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Top 3 Best Wetsuits for Sailing When the Water is Rough: The Expert’s Guide

Sailing wetsuits are designed to protect you from dangerously cold water conditions when you’re out yachting, out for a casual cruise, or racing in colder climates or during the winter months. Yet there are also wetsuits you can wear in warm climates that will provide some protection against cooler water temperatures, allowing you to sail or swim for a longer period of time. 

Finding the Wetsuit You Really Need 

If you’re searching for the right sailing wetsuit, the first thing you should consider is where and when you’re going to use it. The season and the location will more or less determine the water temperature and that’s the first thing to consider when you’re buying a wetsuit. 

Do you want a shorty or a full-length wetsuit? Are you searching for a more versatile suit that can be worn year-round and is that even possible?

Finding the right wetsuit can be tricky, simply because there are so many options out there and not every wetsuit will work for a variety of water temperatures. 

We’ve searched the market for the top three models of wetsuits and came up with two full-length wetsuits and one shorty that passed all of our tests with flying colors. Each wetsuit has something special to offer whether it’s an extra-stretchy neoprene design or an innovative neck and zipper system that makes the suit easier to put on and take off. 

For beginners, shopping for a new wetsuit can be even more challenging simply because they don’t know what features to look for or how to tell a top of the line wetsuit from a low-quality wetsuit that will only last one season. 

Getting Started

Fortunately, we’re here to help. We’ve done all the legwork for you by weeding out the poor-quality wetsuits and bringing you three that will work for a variety of activities, environments, and weather conditions. 

Our buyer’s guide will also clue you in on the different specs and features you should look for and how to determine if a wetsuit is right for you. 

We’ll start with our top selling wetsuit, a model by Musto. Their Foiling Thermocool wetsuit has everything the casual and serious sailor is looking for, including top of the line neoprene and innovative stitching designed for ultimate comfort. 

Comparison Chart

Foiling Thermocool
Impact Wetsuit

Foiling Thermocool Impact Wetsuit
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6full1.5 mm$$5
O’Neil Epic 4/3 Wetsuit
O’Neil Epic 4/3 Wetsuit
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7full4/3 mm$4.5
Shorty Wetsuit

Championship Shorty Wetsuit
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6shorty1.5 mm$4

Best Sailing Wetsuit-Musto Foiling Thermocool Impact Wetsuit 

Foiling Thermocool Impact Wetsuit

Our Rating: (5/5)

The Foiling Thermocool wetsuit by Musto is a full-length suit and one that has plenty to offer the sailor who enjoys challenging seas and cold weather conditions. The suit’s Thermocool technology consists of many layers designed to trap a small layer of water between your skin and the suit and heat the water quickly. This is a wetsuit that’s specifically designed for dinghy racing, so you know it’s very flexible and durable. The neoprene face and backer add much-needed abrasion resistant padding in high-stress areas, which means this suit can handle plenty of use and abuse. 

Best Value-O’Neil Epic 4/3 Wetsuit

O’Neil Epic 4/3 Wetsuit

Our Rating: (4.5/5)

O’Neil is one of the leading manufacturers of wetsuits in the industry. Over the years they have clearly perfected their wetsuit design, producing suits that are easier to put on and take off, suits that feature a thicker layer of neoprene, and models with all of the high-stress areas well-protected. Because of this, we were excited to check out their latest full-length wetsuit, which is designed with both beginners and pros in mind. The suit itself is very versatile and provides the freedom of movement you need, whether you’re racing around on deck or enjoying a dip in the water. The covert blackout rear zipper features an innovative design that prevents excess water from entering the suit, ensuring you remain nice and warm. 

Best Shorty Wetsuit-Championship Shorty Wetsuit 

Championship Shorty Wetsuit

Our Rating: (4/5)

The Championship shorty wetsuit is the perfect choice if you’re looking for the right wetsuit for warmer climates. The suit consists of super-stretchy neoprene material that allows for full range of movement, and flat locked seams that help to improve the suit’s fit and ensure only a thin layer of water is able to enter the suit. As far as shorties go in general, this suit cannot offer the type of protection from harsh weather conditions that a full-length suit can, but it’s not supposed to. Instead, this wetsuit will work best in warm and hot climates. 

Wetsuit Buyer’s Guide 

When you’re shopping for a sailing wetsuit, first you must make sure the suit you choose is specifically designed for sailing. There are several different types and styles of wetsuits to choose from. A sailing wetsuit is designed to accommodate the movements and posture of sailing. Windsurfing, waterskiing, surfing, diving, and general wetsuits are designed for each specific activity and its movements. Basically, their rigidity can hinder your movements when you’re onboard.

A wetsuit designed for sailing will be reinforced in the knee area and in the seat area in order to properly protect the wearer from abrasions on a boat’s non-skid deck. 


The key to staying warm is choosing a wetsuit that fits properly. Before you buy, pay close attention to the suit’s size chart. The suit should offer light to medium pressure and should essentially fit like a second skin. There shouldn’t be loose areas in the suit because this will allow more water to pool. The neck, ankle, and wrist openings should be snug in order to prevent water from entering. The fit will be critical to preventing cold water from repeatedly flushing into the suit. When ordering a suit online, pay close attention to the best wetsuit for sailing reviews. Buyers often offer feedback regarding how a suit fits and how accurate the brand’s sizing chart is. 

Regardless of how expensive or high tech a suit is, if the suit doesn’t fit right it’s not going to keep you warm. 

Water and Air Conditions 

Wearing a wetsuit will keep you nice and comfortable in colder weather, but essentially, these suits are designed to protect you from hypothermia. Exposure to cold water can cause the extremities to become numb, quickly. When your hands are freezing you won’t be able to grasp a line, fasten the straps on a lifejacket, or hold onto a boat that has capsized. When you’re shopping for a new wetsuit, you should allow the water’s average temperature to be your guide. 

Did you know that water pulls heat from the body twenty-five times faster than air? In very low temperatures, water can be both dangerous and debilitating. 

Wind Chill

Wind Chill

Wind chill can increase the rate of heat loss, reducing warmer objects to ambient air temperatures. The faster the air moves across surfaces, the faster it pulls heat away from the surface. This means if you’re out sailing when it’s fifty degrees out and the wind is blowing at fifteen miles per hour, the wind chill can make it feel as though it’s thirty-six degrees out. When it comes to the suit you wear and wind chill, there aren’t any hard and fast rules. Just keep in mind that the higher the sustained wind speeds are out on the water, the warmer and thicker your suit needs to be. 

In addition to air and water temperatures, you should also consider the following: 

  • How active you’ll be 
  • How sensitive you are to the cold 


If you purchase a lower priced wetsuit, it doesn’t mean that the suit won’t be able to insulate you in the water, however, it probably won’t be as lightweight, stretchy, or as good at preventing cold water from constantly flushing into the suit. If you only use a wetsuit occasionally, and you’re not using the suit in frigid temperatures, a lower-priced suit that fits well should keep you warm enough for your sailing adventure. 

If you need a more comfortable suit that reduces fatigue and won’t hinder your movements onboard, and you use a wetsuit more than a few times a year, you should consider a higher performance model in order to maximize your time out on the water. 

Wetsuit Styles

If you occasionally sail in cool temperatures, you can wear a simple one-piece suit. These basic suits offer excellent protection however, they have a limited temperature range. 

When you sail in conditions that range from warm, cool, and cold conditions and you wear wetsuits often, you’ll need to get a little creative. This is where combining a variety of different thicknesses and types of bottoms and tops can come in handy because you can choose what will best suit water temperatures and keep you warm while retaining good mobility and stretch. You can easily mix and match bottoms and tops to achieve the right balance between warmth and mobility for ultimate comfort. This is where the sailing wetsuit has really advanced. There are several choices of bottoms and tops to choose from. Even if you have a couple of different tops and one bottom in your kit, you’ll gain plenty of flexibility in dressing in the right gear for different water temperatures. The more pieces you have, the more flexibility you’ll enjoy. When sailing through a variety of temperature ranges, you don’t want to just stick to short wetsuits. Wetsuits designed for spring sailing aren’t exactly versatile. Many sailors believe that the ability to choose bottoms and tops separately is key. 

If you’re going out for a casual day of sailing and the water and air are both nice and warm, then a pair of sailing pants should work just fine. In these conditions, a wetsuit would be overkill. 

To learn more about the leading pairs of sailing pants, click here to read our buyer’s guide. 

A Full Steamer Suit 

When you sail in frigid conditions a one-piece steamer that’s made out of medium super stretch neoprene or thick neoprene will perform well. These suits are specifically designed for frigid conditions and usually aren’t used for cool or warm conditions because they would cause the sailor to overheat. 

The Right Wetsuit Based on Weather and Water Conditions 

The Right Wetsuit Based on Weather and Water Conditions 

  • In warm weather, sailing pants and a rash guard should work just fine. 
  • In cool weather, you can wear a shorty wetsuit, or neoprene sailing pants and a thin neoprene top.
  • When it’s cold out, you’ll want to wear a full-length neoprene wetsuit of medium thickness. 
  • For frigid temperatures, a full-length super stretchy wetsuit with an internal thermal liner is an excellent choice. 

Additionally, it’s also important to wear the appropriate footwear when you’re sailing, based on water and weather conditions. To learn more, click here to read our sailing shoes and boots buyer’s guide. 

Sailing for Beginners

If you have a passion for sailing, but don’t know where to start or what other type of gear you’ll need in order to be fully prepared when heading out, our article on how to get into the sport can provide some great ideas that will guide you through the exciting world of sailing. To learn more, click here. 

Final Thoughts

Remember, If you want a sailing wetsuit that’s going to last and one that can actually handle harsh water temperatures, then you’ll need to be prepared to pay more. Suits that are made out of thicker neoprene are going to come with a higher price tag. Additionally, a full-length wetsuit will cost more than a short wetsuit. 

If you’re simply looking for a wetsuit to take on your next vacation, then a lower priced suit should work just fine. But if you’re serious about sailing and need a suit you can put to the test, then you’ll need to buy the best. This is especially true if you’re out in dangerously cold conditions. As with many things in life, when it comes to wetsuits, you get what you pay for. 

As you can see, there is no universal sailing wetsuit that you can wear for any type of water and weather conditions. Instead, you may need to purchase more than one wetsuit, depending on how often you sail, when, and where.

Top 3 Best wetsuits for Sailing when the Water is Rough
Article Name
Top 3 Best wetsuits for Sailing when the Water is Rough
Get an in-depth look at the three leading sailing wetsuits on the market, learn why they made it to our top three list and how they performed in the water.