Best Winter Sailing Wetsuits

Best Winter Sailing Wetsuits | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 15, 2022

Wetsuits are a remarkably effective garment for wet and cold exposure. But which wetsuits are specifically designed for and suitable for winter sailing?

The best winter sailing wetsuits are the Yonsub 3mm wetsuit, the ultra-thick NeoSport 7mm wetsuit, the Dark Lightning wetsuit, the Hevto neoprene wetsuit, and the semi-full Gill Thermoskin cold weather wetsuit.

In this article, we’ll review five of the best wetsuits for winter sailing. Additionally, we’ll cover some important details about choosing a wetsuit, such as the material type, thickness, and temperature ratings. We’ll also cover the difference between wetsuits and drysuits and which is best for colder conditions.

All wetsuit specifications were sourced from their respective manufacturers to ensure accuracy. Additionally, we considered the opinions of experienced sailors who use both wetsuits and drysuits for winter sailing.


Table of contents

Are Wetsuits Safe for Winter Sailing?

Wetsuits can be safe for winter sailing, but there are some conditions where wetsuits simply cannot be used. Wetsuits are safe to use if a few criteria are met: the temperature isn’t too low, and the water temperature isn’t too frigid.

Generally speaking, water temperatures below 58 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit are too cold for standard wetsuits. In these conditions, sailors should wear a fully-sealed and taped cold weather sailing suit.

Hypothermia in the water is possible at much higher temperatures than you’d expect, and a wetsuit only provides so much protection from frigid temperatures.

However, a wetsuit can certainly be used as an additional measure of protection against cold weather when combined with a dry suit or other protective clothing. It can also help wick up sweat during strenuous activity or when the temperature is too cold to shed a layer.

What Makes a Great Sailing Wetsuit?

The overall quality and material thickness are the primary considerations for winter sailing wetsuits. The best wetsuits for cold weather are between 3/2mm thick and 6/5mm thick. Additionally, full wetsuits are superior to wetsuit shirts or single garments.

Wetsuit Thickness Explained

Wetsuit thickness measurements usually include one, two, or three numbers, depending on the type of suit in question. Single-pieces, such as wetsuit tops, are measured using a single number (such as 0.5mm) or two numbers (such as 2/1mm). This means that the whole top is either 0.5mm thick or that the top is 2mm thick around the body and 1mm thick around the arms.

A full wetsuit may have two or three numbers. A 3/2mm wetsuit is 3mm thick around the body and 2mm thick around the extremities, and a suit with gloves may have three numbers to denote the thicknesses of the added items.

What’s the Difference Between Summer and Winter Wetsuits?

Summer wetsuits are generally thinner than winter wetsuits. Additionally, summer wetsuits sometimes come in multiple parts, such as a separate top and bottom. This allows you to wear a wetsuit top and shorts, for example—something you wouldn’t do in the winter.

Sailing Wetsuit Vs Dry Suit for Winter Sailing

A dry suit is essential for winter sailing when the temperature dips below around 50 degrees. Even if you’re trained and experienced, you should always prepare for the worst-case scenario and protect yourself from wind, spray, and hypothermia.

That said, a wetsuit can be useful on mild winter days and still offers good protection in many conditions. Cold-weather wetsuits are used by divers in all sorts of water temperatures, as they use water to help your body insulate against the cold.

Wearing a wetsuit with foul-weather gear can keep you warm if water runs down your hood or into your suit, and it can wick up sweat and keep you warm after strenuous activity.

Top Wetsuits for Cold Weather Sailing

Choosing a wetsuit for winter sailing can be quite challenging, as it takes a bit of research to understand wetsuit types and their appropriate uses. Based on the information we shared above, we picked five excellent wetsuits that are suitable for winter sailing.

1. Yonsub 3mm Full Wetsuit

This is about the minimum winter wetsuit that you can get away with, and it provides relatively good protection against mild—and wet—conditions. This Yonsub 3mm wetsuit is on the lower end of thickness for winter gear but durable and highly effective nonetheless. It’s also highly affordable.

A good, flexible wetsuit is an excellent addition to your winter sailing gear. This wetsuit is ideal for wearing under a dry suit, as it provides maximum mobility and a good level of comfort. Being a full wetsuit, this garment covers your head all the way down to your feet—and it helps you stay warm in the wettest conditions.

Additionally, it’s made from a stretchy and highly durable neoprene material, which is generally hypoallergenic and long-lasting. It’s ideal for solo-sailing, as it comes with a front zipper which means you can put it on and remove it without the help of another person.

This wetsuit is designed for diving, which means it can stand up to the wettest conditions. It’s an essential purchase if you intend to swim in water that’s less than 70 degrees Fahrenheit, as hypothermia is a big risk below these temperatures in mere minutes if you’re not careful.

While we wouldn’t recommend this wetsuit for sailing in the North Atlantic during the winter, it does perform well in areas with milder weather, such as the Gulf of Mexico, the South Atlantic, and parts of the Pacific Ocean.

2. NeoSport Waterman 7mm Wetsuit

A 7mm wetsuit is a seriously thick piece of gear that’s a great choice for colder weather. This wetsuit is twice as thick as the average mild 3mm wetsuit, which adds both warmth and durability for difficult activities such as sailing. You can count on a NeoSport Waterman wetsuit for leisure and utility use aboard your boat.

This wetsuit is a working wetsuit. It’s used by divers and fishermen who need a reliable, durable, and warm wetsuit for more than comfort—this is the suit you count on when you actually need it. The suit features a side zipper that starts at the neck, which is easy for one person to operate and allows the suit to be taken off without trouble.

This is a full wetsuit, which means it’s a one-piece unit that goes from your ankles to your neck. The suit features “diamond plate” knee pads which prevent them from wearing through if you need to get on your knees. Also, it provides a level of slip protection on wet surfaces, which is a big plus on a sailboat.

This wetsuit is made from a special blend of several materials, chiefly neoprene, nylon, and spandex. Spandex makes it extra stretchy, which means it’ll fit snug around your body. Nylon adds durability, and neoprene helps create the essential permeable membrane for water and breathability.

The NeoSport Waterman wetsuit can be worn in conjunction with other outwear, including a waterproof layer or additional wet material. The 7mm material is sufficiently thick for cold weather, and it’s a great addition to a waterproof jacket.

A wetsuit such as this can keep you comfortable in cold conditions and dramatically extend the amount of time you can spend in the water should you fall overboard. It’s both a comfort item and a necessary safety precaution for cold weather conditions—but not a replacement for a proper foul-weather dry suit.

3. Dark Lightning Wetsuit

The Dark Lightning wetsuit is a well-made one-piece wetsuit designed for mild temperatures. This wetsuit is ideal for winter conditions where additional protection against spray is required or when performing underwater maintenance during the colder months.

The Dark Lightning wetsuit is made from 3/2mm material, which is in the middle of the road as far as thickness is concerned. This thickness will protect you against the colder waters of the Pacific—though sub-freezing sailing requires something a little heftier.

As you might expect, this wetsuit is made from 90% neoprene fabric which is the staple for modern wetsuit design. Additionally, it contains 10% stretch nylon, which allows it to be snug and form-fitting. This higher nylon ratio is not universal, and this wetsuit provides additional comfort compared to the competitors.

Dark Lightning states that this wetsuit is suitable for water temperatures between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes it ideal for winter sailing in the US West Coast and the Gulf regions. The wetsuit also features an easy-access zipper, which allows a single person to put on and take off their gear without assistance.

4. Hevto Neoprene Full Wetsuit

If you’re looking for an affordable wetsuit to wear for winter sailing, then it’s hard to pass up this Hevto neoprene wetsuit. It’s made with the highest-quality materials and provides superior warmth to typical 3/2mm wetsuits.

This wetsuit uses 3mm material throughout, including the extremities—which is particularly advantageous aboard a sailboat in the winter. In order to effectively operate winches and other delicate equipment, you need full use of your arms.

This can be impaired when you’re cold, which is why it’s important to find a wetsuit with good protection for your arms and legs as well. When combined with a set of waterproof sailing gloves, you can add a significant layer of protection against cold spray with a 3mm wetsuit.

The Hevto wetsuit is made primarily of neoprene fabric, which is standard. Like the Dark Lightning wetsuit, this garment includes a nylon blend for flexibility and lasting comfort. This unisex wetsuit is available in multiple sizes and colors, including blue, yellow, red, light blue, pink, and green.

5. Gill Thermoskin Cold Weather Sailing Wetsuit

The Gill Thermoskin wetsuit is a go-to for sailors in the most demanding conditions and is also one of the most popular purpose-built sailing wetsuits on the market. If you need a wetsuit for colder weather, then Gill is one of the top brands to consider.

While not the thickest wetsuit on the market, this Gill Thermoskin offers excellent 4/3mm thickness. This exceeds the typical sailing wetsuit and provides superior insulation, albeit at a slightly higher weight. The fabric itself contains neoprene and nylon primarily.

Gill wetsuits are well known for their quality and durability, and they’re carried by many major marine stores. This wetsuit is reinforced in many key areas (including the seat and the knees) to prevent the two most common types of wear from occurring.

Additionally, Gill X4 Stretch fabric is uniquely comfortable, and form-fitting, which any diver will tell you is essential for a wetsuit to function properly. The Gill Thermoskin wetsuit is designed specifically for winter and can be worn under a winter sailing jacket.

This wetsuit is a semi-full body wetsuit, which means it covers everything except your arms. This is beneficial when mobility is of concern, and it also makes it fit much more comfortably under other additional layers.

The most important benefit of wearing a wetsuit-like this under your clothes is to keep you warm if you get wet, and it performs exceptionally at that task.

Best Winter Sailing Wetsuits
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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