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Patagonia wetsuit

The warranty “covers anything that appears to have failed under normal use, such as a blown seam, failed power seam seal or broken zipper. Warranty items are always repaired free of charge.” Photo: Amee Longpré


The Inertia

If you didn’t score a wetsuit for Christmas, now is probably the time when you wish you did. The temps have dropped even further, at least here on the West Coast, and worst of all it’s started raining. I don’t know about you, but my year-old 4/3 (4.5/3.5 actually) is starting to feel pretty worn out and leaky, no matter how many coats of Aquaseal I apply to the seams. If you, like me, are in need of a new suit to get you through the winter, look no further. We tested these wetsuits all up and down the West Coast, from L.A. to Vancouver Island and stayed warm while doing so. Before we dive in, we wanted to share a few of our guiding principles in identifying the best wetsuits for winter surfing.

What makes a great wetsuit?

The coveted perfect wetsuit. It’s like love. So obvious when you have it, but so hard to pinpoint exactly what makes it so. With that said, a great wetsuit has a few irrefutable features.

A great wetsuit is warm.

First, it is warm. Minimizing the debilitating impact of cold water and freezing elements is the whole point of the purchase, so if the suit doesn’t keep you warm (over a generous duration of time), it’s a fail.

A great wetsuit is comfortable and flexible.

A little over a decade ago, comfort and warmth were mutually exclusive features. Thanks to huge advances in technology, that’s no longer the case. While paddling to the top of the point with a 4/3 in the dead of winter was once akin to dragging an anvil on your shoulders while wearing a straight jacket, many of the best suits feel like a second skin in all the best ways. This is typically where the price point has an inflection point, too. The consumer pays for that additional comfort and flexibility, and depending on your level of surfing (or your sensitivity to cold), it might be worth it. Because I’m trying to get in the water through the winter months five days a week or more, I care about that flexibility and comfort. I’ll pay the extra $100. If you’re only surfing a few times a winter, then that might not be as important to you. Beyond that, making sure the suit is easy to get on and off goes a long way. Any additional bit of friction that might dissuade you from getting in the water is counterproductive. If the prospect of putting your suit summons visions of contortionist torture, it’s not a great suit. If you can slip in and out of a warm suit with a simple shuffle, that’s a victory. We’d all rather be surfing in boardshorts, but, unless you’re Wim Hoff, that’s just not possible come January in California.

A great wetsuit is durable.

The last factor that’s critical in determining a great wetsuit is durability. Interestingly, these latter two traits can be more mutually exclusive. Finding brands that have managed to offer extreme comfort as well as a product that will stand the test of time is especially valuable. Inherently, more flexible products tend to be slightly thinner and more delicate, so maximizing comfort and durability is no small task.

With that in mind, we’ve put the following suits through the paces, and each of them will get the job done. It just depends on what you’re looking for. Without further ado, here are the best wetsuits of the winter.

TLDR, what are the suits?

1. O’Neill Hyperfreak 4/3 F.U.Z.E. Front-Zip: ($319)
2. Patagonia R4 Yulex Front-Zip Hooded: ($549)
3. Body Glove Red Cell 5/4/3 Front-Zip Hooded: ($499)
4. Buell RB1 Accelerator 4/3 Float Suit Front-Zip: ($269)
5. Manera Seafarer 4/3 Front-Zip: ($300)
6. Hyperflex Vyrl CRYO 5/4 Front-Zip Hooded: $319

Booties Bonus (Keep your feet warm, too):

1. Vans Surf Boot 2 Hi V 5mm: ($90)
2. Solite’s 3mm Custom LTD ($74.95)
3. Patagonia’s R3 Yulex Split Toe ($85.00)
4. Quiksilver’s 3mm Highline Plus Split Toe ($59.95)

For booties, check out our guide to the best booties. Read our review of women’s wetsuits here. Want to avoid getting your ears drilled? Read our earplugs review here.

O'Neill Hyperfreak 4/3 Chest Zip Wetsuit

The O’Neill Hyperfreak 4/3 Chest-Zip Wetsuit hits the mark for comfort and warmth. Photo: The Inertia/Ryan Trautwein

O’Neill Hyperfreak 4/3 F.U.Z.E. Front-Zip: $319

Tested by Zach in Los Angeles, CA

Warmth: 4/5
Durability: 5/5
Comfort and Flexibility: 5/5 stars
Overall: 4.5/5 Stars

I’d feel comfortable and confident calling this my winter suit. I’m rarely venturing into waters below 45 degrees, but I would confidently use the O’Neill Hyperfreak 4/3 F.U.Z.E. Chest Zip on the coldest days in Southern and Central California when it’s pumping, and I’d also take it lobster diving when I’m spending hours underwater trying to bring home dinner. I hadn’t used an O’Neill suit for far too long, and this was a nice reminder that O’Neill’s heritage and pride in its premium, top-dollar products are real. The brand makes great suits, and its trophy suit hits the mark.

Buy on Jack’s,  Evo, or Amazon. You can also read the full review here

Man waking in Patagonia R4 Yulex wetsuit

Patagonia R4 Yulex Front-Zip Hooded: $549

Tested by Alex on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Warmth: 5/5
Durability: 4.5/5
Comfort and Flexibility: 5/5 stars
Overall: 5/5 Stars

Patagonia’s R4 Yulex is one of the best overall wetsuits I’ve used. It’s exceedingly warm, super comfortable, and flexible in all the right places. It dries about as fast as most of the other new suits. Yulex is decidedly better for the environment than other wetsuits and Patagonia’s warranty is one of the best on the market. The only drawback is the price, which is a little higher than some other brands, but if you’re in the market for a wetsuit that will last and keep you warm — the two most important aspects of a wetsuit — the R4 is worth the price.

Buy here. You can also read the full review here.

Body Glove Red Cell wetsuit interior

Body Glove Red Cell 5/4/3 Front-Zip Hooded: $499

Tested by Alex on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Warmth: 5/5
Durability: 4.5/5
Comfort and Flexibility: 4/5 stars
Overall: 4.5/5 Stars

Body Glove’s Red Cell 5/4/3 Chest-Zip Hooded Wetsuit is built to stand up to the harshness of a Canadian winter. While it might be a little tight and stiff in the shoulder area, it makes up for it with superior warmth, an interior lining that feels great, and a drying time that is up there with the best.

Buy here. You can also read the full review here.

The Buell RB1 Accelerator 4/3 Float Suit

Buell RB1 Accelerator 4/3 Float Suit Front-Zip: $269

Tested by Joe in Northern Oregon

Warmth: 4/5
Durability: 4.5/5
Comfort and Flexibility: 4.5/5 stars
Overall: 4.5/5 Stars

Buell Wetsuits are not only creating solid protective gear, they’re doing it from the right place: Ryan Buell is a good human and designer who cares about the surf industry. The Buell Float Suit is a solid piece of gear for protective situations like surfing waves of consequence in cold water situations, foiling (simply as protection), water photography, even lifeguarding if the situation calls for being in the water for long periods of time. And the price is certainly right ($270). Buell suits in general are super solid and this specialty piece is worth the affordable price of admission.

Buy here. You can also read the full review here.

manera seafarer wetsuit

Manera Seafarer 4/3 Front-Zip: $300

Tested by Will in San Francisco, California

Warmth: 4/5
Durability: 5/5
Comfort and Flexibility: 5/5 stars
Overall: 4/5 Stars

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better-made suit than the Manera Seafarer for the price. As a no-frills daily driver the suit feels as light as a 3/2, is stretchy as hell, dries insanely quick and stands up to heavy use. Small things like the lack of a key loop and minimal fleece on the interior keep the 5/5 rating out of reach, and it was a little cold for the dead of winter in SF without a hood. If you are in search of an even warmer suit with the same top-notch construction of the Seafarer, look no further than the Manera Meteor line.

Buy here. You can also read the full Manera Seafarer review here.

Men's and women's hyperflex vryl cryo full suits 5/4

Hyperflex Vyrl CRYO 5/4 Front-Zip Hooded: $319

Tested by Joe in Northern Oregon

Warmth: 5/5
Durability: 4.5/5
Comfort and Flexibility: 4/5 stars
Overall: 4.5/5 Stars

The Hyperflex Vyrl CRYO suits are extremely value-driven while maintaining quality and comfort. For the price of one suit from other brands, you could get two Vyrl CRYOs (which come in thicknesses of both 5/4 and 6/5). But these don’t wear like a cheap suit, either. The Fire Fleece lining is as comfortable an inner lining as you’ll find in the wetsuit industry and having had several Hyperflex suits, I can vouch that they wear extremely well over time.

Buy here. You can also read the full review here

Vans Surf Boot 2 Hi V 5mm

Vans Surf Boot 2 Hi V 5mm: $90

Tested by Zach in Los Angeles, CA

Warmth: 4.5/5
Durability: 4.5/5
Comfort and Flexibility: 5/5 stars
Overall: 4.5/5 Stars

The Vans Surf Boot 2 Hi V 5 mm are warm and comfortable booties. Granted, I won’t be using them in the Arctic and probably just a handful times a year in water below 45 degrees. But when it comes to winter, these will do the trick. And if I still feel self-conscious about the white stripe, well, Sharpies exist.

Buy here. You can also read the full review here.

Disclosure: The Inertia may receive a small commission if you make a purchase from the affiliate links included in this feature at no additional cost to you. Our goal is always to entertain, educate, and inspire, and we hope you find this feature useful.

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