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An In-Depth Look at QR’s New Wetsuit Genderless Sizing

Quintana Roo’s HYDROsix2 ditches men’s and women’s sizings for 14 genderless options. Here's what works and what doesn’t.

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Wetsuits are one of those few tri things with lots of features and a feel that is often pretty dissimilar from suit to suit. Some brands have Kinesio tape-like structure built in (Roka), some really focus on a lightweight suit (ARK), some think flexibility is the goal at all costs (Zoot), some have lots of bells and whistles and target a specific type of swimmer (Orca). Most brands have A Thing, which makes reviewing wetsuits pretty fun because you can typically feel the difference fairly quickly after only a few swims.

Quintana Roo didn’t really have A Thing when they re-entered the wetsuit market about three years ago with the HYDRO___ series. Sure, they were the first tri-specific wetsuit brand wayyyy back when, and as such they had good pedigree, but it had been a long time since they sold neoprene with their bikes. The original HYDROsix was very good—probably hitting out of its price range when it was on sale (and it often was)—and the HYDROfive actually even felt better per dollar. There weren’t a ton of features on either suits, but they were solid, if not simple, options that wouldn’t crush your bank account.

With the introduction of the HYDROsix2 and HYDROfive2 line, QR has made fit and sizing Their Thing. They no longer offer men’s and women’s sizings, but rather genderless sizing that’s based solely on height, weight, and body type. It’s not a bad gimmick, but does it work?

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Quintana Roo HYDROsix2 Extended Review: The Basics

Before we get into the genderless elephant in the room, let’s look at the features on the HYDROsix2. First, you’re looking at Yamamoto #39 and #40 neoprene in the legs and shoulders, respectively. This is pretty high-end rubber, the same combo that you’d find on a suit like Orca’s $600 3.8 or Zoot’s $850 Wikiwiki 2.0 (though the Wikiwiki also has some other “stuff” going on that helps make the price so high). What it doesn’t have is any of the air-impregnated Yamamoto Aerodome neoprene that many high-end suits have to increase buoyancy—particularly in the chest—while keeping overall weight down.

Elsewhere, QR makes a pretty big deal of having fewer seams than its competitors—27 seams compared to 45-plus seams on suits like the Zone3 Vanquish and Roka’s Maverick X2. QR claims the fewer seams means increased flexibility with fewer attachment points (we’ll get into that a bit more below). As stated above, this means the HYDROsix2 also doesn’t have a lot of “things” that some of its competitors do—fewer seams also means fewer types of material, which also means fewer features to market. The result: It’s a fairly simple wetsuit as wetsuits go.

Far fewer panels and seams on the HYDROsix2 (left) than the ARK Goat (right).

But then we get into The Thing on the HYDROsix2 (and HYDROfive2 for that matter): the genderless fit. QR’s old HYDROsix had seven men’s sizes and seven women’s sizes; the new range has a total of 14 sizes, sans-gender labeling. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that rather than adding or necessarily chaning any sizes, QR has simply combined the two sizing lines and relabeled them in hopes that body shape—rather than gendered body preconceptions—will guide the buyer to the right size and drive a happier purchase. And to be clear, there’s even a conversion chart showing the old sizes compared to the new ones.

RELATED: Do Wetsuits Make You Faster? The Science Says…

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Quintana Roo HYDROsix2 Extended Review: The Fit (Men’s)

To start, I’ve spent a lot of time in the open water with lots and lots of different wetsuits. In fact, it’s (oddly) one of my favorite things to review. It’s odd because I’m not an amazing swimmer, and the water I swim in is typically pretty cold and not all that calm. With that said, I swam in the first iteration of the HYDROsix quite a bit because I wanted to see what made a wetsuit without a lot of “stuff” (features, bells, whistles, etc.) worth writing about and/or buying. I like to get into the character of a wetsuit before I review it, and the character of the HYDROsix was “solid performer, great fit, workhorse.” In all honesty, if I were going to race a wetsuit-legal world championships this year, the HYDROsix wouldn’t have been the neoprene I reached for on race day, but I probably would have trained in it a lot.

With that in mind, I wore the original HYDROsix in size L1, and it fit me very well. In fact the fit was so good, it was unremarkable. I had very few notes on the fit because I didn’t think about it hardly at all—that’s how a good fit should be. It simply fades into the background.

For the HYDROsix2, I took a leap of faith, inspired in part by the new, more universal/body-focused sizing system, but also by some advice from QR. For this go-around, I tried the MLT, which made sense for my height (6’1” and 175 pounds on a good day).

When I received the wetsuit, I took it out, and it looked…well…small. Super thin around the midsection, in particular, when compared to the other dozens of wetsuits I’ve tried throughout the years. It looked to be the right height, more or less, but I was nervous about trying it on (potentially due to the hit my ego might take if I failed to zip it up).

It wasn’t as tough as I had feared, and the flexy neoprene made it a one-man job (as it always has been). Ego intact. The arms were extra snug around the wrists and through the triceps/armpits (which is something I’ve struggled with in the past, being a T-Rex person). The neck was tight, but not at all restrictive, even on first swim, which is not always the case with fresh, unhydrated neoprene. The legs were tight, but not any more than normal (again, T-Rex person).

In the water, I had no issues with water entry in the arms, and I had excellent movement through the shoulders and back. But I struggled with water entering the back of the neck. I’ll get to this more in the next section, but I mention it in the fit because I suspect the fit had something to do with it. I will say that it’s incredibly rare that I get water entry in the back of the neck (the front was perfectly fine) on high-end neoprene. Typically that issue is reserved for less flexible rubber you’d find in something under $400. Otherwise the fit was tight, but not restrictive, and it felt like a second skin (with the exception of the back of the neck, but we’ll get to that). Keep reading for digital editor Susan Lacke’s notes on fit, from the female perspective.

RELATED: Ask a Gear Guru: How in the &%$# Do I Put on a Triathlon Wetsuit?

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Quintana Roo HYDROsix2 Extended Review: The Fit (Women’s)

Fit is tricky for my body type—I’ve got a long torso, broad shoulders, and a generally rectangular shape, which means a lot of “women’s fit” wetsuits don’t quite fit. As a result, I’ve worn a mix of men’s and women’s wetsuits over the years, picking whatever fits best at the moment. I tend to shop for wetsuits in-person, not online, to find the right fit from whatever’s available.

What I appreciated most about QR’s new sizing options is that I don’t have to try to decipher cut and fit based on “men’s” or “women’s” silos: I can simply input my height, weight, and body type to dial in my best option. QR sizing options for “ML” (medium long, or a longer torso), “B” (broad in the hips, shoulders and chest), or “T” (thin, determined by individual BMI) let me choose something that fit well on the first try, a rarity in online wetsuit shopping for me.

At 5’7″ and 150 pounds, I opted for size “MDB.” The combination of generous sizing in the upper body, plus super-stretchy neoprene meant I could zip up the suit comfortably and swim without restriction in the shoulders or tightness in the chest. I also had no problems with neck chafing at the zipper or collar.

The generous sizing continued in the lower half, with an hourglass shape in the middle. I was surprised that it fit my body as well as it did, given that I’m not an hourglass shape myself. But the neoprene is forgiving without being compressive, allowing it to conform to most female body types. I found no air gaps in the midsection, and no water entry in the wrists, back, or neck (unlike my male counterpart).

-Susan Lacke

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Quintana Roo HYDROsix2 Extended Review: The Good

As evidenced by Susan’s fit assessment, it’s safe to say that the genderless sizing is a hit for many—especially for someone who falls into a fit that might not always match his or her “gender silo.” I believe if I had stuck with my normal L1 (an LG in the new sizing), it probably would have helped my fit issues, but it’s tough to say. Regardless, I didn’t feel any restriction or have a hard time putting it on or taking it off. Here’s a good time to mention that QR offers a 14-day money-back guarantee that I might have taken advantage of if I were a regular customer and exchanged for an LG. Here, again, you find an extra bonus value built into a well-priced suit.

In terms of the low seam count, truly we could feel the resultant flexibility—especially in the absence of ultra-thin neoprene that you can sometimes find in panels on other $500+ wetsuits. The shoulders moved surprisingly well—again, given the thickness—and even running up and down the beach was no problem in the legs. I’d also venture to guess that the lack of seams dictates a certain level of durability, as I’ve had plenty of super-seamed, expensive wetsuits plagued by unraveling thread. Not that errant threads meant the suit was ruined, but it certainly wasn’t encouraging on an $800-plus purchase.

Finally, it’s worth noting that this is a fairly lightweight wetsuit. Not that weight matters as much in the world of neoprene as it does in, say, wheels or a road bike, but it’s mentionable. We weighed the size MLT in at 2 pounds 4 ounces—in comparison the über-lightweight ARK Goat barely breaks 2 pounds, and one of the most flexible (albiet bell-and-whistley) wetsuits, Zoot’s Wikiwiki 2.0, is 2 pounds 10 ounces. For those keeping track, if I was to size up to the LG, I’d guess it would add an ounce or two, but it would still be closer to the ARK than the Zoot.

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Quintana Roo HYDROsix2 Extended Review: The Not-So-Good

I’ll start this section by talking about something that could potentially be fixed by a bigger size, only because it was a surprisingly singular issue that I’ve not experienced in a QR wetsuit before (or really many high-end wetsuits before, to be honest): A not-so-awesome neckline. Despite multiple attempts at cinching up the back of the suit (remember, I’ve tested literally dozens of wetsuits of various prices), pulling on the neck tab, and tugging at the zipper, I was never able to get the zipper/necktab/back of the neck to a place that was either comfortable or water tight. Even though it never felt like it was choking me, at its tightest the tab wouldn’t allow a secure neckline fit and as a result I had water entry through the back pretty consistently. (Side note: A neckline that won’t cinch fully and securely  is more indicative of a suit that’s too large, rather than one that’s too small.)

Furthermore, the zipper “landing zone,” where it was parked when fully closed, felt incredibly bulbous—sticking out more than most other suits I’ve worn. The result of that was chafing, difficulty sighting, and probably exacerbated the water entry situation. This happened on multiple swims after weeks of testing, and even compared poorly to other wetsuits in quick A/B testing. (At one point, I was beginning to question whether I even knew how to zip-up/secure a neckline properly. But it wasn’t user error this time.) That said, Susan had absolutely none of these issues with her suit, but I was also assured I was wearing a fully consumer-ready production model and not an early prototype (which can be the case sometimes).

Elsewhere, Susan did find that the legs were substantially floatier than the upper torso—something that’s worth noting, not necessarily as a downside, but as a caveat for those who don’t need that specific benefit on their swimming position. On the flipside, I felt a good balance in floatiness between the legs and the torso, and I have worn wetsuits in the past that felt a little too “falling-downhill” for me. So here, be realistic about your buoyancy needs, especially as QR doesn’t have much info in that realm on their website.

RELATED: The Evolution of the Swimming Wetsuit Design

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Quintana Roo HYDROsix2 Extended Review: Conclusions

It’s worth putting at the top that QR is taking a chance by offering genderless sizing. From a marketing standpoint it’s a cool “thing” to sell, but the bottom line might also be that both men and women will be turned off that there’s nothing specifically for their gender. However, we are increasingly in a society that values the individual experience over placing people into preconceived bucket, so maybe the time is right. Depending on their success with the sizing system, it’ll be interesting to see if other brands follow suit (pun not intended).

Also, if there’s anything to learn from my bad experience with the neck/zipper, it’s that the fitting system isn’t necessarily perfect, but QR has good policies in place to make sure you’re not stuck with a $600 piece of uncomfortable junk. My zipper problems are likely a result of a too-small suit, and I knew within minutes that something was wrong (and confirmed after a handful of swims over two weeks). For sure I would have taken advantage of their two-week return policy if I wasn’t so focused on seeing this suit through to the chafey end—for better or for worse.

At the end of the day, QR is doing something admirable—both with their genderless sizing system and their workhorse strategy of solid, no-frills construction and few features. Fewer bells and whistles might not grab headlines or make for good pictures (though it could be the photographer in this case, apologies), but simplicity has great value as well. With the new HYDROsix2 Quintana Roo is trying something new with something tried-and-true, and the result is a good thing for triathletes who want to give a solid suit a try.