The ocean’s temperature varies from place to place and from season to season. Unfortunately, not many of us are lucky enough to live in tropical areas with year-round warm ocean water. When the waters turn colder, our best effort to stay warm as we surf is wetsuits.
Wetsuits are one of the essential ingenuities in the history of surfing. Without them, riders deal with slightly uncomfortable to downright deadly water temperatures. Wetsuits, mainly the 3/2, are popular for water sports like surfing, SUP, wakeboarding, or wind sports.
For most surfers, a 3/2 wetsuit is a staple of their wetsuit requirements. And, with the wetsuit market having so much to offer, choosing the right 3/2 wetsuit comes with challenges. Our research brings you five of the best 3/2 wetsuits you can consider and other things you need to know before buying.
- What are 3/2 wetsuits?
- Buyer’s guide
- How to take care of your wetsuits
Table of Contents
What Are 3/2 Wetsuits?
Pronounced “three-two,” the 3/2 (or sometimes 3/2mm) is a full wetsuit you want to wear when you need full coverage in cold temperatures. By cold temperatures, we mean anything lower than 58 degrees F.
Three-two wetsuits are called such because of their thickness. The 3mm wetsuit thickness is found in the full suit’s core, while the 2mm neoprene is placed in the wetsuit’s extremities. Being where the heat is mainly, the torso has a thicker layer of 3mm neoprene than the 2mm for extremities.
In addition, the less mm neoprene thickness in arms and legs is meant to allow the wearer more flexibility for moving comfortably.
Top 5 Best 3/2 Wetsuits Reviewed
As the wetsuit technology continuously improves year after year, cheap and knock-off counterparts also seem to keep up. Thus the task of picking the best 3/2 wetsuits becomes more challenging. Our list of the best 3/2 wetsuits should help you narrow down your search.
- O’Neill Hyperfreak 3/2 Wetsuit
- Rip Curl Women’s Dawn Patrol 3/2 Wetsuit
- Billabong 3/2 Furnace Synergy Back Zip Wetsuit
- Xcel Drylock 3/2 Wetsuit (& Drylock X)
- O’Neill Women’s Reactor 3/2mm Back Zip Full Wetsuit
1. O’Neill Hyperfreak 3/2 Wetsuit
- Materials: Neoprene (O’Neill’s Technobutter 3 Neoprene)
- Zipper design: Chest zip, zipperless options
- Suitable temperatures: 57 to 63 F (14 to 17 C)
- Seams: Glued and blindstitched
Jack O’Neill and his brand O’Neill is one of the earliest surf brands to gain success, so it is not surprising that one of its creations is on this list. This brand is well-credited by many for inventing modern wetsuits, bikinis, and board shorts.
The O’Neill Hyperfreak 3/2 Wetsuit has held a reputation for unparalleled levels of flexibility and warmth since that season when it was released in 2014. It continuously evolved and is now also known for its flexibility and resiliency.
This 3/2 wetsuit also features O’Neill’s Technobutter 3 Neoprene, which offers stretchiness, lightness, and comfort. Combined with a zipless entry and double-sealed collar design, it increases flexibility and reduces water leakage.
The Hyperfreak 3/2 wetsuit is relatively soft to the touch. You will be impressed at how everything is triple-glued and blindstitched on the inside, fully sealed with internal tape, too. Internal tapes are becoming more popular in high-end wetsuits since they fortify the seam’s strength and extend the suit’s lifespan.
Overall, this 3/2 wetsuit is one of the most flexible and comfortable in its price range. Durability-wise, it is pretty tough and stretchy. Moreover, it has the best warranty repair team in the business, so even if the suit encounters anything, customer service won’t fail you.
|Lightweight, stretchy, warm, and comfortable||Gets easily damaged|
|Minimal seam design|
2. Rip Curl Women’s Dawn Patrol 3/2 Wetsuit
- Materials: E5 Neoprene
- Zipper design: Back zip
- Suitable temperatures: 59 to 68 F (15 to 20 C)
- Seams: Sealed and taped
The Rip Curl Dawn Patrol wetsuit has been a staple of the performance wetsuit industry since 2009 by balancing high-performance features and durability. Now more vital than when it was first launched, it utilizes their market-leading E5 neoprene and E5 Flash Lining 75% E5 taped.
The E in Rip Curl’s materials represents the modernization of Elastomax applied to the neoprene. This exclusive “Liquid Mesh” is strategically placed on internal Flash Lining panels. The purpose is to compound the dryness around your vital organs and drastically reduce wind chill.
This 3/2 wetsuit is available with either a chest or back zip. This is so you can choose whichever you feel is more comfortable. Moreover, it comes in three different colors to suit any surfer, from classic charcoal black to slate gray to softer burnt orange.
|E4 panels for the best mobility||Zipper attachments aren’t pre-threaded|
|Flash quick-dry lining|
3. Billabong 3/2 Furnace Synergy Back Zip Wetsuit
- Materials: 80% Neoprene, 20% Nylon
- Zipper design: Back zip
- Suitable temperatures: 60 F (15 C)
- Seams: Sealed
Billabong delivers lightweight, premium heat, and innovative technology with superior value with the 3/2 Furnace Synergy Back Zip Wetsuit. This wetsuit allows you to maximize warmth at chilly surf breaks while keeping freedom of motion and flexibility.
The Furnace Synergy Wetsuit utilizes a flattering design that keeps you surfing smoothly and without restriction. Its knitted quick-dry internal thermal lining catches warmth from escaping allowing you to surf in cooler water sans coming in prematurely to warm up in your car.
Its light foam in the core has a high stretch. You’ll find it interesting how the materials are made from upcycled car tires providing eco-friendly warmth. The back zip entry is intended for easier on and off. Plus, a machine-applied pressure bond and blind seams keep cold water from leaking inside.
|Made from recycled materials||Confusing size reference|
|Excellent thermal retention|
|Hidden back-zip entry|
4. Xcel Drylock 3/2 Wetsuit (& Drylock X)
- Materials: Channel Flex Exterior
- Zipper design: Chest zip
- Suitable temperatures: 55 to 64 F (12 to 17 C)
- Seams: stitch-free seam sealing technology
Xcel has been a mainstay in the wetsuit industry since 1982. Best known for creating sturdy, high-performing wetsuits, they have the Xcel Drylock 3/2 Wetsuit on this list for offering a no-nonsense design with specific features.
Many surfers compare having this wetsuit to getting a Tesla Model X with Holden badges. It may not have the sexiest details, but it lets you move, fly, and glide across waters with no worries. The Xcel Drylock 3/2 Wetsuit is ideal for anyone who wants a suit for warmth and flexibility.
It has a thermal lining seamed with liquid tape to provide a good fit and neat touch. The magnetic zipper is excellent at keeping flushes out. This is the same protection you’ll expect from other vital parts of this wetsuit, such as the wrist with its wrist donuts and ankles with their Nexskin ankle seals.
|Back knee flex grooves to protect against bunching||More expensive than most brands|
|Heat pressure bonded seam protection|
|Stitch free power seam technology|
5. O’Neill Women’s Reactor 3/2mm Back Zip Full Wetsuit
- Materials: Neoprene rubber
- Zipper design: Back zip
- Suitable temperatures: 60 to 64 F (16 to 18 C)
- Seams: Flatlock stitched breathable
The second O’Neill wetsuit in this list, the Reactor 3/2 Wetsuit, gives you several seasons of excellent service when treated with care and regular maintenance. That includes rinsing with fresh water after every use.
The Reactor Wetsuit is one of the most comfortable and best-fitting wetsuits on the market today. Its supple neoprene with a 3/2 configuration is designed for arm and leg flexibility. It feels so flexible that it acts like your second skin. That also describes just how straightforward it is to slip on without restrictions.
This wetsuit gives excellent freedom of movement thanks to its seamless paddle zones that offer unhampered and minimal seal placement for comfort. An ideal entry-level wetsuit for occasional use, the Reactor keeps you warm enough while wild swimming during spring onwards.
|Double super seal neck||Some users have reported zipper malfunction|
|Affordable price point|
Buyer’s Guide: Factors to Consider When Picking the Best 3/2 Wetsuit
Aside from your personal preference and the budget you are allocating for the wetsuit you are looking to get, here are a few factors you need to consider when deciding on a 3/2 wetsuit.
Understand the water conditions in which you will use these wetsuits. The colder the water temperatures are, the thicker your wetsuit should be. Always check if the water temperature is suitable for 3/2 wetsuits. Generally, 3/2 wetsuits can handle a temperature range of 50 to 65 F.
Stitching and Seams
The seams are one of the most important features when deciding which 3/2 wetsuit to choose, as they greatly determine what temperatures you can comfortably swim in.
A wetsuit is constructed with sealed, flatlock, GBS (glued and blind stitched), fluid-sealed, or taped seams. And while each seam type has its benefits, certain seam types also have their drawbacks.
For example, a flatlock seam involves overlapping two pieces of fabric before seaming. While flatlock seams are commonly found in 3/2 wetsuits due to their breathability, they are not best for temperatures below 68 degrees F, as they allow water to seep in.
Sealed seams are more effective than flatlock seams in keeping water out but not entirely foolproof, making them best to use in water temperatures of 62 degrees F and over.
If you’re looking for a 3/2 wetsuit that you can wear in waters 50 degrees F and up, then glued and blind stitching or fluid stitching will be ideal. Fluid stitching is best in keeping the water out, as it uses silicone urethane to combine the sections of neoprene fabric. While 3/2 wetsuits that use fluid stitching are often more expensive, they are worth it for those who frequent colder water temperatures.
Chest zip Wetsuit vs. Back Zip vs. Zipperless
The zipper is one of the most important factors to consider in picking a wetsuit. After all, it is our entryway in and out of the wetsuit. The zipper’s location and length make a big difference in how easy and hard it is to wear the wetsuit.
- Back zip wetsuits have zippers placed at the back since it is the most accessible entry point. The drawback with this zip is it is less watertight and may limit movements in the back.
- Chest zip wetsuits offer flexibility at the back while delivering a better seal. But chest zip wetsuits can be hard to get into.
- Zipperless wetsuits offer the best flexibility. However, it can be tough to wear. Imagine how you have to wriggle to get inside. Plus, it is held only with Velcro instead of zippers.
Most wetsuits are usually constructed of 2 to 6-mm thick neoprene. Neoprene is lightweight, watertight, flexible, and synthetic. It is a good insulator and is best at trapping heat while keeping water out. Wetsuits are like jigsaw puzzles made of several layers of neoprene stitched together.
And while 3/2 wetsuits are most commonly made of this flexible material, the types of neoprene that are incorporated may vary from wetsuit to wetsuit.
A neoprene wetsuit will feature nylon-lined neoprene (neoprene lined with a nylon jersey). This allows for ease in getting your 3/2 wetsuit on and off and offering an extra layer of protection for the neoprene. Fun fact, before nylon-lined neoprene existed, people used talcum powder to help them slide into their wetsuits!
Wetsuits for cold weather often incorporate smooth skin neoprene into the chest panel and lower back. Smooth skin neoprene can trap heat from the sun and extra heat from your body suit while repelling water and wind. Wetsuit accessories, such as gloves, boots, and hoods, are often made of this type of neoprene. Entire wetsuits are not made of this material because they are not as durable as nylon-lined neoprene and can easily be torn by fingernails if the wearer is not careful.
Air neoprene is another type of neoprene that will only be found in high-end wetsuits. This material can make wetsuits warmer without making them too thick for the wearer. Including a middle layer of perforated neoprene meant to trap air, this type of neoprene will insulate your body similarly to double-paned windows insulating a house.
Yulex is a plant-based neoprene alternative developed by the high-performance and environment-focused outdoor clothing company Patagonia. While Yulex has similar characteristics to neoprene, it has a much smaller carbon footprint and is environmentally friendly.
The style of the wetsuit also contributes to the amount of coverage it offers.
- Hooded full wetsuits offer the best protection from head to toe. However, there aren’t many 3/2 wetsuits that are hooded.
- Full wetsuits protect the whole body – core, leg, and arms.
- Spring wetsuits are designed for warm water conditions allowing more flexibility by freeing the lower arms and legs for better movement.
How To Take Care of Your Wetsuit
No matter how promising your wetsuit is, it won’t last long enough to get you by until the next cold season if you don’t take care of it. Taking care of your wetsuit is one of the things you should know when you buy a wetsuit before using it for your water activity.
Before Surfing (or any water activity)
Be extra careful when donning the wetsuit to not rip the interior skin surfaces with a fingernail or toenail. Most wetsuit materials can be delicate. Keep your wetsuit away from any hot surfaces.
While Surfing (or any water activity)
Although the wetsuit’s exterior is designed to withstand normal wear and tear, accidents like brushing against sharp rocks or other piercing objects can cut the exterior surface. Minor cuts can be easily repaired and should be repaired immediately to avoid worsening the damage.
After Surfing (or any water activity)
Unzip all the zippers completely when taking off your wetsuit. Remove every section at a time carefully. Try not to puncture the skin surface panels with your fingernail.
Be sure to rinse your wetsuit with fresh water after every ride. Chlorine and salt water can dry out the wetsuit’s material, leading to the neoprene losing its flexibility. You can do this by soaking the wetsuit in a tub of warm freshwater for 15 to 20 minutes and then completely hosing it off with fresh water after. Dry under a shade and not directly under the sun.
Moreover, occasional deep cleaning will guarantee that your wetsuit stays in good condition and has a long life.
Folding causes a permanent crease on the wetsuit. The best way to store a wetsuit is by letting it lay flat. If this isn’t possible, you can keep it with a hanger. Thicker hangers are best at supporting the weight of the suit. Surf shops sell hangers mainly designed for wetsuits.
If you regularly hit the beach to surf, you’ll understand how the water temperatures can change from season to season and that not all waters have the same temperature. This is an excellent reason to invest in a wetsuit to ensure you have something to keep your body against hypothermia.
Wetsuits aren’t a “want” but a “need,” especially if you ride waves in oceans outside tropical locations.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q: How do wetsuits work?
A: The wetsuit’s primary material, neoprene, is made of small closed cells filled with air that offer insulation against cold water. It confines a thin layer of water between your body and the wetsuit. This layer gets warmed by your body, thus preventing you from losing too much heat while in the water.
Q: What zip style is best on a wetsuit?
Different zip styles have different advantages and disadvantages. While a shorter zip means more flexibility in your wetsuit, it may not be the best option if you struggle to get into it. In this case, the traditional back zipper will most likely be your best option, even though it sacrifices the flexibility and warmth of other styles. A chest zip may be your best option if you’re more athletically built.
Q: How much should you spend on a wetsuit?
The amount you should spend on a wetsuit depends on your budget and what you need the wetsuit for. While you can get a basic entry-level suit for as little as $90, wetsuits at this price point will not be built to withstand colder water temperatures, as they will most likely feature flatlock stitching.
Wetsuits in the $150-$200 range will be year-round wetsuits with glued and blind stitched seams and include smooth skin neoprene. $300-$500 wetsuits will be the highest performance and offer fluid stitching and air neoprene.
Q: Which wetsuit brand is the best?
While the best wetsuit brand for you will heavily depend on what you have planned for your wetsuit, some of the most respected brands in the biz include O’Neill, Xcel, Vissla, and Patagonia.
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- Best Plus Size Wetsuits
- O’Neill Wetsuits Review
G’day, my name is Rach Taylor and I’m the proud Founder of Surf Hungry. I am a former Australian Olympic athlete and Australian representative surf sports athlete. I’ve worked in the surf industry and lived at many of Australia’s best surf spots, sparking a life-long love of the ocean and a passion for surf sports which also rubbed off on my two young sons! I am also lucky to spend a lot of ocean-time in my favorite second home, Indonesia. In addition to SurfHungry I have founded several other websites in my areas of passion, namely coffee and rock climbing, and am also a regular rowing content contributor.