Wetsuit Guide: Choosing the Right Thickness
As the ice begins to melt after a long winter, many of us are becoming very anxious to find open water and start paddling. Whether it’s a lake, river, or the ocean, water temperature can be tricky and has a significant impact on your paddling experience (not to mention, safety). As a Minnesota-based company, the window for ideal water temperatures is small; that’s why we designed the Superior Suit, a collection of cold water gear designed to extend the paddle season. This includes full body wetsuits, jackets, and pants that range in thickness from 1.5mm to 3mm neoprene, in addition to gloves, caps, and footwear as thick as 5mm.
Why 3mm? The Paddle North full body 3mm Superior Wetsuit is designed for warmth in colder water while also providing more flexibility, mobility, and a wider range of motion. Thicker wetsuits (5mm - 7mm), while warmer, can be more cumbersome and restrictive. The Superior Suit is ideal for water that is between 50F - 68F degrees with the intention of extending the paddle season into spring and fall. If you plan to paddle in water that is colder, such as Lake Superior in January, you should consider a thicker wetsuit or drysuit.
Why 1.5mm? The Paddle North Superior Jacket and Pants are 1.5mm thick, which is ideal for slightly warmer, 55F to 70F degree water temperatures. These are great for “mixing and matching” gear if the air temperature has warmed considerably, but water temperatures are still cooler than you'd prefer. It can also provide some extra insulation on a cooler summer day, or during early morning paddling. They'll provide plenty of comfort and flexibility during spring, summer, and fall.
Water temperature is not the only factor to consider when choosing gear. Wind, air temperature, and your own personal tolerance for cold all play a role in determining the right thickness. It’s also worth considering how much time you intend to spend in the water. If you plan to swim and remain submerged for extended periods of time (such as surfing), it might be worth considering a thicker wetsuit.
Based on our experience, we've found that wetsuit gear ranging from 1.5 - 3mm provides a nice balance between warmth and flexibility. It allows more freedom of movement - which is important when paddle boarding - while still providing enough insulation to keep you warm in colder water temperatures. This size range is also easier to put on and take off. As always, we recommend understanding the risks of paddling in cold water - proper gear, including a PFD, is essential.
If you’re getting anxious to get on the water earlier in the year (or stay on the water later into the fall), our Superior Suit gear is a great option. It provides a good balance of warmth and flexibility and can make a big difference in the enjoyment of your time on the water.