We review 13 of the best triathlon wetsuits to help you give your competitors the slip in the swim.

Find more group tests from Triathlon Plus in our other best triathlon gear reviews.

Orca Equip
£215
www.orca.com

The Equip’s blue arms echo Orca’s top-end Alpha suit of a couple of years ago. The fully coated neoprene and impressively flexible shoulders are welcome at this price point, as is the comfortable, low neck. Buoyancy is good for slighter athletes with 2-5mm front panels correcting sinking tendencies well. The catch panels cover the entire forearm but made the elbows feel a little stiff, distracting from a natural stroke. The legs also have a stiffness to them, but this helped in producing a smooth and efficient kick. Getting out of the suit is easy thanks to super stretchy calf panels, but our female testers would have appreciated some more girl-friendly styling. We found Orca suits tend to come up small, so make sure you try on before you commit.

Verdict
A good suit that performs well for the price and has high-end looks too.
Performance 3/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5

Xterra Vortex
£265
www.xterrawetsuits.co.uk

Xterra’s vector Pro suit is worn by more Ironman and 70.3 athletes than any other and its little brother, the Vortex, is no slouch either. The suit is fully coated for hydrodynamics and the 1.5mm arms take care of shoulder flexibility, allowing an unencumbered stroke. Buoyancy from the 5mm front/3mm back is really positive for sinky-legged swimmers; tipping you forward slightly to glide over the top of the water, and allowing for an easy kick. The lined interior and stretchy neck keep things comfortable, even during sighting when swimming over long distances. Simple catch panels had no extra feel against the water for us, but the suit was fast and comfy. However, the sizing came up large on our testers and the looks are a little basic.

Verdict
A comfortable, flexible, fast and highly buoyant suit at a great price.
Performance 4/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5

Zone 3 Aspire
£265
www.racezone3.com

Zone 3’s mid-level suit offers stunning performance at a very good price. The fit is slim with tight wrists that keep water out and a low, unobtrusive neckline. The ends of the legs, which are made of stretchier neoprene for a fast exit, didn’t seem to make as snug a seal, though speed seemed unaffected by this. Shoulder flexibility is astonishing at this price point with no noticeable restriction. Buoyancy is impressive, with 5mm neoprene to the knees raising the legs and supporting the core without getting in the way of swimming naturally. The catch panels had no discernable ‘feel’ against the water, but didn’t hurt pulling the suit off quickly. A close second to the HUUB in speed, flexibility and comfort, at just over half the price.

Verdict
If you want a high-end performing suit at a low-end price, there’s none better.
Performance 4/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Value Award issue 41

2XU T:3 Team
£280
www.2xushop.co.uk; www.wiggle.co.uk

This entry-level wetsuit, available exclusively through Wiggle, offers many of the benefits – and the cool looks – of 2XU’s higher-end models. The shoulders are flexible enough to allow the arms to swing freely, which is partly down to the stretchy, uncoated material under the arms. All testers found the neck a bit restrictive at first, but quickly got used to it. The torso, with Velocity Strake grooves designed to help forward tracking, feels strangely stiff at first, but the suit is superbly buoyant and two of our testers who are prone to ‘snaking’ found it kept them on the straight and narrow and helped control body rotation. It feels completely different to the other suits here, and comes highly recommended for weaker or new swimmers who’ll love the support.

Verdict
A buoyant, supportive and fast suit, great for beginner triathletes or weaker swimmers.
Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Quintana Roo Hydrofull
£339.99
www.quintanarootri.com; www.evanscycles.com

Though the Hydrofull is unchanged since we last tested it, the context it’s in has and it feels like a more basic wetsuit compared with some of the new and updated models here. However, it’s still a great suit and we’ve seen it on sale for less than £200 – at that price, a real bargain. The Virtual Pull Buoy – panels of thicker neoprene in the thighs and hips – gives sinky-legged people a real lift but even our neutral testers didn’t feel this was an unnaturally buoyant suit. The arms, shoulders and lower legs feel flexible and the neck and cuffs are unrestrictive, though did let a bit of water in – we suspect our test suit was a bit big though, so check the fit of yours. We also liked the wrap over the zip to prevent chafing during longer swims, and it’s a quick suit to get on and off.

Verdict
A great suit for heavy-legged swimmers, with good flexibility in the upper body.
Performance 3/5
Value 4/5
Overall 3/5

Foor Synflex
£349.99
www.foor.co.uk; www.triuk.com

Foor’s top-end suit is wonderfully comfortable with excellent flexibility and a ‘sighting friendly’ neckline that didn’t chafe or restrict movement. Buoyancy is equally good, keeping the legs nice and high and supporting a natural stroke and body roll without making you feel as though you’ve got a float under your chest. The Hydro Friction forearm panel is ribbed and stretchy, making the Synflex easier to get on and off than others with more rigid catch systems, but there was no distinct feel to them through the water. Speed was right up with the HUUB and Zone3, though it’s slightly more comfortable than the latter over long distances thanks to the supple cuffs and overall stretchiness. The red and white detailing add a touch of visual flair.

Verdict
Fast, smooth and comfortable, this is a great suit, especially for longer swims.
Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Zoot Z force 4.0
£380
www.zootsports.com

If you can get over the retro day-glo green styling, the Zoot is a fine suit with a really comfortable neck and good flexibility in the shoulders. Rather than catch panels, the suit features Confluence Fluid Design (CFD) panels on the outside of the forearms, which are intended to allow the arm to travel through the water with less energy expenditure. While the arms certainly felt buoyant, the effect was perhaps too great, disrupting the entry so that the forearms angled slightly up rather than down, causing slight deceleration – however a test swim before buying might show this to be perfect for your stroke mechanics. Buoyancy elsewhere was adequate for those without need of serious leg support, while grooved chest and waist panels allowed unrestricted breathing.

Verdict
A tech heavy suit that won’t suit everyone’s style but flexy and comfy all the same.
Performance 3/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5

Profile Design Marlin
£399
www.profile-design.com; www.madison.co.uk

The Marlin was a bit of a squeeze to get into and remained tight once on – our tester should have had no problem according to the size chart – so be sure to try this on before you buy. The ribbed underarm panels kept the shoulders flexible up to a point, but on raising the arms past shoulder level they felt decidedly stiff. The neck was also a little high at the back, which made sighting trickier than on some of the other wetsuits. Buoyancy was fine, though heavier-legged triathletes might want to look elsewhere for comprehensive support. The suit was quick, but the tight shoulders meant longer sessions brought on fatigue more quickly than other suits on test. The women-specific fit was welcome, while the plain design means there are better lookers out there.

Verdict
Sizing issues mean hampered shoulders so check properly before splashing out.
Performance 2/5
Value 3/5
Overall 2/5

TYR Hurricane Category 5
£450
www.tyr.com

Sitting below the ludicrously expensive Freak of Nature suit used by Chrissie Wellington and Lance Armstrong, the Hurricane Category 5 has loads going for it. Our size large was more like a medium, but was very flexible with unrestrictive shoulders and a very comfy neck that kept the water out nicely. Buoyancy was good for those who already swim quite horizontally and – whether through design of the interior core stabilisation panels or not – was very supportive, giving a natural body roll. The catch panels added no discernible feel against the water, but neither did they seem to hinder speed. Easy-out ankle cuffs made it a cinch to escape quickly from.

Verdict
A good performing suit with plenty of flex and support ideal for strong swimmers.
Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5

Blueseventy Helix
£470
www.blueseventy.com

Alistair Brownlee’s favoured suit has been tweaked again for 2012; a close runner-up for our Gold Award last year, we loved it just as much this time. Thick neoprene including panels of bubbly Aerodome in the torso and hips keep you buoyant, while a special double layer construction in the chest gives support without hindering your breathing. The most noticeable difference in this suit, though, is the complete freedom of movement in the arms and the super-thin fabric panels in the forearms. These give you a completely natural feel for the water, so your stroke stays exactly as you’re used to it with the added benefit of the extra buoyancy. Not everyone will like this, of course, and we don’t think it’s a suit for newbies or nervous swimmers, but for anyone else it’s a great wetsuit.

Verdict
A brilliantly designed, natural feeling wetsuit that gives great feel for the water.
Performance 5/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Peak Performer Award issue 41

HUUB Archimedes
£499
www.huubdesign.com

New wetsuit company HUUB’s top-end suit has been designed for maximum performance and slippery hydrodynamics. Our 3:5 version features 5mm neoprene on the front of the suit and 3mm on the back to help heavy-legged swimmers into a more horizontal position in the water. There is also thinner material over the biceps and calves to help reduce fatigue as well as the X-O Skeleton – more rigid neoprene for support and buoyancy around the hips. The Archimedes’ performance was outstanding in terms of speed and was also the most comfortable suit on test with a low, stretchy neck and incredibly flexible shoulders that allow a free, natural stroke. The bicep panels come into their own over longer distances, but there’s no women-specific version yet.

Verdict
Insanely comfortable, flexible and fast, this is the suit to beat this year.
Performance 5/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Gold Award issue 41

Aqua Sphere Phantom
£499.99
www.aquasphereswim.com

This top-of-the-range suit is packed with an embarrassment of fancy design features. These include a reverse zipper, quick-release calf panels, honeycombed forearm panels, a 5mm band on the arms to encourage high elbows, collared cuffs to keep water out and an internal core support. The fairly rigid catch panels meant it was incredibly stubborn to get on, but once in it, the Phantom just feels pro level with stretchy shoulders, great comfort, good buoyancy and one of the least restrictive necks on test. The Core Power System – velcroed at the back before zipping up – felt extra supportive at first but became unnoticeable quickly and is another complication for transition. The women’s suit also sports feminine looks without being too girly.

Verdict
An excellent suit, but for all the features, not as fast as some cheaper models.
Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5

Sailfish G-Range
£576
www.sailfish.com

Our initial shortlisting process pulled out some even more pricey wetsuits than this, but the G-Range is still a serious investment; you do get a really top quality wetsuit for the cash though. At first glance it’s not obvious where all the money’s gone: apart from some (new) catch panels on the forearms, this looks like a simple suit. But the technology is in the super-flexible, ultra-low-drag materials used; an extra panel has been added to the 2012 version to aid buoyancy too. This means it’s a bit more accessible to weaker, heavy-legged swimmers, but we’d still class this as a brilliant suit for those confident in the water. It’s incredibly comfortable, easy to get on and off and gives total freedom of movement. We didn’t notice any benefit from the catch panels, but it’s a fast suit.

Verdict
A quality, fast, flexible suit for good swimmers who are prepared to pay for an edge.
Performance 5/5
Value 3/5
Overall 4/5

OVERALL VERDICT

It took the wetsuit testing team a fair few kilometres of swimming and a lot of head scratching to make our final decisions on this year’s wetsuits. While we have doubts about the noticeable difference made by some of the features popping up on the latest models, we found a real year-on-year improvement in comfort, flexibility and overall quality in the range of wetsuits we tested. That’s great news for anyone buying a new one this year; the downside being that the splits in opinion among our testers prove you need to try a suit if possible to make sure it’s the right one for you.

The Top Value award wasn’t hard to place; the Aspire from Zone 3 really does feel like a suit double the price and with few wetsuits coming in under £200 these days, at £265 it’s a proper bargain. Peak Performer was harder to decide and a glance through our ratings will show no real duds; honourable mention must go to Sailfish’s super-flexible, slippery G-Range, but it’s Blueseventy’s natural-feeling Helix that just pips it. Our overall winner is the newcomer, HUUB Archimedes; it’s not cheap at £499, but our testers felt it just did everything right; exactly what you want at the start of a race.

Find more group tests from Triathlon Plus in our other best triathlon gear reviews.

This review was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine. Save time and money by having every issue delivered to your door or digital device by subscribing to the print edition or buying digitally through Zinio or Apple Newsstand.

You’ll find loads more triathlon gear and kit reviews in triradar.com’s Gear section

Visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TriathlonPlus and follow us on Twitter @TriathlonPlus.