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The Best Sleeveless Wetsuits for Triathlon

We hands-on review seven of the best sleeveless wetsuits for warm-water swimming.

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Swim conditions are about as varied as triathletes themselves: Sometimes the water’s hot, sometimes it’s cold; sometimes the water is bumpy, sometimes it’s smooth . Sometimes we have longer races, where we might heat up over the hour-plus swim, and sometimes our arms are more fatigued than they need to be by extra neoprene that only serves to make us warmer anyway. What’s the solution? For many triathletes, a sleeveless wetsuit might be the best choice for many—if not all—swims.

Not only are sleeveless wetsuits cooler (for hot-water swims), but you’ll never (ever) find a full-sleeve wetsuit that’s more flexible in the shoulders than—you guessed it—one without shoulders at all. Furthermore, if you’re a bigger triathlete, particularly in the upper body, many sleeved wetsuits might not fit you well if you’re simply taking the average height or volume of your body to determine what size suit you should wear.

Better yet? Sleeveless wetsuits are a substantially cheaper option—even when talking about upper-end offerings from the same brand. Some $800-plus suits have a $400 sleeveless option. Four hundred dollars for two tubes of neoprene connected to your shoulders? Don’t worry, the math doesn’t add up to us either.

But with such a range of prices and less information about the rarely-looked-at category of sleeveless suits, where should you start? We’ve put together a comprehensive list of the latest-and-greatest sleeveless wetsuits for triathlon, so you can pick the best first (or second) option for training and racing. Read on.

Looking for more guidance before you get started? Check out our explainer on wetsuit buying: What Matters (And What Doesn’t) When Buying a Wetsuit

Criteria Description
Fit Range The number of sizes, per gender
Value More than just price, the bang you get for your buck
Flexibility Relative flexibility throughout the suit
Floatation Relative buoyancy
Chafe Prevention How well the suit protects against chafing in the neck and arms
Structural Support How well the suit holds you in the proper form
Ease of Removal How quickly the suit can be removed in transition
Durability Relative durability to fingernails, pulling, and general use

While the gear below was loaned out by the brands represented, all choices were selected independently by the tester without any promotional consideration or brand input. Also, unlike other “best triathlon wetsuit” websites, our testers actually swim in the wetsuits ourselves—no glancing at spec sheets and rewording marketing terms!


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Best Sleeveless Wetsuits for Triathlon

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Blueseventy Sleeveless Reaction

$330

blueseventy.com

Warranty: 1 year
Try-on: 30-day return, unused
Tested: Men’s

The BlueSeventy Sleeveless Reaction, reviewed
Criteria Description
Overall Rating ★★★★
Fit Range 9 (men), 9 (women)
Value ★★★★★
Flexibility ★★★★
Floatation ★★★★
Chafe Prevention ★★★★
Structural Support ★★★
Ease of Removal ★★★★
Durability ★★★
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Even though this suit sits more in the midrange of pricepoints, the Reaction feels extremely premium. Using the revised design of the new Reaction, Blueseventy has stitched together multiple panels of very supple neoprene to make a suit that’s thicker where it needs to be (the legs and lower chest), while still remembering that a sleeveless suit is only as good as its seal around the neck and arm openings. As such, with the Sleeveless reaction you get a very (necessarily) tight neckline that helps keep the arm openings tight as well. The soft and extremely flexible neckline rubber helps that tight fit not feel like you’re being choked (which can happen in sleeveless wetsuits) and prevents chafing (which is also a notorious sleeveless suit side effect). 

Because this is a thinner, premium sleeveless wetsuit, take care when putting it on and removing it, as the neoprene can get cuts. Also because the neoprene and jersey liner is thinner (and because it’s obviously sleeveless), this is one of the cooler sleeveless wetsuits available—so don’t heed Blueseventy’s strange minimum temperature recommendation of 55 degrees F, this is more of a 68+ suit.

The best sleeveless triathlon wetsuit for:

Very warm ocean swims where there’s potential for chafing (due to salt water) and water entry (due to waves).

-Chris Foster

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Roka Maverick Pro II Sleeveless

$500

roka.com

Warranty: 2 years
Try-on: 30-day return, used
Tested: Men’s

Criteria Description
Overall Rating ★★★★
Fit Range 12 (women), 10 (men)
Value ★★★
Flexibility ★★★★★
Chafe Prevention ★★★★★
Structural Support ★★★★
Ease of Removal ★★★★
Durability ★★★
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Rather than offer an entry-level or training model, Roka has bypassed this paradigm to give buyers a sleek, comfortable pro racing experience in the Maverick Pro II Sleeveless. Ultra-premium liners plus the low profile, independent neck panel make it instantly plush and well-fitted. Users won’t need to worry about chafing. Sizes are plentiful and well matched. The wetsuit may initially feel tight, but fear not, it automatically adjusts in the water. Although not robust in thickness, the Roka’s notorious RS2 panel (located in the middle of the chest) provides the wetsuit with a balanced sense of rotation. It may not be the warmest or most buoyant sleeveless model, but what it lacks in this area it makes up for in flexibility.  Triathletes will be able to dial up their flutter kick with ease—the same ease and flexibility is also noted when running into transition.

The Quick Release Ankle Panels make it easy to get on and off, but critically speaking, Roka advertises a SCS Hydrophobic Nano Coating (look for the beads of water) that “improves durability,” while a pair of gloves are provided to handle the wetsuit (hopefully) every time you suit up. And rightfully so, especially if the buyer wants to stretch out the longevity of this $500 wetsuit. Scoffs of disbelief with this sleeveless’ price tag? Rest assured, Roka offers financing and a two year warranty on all their wetsuits.

The best sleeveless triathlon wetsuit for:

Triathletes seeking sleek comfort, ease of entry and exit, and/or tons of freedom to kick.

-Shaun Guest

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XTERRA Vortex Sleeveless

$350

xterrawetsuits.com

Warranty: 1 year
Try-on: 30-day return, used
Tested: Men’s

Criteria Description
Overall Rating ★★★★
Fit Range 9 (men), 9 (women)
Value ★★★★
Flexibility ★★★★
Chafe Prevention ★★★★★
Structural Support ★★★
Ease of Removal ★★★★
Durability ★★★★
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XTERRA boasts this is the “#1 best-selling sleeveless wetsuit in North America for over ten years,” and it makes sense, as the Vortex is a highly durable training and racing wetsuit. It hits all the major categories of comfort, flexibility, and buoyancy to give it an all-around performance. The interior is lined with X-Flex Liner 2.0, giving it smoothness and flexibility during the swim and transition, while the front of the wetsuit is 5 mm thick neoprene,and the back is 3 mm thick. This model provided adequate warmth for summer time open-water conditions.

The wetsuit also performed exceptionally well in windy conditions, especially when buoy wayfinding became a challenge. However, transition was a little tricky. Some water made its way into the wetsuit when accelerating from a dive, although it never reached a point of hindering performance or needing to be flushed out, but you could feel it as you exited the water. It might be worth the user’s time to compare chest fit to a size down in the weight category of XTERRA’s sizing chart. Compared to the other sleeveless models tested, the Vortex  was easiest to peel off the upper body, but not quite as easy to remove over the ankles. With a price tag of $350, the Xterra Vortex will meet the comfort and performance needs of most triathletes.

The best sleeveless triathlon wetsuit for:

Triathletes who want an all-around wetsuit that can be switched between training and racing.

-S.G.

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DeSoto T1 Speedvest and Black Pearl Bibjohn

$240 (SpeedVest), $350 (Black Pearl)

desotosport.com

Warranty: Lifetime
Try-on: 30-day return, used
Tested: Men’s

The De Soto t1 speedvest and black pearl bibjoh, reviewed as best triathlon sleeveless wetsuit
Criteria Description
Overall Rating ★★★
Fit Range 7 (each piece, unisex)
Value ★★★
Flexibility ★★★
Chafe Prevention ★★
Structural Support ★★★★★
Ease of Removal ★★★
Durability ★★★

Are you an Apple or a Samsung person? In a market with a short range of wetsuit variety between brands, DeSoto is the versatile “Android” brand offering something unique to athletes. With a two-piece wetsuit design, buyers can purchase combinations that allow them to train and/or race in a variety of conditions.  The Black Pearl Bibjohn ($350) is typically paired with its full sleeve pullover, but in this review it was paired with the T1 Speedvest ($240) from De Soto’s Speed Collection to function as a sleeveless wetsuit.

Navigating DeSoto’s website, it is difficult to know whether the T1 Speedvest actually goes with the Bibjohn or T1 SpeedTube (also part of the Speed Collection). The Black Pearl Bibjohn might be the better choice though, providing superb warmth and ample buoyancy for easy sighting. The 5mm thick GreenGoma Rubber of the BibJohn also locks the body into a neutral and high position in the water. But, like switching to a Samsung phone, the T1 Speedvest is not intuitive. Since the T1 Speedvest is its own separate piece, when you move, the Speedvest can move around quite a bit too. It takes a moment to adjust to this detachment from the lower and upper neoprene—especially if you’re so used to a traditional one-piece that helps lock rotation from the front to the back of your body. This is also why proper sizing and even some BodyGlide is the best tactic to maximize this wetsuit’s benefits. Taking off the Speedvest is also not intuitive and will require practice. Expect the Bibjohn’s angled leg openings to compensate for any frustrations you might initially experience with the Speedvest in transition.

The best sleeveless triathlon wetsuit for:

Triathletes wanting to experiment; needing postural assist; warmth; or extra buoyancy to navigate wind chop and buoys.

-S.G.

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Zone3 Vision Sleeveless

$350

us.zone3.com

Warranty: 2 years
Try-on: 30-day return, unused
Tested: Women’s

Criteria Description
Overall Rating ★★★★
Fit Range 7 (women), 9 (men)
Value ★★★★
Flexibility ★★★★★
Floatation ★★★
Chafe Prevention ★★★★★
Structural Support ★★★
Ease of Removal ★★★★★
Durability ★★★★★

The Zone3 Vision is a longtime favorite among the sleeveless wetsuit crowd. The suit is by far the lightest and thinnest of the three suits I reviewed. Zone3 does use a thicker 5mm neoprene in the men’s version of this suit, but the 3mm in the women’s suit allows for a more natural body position in the water. The lightness of the suit really shines by allowing the wearer full range of motion through the torso, hips, and legs while still providing additional buoyancy and warmth. This same lightness allows the suit to practically slide itself down and off during an exceptionally speedy removal in T1.

Testers found the Vision to be extremely comfortable and snug-fitting, but the large arm holes allowed water to enter the suit with each arm stroke to shoulder rotation. When compared to the other tested suits, the Vision has the largest vertical opening and thinnest width at the upper back (by over an inch in both measurements). These larger arm openings are highly desirable for athletes with a history of anxiety or claustrophobia from the full chest compression of a common wetsuit.

The best sleeveless triathlon wetsuit for:

Athletes looking for a competitive suit with more freedom in the torso and lightning-fast transitions.

-Sara McLarty

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Synergy HYBRID EFX3

$400

synergywetsuits.com

Warranty: 2 years
Try-on: 30-day return, unused
Tested: Women’s

Criteria Description
Overall Rating ★★★★★
Fit Range 8 (men), 7 (women)
Value ★★★★★
Flexibility ★★★★★
Floatation ★★★★
Chafe Prevention ★★★★
Structural Support ★★★★
Ease of Removal ★★★★★
Durability ★★★★★

The Synergy Hybrid EFX3 is Synergy’s top-of-the-line wetsuit, and the sleeveless version is basically all the perks for half the price but just without the sleeves. You can tell you’re in an extremely flexible and well-designed suit as soon as you slide it on. The suit bends and flexes with every movement and comfortably hugs all the right places like a second skin. It’s very rare for a company to make a sleeveless version of their high-end suit. Typically you’ll see sleeveless versions of the brand’s mid-range suit (like the Zone 3) or the lowest model (like the Zoot).

Swimming in the Hybrid EFX3 suit is effortless. The sleeveless shoulder freedom and arm cooling are welcomed during warm summer testing swims, but the rest of the suit acts just like the most expensive suits on the market. This suit is extremely successful at preventing unnecessary water intake that can often happen without sleeves. First, the thin and soft 2mm hiflex neoprene around the neck is gentle yet secure and moves with every head turn and lift to prevent rubbing and chafing. Second, the cut of the arm holes is minimum, allowing most of the upper back of the suit to remain intact and provide warmth, flotation, and sleekness.

The best sleeveless triathlon wetsuit for:

Triathletes racing warm-water events but who still want a high-quality suit.

-S.M.

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Zoot Kona Sleeveless 2.0

$275

zootsports.com

Warranty: 2 years
Try-on: 30-day return, unused
Tested: Women’s

Criteria Description
Overall Rating ★★★
Fit Range 6 (women), 8 (women)
Value ★★★
Flexibility ★★★
Floatation ★★★★
Chafe Prevention ★★
Structural Support ★★★★
Ease of Removal ★★★
Durability ★★★

The Kona 2.0 is Zoot’s entry level and affordable wetsuit, and it comes in a full-sleeve or sleeveless option. Tester’s first reactions at taking the suit out of the box were excitement to see a wetsuit with color and panache. The Kona 2.0 is offered at a price that doesn’t break the bank, but still provides all the benefits—it features great flotation through the lower legs, secure and form-fitting chest panels that limit water intake but allow for lung expansion, and a zipper that aids in fast removal at T1.

Being the lowest-range suit does mean the Kona 2.0 is lacking some of the finesse found on similar products. Our least favorite part of this suit was the neck opening which features a very tight and rigid fold-over seam. The rear neck flap is just a raw cut of the material that causes mild irritation during sighting. 

The best sleeveless triathlon wetsuit for:

Your first few triathlon events or an affordable second suit for training purposes.

-S.M.