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Will a 2 mm wetsuit keep me warm? This is a question that many water sports enthusiasts may have. With the winter months approaching, you might think of using your summer wetsuit for your diving adventure.
The problem is that 2 mm wetsuits can only keep you warm at particular temperatures. In this article, we’ll answer whether or not a 2 mm is effective at keeping you warm. We’ll also discuss wetsuit thicknesses that are suitable for the cold season. So, stick around!
Read my wetsuit thickness guide.
Will a 2MM Wetsuit Keep Me Warm?
The short answer is that it depends. A 2 mm wetsuit is thin and stretchy. While it provides the best movement flexibility and some warmth, it still isn’t efficient for cold water. Typically, a 2 mm suit is ideal for water temperatures around 62ºF and above.
That’s why you’ll usually find those neoprene panels in spring suits and long johns. They’re also used in neoprene tops and bottoms.
So, you can wear those thin panels in the summer and spring and still get warmth, buoyancy, and sun protection. However, a 2 mm wetsuit won’t keep you warm during the cold months. Even worse, wearing thin neoprene suits in low temperatures risks hypothermia.
Do Thicker Warmsuits Keep You Warm?
Yes! For the winter, you want to choose thicker neoprene suits to keep you warm. Why? That’s because neoprene is an insulator. It has a foam-like structure with tiny chambers. Those spaces hold nitrogen, a poor heat conductor gas.
Thicker wetsuits have more neoprene, which means more tiny chambers that trap gas. As a result, they provide better heat insulation, keeping you warm.
However, those perks come at a cost. The thicker the rubber panels are, the less flexible they become. So, you might find thick wetsuits more restrictive than thin rubber suits.
Wetsuit Thickness to Keep You Warm
Generally, wetsuit thicknesses range from 2 mm to 6 mm. Now that we know why thick wetsuits work better in cold water, let’s discuss each thickness in further detail!
3 MM Wetsuits
Similar to 2 mm wetsuits, a 3 mm is also ideal for water temperatures around 62ºF. They can, however, keep you warm when the temperature drops to 55.4ºF. That makes them perfect for the mid-season between spring and fall.
3 mm neoprene panels are usually available as full wetsuits. If you find them restrictive, you can buy the 3/2 thickness. The former has a 3 mm thickness for the torso region.
However, the neoprene panels around the arms and legs have a thickness of 2 mm, offering more flexibility.
4 MM Wetsuits
4 mm wetsuits are ideal for colder conditions during the fall. They provide warmth in temperatures as low as 52ºF. The cold water wetsuit offers more insulation than 3 mm suits, making it a better option for divers who’ll spend an extended period in the cold ocean.
You’ll usually find most 4 mm wetsuits available as steamers. They can also have hoods attached to the suit to keep your head warm.
Like most wetsuits, 4 mm neoprene panels are thinner around the extremities. The panels have a 3 mm thickness around the legs and arms so that they don’t impair your range of motion.
5 MM Wetsuits
A 5 mm wetsuit is generally considered a winter wetsuit. They’re ideal for a water temperature range of 43ºF to 52ºF.
The most common full suit thickness is 5/4/3 mm wetsuits. The first number represents the torso’s thickness, while the second indicates the neoprene’s thickness around the legs. As for the last number, that’s the rubber’s thickness around the arms, which is 3 mm.
Aside from the wetsuit, divers usually wear a 5 mm hood, gloves, and boots. That’s to provide more heat insulation to warm your extremities.
6 MM Wetsuits
As you might expect, a 6 mm wetsuit is generally the thickest suit for scuba diving and other water activities.
Typically, 6 mm wetsuits are available in thicknesses of 6/5/4 mm thickness. As mentioned earlier, the 6 mm is around the torso, where you don’t need much flexibility. The 5 mm rubber is around the legs, while the 4 mm thickness is around the arms.
Almost all divers pair 6 mm with a 5-7 mm hood, gloves, and boots. That combination ensures maximum insulation and warmth. As a result, you can go scuba diving in the winter when the water temperature is 42ºF or lower!
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Wetsuit for Cold Water
Several factors affect how warm a wetsuit will keep you—the thickness alone won’t cut it. Those factors include the wetsuit fitting, the neoprene type, and the seam quality.
Let’s discuss each factor in further detail!
Choosing a perfectly fitting wetsuit can’t be overstressed. That’s because the whole idea of a wetsuit is to trap water beneath it. Your body temperature then heats the water, keeping you warm.
However, that’s only possible with proper fitting. Water will start flushing in and out if the suit is too big. Consequently, it’ll replace the warm water.
Small-sized wetsuits, on the other hand, are uncomfortable. While they won’t allow ocean water to seep into the suit, they can impair your movement.
Wetsuits generally come in two types: open-cell and closed-cell. The former refers to suits that don’t have an additional lining beneath the neoprene. That usually keeps the wearer dry, as the neoprene adheres to the skin, making it hard for water to enter.
As for the latter, it contains inner linings that provide additional warmth. Not to mention, they eliminate skin-to-rubber contact, which can be troublesome when taking off the suit. For that reason, closed-cell wetsuits are more suitable for scuba diving and cold water temperatures.
Sure, neoprene’s quality plays a significant role in how warm the wetsuit keeps you. However, that’s not the only factor you should check for when buying a suit. The quality of the seams also affects the suit’s ability to provide warmth.
Generally, opt for blind-stitched seams reinforced with glue. The latter doesn’t create pinholes, unlike other types of stitches. As a result, it prevents cold seawater from entering through those tiny holes, which lowers your body temperature.
So, will a 2 mm wetsuit keep me warm?
In general, no, a 2 mm won’t keep you warm. That thickness is only effective in the summer and for warm water temperatures around 62ºF. For colder climates, suits with a 4 mm thickness and above are more suitable.
Combine the thickness with proper fitting, neoprene type, and high seam quality, and you can expect to stay warm and comfortable as you go diving in the cold months!