When Should You Wear a Wetsuit?

Hilary Topper wearing a TYR wetsuit
Swimming is not only a fantastic workout but also a refreshing and enjoyable activity. Whether you’re a seasoned swimmer or just starting, you may have wondered if you need a wetsuit for your aquatic adventures. Many people hate the restriction they get for wearing a wetsuit. Others love the buoyancy and won’t swim without a wetsuit.

So, when should you wear one or not wear one? Here are things to consider:

Water Temperature

One of the primary considerations when deciding on a wetsuit is the water temperature. Wetsuits provide insulation, keeping your body warm in colder waters. As a general guide, if the water temperature falls below 78°F (25°C), a wetsuit can help maintain your body heat and prevent hypothermia. However, if the water is warmer, you may find a wetsuit unnecessary and potentially uncomfortable due to overheating.

Duration of Swim

The duration of your swim also plays a role in determining whether a wetsuit is necessary. If you plan on swimming for an extended period or participating in endurance events, a wetsuit can help conserve your energy by reducing fatigue caused by cold water exposure. Additionally, the added buoyancy of a wetsuit can enhance your efficiency and overall performance, particularly in open-water swims.
open water swimming

Personal Cold Tolerance

Everyone has different cold tolerance levels, which can vary depending on factors such as body fat percentage and acclimatization to cold water. If you are naturally more sensitive to colder temperatures or are new to swimming in open water, a wetsuit can provide an extra layer of comfort and confidence. It can offer peace of mind, allowing you to focus on your stroke technique and enjoy your swim, rather than worrying about feeling too cold. (I fall into this category!)

Safety Considerations

Wearing a wetsuit is safer than not wearing one. If you’re swimming in areas known for strong currents or unpredictable weather conditions, wearing a wetsuit can provide additional protection against potential risks. Always check the guidelines and recommendations specific to your swimming location or event to ensure compliance with safety regulations.

Individual Swim Goals and Preferences

Ultimately, the decision to wear a wetsuit while swimming is a personal choice based on your goals and comfort. Some swimmers simply prefer the added buoyancy and ease of movement that a well-fitted wetsuit provides, regardless of water temperature. Others may opt for alternatives such as neoprene shorts or rash guards for a balance between thermal insulation and flexibility.
Hilary Topper after she finished her open water swim in mid-October
Determining whether you need a wetsuit for swimming depends on a combination of factors, including water temperature, swim duration, personal cold tolerance, safety requirements, and individual preferences. Assess these factors carefully and make an informed decision based on your needs and circumstances. Remember, staying safe and comfortable in the water should always be a priority, regardless of your choice of swimwear.
So, dive in and enjoy your swim, whether it’s with or without a wetsuit – just make sure you’re prepared for a fantastic aquatic experience!