Wetsuit technology has a come a long way since surfers first started exploring colder waters. Today wetsuits are warmer, more flexible, and more comfortable than ever before. Each year brings new advancements to make surfing more enjoyable, and 2018 is no exception. We’ve reviewed our hooded suits and after talking to customers, employees, and team riders, these are the 6 best wetsuits for cold water surfing.
O’Neill Psycho Tech 5.5/4mm
“The Most Flexible Suit on the Planet”
The shop favorite here at Cleanline, the Psycho Tech by O’Neill has been our best selling cold water wetsuit over the past year and for good reason.
The Psycho Tech has all the quality features you would expect from O’Neill’s top of the line suit, plus the new exclusive Techno Butter 3 Neoprene that really makes this suit stand out.
What’s up with Techno Butter?
Techno Butter is O’Neill’s highest-performing neoprene and allows for near unrestricted movement in cold water. If you’ve worn a suit with Techno Butter neoprene in the past you know it’s incredibly flexible and a comfortable fit as well. New for 2018, Techno Butter 3 has been updated to be even lighter, more comfortable and flexible than ever.
Unlike most of the other suits on this list, the Psycho Tech does not have internal taping over the stitching, but this is to shed some extra weight and keep this suit as light as possible. The lightweight feel and flexibility makes it feel like you’re paddling in a 4/3. O’Neill even made the Firewall chest panel lighter than before and it still does a great job of keeping your core toasty on those cold winter mornings. The Firewall panel now extends through out the full torso and legs of the suit for even more warmth and comfort. The arms and shoulders don’t have this lining but that only makes the suit more flexible in those areas.
For added warmth, O’Neill added an external fluid seam weld that helps keep water from entering and also increases durability. Wetsuits, when damaged, will often rip at the stitching and the fluid seam weld provides an additional layer of strength. The Psycho Tech, despite its performance features, doesn’t feel fragile and can definitely hold up to the abuses of consistent use. Many of our staff and team riders have been wearing this suit daily for a year with only minimal cosmetic issues. It’s also worth mentioning that this is definitely one of the easiest chest zip suits to get in and out of and the zipper on the chest entry is really solid. For more info be sure to check out our full review of the suit.
THE BOTTOM LINE
All in all, the Psycho Tech is easily the most flexible suit out there and is our favorite hooded suit for it’s all-around quality.
Patagonia R4 Yulex 5.5/4mm
“Eco Friendly with Unrivaled Warmth”
Patagonia over the years has created some of the warmest wetuits. Since its introduction, the R4 has established itself as the number one choice for east coast winter surfers, great lakes surfers, the North Northwest and anyone else surfing well into the 30’s and 40’s.
What’s the story with Yulex?
Yulex is a natural rubber derived from a plant called the Hevea tree found around the rainforests of Guatemala. Patagonia has been experimenting with Yulex since 2012 but in 2016 switched their entire line of wetsuits over to this material.
Yulex shares the same warmth and flexibility characteristics as neoprene but has a much smaller carbon footprint, and since it’s harvested from a tree, it can be more sustainably reproduced.
BIG CHANGES FOR 2018
A few years have passed since Patagonia has switched their suits to Yulex and in this time they’ve been able to re-design and focus certain features.
Starting with the rubber, Patagonia made some important tweaks to the Yulex formula resulting in easily the most flexible series of suits they’ve ever produced. These new 2018 suits are a huge step up in flexibility, making them easy to paddle and more comfortable to wear. The fit has also been re-designed to allow for more room in the chest and shoulders than last year’s suits. These suits now fit completely true to size.
There have also been improvements in the environmental footprint of Patagonia’s suits as they now use what Patagonia calls AQUAa Glue on the seams. As you may have guessed, AQUAa Glue is h20-based and free of the potentially harmful and irritating Volatile Organic Compounds that are found in certain sealants. The liners are now dyed black during production which cuts down on water usage. For what it’s worth the black linear also looks much cooler.
We’ve always been impressed here at the shop by Patagonia’s warranty and they definitely stand behind all their products and provides excellent warranty repairs. That being said, the R4 is without question one of the most durable suits out there and very rarely comes back for warranty.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The R4 comes with the biggest price tag out of any of our cold water suits, but it’s a great suit and totally worth the extra cash.
Rip Curl Flash Bomb 5/4mm
“Excellent All Rounder”
New and improved for 2018, the award-winning Flash Bomb is back. Top to bottom, the Flash Bomb is a solid suit that’s been re-tuned and upgraded. This year the Flash Bomb has E5 Flash lining all the way from the chest through the legs. E5 is one of the more stretchy neoprenes on the market and the E5 lining is that classic orange fuzzy material you’ve probably seen on the inside of Rip Curl’s best suits for years. That Flash lining dries really quickly (as little as 15 minutes), which makes it worth it’s weight in gold for winter dawn patrol sessions.
In terms of warmth, we think the Flash Bomb is second only to the R4. The mesh smooth skin on the chest and back of this suit is pretty wind resistant and does a good job of generating warmth in your core. It’s well taped internally through most of the suit, and has an external seam weld over the stitching. Internal tape adds weight to a suit, but the Flash Bomb uses a new lightweight tape to make up for it and this suit still feels light in general.
Flexibility-wise, the Flash Bomb is more flexible than just about any other suit except for probably the O’Neill Psycho Tech.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Overall, this is the most balanced coldwater suit available and after wearing one it’s kind of a no-brainer as to why it’s been voted “Wetuit of the Year” 3 times by SIMA.
Billabong Furnace Carbon Ultra 5/4mm
“High Performance and Environmentally Conscious”
Billabong over the past couple years has seriously stepped their game up and the Furnace Carbon Ultra is maybe the best high-end suit they’ve released. An entirely new design for this year, the Furnace Carbon Ultra uses a more environmentally friendly neoprene that they call stretch smart foam. This material is actually partially made of “upcycled” tires and while this material may come from a car tire, it’s still super pliable and more flexible than any Billabong suit before.
The Furnace Carbon Ultra is able to stay lightweight in and out of the water by using a new outside jersey that retains 30% less water and also dries quicker. The inside of the suit is lined and taped for There’s notably no smooth skin on this suit as well, but this only helps to shed weight and the suit runs plenty warm without it.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Billabong found a winning formula with this one and somehow it’s both more environmentally-friendly AND performs better than any of their previous suits.
Buell RB2 Beast 5/4mm
“Most Suit for the Money from a Wetsuit Industry Vet”
Buell is the brainchild of ex-Hotline designer Ryan Buell who’s been successfully designing, refining and testing wetsuits for over 20 years. Buell’s suits have been used recently by a lot of legendary surfers from Dane Reynolds to Bruce Irons. Now for this year, Buell has introduced a hooded 5/4mm suit, the RB2 Beast Suit
The RB2 Beast at first glance might look more like costume with eyes painted on the hood and a big superhero style logo on the shoulder but this suit is straight to the point and delivers on all fronts. The neoprene is flexible and warm, the seams are triple glued and blind stitched sandwiched between a external fluid seam weld and internal tape and the fit’s comfortable. There’s no smooth skin on the chest but that only helps to keep this suit light, flexible and more affordable.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While this suit doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of some of the other suits on this list it also doesn’t have the same price tag. For $299 you can’t go wrong.
Hotline Ultra Hot Combo 5/4mm
“Most Durable and Easiest Entry”
A Northwest Favorite, the Hotline Ultra Hot Combo has been a staple suit for cold water surfing since the 90’s. The Ultra Hot Combo uses a unique extra wide chest zip system that allows surfers the easiest possible entry and exit out of any chest zip suit. This is particularly well suited for surfers with prior injury who otherwise struggle putting on a chest zip suit.
Handmade in Santa Cruz, the Ultra Hot Combo features super stretchy neoprene that is comparable in flexibility to most high end suits. The seams are double glued and blind stitched and internally taped throughout the suit as well. The tape in particular is extra thick and helps make the Ultra Hot Combo one of the warmest suits available, almost rivaling the Patagonia R4. However, when it comes to durability, nothing not even the R4 can touch the Ultra Hot Combo. This is the one suit that we regularly see customers consistently surfing in for 3 or 4 years. We’ve even seen a few extreme cases where 10+ year old Ultra Hot Combos come into the shop looking like they’ve only had a few sessions in them.
Hotline doesn’t market as much as some of the other brands, but they’re an excellent core company whose products speak for themselves. Their sizing is pretty different from all the other wetsuit manufacturers so we recommend you consult their size chart or give us a call before ordering. Hotline suits are a perfect option for bigger guys too, as their size run can accommodate surfers up to 280 lbs.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Highly recommended for it’s warmth, durability and ease of entry. Great wetsuit for frigid waters!
So there you have it, those are the 6 best hooded cold water wetsuits out there.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact us in the comments section below or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach us Monday through Friday toll free at 1-888-546-6176 if you would like to talk to us directly.
Now go surf!