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 a popular choice 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 wetsuit
What Are 3/2 Wetsuits?
Pronounced “three-two,” the 3/2 (or sometimes 3/2mm) is a full wetsuit that you would 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 thickness is found in the full suit’s core, while the 2mm is thickness placed in the extremities of the wetsuit. Being where the heat is mainly, the torso has a thicker layer at 3mm than the 2mm for extremities.
In addition, the less mm 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
- 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 the modern wetsuit, bikinis, and boardshorts.
The O’Neill Hyperfreak 3/2 Wetsuit holds 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 that 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|
- Materials: E5 Neoprene
- Zipper design: Back zip
- Suitable temperatures: 59 to 68 F (15 to 20 C)
- Seams: Sealed and taped
The Dawn Patrol wetsuit from Rip Curl 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 the materials that Rip Curl uses stands for their modernization of Elastomax applied to the neoprene. This exclusive “Liquid Mesh” is strategically placed on the panels that have internal Flash Lining. 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 zip or back zip. This is so you can choose whichever you feel is more comfortable. Moreover, it comes in three different colors to suit all kinds of surfers, from classic charcoal black to slate grey to softer burnt orange.
|E4 panels for the best mobility||Zipper attachments aren’t pre-threaded|
|Flash quick-dry lining|
- 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|
- 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 making it 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 on it. 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 touches. 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|
- 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 in the market today. Its supple neoprene with 3/2 configuration is designed for arms and legs’ flexibility. It feels so flexible that it acts as if it is 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.
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 neoprene that is 2 to 6 mm thick. 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.
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 offer protection for 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 right away 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 no 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 make sure 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 wetsuit works?
A: The wetsuit’s primary material, neoprene, is made of small closed cells filled with air that offer insulation against cold water. It works by confining 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.