Sian Lewis shares her top picks of the best women’s specific warm wetsuits for cold water swimming to keep you cosy year-round
Looking for the best cold water swimming wetsuit for women and need a little pointer in the right direction, then I’m here to help you.
Whether you’re an experienced outdoor swimmer eyeing up your next open water challenge or are just dipping your toe in the world of wild swimming this spring, a warm and comfortable wetsuit will keep you going for longer in colder temperatures, and make swimming a true year-round activity.
Not all wetsuits for women are created equal – most are designed specifically with either surfers or open water swimmers in mind. If you exclusively swim, make sure you choose a suit designed just for swimmers, like the six tried-and-tested wetsuits in our round-up below.
While you can always wear a surf wetsuit for a quick dip, a swimming-specific wetsuit will really give you the edge if you’re getting fit over longer distances or are entering your first swim event. Swimming wetsuits are usually made from thick materials like neoprene and yulex rubber, which trap in heat and warm water around your body, keeping you at a comfortable temperature for longer. They usually have slimmer neoprene around the arms and legs, to reduce drag in the water and keep you feeling flexible as you move. You’ll also find short swimmer’s wetsuits that can be armless or sleeveless, designed to give you some protection in spring and summer.
At a glance
Zone 3 Thermal Agile Wetsuit – Best for winter use – Buy Now
Orca Openwater Core Hi-Vis Wetsuit – Best for being seen in the water – Buy now
Nabaiji Open Water Sleeveless Wetsuit – Best for freedom of movement – Buy now
My top six picks of the best swimming wetsuits for women are aimed at different seasons and will suit different budgets, but they’re all reliably cosy in the cold without stopping you from swimming freely.
Not sure where to start shopping? You’ll also find key features to look out for when choosing the best cold water swimming wetsuit in our quick buyer’s guide, below.
Swimming wetsuits: 6 of the best cold-water wetsuits for outdoor swimmers
Zone 3 Thermal Agile Wetsuit
Best Cold Water Swimming Wetsuit for Women for winter use
Reasons to Buy: very warm, good freedom of movement, eco-friendly neoprene
Reason to Avoid: too warm for summer swims, expensive
Want to swim confidently in the iciest of waters? Zone 3’s Thermal Agile suit will be your new second skin. New for the 2022-2023 winter season, the Thermal Agile boasts a cosy thick inner lining of fleece coupled with neoprene panels of varying thicknesses, so you stay warm around your torso without compromising on freedom of movement when moving your arms and legs. Buoyancy panels on the legs help reduce drag, and Zone 3’s winter wonder is made with recycled neoprene derived from scrap rubber tyres, for eco brownie points. If you want to take your swimming further into the colder months, this is the suit to get you to your goals.
- Material: recycled neoprene
- Sizes: XS-XXL
- Thickness: 2-4mm
Orca Openwater Core Hi-Vis Wetsuit
Best Cold Water Swimming Wetsuit for Women for being seen in the water
Reasons to Buy: good visibility, odour control, good price point
Reason to Avoid: not quite warm enough for winter sessions
As the name suggests, this suit is far brighter than your average all-black neoprene ensemble – bright orange arms and shoulder panels make you easy to spot in the water and in low light. Wear this suit along with an orange tow float and you’ll be safer in the ocean or lake Besides its looks, the Orca Openwater Core performs well under pressure, offering a good balance of warmth and freedom of movement that will suit swimming sessions from spring through to late autumn. I also like that this suit has a lining made with bamboo, designed to fight odours and keep your suit fresh.
- Material: neoprene
- Sizes: XS-XL
- Thickness: 2.5
Dhb Hydron 2.0 Wetsuit
Best Cold Water Swimming Wetsuit for Women for those on a tight budget
Reasons to Buy: reliably warm and waterproof, soft snug inner lining, lots of colours to choose from
Reason to Avoid: thick and heavy
Shopping for your first open water suit? Dhb’s Hydron is an excellent all-rounder – and it’s currently at a very pocket-friendly price point at well under £100. This neoprene suit has a hefty 3mm thickness on the torso with 2mm on the back and arms for plenty of winter warmth and less restriction as you move. Buoyant and with limited drag, this is a suit that will give beginner swimmers confidence as they branch out further into open water.
- Material: neoprene
- Sizes: XS-XL
- Thickness: 3mm
Nabaiji Open Water Sleeveless Wetsuit
Best Cold Water Swimming Wetsuit for Women for freedom of movement
Reasons to Buy: great freedom of movement, lovely fit, good warmth around the torso
Reason to Avoid: only suitable for warm weather
Decathlon is a great port of call if you need a decent wetsuit for any season but don’t want to spend much more than £150. This sleeveless wonder of a wetsuit is a nice choice for anyone who swims in the summer months, offering welcome warmth from spring to autumn with unimpeded freedom of movement for your swimming strokes. This was one of the top-performing wetsuits I tested for fit, hugging the body nicely without being restrictive and offering good flexibility. This suit is also easy to pull on and off, great for triathletes.
- Material: neoprene
- Sizes: UK 6-16
- Thickness: 2.5
Finisterre Nieuwland Yulex wetsuit
Reasons to Buy: flattering and flexible design, handy front zip, made from sustainable yulex
Reason to Avoid: no leg coverage in colder weather
Swimsuit meets wetsuit in Finisterre’s flattering shortie suit, which has long sleeves for warmth but leaves your legs free to kick away as you explore open water. Finisterre’s swim and surf suits are all made with yulex, an eco-friendly new alternative to neoprene derived from natural rubber. I like the easy-access front zip, comfortable collar and good coverage of the shorts, and five colourways are available, to make a change from all-black suits. Ideal for summer wild swims.
- Material: yulex rubber
- Sizes: 6-18
- Thickness: 2mm
Roxy Long Jane Springsuit
Reasons to Buy: light and freeing armless cut, fun bright print, recycled materials
Reason to Avoid: thin neoprene and limited warmth
Stand out from the boring black neoprene crowd in Roxy’s fun and eye-catching sleeveless springsuit. The daisy-print Long Jane is ideal if you want extra coverage for spring and summer swims or snorkelling sessions and fancy something a little different. This suit is so flexible thanks to its sleeveless design that you’ll barely notice you have it on as you move through the water – great if you don’t like feeling weighed down as you paddle – and padded knees are ideal for water sports when you aren’t swimming.
- Material: neoprene
- Sizes: S-XL
- Thickness: 1.5
What we look for in the best women’s wetsuits
Thickness: Besides having long or short arms and legs for more or less coverage to suit different seasons, wetsuits are also designed using different thicknesses of neoprene, which you’ll see rated in millimetres. Swimming wetsuits have thinner neoprene around the arms and armpits than surf suits for ease of movement, and are cut in order to reduce drag in the water. If you’re only buying one suit for casual swimming a 2mm is probably your most versatile pick. If you swim year-round, owning a full-length thermal winter wetsuit with 3 or 4mm of neoprene on the torso and a short-sleeved ‘shortie’ wetsuit of 1.5 or 2mm thickness will keep you comfortable in every season.
Material: Traditionally, wetsuits have always been made of neoprene. Neoprene is great as a warm wetsuit material for swimmers heading out in cold conditions, so it’s still a sensible choice, but this petroleum-based fabric is not kind on the planet. Now there’s a new material on the block that wetsuit makers are now using to create wetsuits – yulex rubber. This renewable, plant-based rubber is more sustainable than neoprene, but it’s still flexible, durable and has heat-holding properties, so it’s ideal for winter waters. Yulex suits are often more expensive than neoprene, but are worth the extra spend if you’d like to make an eco-friendly purchase. Look after your new wetsuit by rinsing in fresh water after wearing, especially if you’ve been swimming in salt water, and dry in a shady place.
Fit & Design: Swimming wetsuits are designed to be quick and easy to pull on and off, to suit the needs of triathletes, who need to change on the fly. Try your suit on in person if you can – sizes can vary greatly between brands. Some suits allow you to trim the legs and arms to fit, which is a good choice if you’re petite. We recommend a suit with long arms and legs for winter swim sessions – if you like some protection in warmer months, pick a sleeveless, full-leg suit for swimming, which allows the arms free movement but keeps your legs and torso cosy. Winter wetsuits are sometimes also lined with thermal fleece, which adds welcome extra warmth. While most wetsuits are black (neoprene’s base colour, which offers good UV resistance), some women’s wetsuits also feature bright pops of colour which have the added benefit of making you easier to spot in the water.
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