your neoprene hood should be left in a well-ventilated, dry, and dark place. UV light degrades neoprene, so keep it away. Also, store your neoprene hood flat because bending or creasing of the material may leave permanent lines and issues in comfort when wearing later on. This applies to any neoprene material equipment, not just surf hoods.
7. Can a neoprene hood protect against hypothermia?
When diving in cold-water conditions, a drop of just a few degrees can and will quickly lead to hypothermia. This is one of the risks of cold-water diving. So, if you through a good, thick wetsuit is all you needed for diving, think again. Don’t go anywhere without a proper wetsuit hood that will protect your most sensitive parts from cold temperatures.
8. How can I equalize when wearing a wetsuit hood?
I have heard that some divers have a hard time equalizing while wearing a wetsuit hood during descent. This problem arises because of the snug fit against the outer ear. This restricts the movement of water in the neoprene hood, but it can be easily fixed.Insert a finger under the hood near the ear to ease the flow of water.
- Cut a hole inside the hood near the ear canal through the inner lining so that you can allow the water to move freely while still leaving the outer fabric intact.
- As you can see, there’s a solution to this problem, and there is no reason for you to leave a wetsuit hood out because of the equalization.
11. Do I need a hood with a bib?
If wearing a wetsuit and you want to tuck your wetsuit hood inside, then having a bib provides you with protection against water seeping inside, plus it will act as an additional layer of warmth. However, if you are wearing your wetsuit hood without a wetsuit as protection from the sun and wind, then a bib might not be needed.
Also, if you are wearing a drysuit, you may find that your model already has an insulated neck and does not support an extra bib, but instead, a long-necked hood would be a better choice.
Picking the Best Wetsuit Hood: The Bottom Line
Buying your first wetsuit hood requires thorough research so that you make the right decision and not just throw your money away. I hope this in-depth buyer’s guide helped you understand surf hoods better and provided you with enough choices to make your purchase today.
For any additional questions regarding neoprene hood models and designs, do not hesitate to leave me a comment below. I love connecting and sharing experiences with all of you!
In the meantime, I’d love to connect with you on my Facebook and Instagram accounts for more cool tips and recommendations on water sports gear and wetsuits.