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To decide whether you need a snorkeling suit or not, depends on various things such as the sea temperature and personal preferences that are worth checking and consider before getting one. In warm tropical waters, you can go snorkeling without a wetsuit, but it is better to wear a rash guard or UV protection top that protects your skin against the harmful sun rays as well as jellyfish stings. In colder waters use a neoprene shorty or full-body wetsuit that provides good thermal insulation and allows spending a longer time in the water without getting cold.
What thickness wetsuit to choose for snorkeling?
This water temperatures guide helps you to determine what type of wetsuit to choose:
- 27C/80F and above – no wetsuit needed, UV protection clothing recommended
- Between 24-26C/75-78.8F – full-length rash guard, 2/3 mm thick shorty
- Between 19-23C/66-73.4F – 3 mm full-body wetsuit
- Under 18C/65F – 5 mm full-length neoprene suit, socks and gloves also recommended
It is a quick summary to provide you with a rough reference, but since people are different, some feel the cold more than others, so always consider your personal preferences too. If you get easily cold, don’t be afraid to wear a thicker suit, while if you usually run warm, a thinner one is adequate too.
Snorkeling suit for warm water
While snorkeling in tropical waters or in typical summer holiday destinations, there is no thick suit needed. Depending on how warm the water is and how sensitive you are to cold, you can choose a rash guard, shorty or a full-length neoprene suit.
UV protective clothing
In places where the sea temperature is warm all year round like the Maldives or Bali, a long sleeve UV shirt or full-body sun-protective clothing (often called diving skin or rash guard) work the best. These types of swimming clothes protect the wearer against irritation, rash and sunburn and allow free movements thanks to the high-elasticity fabrics. Moreover, they are lightweight so dry quickly!
We prefer full suits because they cover the skin from almost head to toe ensuring high-level protection against the sun and stingers in the water.
- high-quality nylon-spandex fabric for comfort and fit
- full-length design to ensure best protection
- extra UV protection layer
- perfect for any outdoor and water activity
Sun protection clothing isn’t designed to provide thermal insulation, but in fact it makes the wearer feel a little warmer especially if the color is black.
Tip: our sun protection post explains from A to Z how to avoid sunburn while snorkeling and at the beach!
Wearing a shorty for snorkeling is a good choice if you are sensitive to cold or like spending longer periods in the water. A 2/3 mm thick suit gives you protection against the sunrays and keeps you warm while not taking too much space in your luggage. For typical summer snorkeling trips when the sea temperate is between 26-28 C/78.8-82.4F or warmer, a shorty is sufficient.
We like the Cressi Tortuga and Seavenger Navigator models that are lightweight, made of good quality neoprene yet affordable.
- flexible high-quality nylon neoprene suit
- flatlock stitching to avoid skin irritation
- anatomic fit and stretchy armpit panels for maximum comfort
- easy-to-reach extra-long leash with durable YKK Zip
- available in men and women versions
Tip: on the arms and legs that are exposed to the sun apply eco-friendly sunscreen that doesn’t harm the corals and marine life!
Full-body snorkeling wetsuit
For snorkeling in colder water, the best is choosing a 2/3 mm thick long snorkeling suit. However, it takes a bit more space than the short versions, but it covers almost all of your body offering insulation and high-level protection not only against the sun but also accidental coral cuts leaving only the feet, hands and head uncovered.
- 3mm thick one-piece suit for warm/mild water temperatures
- premium neoprene material ensures durability and elasticity
- anatomical cut, perfect fit for women
- extra strengthening on the knees, strong YKK back-zip, glued and sewn seams
Cold water neoprene wetsuit
A full-length suit with a thickness of 5 mm is ideal for cold water swimming. At most popular snorkeling destinations like Florida or Hawaii, this can be necessary only in the winter season since the water is nice and warm during the summer period, while for example when snorkeling in California where the maximum sea temperatures are between 70 to 75 degrees (21-24 C) only, wearing a 5mm neoprene suit is recommended no matter the season.
However these types of suits are not too flexible due to the thickness, and a bit heavier than a normal snorkeling suit, but ensure good thermal insulation.
- comfortable high-quality neoprene material
- excellent thermal properties
- glued seams to prevent water from entering
- heavy-duty YKK zip, reinforced knee pads
- perfect for cold water diving and all water activities
For an enjoyable water experience, make sure to wear gloves and socks too, and put on a neoprene hoodie too if the suit doesn’t have one.
Wetsuit or drysuit
There is no need to use a drysuit, except when snorkeling in really cold water, like the Silfra Fissure in Iceland where the water temperature is only 2-4 C (35- 39 F) all year round. In normal conditions, wearing a drysuit for snorkeling is not recommended.
The most evident reason is that you would quickly run warm in it, but there is also a safety aspect. If the wearer decides to swim down, the situation can turn into a dangerous one since the air in the suit goes to the leg part making resurfacing difficult.
In order to provide the best insulation and comfort, the snorkeling suit should be a snug fit but still easy to put on/off. A loose suit doesn’t provide good thermal properties and makes the wearer getting cold quickly since the water flows into it through the openings. If it’s too small, it restricts your movements and more likely causes chafing and irritation.
When buying a snorkeling wetsuit online, check the manufacturer’s recommendation what size to get based on your measurements (height, waist and chest) and follow the sizing chart.
The neoprene will slightly expand after a few uses, so don’t worry if the suit seems a bit tight at first try. If you can freely move, the length is good on the arms and legs, the knee patch (if there is) lies above the knee, the zips are easy to open and close, the size is good.
Tip: however one can find gear and suit rental at most popular snorkel spots, we recommend buying over renting for hygienic reasons. A good quality shorty costs approx. 50 USD, while full-body neoprene wetsuits are available from around 70 USD. Invest in one and don’t risk getting skin problems.
What to wear under a snorkeling wetsuit?
When diving or snorkeling in your own suit, wear it with your normal swimsuit or bikini. Avoid going nude underneath the suit, it is not only unhygienic but also makes the skin begin to chafe easily.
If you have sensitive skin, wearing sun protection clothes or even a simple cotton T-shirt under the suit can help to avoid rash and irritation.
When spending an extended period of time in the sea or when snorkeling in colder water, you may need additional insulation. In this case, wear an extra layer underneath. It can be a long sleeve sun protection T-shirt with lycra pants or a thermal wetsuit undergarment that helps to keep you warm.
Tip: if you are renting a wetsuit for snorkeling, always wear a full-length rash guard underneath due to hygienic reasons!
Cleaning and storing instructions
In order to preserve the quality of your neoprene suit for the longest time possible, learn how to take care of it by following our tips below!
After each use, rinse the outside of the suit with fresh water to remove salt and sand. Pay extra attention to the zips and make sure they are clean. Then turn the suit inside out and soak it for 30-60 minutes. Don’t use hot water because it can damage the material.
Clean, lukewarm water works well, but if you need to remove dirt or the suit stinks, add mild detergent or neoprene shampoo to the water that removes odor and softens the material.
- all natural wetsuit cleaner
- refreshens and softens your suit so it will feel like new
- glued seams to prevent water from entering
- easy-to-use, just mix a generous pour with water, let it sit for half an hour and rinse with freshwater
After soaking, rinse it once again with fresh water inside and outside, then hang the suit on and let it air dry in the shadow, keep out of direct sunlight. Turn it inside/outside until both sides are fully dry.
Should you find any tear and wear, fix it as soon as possible. Small holes can be fixed at home using a neoprene glue, but take your suit to a scuba shop for repair if there is a bigger cut on it or the zip needs to be changed. When not using the suit, store it by hanging it on in a well-ventilated place.
Buoyancy – diving down in a neoprene suit
Wetsuits are made of neoprene that makes the wearer buoyant because the material contains air bubbles. The thicker the neoprene, the greater the buoyancy is. Therefore, it is harder to dive down when wearing a snorkeling wetsuit.
If you usually just snorkel on the surface, you will notice that the suit keeps you floating. But if you like to dive down to take better photos or to observe sea creatures, you need to wear a weight belt with a few small weights on so you can easily dive down.
The best is choosing a rubber weight belt that won’t move around your waist. Don’t put too much weight on because it will be difficult to swim back to the surface.
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