In our first 2014 wetsuit review, we test 12 of the best wetsuits for triathlon under £400
This year we’ve split our triathlon wetsuit reviews into price brackets of below and above £400. Here you’ll find some of the best beginner and entry level triathlon wetsuits on the market.
Nabaiji Cold Water Swim Suit
Despite being the cheapest suit on test, this budget Nabaiji model from Decathlon is fully SCS-coated for better hydrodynamics. The shoulders are definitely more restrictive than some of the more expensive suits, but it’s not a race-ruining lack of freedom. The arms’ rigidity is also evident at the elbows, making good catch technique a bit of a chore and naturally straightening out the recovery phase, which can affect body roll. While there’s a some extra buoyancy to aid body positioning, it’s a bit limited and didn’t level our legs out very well meaning it’s probably not best suited to new triathlon converts from a cycling background with heavy legs. It still performs well for the price though.
A decent quality beginners’ suit at a good price but with limited lower-body buoyancy
Zone 3 Advance
We’ve always been impressed by the performance of Zone3’s wetsuits, especially given their price. The Advance is the cheapest Zone3 model and, once again, its performance doesn’t give a hint that it’s below the £200 mark. The simple, smooth design was a real pleasure to swim in, with high-stretch, 2mm shoulder panels and just the right amount of buoyancy round the torso and hips. The neck is low and comfortable, though it was a tough suit to zip up – if anything fit is a bit small, as our tester should have been at the small end of the demo suit’s size range. The cuffs are snug and don’t let water in and, as with all Zone3 suits, the Pro-Speed Cuffs on the lower legs made it an absolute cinch to get off in a hurry. A great value suit.
Bag this great suit if you’re on a budget – you’ll find no reason to upgrade for a while…
Speedo Tri Event
This solid suit from Speedo is a good option for newer swimmers or those less confident in the water, with a super-buoyant and fairly stiff torso that helps you feel supported while swimming. Unfortunately, because of this, it can feel a bit restrictive, even though the shoulders are stretchy (Speedo makes a thinner wetsuit for £20 less, aimed at intermediate swimmers; go for this if you like a more free-feeling suit). The neck is low to avoid irritation and our testers liked the short, shaped cut of the legs, which made it a really easy suit to get out of in a hurry. This was also helped by what felt like a generous fit, though: our size small tester found water whooshed in through the cuffs and occasionally down the back while swimming hard.
A well-made, supportive suit, good for newbies but a bit stiff for experienced swimmers
Mako’s high-end suit won last year’s test and this entry-level model is no slouch either. Like its Olympics-tested brother, the Xperience seems better suited to those with sound technique who just want to get on with the business of swimming without fussy features. As such, it’s a little less stable than the likes of the 2XU and TYR suits here and has a bit less buoyancy too, but if you’ve got a strong core and good freestyle technique, it’s a freeing swimming experience. The Xperience is entirely SCS-coated – it’s incredibly smooth – and it’s fast through the water thanks to flexible 1.5mm shoulders and a comfortable cut courtesy of top French triathlete Jess Harrison’s involvement. The reverse zipper is a great touch at this price point too.
A sound choice for good swimmers who don’t want their stroke hampered by flashy extras
Zoot Z-Force 1.0
Zoot have been in triathlon since 1983 but in recent years their kit hasn’t shone as brightly in an increasingly crowded marketplace. It was a very pleasant surprise then, to swim in the new Z Force 1.0. The suppleness of the neoprene is obvious – the shoulders move easily with every reach, catch and pull while the buoyancy worked beautifully to offset our slightly heavy legs and help us swim faster. Body roll was natural but supported and there wasn’t any chafing to report. It’s quick to pull off in a post-swimming daze while the comfy bright green jersey material on the inside could also double as a handy transition spot marker.You’re not paying for any pointless special features, just getting a fast, flexible and buoyant suit at a great price.
Punches well above its price in terms of performance – an exceptional entry-level suit
Aqua Sphere Pursuit
Aqua Sphere‘s Pursuit felt like a good quality wetsuit, with some noticeable special features. Most prominent was the Bio-Stretch Zone, a panel of super-stretchy, thin neoprene that extends in one piece across the back and sides and up to the shoulders. It meant that the suit had excellent freedom of movement, while in the bottom half, thick 4mm and 5mm panels ensured great buoyancy – the perfect balance for heavy-legged triathletes. The experience was hampered by a somewhat baggy fit though: according to the size chart this should have been just right, but the suit let water in at the cuffs and there was too much water swishing round the torso, too. This may just be a case of sizing down, so try one out if you can; we also found the limbs quite long compared with others on test.
Try before you buy for sizing; a good, well-thought-out design for sinky legged swimmers
It’s not easy to stand out in a triathlon swim pack but the distinctive blue arms of the Orca Equip might help. They’re also pretty handy in terms of your technique, offering a really natural feeling movement right round the upper back, shoulders and arms, only falling down at the catch panels on the forearms. These made our arms feel oddly heavy and stiff at times. However, we did like the degree of control and buoyancy in the main body of the suit, which gave a good, balanced position in the water and helped make this one of the faster suits in our (not entirely scientific) timed sprint tests. Orca’s Speed Transition panels in the lower legs made it an easy suit to get out of, only slightly hampered on the top half by those pesky catch panels.
An eye-catching model, with plenty of high-end tech for an entry-level price point
TYR Hurricane Category 1
The most wallet friendly suit in TYR’s Hurricane range, the Cat 1 was designed with insight from top Ironman swimmer Andy Potts and is a great suit, especially if you’re looking for help with body positioning. Our heavy legs felt comfortably levelled but the buoyancy didn’t feel uneven, allowing good rotation and a supported trunk. This, aided by some of the freest shoulders on test and some really fast splits, puts it up there as a serious candidate for your dosh and a great suit particularly for longer distances – where the importance of comfort, buoyancy and flexibility are magnified. It was also a cinch to get off with heart racing and pruned fingers.
A great suit that for those seeking buoyancy and support – ideal for long course
2XU’s suits have always offered a stable core and tons of buoyancy, but there’s also loads more flexibility these days, making them a very attractive option – particularly for less advanced swimmers. The built-up, buoyant chest means a confident roll through the stroke while the corrective leg-lift will benefit anyone of the sinky-legged persuasion. Stronger swimmers could find all the extra features a bit cumbersome though. The shoulders stretch well, aiding an easy recovery, but we didn’t notice any benefit from the fairly rigid catch panels. It’s also worth noting that there are patches of non-SCS coated material on the suit while others on test were fully coated. 2XU offer 16 sizes to choose from, so finding a dealer is your best bet.
A buoyant suit ideal for heavier athletes or beginners seeking security in the water
The Zerod Alante’s flexibility is great throughout – the suit moves with your stroke rather than hampering it while the shoulders have enough give to make you forget about the suit after a few hundred metres – which benefits every race from sprint to Ironman. The ridged catch panels didn’t seem to have discernible any effect though. The well-balanced buoyancy propped up our sinky legs with only a light kick needed to break the water’s surface and a natural body roll came easily without fishtailing. The slightly low, wide neckline is unrestrictive making sighting a breeze and we were pleased to find that it didn’t let torrents of water in either. The reverse zip aids an already exceptionally quick transition for a stress-free swim-to-bike change.
A comfy, unrestrictive suit that aids performance in and out the water
Buy the Blueseventy Fusion and you’ll be getting some impressive techy features for your money, but these didn’t necessarily work out for our testers. The grip panels in the forearms didn’t feel as though they were improving our catch and made getting the suit on a scratchy experience. While the upper half of the suit was really flexible, and arm action completely unimpeded, the lower half of the suit – deliberately thicker to aid those with heavy legs – felt really stiff. The lower legs felt especially tight and getting feet out afterwards was a struggle, despite the 2mm panels inserted for precisely this purpose. However, the overall lower buoyancy and the well balanced panelling of the suit did give a great body position, almost feeling tipped forwards when swimming fast.
A high-tech wetsuit that won’t be for everyone, but does put you in a good horizontal position
The Huub Aerious is the most expensive suit in the test by a wide margin, so the question is ultimately – is it worth the extra cash? The suit is available in both 3:5 and 4:4 buoyancy distributions – the former featuring thicker neoprene on the legs to level quad-dominant athletes. The suit hugs the body comfortably, but a bit of water did seem to slosh down the neck – so check sizing in store if possible. Nevertheless, there’s no denying it’s a fast suit that does nothing to slow your natural stroke, but adds support around the hips to stabilise body roll a little. It’s fairly quick to get out of too. While advanced swimmers might find its nuanced design gives them a marginal gain, against the competition here, the majority would probably be better off with the Zoot and £200 of swim coaching.
Great for those looking to buy an advantage, but value suffers against the competition