Wetsuit Temperature Guide

As part of knowing what wetsuits are made of and how wetsuits work, I believe it is important to pick the right wetsuit thickness for the environment you will be in, whether paddling, surfing, diving, or whatever else floats your boat. That is why I wrote this wetsuit temperature guide.

In fact, if you want to enjoy paddling at any time of the year, you need to select the right thickness of the neoprene. Otherwise, you will be left with a one-season wetsuit. And if you’re a true water lover, then you know we aren’t satisfied with just a couple of months a year.

With that said, let’s get to the details of choosing the right thickness of your wetsuit in this wetsuit temperature guide.

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Wetsuit Temperature Guide

The thickness of the wetsuit is expressed in millimeters and usually marked with two or three numbers separated by a slash. The first number represents how thick the neoprene of the wetsuit is on the torso. The second number shows how thick the neoprene is on the legs, and the third shows neoprene thickness on the arms.

Sometimes you won’t find 3 numbers, but instead, 2 separated by a slash. This still means that the first number is the torso, and the second is for the extremities altogether.

You will always see the first number is higher, as the torso always gets more neoprene to keep you warm. You see, the core is extremely important in maintaining heat and preventing hypothermia. Then, the second and /or third numbers are usually less thick because you need more movement in the arms and legs because the thicker the neoprene, the more warmth but less flexibility.

In addition, here you have a general reference as to which neoprene thickness is suitable for which temperature.


Note that the manufacturer’s guidelines and numbers may differ, so when looking into different brands of wetsuits, it is always important to ask the manufacturer for confirmation, so you pick the right thickness.

  • For a water temperature of 24° C and up, no wetsuit is needed. Instead, you might want to wear board shorts, a jacket, and /or shorts.
  • For a water temperature of 18° C to 24° C, 3/2mm or 2mm thick wetsuit would be good. It can be in the form of a full suit or spring suit only.
  • For water temperature that ranges from 16° C to 20° C, 3/2mm thick wetsuit would be good. It can be in the form of a full suit or spring suit only.
  • For water temperature that ranges from 14° C to 17° C, I would suggest 3/2mm or 4/3mm in the form of a full suit or full hooded suit.
  • For water temperature that ranges from 11° C to 14° C, I would suggest 4/3mm or 5/4/3mm in the form of a full suit or full hooded suit.
  • For water temperature that ranges from 6° C to 11° C, I would suggest 5/4/3mm or 6/5/4mm in the form of a full suit or full hooded suit.
  • For water temperature below 6° C, I would suggest 6/5/4mm in the form of a full hooded suit.

However, as I said, take these numbers as instructions only, as every wetsuit is designed differently and maybe has its own numbers for thickness and water temperatures that may differ slightly from those listed above and that you should follow instead.

Also, in addition to water temperature, consider the following:

  • Air Temperature
  • Wind Speed
  • Your Sensitivity to Getting Cold
  • Activity Level /Rigor

The thickness ranges and durability and fit of a wetsuit

You’re probably wondering by now how different thickness ranges affect the durability and fit of the wetsuit.

Of course, I don’t even have to mention that the thicker the wetsuit is, the less flexible but warmer it will be. That I’m sure, you could have concluded from the info above.

But how does thickness affects the durability and fit of your wetsuit?

The durability of a wetsuit isn’t really affected by the thickness. The thicker a suit is, the more material was used in its production, so it means it is less prone to tearing and breaking overall.

However, this isn’t really that much of a difference because we are talking about ranges of 1 to 2mm, which at the end of the day for durability isn’t a lot.

The fit is also very little affected by the thickness of a wetsuit. One thing that might change significantly is how YOU feel in it. The thicker the suit is, the less flexible it will be. Plus, in the beginning, you may even feel as if it’s half a size smaller until you wear it enough to that it gets used to your body shape and loosens up a bit.

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Review written by: Tom

Hi! My name is Tom. During the year I try to be on a paddle board as much as possible. By reading this blog you'll stay updated on everything I test on the water :)

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