Wetsuits are undeniably the stars of the swimrun equipment. Protection against the cold, buoyancy, easiness to put on and remove, comfort in running, flexibility of the shoulders, weight, pockets, the wetsuits have many functions to fulfil and some are near incompatible.
In April this year, swimrunners from World of Swimrun (WoS), Swimrun France (SR-F), Swimrun Germany (SR-G) and GoSwimrun Poland teamed up in Hvar, Croatia for the annual international and independent swimrun equipment test. For 3 days, the team tested and debated 12 different swimrun-specific wetsuits. The crew tested each one in real-life swimrun conditions. All feedbacks were individually recorded, and each wetsuit characteristics and features were discussed at length within the team. The text below reflects the consensus and the variations of opinions of our very experienced tester. We have introduced this year some weight measurements to improve our method. We weighted the wetsuit dry, straight after swimming (T0) and 10 minutes after (T10). We also calculated the differences between dry and out of the water (Diff dry – T 0) and 10 minutes after (Diff dry – T 10) to give an indication of how fast they are draining the water.
Our test is not exhaustive as there are other wetsuits in the market. We have focused on new wetsuits coming out this year. Some brands didn’t change their wetsuits and are not represented; some were still waiting for the products to arrive from China or Thailand. This is a never-ending conundrum: if we wait the season is well advanced and people have made their choice with little information, and if we test early some models are not yet on the market. We will add during the year new available models.
The market keeps growing and the choice is becoming increasingly difficult: there is so much choice! The manufacturers are exploring new avenues and offer new options. Nonetheless tendencies are emerging. Short legs tend to become the norm, whilst two options are offered for zips: front only or front and back. Your shoulder flexibility will determine your choice. Various options for pockets are tried out, some on the thighs, with more or less success. No consensus has emerged yet on this important practical issue. Prices seem to move apart, with some very interesting models in the entry level at lower cost and high specs more expensive wetsuits. Therefore we have spit this year our test between wetsuits under 300€ (entry-level) and above 300€ (Top-end), and listed the wetsuits in alphabetic order.
Blue Seventy Alliance
Blue Seventy is a well establish brand and renowned in open water swimming and triathlon; it’s no surprise they have now entered the swimrun market . The Alliance is a front-zip-only wetsuit, which is all right for cold and short races, more problematic if you are shoulder flexibility-challenged (like some of us … 😉 ) and for longer and hot races. Most testers found the neoprene around the shoulders flexible, but the fit around the neck allowed for some water to come in. The back pocket is well accessible and interestingly the only one opening on the left hand side. Two tether loops are present on the hips, which is an interesting option that forces either the second swimmer to be slightly on the side of the front swimmer, or asks for an additional element to pull in the axis of the front swimmer. Zerod has opted for a similar approach. The inside of the arms and most of the back is made of orange jersey, great for visibility and theoretically for durability, less for speed in the water.
Last year Colting produced the best wetsuit of our test and this year they introduced cheaper and simpler wetsuit. The “Go” is a short arms – short legs front zip only model aimed at slightly warmer weather. The orange shoulder panels are a pleasant addition whilst staying in the brand’s colour scheme. The bottom is jersey covered to provide a rough and resistance surface. Two back pockets provide enough space to store food and safety equipment. The shoulder are very flexible and the wetsuit provides enough buoyancy. Running was comfortable without compressing the thighs. It is also the wetsuit holding the least amount of water when exiting the sea or after 10 minutes. We were pleasantly surprised with this new model which is an excellent entry level and could compete with many more expensive wetsuits.
This company, more known in the triathlon scene, is introducing a new entry-level swimrun wetsuit. With short arms and legs, it fits into the trend for entry level, though the presence of two zips puts it in a small field with Mako, making this two wetsuit easy to remove. This is another model featuring yellow panels, the definite trend this year in swimrun fashion. The entry point is felt in the choice of material and the shoulder flexibility is limited. However the wetsuit provides a good level of buoyancy, even though we experienced some water entry, possibly linked with the rough material used and the numerous stiches. The flip side is that the material is resistant and comfortable to run with. All in all, an entry level wetsuit for a low budget.
Head rough shorty
This is the entry-level wetsuit from the pioneer brand in swimrun: it all started with them when the Swedish arm of the company modified a triathlon wetsuit to had a front zip. The rest is history. This model is from 2017 but was released too late to be included in our test last year, hence its inclusion in this 2018 test. It’s a short legs and arms wetsuit featuring two zips, with large red panels on the upper body. As its name indicates, this wetsuit aims to be more resistant and resists better to the rough treatment we sometimes impose on our wetsuits in training and the choice of material reflects this objective. It is made of nylon covered neoprene aiming to provide a flexible and durable material. The wetsuit is comfortable in swimming with decent shoulder flexibility. Running in this wetsuit is a mixed feeling. The material feels flexible enough, but it may feel a bit heavy at the same time. The weight measurements we performed on support this feeling as the nylon holds more water than ideally. The Head Rough is a very durable wetsuit that will not let you down in training.
Mako is a French company specialised in triathlon and with ex-pro triathlete Jessica Harisson and now swimrunner, they know a thing or two about multisport. With an attractive low price tag, this new model is an entry-level wetsuit with short arms and legs, and front and back zips. Interestingly the wetsuit is offered in male and female version. It includes an Ultra-Stretch cut in the shoulders and a large back pocket. We found the sizing slightly small so you may want to go one size up from your usual size. it’s comfortable and flexible around the shoulders and comfortable, though some experienced some water entry. It is comfortable running, not surprisingly with such a light weight. Particularly interesting, this wetsuit retains very little water. We all found the whistle provided too big, even though it is very safe! Mako is also offering separate neoprene legs and arms. They hold well onto the suit and make this wetsuit an all-rounder adaptable for various temperatures. It’s the second-best wetsuit for holding the least amount of water when exiting the sea or after 10 minutes. A very good wetsuit in this price range.
Orca core top and bottom
Orca innovates with this two pieces wetsuit. The concept was introduced by the American brand De Soto in triathlon in the 90’s but it is rather new in swimrun. This two-pieces model is aimed at warmer races where it advantageous to be able to remove the top. With colourful bright green panels it stays in the now well-known brands’ style. The top features a front zip two small outside pockets. The bottom offers a flap-closed pocket on the side of the thigh. The two pieces are linked by three Velcro. Each element is essentially similar to last year Core model. Swimming in this wetsuit we got mixt feelings, some in the testing team taking on water whilst others feeling comfortable although the neck can feel slightly narrow. Having a proper fit is therefore essential. The real surprise is the facility with which the two spate pieces re-attach themselves. Several times we ran with the top open and separated, and we each time found that the male and female Velcro found each other and re-attached themselves. You will not fight to get this wetsuit back in one set.
Zone 3 Versa
This new addition to the Zone 3 offer is a 3/4 legs short arms wetsuit, an option quite different from most. Removable arms are also available, a popular option this year. With bright yellow shoulders and blue “breathable” Neo-Breathe TM fabric under arms and back, this colourful be noted in the crowd. No back zip means that good shoulder flexibility is required to remove it. But it leaves more space for the large back pocket. Testing gave mixed feelings with most testers finding the flexibility lacking whilst other felt comfortable. Potentially an issue of body type. The 3/4 legs felt constraining like long legs without providing a perceivable advantage, and the material folding behind the knee made running in this wetsuit an unpleasant experience. Cutting the legs would improve drastically this issue. The protection of the knees in exiting the water is the only bonus this cut seems to add. Overall an entry-level wetsuit with some limitations largely linked to the choice of material.
Ark is another new company arriving in the swimrun market. It has received a lot of attention with World Championship winners and world record holders Daniel Hansson, Lelle Moberg and Kristin Larsson involved from the inception of this project. The name ’Ornö’ is of course a reference to the island Ornö where the longest run of the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championships takes place. It makes us wonder if next year version will take the nickname of the most famous swim of the same race ;). This new wetsuit features a front zip and is a short arms and legs type, with removable sleeves to adapt for a wide range of conditions. The limestone-based Yamamoto neoprene is very buoyant and more eco-friendly. The thinness of the material clearly put this wetsuit in the high performance seeking category. The wetsuit feels very close to the body, tight fitting, a little bit undersized so chose one size over. It offers a very good shoulder flexibility but with such thin material it provides little buoyancy and is aimed at good swimmers or those who want to run fast. Running in this wetsuit is very comfortable thanks to the thinness of the material.. Overall the Ark ÖrnÖ is a well-designed light wetsuit suitable for confident swimmers aiming for a high performance.
Colting SR 02+
The winner of last year’s test is coming back with small modifications: the legs are short and added material provide a tighter seal on the thighs. The arms remain long letting the user decide if they want, or not, to cut them. This option is now challenged by the short arms + removable sleeves option. Which one is faster? A priori it would seems that the long arms are faster, otherwise open water and triathlon wetsuit would all have adopted this strategy. Nevertheless it lets you decide what you are doing when the temperature is borderline. Not surprisingly the rest of the wetsuit with its two zips remain the same and still performs extremely well in swimming. The short legs which is rapidly becoming the by-default option on the market is definitely a nice feature improving its running credential. This aspect is also helped with two stretchable material located on the bum, providing more flexibility in running. A high performance proven wetsuit with a small but welcome improvement.
NU Complement Triton 0.1
NU is a Spanish brand who is expanding its range of products. After presenting only accessories such as buoyancy aids. last year, they introduce this year a swimrun wetsuit. This is another wetsuit to adopt bright (yellow in this case) coloured panel, the trend this year. It’s a good thing as it makes us more visible and safer in the water. This short arms – short legs wetsuit features only one front zip, suitable for those with flexible shoulders and for shorter races. The back pocket is innovative as it placed low on the small of the back and features no zip. It seems to work well though. The wetsuit is comfortable in swimming with sufficient shoulder flexibility. The back of the legs is reinforced with a jersey, allowing for the occasional slip on the rocks that unfortunately happen sometimes. It feels comfortable in running. We were pleasantly surprised for a first attempt from a company not traditionally producing neoprene wetsuit, unlike some of the more established competitors.
Orca has been known for the colourful design of their wetsuits, and this new model doesn’t disappoint with an attractive design of black, bright yellow and touches of blue. This model is a short legs and arms wetsuit, with removable arms, a versatile solution to adapt to various conditions. If the arms stay in place, a frequent issue, this is a good option. The front zip only choice makes requires good shoulder flexibility to remove it. The wetsuit is made of a mixture of 39 cell neoprene and SCS HydroLite panels. The open inside pocket would probably let anything in it fall if the top is downed. Uniquely a tiny pocket on the front left breast hosts a whistle. It also feature like the Zerod an additional zip opening from the bottom to help reaching in for inside pockets or to ventilate. The shoulders are flexible enough in swimming and the wetsuit feels comfortable in short distance running. However some of the stitches between the panels are not taped which may cause friction in longer runs and in particular in hot conditions. This wetsuit is more suited for short and cold swimruns where removing the top is not a necessity.
Sailfish Swimrun Pro
Sailfish is another well-known company in open water swimming. The Swimrun Pro is a long arms – short legs wetsuit. The 5 mm thick smooth neoprene on the upper torso and thigh provide buoyancy and cold protection, but some manufacturers such as Colting go even thicker for flotation purposes. The two zippers are of noticeable different length, with the back one being much smaller. This affords enough space for a generously sized back pocket. In addition to the two smaller inside pockets, this wetsuit provides plenty options to carry everything you need in a race. However some in the testing team found the inside pocket to be uncomfortable, hard to access, and a bit too small. This is an issue we found in various brands as the pockets can easily exert press ion against the ribs and / or create a potential compression point on women’s bra. The fitting is tight for the size, though some found the hips and belly too lose; so be careful with sizing. We felt it was very comfortable for swimming, not surprisingly for this company. Running felt somewhat restricted, maybe due to the thickness of the neoprene. The short zip at the back is sufficient and removing the wetsuit was easily done. Overall a good wetsuit with great storing facilities.
This is a traditional two zips short arms and legs wetsuit with some colourful panels. In fact it features three zips, two at the front with the option to open from both the top and the bottom, to allow a better access to the front pockets, or to ventilate without having to open up the suit completely. It may help some, and Zerod is with Orca RS1 the only wetsuit featuring this option. There are numerous pockets, maybe too many. The flap on the thigh pocket could be longer to make sure that big thigh people don’t end up with an open pocket. Inside the very large (largest on the market) mesh pocket are not closed, leading to potentially losing anything in it when you down the top for long hot runs. Finally it offers double (right and left) loops to attach a tether. The shoulders are very flexible and comfortable in swimming, but the neck felt very restricted. For this reason you may have to go one size up compared to your normal sizing. Running provided a good experience showing a strong potential. Overall this is a good wetsuit with some potential interesting innovations, slightly over-engineered in this version.
Don’t forget that there are other swimrun wetsuit on the market, apart from the ones we have tested. Therefore, we recommend that you read our 2017 test, as many of these wetsuits are still available in 2018.
We want to thank all manufacturers (in alphabetic order) who helped us by providing equipment for our test:
*F = Front, B= Back, F&B = Front and Back
** Weight dry, just out of the water (T0), 10 minutes after getting out of the water (T10), differences between dry and out of the water (Diff dry – T 0) and 10 minutes after (Diff dry – T 10).
***Prices are approximate given the variations between countries and retailers
Don’t forget to compare with last years test
/The WoS Team