So you thought you had the subject of wetsuits well and truly in the bag. Then your friend just asked you whether you preferred a shorty in the Spring or a jacket? Did you ever just wear Long John-style pants and go all bare-chested, Tarzan-like? What about in the winter; what’s your preferred layering method to keep you better insulated or do you go up a thickness? Help! You mean you can actually layer wetsuits is probably what you’re thinking about now, right? Let’s find out how wetsuit layering gives you more options.
Yes, Indeed You Can Layer Wetsuits
In fact, all that lovely rubbery neoprene has been designed to do just that – to provide you with lots of flexible options. If you do prefer that sensation and freedom of movement that comes with having your arms and legs free, you can get that with a shorty. However, if you feel like adding on an extra layer of thermal protection for a cold water dive, you can do that too with a jacket or vest.
Layering Provides You with So Many Options
We’re not just talking about adding, but also removing them. That way, you really can enjoy your watersports at all times of the year and in all weather conditions and water temperatures too. You see, it does work both ways; it’s not always about keeping yourself warm.
If you are lucky enough to do your diving and surfing in the tropics where the sea temperature is over 70° and protecting yourself from the heat rather than the cold is more of concern, then you might still want some anti-abrasion and UV protection, but you might prefer the flexibility of a sleeveless vest teamed just with your boardshorts.
Popular Layering Combinations
So let’s look at more useful layering combinations and how having a range of neoprene can ultimately provide you with far more options. You might even decide that rather than investing in a full wetsuit, the best option for you might be a pick and mix combo of Long Johns or Jills (for the ladies) with a nice full frontal zippered jacket. We know, all that choice makes this more difficult, but trust us, there are plenty of fantastic neoprene product lines from all the well-established boarding brands so you really can’t go wrong, whatever layering combination you decide to go for.
Chances are that your wetsuit will be one of the most personal items of sports clothing you ever purchase and above all else, it needs to be comfortable and fit for purpose. If you do live in the tropics and you’re only going to be paddle boarding, then you might not ever need a full wetsuit, so it’s good to know what all the different options are.
Essentially, whether it’s a shorty, full, long, jacket, pant or vest suit, one thing all of these items are going to have in common is that they will be constructed from a protective rubbery shell. How much of your body you need that rubbery shell to cover will depend upon what watersport you are undertaking and how much abrasion protection your skin is going to need. That and, of course, the thermal, wind or UV protection that you might additionally require.
It’s All About the Neoprene
Wetsuits are generally made of a closed-cell foam neoprene that’s been plasticized to give it that flexibility and form to mold and contour to a body’s shape. It might surprise you to find out that neoprene starts out life white, like the soles of most sneakers, but when it’s mixed with carbon black, which helps to improve the suit’s tensile strength and durability, it becomes black which while looking sleek and stylish, also makes it more practical for sunlight resistance.
There is a direct correlation (usually at least) to the price you pay for your neoprene clothes versus their quality, durability, and flexibility. Some are additionally mixed with other fabrics such as Lycra to deliver even higher stretch, but as a general rule of thumb, the lower the neoprene content of your wetsuit, the more frequently you will need to replace it.
Thickness also has a part to play in the durability of your wetsuit layers, and while everyone has their own cold water level tolerance, a 3 mm is the usual standard. The thicker the suit, the more insulated but more restrictive that fluid movement will be so again, layering is great if you want to create some targeted heat around your torso but keep those arms fully mobile. That’s where combining a full wetsuit with a hooded vest or a pair of shorties worn over your regular main wetsuit might be a handy option.
Getting the Correct Fit Is Everything
Above all else, regardless of whether you intend layering or not, the most important thing is always to ensure that your items fit you correctly. Don’t be tempted to go too loose as a poor fit will definitely compromise the potential warmth you can get from your suit, no matter how many layers you then choose to put on top. Look for features like double cuffs and skin-in seals that will help prevent water entry and thereby significantly improve your ability to stay insulated and warm.
Fashion and Function
Layering might also be an option that the more fashion conscious among you want to play with too. It’s undeniable that as well as improving wetsuits from a performance and technological perspective, brands are also catering to the general public’s love of fashion and looking good in and out of the water.
In the good old days when all you had on offer was a full-body wetsuit, you could have it in any color you wanted, as long as that color was black! Nowadays, besides adding jackets, vests, and pants to the lineup, you can also get your neoprene in all kinds of colors and designs and suits explicitly made to contour the shape of male and female physiques.
With advancements also made to the entry and exit of wetsuit garments with back, front, long leash and even zipperless designs being explored, layering is easier than ever before, and as we said at the very beginning, a couple of key items in your wetsuit arsenal will ensure that you can continue to enjoy your favorite watersports, whatever the conditions.