What a process! I’ve owned a bunch of wetsuits in my life, but have never had the pleasure of wearing so many suits over a couple months. Lots of learnings. Here’s a huge one – each manufacturer builds the fit of their suit differently. Some make their suits snug, others had extra material in critical joints.
While everyone claims lightest, stretchiest, warmest, etc. life is full of trade offs. Just like you can’t have a 500hp car that gets 50mpg, suit manufacturers have to make trade offs. The good news is nobody is making a crappy suit. Your challenge is to weigh what’s most important to you, then find the suit that fits the best.
Our goal when we started was to create the most objective wetsuit test possible. 80% of our test score is objective. All suits were put through the same tests. Yes, there is some degree of variability but we’ve done everything we can to eliminate or minimize variables. That said, we left 20% of a suits score up to the tester (me). We felt this was critical because you can’t really objectify things like “feel” and “comfort”. So you will see positives and negatives in the user review. These positives and negatives outline key takeaways and justify the user score.
My strong recommendation is to use this test as guide to narrow your search. Look at what’s most important to you then pick a few suits to try on. When you find one that feels better than the others – buy it. If you’ve had the same suit for a few years things have changed – a lot. Whatever suit you buy, make sure to get it at a mom and pop surf shop. Support the core people!
As mentioned above the goal was to be as objective as possible. To ensure transparency below is the judging criteria and at the bottom of the page is a PDF where you can download all the raw data. Testing methodology is © Solspot 2012, no stealing.
Part 1 – Value – 20% of total score. Take the lowest MSRP – that wetsuit gets a perfect score = 20. For every $25 standard deviation you lose 1 point. Partial points were given.
Part 2 – Performance – 60% of total score. We measured: Weight (Dry & Wet), Dry Time, Arm & Leg Stretch, and Body Temperature while surfing. Top score in each category = 20 points, then 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13.
Part 3 – User Evaluation 20% of total score. User notes on how the wetsuit felt, things liked/disliked. Full wetsuit reviews are given in previous articles on Solspot.
Here are the winners of the individual categories:
Value (MSRP) – O’Neill Psycho 1 – $309.95
Lightest Wetsuit Dry – O’Neill Psycho 1
Lightest Wetsuit After Soaked for 15 mins – Isurus i-Elite
Dry Time – Isurus i-Elite
Arm Stretch – Body Glove Pr1me
Leg Stretch – Body Glove Pr1me
Warmth – Rip Curl Flashbomb Plus
Quiksilver Fuse Flex – Perfect 20 points
+ Ridiculously comfortable, especially in knees and elbows
+ Incredibly warm
+ Dries fast
Rip Curl Flashbomb Plus – Perfect 20 points
+ The warmest wetsuit tested
+ Inside dry’s right before your eyes
+ A wetsuit I keep going back to after testing ended
Isurus i-Elite – 19 points
+ The lightest suit in the water
+ Closed cell neoprene is legit, it works
+ Heat to weight ratio is incredible
- Too snug for my personal taste
Patagonia R2 – 17 points
+ Only suit to focus on environmental impact
+ Super comfortable
- The most expensive suit tested
- The heaviest suit when wet
Buell B1 – 17 points
+ Great combo of performance for the price
+ Fantastic return policy (you won’t need it)
- No place for me to stash my key
- Zipper was difficult to get closed
Body Glove Pr1me – 17 points
+ The most stretch in arms and legs
+ Material used in chest made suit very comfortable
- The lowest average internal temp of all suits
- Zipper had big internal sew point, felt awkward
O’Neill Psycho 1 – 17 points
+ The most affordable suit
+ One of the lightest suits dry or wet
- Wanted it to be warmer
- Not as comfortable as other suits in the neck
After all the number crunching and time in the water it was a very tight race. In fact, only 2 points separated first and second and there was a tie for second. Crazy how close the competition was! That said, we have a winner. Solspot’s 2012 Winter Wetsuit of the Year – O’Neill Psycho 1. A great combination of overall value and performance. Congratulations to the O’Neill wetsuit team.
About the tester:
5’9” tall, 6’2” wingspan, 16” neck, 31” inseam, 34” waist, 180lbs. Surfs minimum 2x per week. 18 years surfing experience.
Tags: Body Glove, buell, Isurus, O'Neill, Objective Test, objective wetsuit test, Patagonia, Quiksilver, Rip Curl, Solspot Wetsuit Review, Winter Wetsuit Review