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I am considering getting a used wet suit for sailing and canoeing in the early spring and next fall. What should I look for? Based on the related Q&A below, it looks like I will want 6-7mm (1/4 inch) thick with neck, wrist and ankle seals.

What else should I look for in a used wet suit?

Related:

  • I would not look at a used wet suit at all. Buying used can be great deal on many things, and I buy a lot of used stuff, but a used wet suit is taking things too far. – DepressedDaniel Jan 30 '17 at 1:52
  • Agreed with @DepressedDaniel as you can also pick up a new wetsuit for around £100. – Aravona Jan 30 '17 at 10:49
  • @DepressedDaniel would you like to expand the comment into an answer on why? – James Jenkins Jan 30 '17 at 10:55
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    Used wetsuits are fine. I have never had a new one, and while my kids have, that is because you can get really good deals on kids summer wetsuits in the winter:-) – Rory Alsop Jan 30 '17 at 12:29
  • @JamesJenkins where are you going? what temperatures are you expecting? – njzk2 Jan 30 '17 at 18:55
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You do not want a 6-7mm wetsuit for spring canoeing, you'd have trouble moving freely in it, and you would overheat very easily. They use 7mm wetsuits for arctic diving. I surf and swim in glacier lakes using a 4-3mm wetsuit (4mm torso, 3mm arms and legs). For paddling especially you want the extra mobility. Paddling with 3mm neoprene on your arms is uncomfortable enough, I don't even want to know what 7mm would feel like chafing up in your armpits after a couple kilometres.

As far as what to look for, fit is the most important thing, if a wetsuit doesn't fit you, then it's no good. For your activities though, you'd be better off looking at getting a drysuit. Wetsuits are for being in the water. Dry suits are far more comfortable for sailing and paddle sports. You could mix it up though, and get neoprene pants, but look at getting a dry top.

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    The drysuits for sailing are very different to those for diving - you get a lot more movement. Drysuit and wetsuit neoprene is a bit different to surfing/swimming wetsuit neoprene too. – Aravona Jan 30 '17 at 8:58
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    Shem - I used to go sea kayaking off the Falklands. A 6mm full wetsuit was the minimum requirement there, otherwise you'd get hypothermic really quickly, as the sea flows straight up from the Antarctic Peninsula and is freezing! Yes, it was tiring and uncomfortable after a few miles, but kept us alive. – Rory Alsop Jan 30 '17 at 12:24
  • @RoryAlsop Sounds like an adventure for sure! How long ago was that? I'm pretty sure mostly all kayakers these days are using dry tops. – ShemSeger Jan 30 '17 at 18:44
  • Mid-eighties @shem – Rory Alsop Jan 30 '17 at 19:46
  • Not sure dry tops suitable for kayaking were a thing back then – Rory Alsop Jan 30 '17 at 19:47
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Always check used wetsuits for wear, especially around seams, under arms, between the legs, and the seat. These areas typically wear through fastest, and although they are often strongest (extra stitching and padding) they take a lot of punishment.

Check internal stitching carefully, as well as any patching. When done well, patches can last a long time, but they may hide problems.

  • If the wetsuit has been used for caving, then the knees and elbows are the first places to go. You probably don't want ex-caving gear, as cavers are notorious for only parting with stuff once it's too knackered to put up with. – Toby Speight Aug 7 at 12:16
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First, consider what design of wetsuit you want. As a (casually) competitive kayaker I use a 2mm longjohn wetsuit in winter with a thermal rash vest (or two if it's really cold) and a waterproof if it's very windy. Sometimes that's too warm for a proper training day, even in the depths of (UK) winter.

For casual, whitewater or touring use I wear an extra thermal layer under the wet suit along with full waterproofs. If you're not planning to swim then you're not going to get too cold.

For sailing you'll want to be warmer, you spend a lot more time sitting around doing not a lot in the wind, but I'd still suggest longjohn as it keeps your arms free. Wear with thermals, jumper, waterproofs.

A full dry cag (latex rubber seals, double layer neoprene waist for spraydeck interlock) is going to be very hot in the long run, I wouldn't suggest it unless you're expecting to swim. Semi-dry cag (neoprene seals, elastic waist) with ordinary waterproof trousers should be about right.

Either way, a 7mm full wetsuit will completely immobilise you for the sake of sailing or kayaking. Guidance for diving or surfing isn't suitable for kayaking or sailing as they spend a lot more time in the water. If you swim when you're sailing something has gone wrong.

On a used wetsuit, check seams, wear on seat and knees, zips, velcro.

Unless it's really cheap, I'd ignore anything that's been repaired, wetsuits aren't that expensive new. However: Repairs could be patched or glued. the neoprene glue holds but doesn't stretch well, this will be the probable cause of any repair failure in the long run.

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Given your purpose, I would choose a surfing suit. They tend to run much cheaper than scuba suits as their purpose is different. They also tend to have more generous room in the arms and shoulders.

Above all else fit is key to wet suit purchase. Life can be a bit hellish in a suit that does not fit correctly. That is one reason I would not buy used. You have to try on each brand and how they fit.

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