Feeling Drawn to the Water? A PNW Wetsuit Guide

The Pacific Northwest is a great place for water sports, but it can be cold. Here are some great tips for choosing a wetsuit for the Pacific Northwest from evo -- a Seattle based outdoor gear retailer.


This is a sponsored post about choosing a wetsuit in the Pacific Northwest by evo, a ski, snowboard, mountain bike, surf, wake, skate, camp, and lifestyle retailer based in Seattle, Washington, USA.

If you live in the Pacific Northwest and like to partake in just about any water sports, you’re probably going to need a wetsuit. We like our summers short and chilly, and our water deep and cold here, and boardshorts and a rashguard just won’t cut it for most folks.

But what style of wetsuit do you need? And how thick? And what features really matter? Walk into any surf shop, and somewhere near the wall of surfboards you’ll find rack upon rack of wetsuits in every style, cut, and thickness imaginable. The selection is overwhelming. So here’s a guide to picking out what wetsuit will serve you best here in the Pacific Northwest.

Choosing a Wetsuit in the Pacific Northwest


The first thing to decide is what type of wetsuit you’re looking for. Generally the colder the water you’re dealing with, the more coverage you’re going to want from your wetsuit.

Full Suit

Choosing a Wetsuit in the Pacific Northwest full wetsuit

Surfers looking to chase waves year-round will want a full coverage wetsuit, with long arms and legs, and a hood, along with neoprene booties and gloves. This style of wetsuit will help keep you warm in the coldest waters.

Spring Suit

choosing a wetsuit in the pacific northwest spring suit

For paddleboarders, wakeboarders, and water skiers who don’t spend as much time submerged in the water, and want more maneuverability, a spring suit works well. Also known as a shorty, these wetsuits are basically the short sleeves and shorts of cold water wear. The legs come down to the knee, and the arms cover to the elbow, so you’ve got your core covered and warm, but are able to move more easily. These aren’t as warm as full coverage suits, but are easier to get on and off, and are more comfortable in warmer waters.

Wetsuit Tops

choosing a wetsuit in the pacific northwest wetsuit top

The final option are wetsuit tops. These are a good choice spring through fall for many lakes in the Pacific Northwest. They provide plenty of warmth to your core, while not having to worry about overheating. They come in a variety of styles including pullover, chest zip, and back zip. Wetsuit tops can be used for a variety of activities from swimming to wakesurfing and are very easy to get in and out of. These are perfect for folks who run a little cold, but don’t need the coverage and insulation of a full wetsuit or shorty.


Once you’ve figured out what cut of wetsuit will work best for you, it’s time to think about thickness. Thickness is basically how wetsuit manufacturers talk about how well their wetsuits do at keeping you warm. The thicker the wetsuit, the more heat it traps, and the warmer you’ll be. Thickness is usually measured in millimeters, and is composed of three numbers in order for the thickness of the torso, legs, and arms. So a 4/3/3 wetsuit would have a 4mm thick torso, 3 mm thick legs, and 3 mm thick arms.

Of course, thicker suits will only get you so far, a spring suit that’s a little thicker than a full coverage suit with gloves, a hood, and booties, still won’t be as warm. So you want your cut and thickness to work together to keep you the perfect temperature for the conditions you plan on seeing. Everyone’s preferences vary, so use these recommendations as a starting point, and move up or down based on whether you run hot or cold.

For water temperatures under 42° you’re going to want at least a 6/5/4, full coverage wetsuit with gloves and booties, and a hood. This is cold water, and you need as much insulation as you can get.

choosing a wetsuit in the pacific northwest wetsuit booties

For water in the 43°-58° range, a 5/4/3 suit, again with gloves, booties, and a hood will be the right call for most people. If you run cold at all though, don’t hesitate to go for a thicker suit.

In warmer water, from about 58° to 63° a 3/2 suit will work for most folks, although, again, if you run cold, a thicker suit may be a good call.

For temperatures above 63° most people will be happy in a 2 or 3 mm shorty suit. In warmer water temperatures less coverage, and a thinner wetsuit will help keep you comfortable and happy all day long.

So figure out what cut of wetsuit will work best for you, and how thick it’s going to need to be, and then get out there and tame these Pacific Northwest waters. We promise it will be worth it.

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