How to put on your outdoor swimming wetsuit

By Hati Whiteley

Getting into a swimming wetsuit is a little more involved than slipping into your favourite cords. Having the right size wetsuit makes things so much easier.

The best thing to do is to pop into one of our stores to try one on but, if you are buying online, you can use can use our size chart (Women's / Men's) to choose based on your height and your weight.

Remember, our wetsuits are sized for a snug fit so they are more comfortable and allow free movement in the water. By this we mean that it needs to be close-fitting to keep you warm, provide buoyancy and prevent drag when you swim. If you are just getting into outdoor swimming or prefer a comfort fit we would suggest going a size up.

Putting your wetsuit on

  • If you are putting your wetsuit on for the first time we recommend you try it at home with your favourite bathing suit underneath. And make sure your fingernails are trimmed to avoid damaging the neoprene!

  • Push your feet through the legs and, grasping the inside of the suit, feed the wetsuit as high up your legs as possible.The ankle cuffs should be a couple of inches up your leg.

  • Get the suit as high into your crotch as possible (oo-er) by feeding the suit with your palms (remember: never use your fingertips on the GlideSkin as you may spoil the streamlining).

  • Pull the wetsuit up over your torso and slide in your arms. Pull the wrist cuffs up a couple of inches from the wrist bone and then work the neoprene up into your armpits as much as possible._

  • Flex your shoulders backwards as you pull the zip up. If necessary, bend forwards and gently pull the neoprene up from your stomach. Remember to use the pads of your fingers!

How should the wetsuit feel once on?

The wetsuit should feel 'comfortably compressing' when dry and may feel tight around the collar. Unless you're into 70s glam-rock, a wetsuit will probably be the most close-fitting item you’ll ever wear. It should feel snug, with some pressure, but without restricting your range of motion. (If you’re a runner, think compression tights.)

Don’t fit it too tight. It shouldn't feel painful and it definitely shouldn’t cut off your circulation. If you prefer a comfort fit, go up a size.

  • Is it tight around the crotch? Your wetsuit should be pulled up so that it’s snug around the legs - there should be no room around the crotch.

  • The arm and leg length aren’t key considerations: if they're too short, it won’t affect your swimming. And if they're a little too long, you may be able to trim them down (this is not the case with all wetsuits, check with the retailer first).

  • How does the collar fit? The neck is an area prone to chafing so it shouldn’t feel constrictive (wetsuits with lower cut collars are usually more generously sized and less constricting).

  • It shouldn’t be baggy around the small of your back, as it will then billow out and fill with water as you swim.

  • Tightness at the chest/shoulders? Try pulling your wetsuit further up your body and more into your armpits.

  • Fold of neoprene at joints and on limbs? Your wetsuit is too big.

  • Pulling down at the shoulder or up at the crotch. Your wetsuit is too small.

  • Too tight at the front of the neck? Try pulling the wetsuit up at the back to sit square on your shoulders. Put your hands either side of your head and slide your thumbs inside the wetsuit at the back (either side of the zip). Pull up with your fingers and thumbs and wiggle your body. Remember: don’t use your nails!

Getting your wetsuit off again

Getting a wetsuit off is much easier when it is wet.

  • Pull the velcro zip flap open, find the zip lanyard and unzip all the way down.

  • Pull the wetsuit from your shoulder (using your thumb on the inside), one at a time to free your back and chest.

  • Firmly but gently, pull the suit down each arm one at a time (the sleeves will end up inside out).

  • Now peel the suit as far down as possible from the waist (just below the knees). If possible, sit down to peel it down over your legs (one at a time).

  • Your wetsuit should now be inside out. Follow the steps below to keep it in tip-top condition!

Practical tips

  • If you're putting your wetsuit on at the water's edge, make sure you put a mat down on the ground to protect the wetsuit. A swimming costume under your wetsuit is optional but may protect your modesty if you fail to execute these steps cleanly.
  • Remember that GlideSkin neoprene can be easily snagged by sharp objects such as your fingernails.
  • Ladies, I’ve found that working the wetsuit over my hips can be a bit of mission. Be prepared for this when you put your suit on and just stick with it! (Remember the reward of glorious open water swimming).
  • Putting plastic bags over your feet and hands makes it easier to get them through the leg and armholes and prevents your nails from snagging on the neoprene.
  • It is easier to put on a wetsuit when you’re cool and calm. Getting hot and sweaty makes it much more difficult!

Further reading

Swimming wetsuit care and repair

Our customer support heroes' top tips for getting the best out of your wetsuit.

Get into Wild Swimming

Share in the joy and adventure of swimming outdoors with these tips and inspiration from our expert Alpkiteers: the whys, hows, and wheres of wild swimming...

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