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No matter your budget or swimming experience, there’s a wetsuit to fit your unique needs. We tested nine of the latest models to help you find the perfect match for your next race.
Aqua Sphere Racer
Best for: Core stability and cold-water swims
Aqua Sphere updated its entire lineup of wetsuits in 2016 and the new Racer has a striking aesthetic with some trickle-down features from the range-topping Phantom, but at this price, we would like more flexibility through the shoulders. The 2mm panels on the shoulders and sleeves are thicker than similarly priced wetsuits and that additional thickness provides some extra warmth. The lower body also benefits from buoyancy, and the quick release ankle panels make the suit easy to stomp off.
Best for: The budget-minded looking for max buoyancy
The S6 is a fine update to Orca’s popular S5 with fewer panels on the legs and arms to increase both comfort and functionality. This suit provides outstanding buoyancy (thanks to 5mm panels on the torso) for those who struggle to keep their lower bodies from sinking. Flexibility through the arms isn’t on par with Orca’s more expensive wetsuits, but the updated neck panel is similar to the collar on the high-end Predator wetsuit and sits low to reduce the chance of chafing or a restrictive feel. When it comes to unbeatable value, we still prefer Orca’s Open Water Wetsuit at $170, but the S6 supplies far more buoyancy.
Huub Aerious 2
Best for: Lead legs
Most triathletes don’t have a swimming background and struggle with body position in the water. Huub aimed to address the specific needs of these triathletes with the Aerious 2, which places great emphasis on increasing lower leg buoyancy. The thickest panels of neoprene are in the legs, not the torso. What makes this a standout wetsuit is its highly flexible upper body. The neoprene feels light and supple upon first inspection. In the water, this suit promotes a natural rotation of the hips and truly makes swimming easier and more enjoyable. The Aerious 2 is an absolute gem, combining the lower body buoyancy non-swimmers need with the flexibility that experienced swimmers crave—all at a price that’s several hundred dollars less than other high-end offerings.
Zone 3 Aspire
Best for: All-around performance
If you’re looking to upgrade to a premium wetsuit but think spending more than $500 is outrageous, the Aspire is one of the best options around. This suit feels similar to Zone 3’s high-end Vanquish, which costs $250 more, making the Aspire the best return on investment in Zone 3’s collection. The 1.5mm one-piece shoulder panel offers just the right amount of flex and noticeably increases distance per stroke. The red panels on the wrist and ankle cuffs are coated in silicone for an easier exit in transition. Like the Vanquish, the Aspire makes swimming more enjoyable by minimizing restriction through the shoulders while lifting the lower body to increase buoyancy.
Xterra Volt Sleeveless
Best for: Beginners and warm-water swims
While the 2016 Volt Sleeveless carries a retail price of $250, you may a able to find a bargain through Xterra’s Outlet site or one of its frequent sales from the company’s mailing list. Xterra calls this suit the ultimate entry-level wetsuit, and it’s tough to dispute that claim given the comfort and durability. It doesn’t provide the same buoyancy as some other price-point wetsuits with 3mm of neoprene on the front, but it’s enough to help a new triathlete comfortably complete a sprint or Olympic-distance swim. The seams are reinforced and the liner holds its shape to ensure longevity. The neck collar is a little high and may feel a bit restrictive for some, but chafing wasn’t an issue after applying a little Body Glide.
Aquaman Women’s Bionik 2.0
Best for: Upper body flexibility seekers
The highlight of the Bionik is the high-end neoprene—Yamamoto GIGA #40, for you rubber geeks—on the shoulders. This supple neoprene is 1.5mm thick and offers substantial range of motion through the upper body. The suit has a reverse zipper, which is a useful feature as you’re exiting the water because it makes the suit easier to take off, but you may need some assistance zipping it closed. Rubber Dome neoprene panels on the torso provide mild stability but do not overly correct your form, making this suit ideal for experienced swimmers with a more efficient stroke. The collar has a seam-free design that’s intended to minimize irritation, but our tester noted some mild chafing that may vary from swimmer to swimmer.
TYR Hurricane Cat 3
Best for: Improving efficiency
Like the Aqua Sphere Racer and Zone 3 Aspire, the Cat 3 aims to offer the best performance for the price, carrying over some key features from the more expensive Cat 5. TYR strategically places elevation panels in the chest, core and obliques, which results in a buoyant and supportive suit. This stability translates into a more efficient stroke by promoting a natural roll while decreasing excessive movement. Flexibility and stretch through the arms is satisfactory but not out of this world. The rubber inserts on the catch panels seem more decorative than functional, but the material does provide an enhanced feel for the water.
Blueseventy Women’s Reaction
Best for: Sinking hips
In the enduring tightrope walk between flexibility versus buoyancy, this suit offers a solid balance. Despite your best efforts, the Reaction will not let you sink. Its 4mm-5mm-4mm tiered buoyancy centralizes the thickest neoprene around the core to raise the hips. The remarkable buoyancy is complemented by ample arm flexibility that doesn’t cut your stroke short by impeding your reach, and a split chest panel allows your chest to expand freely. The arm cuffs do an effective job of sealing out water, but our tester noted that this feature made the suit more difficult to remove. The lowered collar was one of the most comfortable in the test, and the thin honeycomb forearm panels increases proprioception in the water.
Roka Maverick X
Best For: Uncompromising performance
In order to top the already impressive Maverick Pro, Roka spent five years developing the Maverick X and reinvented the way wetsuits are constructed with a paradigm inverting “arms up” design. Roka theorized that patterning the sleeves to match the contours of your arms while they’re raised will eliminate most of the restriction caused by current wetsuit designs. In the water, the Maverick X ignites and energizes the stroke, providing a powerful snap to movements. This is the closest any manufacturer has come to eliminating shoulder fatigue caused by wearing a wetsuit. The new floating neck design serves the dual purpose of increasing comfort while providing a more secure fit. Small graphical cues ensure proper alignment while putting the suit on, and quick release cuffs allow it to peel off easily. The cost may be difficult for most to swallow, but this suit offers mobility unlike any other wetsuit, making the price justifiable to those seeking the best swimming experience possible.