I’ve been snorkeling, diving and freediving for years and while I generally prefer bare skin or a simple rashguard whenever possible, I’ve also owned a 3mm wetsuit for comfort and safety reasons.
If you spend a lot of time in the water when you travel–whether to swim, snorkel, surf, or dive–it’s a good idea to invest in a 3mm wetsuit that you can take with you. They keep the sun off, the jellyfish off, protect you from accidental coral scrapes, and keep you warm. Even in the tropics, if you spend enough time in the water, your body temperature will drop, and you will get cold.
The Winner of the Best 3mm Wetsuit Overall: Cressi Morea
The Cressi Morea is the best 3mm wetsuit on the market right now because it’s the right mix of affordability and the premium quality that you would expect from a brand like Cressi. It’s ideal for tropical water diving and its ultraspan neoprene gives you excellent mobility in the water. Nothing is worse than wetsuit material that is so rigid it restricts your movement.
A great combination of thermal and abrasion protection, the Cressi Morea is designed to ensure you stay warm and guarded against coral, metal, rocks and stinging creatures. The rubberized neoprene chest area helps to lock in heat and the added knee protection is a nice touch for when you need to hoist yourself up onto a boat or dock.
I think the lesson here is to do extra research into sizing and what will work best for you.
While the Cressi Morea is, for my money, the best 3mm wetsuit available, combing the professional quality you would expect from a company like Cressi with affordability, there are other options on the market that might be better suited to different applications/needs. They are:
- Best 3mm Wetsuit for Spearfishing: Cressi Tokugawa
- Best Shorty 3mm Wetsuit: Seaskin 3mm Shorty Wetsuit
- Best Kids 3mm Wetsuit: O’Neill Epic
- Best 3mm Wetsuit Jacket for Snorkeling: Lemorecn 3mm Long-Sleeve
Best 3mm Wetsuit for Spearfishing: Cressi Tokugawa
Spearfishing wetsuits are usually slightly different from normal snorkeling, freediving or diving wetsuits because they are more akin to hunting apparel. The Cressi Tokugawa blue-green camouflage is a great 3mm wetsuit for spearfishing in warm and temperate water environments because it is adaptable to a variety of water colours–from the cerulean blues of the Caribbean and Indo-Pacific to the greener tones of more northerly latitudes.
The Tokugawa also has some really thoughtful spearfishing-centric features that make this ideal spearfishing gear. Built-in knee and shin reinforcement helps protect the wetsuit if you are kneeling on the ocean floor a lot while hunting and the high-density loading chest plate is meant to absorb pressure while you load your speargun.
The form-fitting feel, effective camo, high degree of flexibility and nice spearfishing-specific touches make this the best 3mm wetsuit for spearfishing.
Best Shorty 3mm Wetsuit: Seaskin 3mm Shorty Wetsuit
Sometimes you don’t want to wear a full-body 3mm wetsuit and would rather something a little more minimalist. The Seaskin Shorty is the best 3mm wetsuit for people who don’t want or need their legs and arms covered.
It’s a multipurpose neoprene wetsuit that can be used for everything from kayaking and paddleboarding to snorkeling and diving in warmer waters.
Best Kids 3mm Wetsuit: O’Neill Epic
The O’Neill Epic is the best 3mm wetsuit geared towards youth on the market. It’s ultraflex neoprene, double seal neck closure, and fun graphics make this the ideal wetsuit for young snorkelers, divers, surfers and paddle borders.
A great first wetsuit for a kid that gives you O’Neill’s brand name assurance and all of the features you would expect from a high-end 3mm wetsuit.
Best 3mm Wetsuit Jacket for Snorkeling: Lemorecn 3mm Long-Sleeve
If you are just looking for something for snorkeling (i.e., you are not spending 45 minutes at a time at 12+ metres depth) then a simple zip-up 3mm wetsuit jacket will probably due the trick.
The best 3mm wetsuit jack for snorkeling is a great alternative if you want something warmer and thicker than a simple rashguard but don’t want to don a full wetsuit. Lemorecn’s 3mm wetsuit jacket is made of neoprene, so it’s traditional wetsuit material that will help you stay comfortable if you are spending prolonged periods snorkeling. I often lose track of time when I’m snorkeling and find I’ve been out there for 3 hours. Something like this makes staying out and diving down much less chilly.
What Went Into My Selection Process for the Best 3mm Wetsuit List
I compiled my years of experience diving, snorkeling, kayaking and swimming in both cold and warm water as well as many hours of research and discussions with other divers and snorkelers to come up with what I believed to be a reliable list of the best 3mm wetsuits.
I’ve used 3mm wetsuits in the Caribbean, during the summer months in both lakes and oceans in Canada, and throughout the Indo-Pacific and it is by far my favourite wetsuit thickness. It’s not too buoyant but while still being thick enough to keep you warm in a variety of conditions and basically any recreational dive depth in warm water.
Pouring through product comments, YouTube videos and forum discussions led me to my shortlist of 3mm wetsuits. While they are not the most expensive products on the market, I’m confident they will satisfy most recreational snorkelers and divers, and specially those who are looking for something that is packable that can be taken on traveling and diving trips.
Main Evaluation Criteria to Choose the Best 3mm Wetsuit
The three main things I am evaluating when assessing a 3mm wetsuit are:
Fit is vital because an ill-fitting wetsuit lets water in and out, which defeats the purpose of a wetsuit–to trap a layer of water between the suit and your body, which your body then heats up, thereby keeping you warm. A wetsuit should fit snug enough that you stay warm, but not so tight that it restricts your mobility or, worse, hurts you.
I always check the manufacturer’s sizing guidelines when buying a wetsuit online and cross reference them with what previous buyers have to say. Depending on the country or region, a manufacturer’s guidelines might make less sense for other regions. It is also important to make sure that you are getting a gender-specific wetsuit. Most manufacturers tailor men’s and women’s wetsuits to male and female bodies.
Comfort is very important to me because I spend a lot of time in the water and something that is pinching or chaffing me is going to ruin the experience for me. You will also want something that you don’t mind wearing during surface intervals too. Reputable wetsuit manufacturers tend to use thicker neoprene around the torso and chest and thinner material around the joints so that vital organs and your chest stay warm, while your limbs are left mobile.
Lastly, warmth is a key factor. With a 3mm wetsuit, you are more or less restricted to warm water snorkeling and diving. 3mm of neoprene is not going to keep you warm diving in freshwater or off the Pacific coast of Canada. You need to make sure the wetsuit you are choosing is the right thickness for the region you will be diving or snorkeling in.
Reasons To Bring Your Own Wetsuit When Traveling
I like to buy my own snorkel and/or dive gear because I don’t like to rely on other people’s choices. I feel much better on a snorkel or dive holiday knowing that I’ve done my own due diligence on my 3mm wetsuit and I’m not relying on a dive shop’s gear.
If you don’t invest in your own wetsuit, you might end up stuck with something that doesn’t fit well, isn’t properly maintained and, let’s face it, there is a 100 percent chance that the loaner wetsuit you’re using has been peed in dozens of times.
Different Wetsuit Styles
There are a lot of different styles of wetsuit. Some are a matter of personal preference while others are better or worse suited to different activities and environments.
- Long John wetsuits. A long john wetsuit has full-length legs but short sleeves.
- Springsuit. A springsuit can have both short arms and legs, or it can have longer of either, depending on the time of year and the water conditions.
- Shorty. A shorty has both short sleeves and legs.
- Wetsuit tops. A wetsuit top refers just the top part of the wetsuit, which can be worn together with separate wetsuit bottoms or with a regular bathing suit.
- Wetsuit vest. A wetsuit vest is basically a sleeveless wetsuit top.
- Hooded vest. A hooded vest is your standard wetsuit vest with an attached hood for added warmth.
- Steamer. A steamer is a full wetsuit with a hood on it. It starts at your ankles and goes all the way up to your head.
Different Wetsuit Thicknesses
The season and region when and where you are planning on entering the water determines the wetsuit thickness you need. Both the water and air temperature are important variables to consider. Below is a rundown of the common wetsuit thicknesses and the water temperatures they are best suited for.
- 2/2mm wetsuit: water temperatures above 20 degrees celsius
- 3/2mm wetsuit: water temperatures around 15 to 20 degrees celsius
- 4/3mm wetsuit: water temperatures around 12-16 degrees celsius
- 5/3mm wetsuit: water temperatures around 9 to 11 degrees celsius
- 5/4/3mm wetsuit: water temperatures between 8 to 10 degrees celsius
- 5/4mm wetsuit: water temperatures between 8 to 10 degrees celsius
- 6/4mm wetsuit: water temperature of 8 degrees celsius
- 6/5/4mm wetsuit: water temperature of 6 degrees celsius
- 6/5mm wetsuit: water temperature of 5 degrees celsius
The closer you get to freezing, the stricter you should follow these rules. A 3mm wetsuit is one that is meant to be worn in water between 15 to 20 degrees celsius. That’s actually quite cold water, when you think about it.
The summer water temperature around my native Vancouver, Canada, for example, is usually around 15-16 degrees. Only the hardcore would take a bare-skin summer dip on a day when the air temperature wasn’t compelling you to want to cool down.
Compare that with a place like Koh Lipe, Thailand, for instance (where I had just been prior to writing this article), and the water was around 29 to 30 degrees celsius. Even still, if you spend enough time down 10+ metres below the surface in the tropics, you can still feel the chill.
Looking After Your Wetsuit
There are a few things you should always do to any wetsuit after each use.
- Give it a freshwater rinse. Saltwater corrodes neoprene and will eventually fill a wetsuit with holes, rendering it useless.
- Dry your wetsuit in the shade. UV rays also damage neoprene, so dry and store your wetsuit out of direct sunlight.
- Get a wetsuit hanger. Never hang a wetsuit by the neck or shoulder or you will stretch it, which means poor water retention and less heat for you. You can gently ring water out of your wetsuit before hanging to speed up drying.
- Treat your wetsuit with wetsuit shampoo every so often. Salt, sand and grime will accumulate in your wetsuit over time, even if you rinse it out after each use. A wetsuit shampoo every now and again will keep your wetsuit looking and smelling like new.
- Be gentle when taking off your wetsuit. Neoprene is pretty durable, so long as you don’t mistreat it. Don’t pull on your wetsuit’s seams to take it off and avoid digging sharp fingernails or your thumbs into the material to try and take it off. Don’t grab the ends of your pant legs or sleeves and yank.
There are also a few things you shouldn’t do if you want to get the longest useful life out of your wetsuit:
- Don’t pee in your wetsuit. There are two kinds of people in this world: those who pee in their wetsuit and filthy liars. Urine is highly corrosive, however, and it can damage the glue, stitching and neoprene. It is the quickest way to spring a leak in the crotchal region of your suit.
- Don’t machine-wash your wetsuit.
- Don’t put your wetsuit in the dryer.
- Don’t leave it in a heap in your car or storage area after being in the water. This is a great way to get a mouldy wetsuit and one that you won’t want to use.
Why Investing in a Good Quality 3mm Wetsuit Makes Sense
If you are someone who vacations a lot in the tropics, or if you are one of the lucky humans who lives within close proximity of great snorkeling, diving and other water sports, a 3mm wetsuit is a great investment. They aren’t so big that you can’t easily pack them in a checked bag and they definitely make prolonged periods in the water (even warmer water) safer and more enjoyable.
There have been many occasions on which I have had to swim through a hoard of jellies, accidentally brushed up against some fire coral or needed some extra warmth to keep me going on a long swim or dive and been very thankful for my 3mm wetsuit.
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