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THE GREAT WETSUIT TEST

Not sure what you need in a wetsuit? Outdoor Swimmer editor Jonathan Cowie and contributing editor Alice Gartland tested a range of suits from under £100 to over £500 to find out the best wetsuits on the market for any budget

TRIED & TESTED

We headed down to Tooting Bec Lido to test a range of wetsuits. The water temperature was 11 degrees Celsius so we were able to test for warmth as well as performance, fit, buoyancy and faff factor (how difficult it is to put on and take off the wetsuit), plus our overall impression.

What should you look for in a wetsuit? It really depends on what you want to use the suit for and your budget. We tested suits from under £100 to over £500. Some suits are designed for open water swimming, while others are more triathlon-specific. Innovations this year include Orca’s two-piece suit – no good for a triathlon, but a real contender if you are looking for something just for swimming. Other brands like Selkie and Alpkit produce suits specifically for open water swimmers, concentrating on feel for the water and a more natural swimming experience rather than just getting you to your bike in as quick a time as possible.

Different suits offer different levels of warmth and buoyancy, and the more expensive the suit gets the better range of movement you will have as high-spec flexible neoprene is used on the arms and shoulders. Other features on high-end suits might include catch panels on the forearms, breakaway zips and stability panels. Cheaper suits might not have thinner and more flexible neoprene, but they can often be more durable – so something to consider if you want your suit to last a long time or you plan on taking it out on wild swimming adventures and not just racing in it.

Wetsuits help you swim faster by reducing drag and improving buoyancy, but only if you fit them correctly. Put one on incorrectly, and it can seriously hold you back. A wetsuit should fit like a second skin, practically vacuumsealed. Do a simple test: with the suit on and well-fitted all over, hold one arm out horizontally and check the material underneath. If there are folds of rubber or an air pocket, there isn’t enough of you to fill the suit.

The wetsuit dance! Jonathan throws some shapes while getting into the Huub Aerious II
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About Outdoor Swimmer

Welcome to our training special! Whether you have signed up for your first open water event or are planning an endurance challenge we have a plan for you – turn to page 44 for our one mile, 5k and 10k training schedules. We also have an intensive 10k DIY training camp for more advanced swimmers, as well as advice on how to successfully swim 24 miles in 24 hours and train for a swimrun event. Plus, our resident Olympian Cassie Patten answers your training queries and Total Immersion head coach Terry Laughlin trains your brain as well as your body. And if you haven’t yet signed up to an event to train for, check out our full listings starting on page 80. Outdoor swimming isn’t all about chasing that PB though. We hear from self-confessed dipper Joe Minihane about how wild swimming helped cure his anxiety and Ella Foote swims with Tessa Wardley, the author of a new book on mindfulness and swimming. And Jenny Landreth delves into the history books to explore the advice given to female swimmers in the 19th century. Enjoy the magazine and happy swimming.
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