EQUIPMENT WETSUITS

Best Winter Wetsuit Review 2020

Winter’s here again in the Northern Hemisphere, so time to check out the best winter wetsuits for kitesurfing for 2020 and into 2021!

There are some great wetsuit brands out there and I don’t intend to cover them all in this guide. But I’ve divided the review into three different price-bands and picked out the wetsuits that I believe offer the best value in each.

In another article “Wetsuit Guide – What makes a good westuit for kitesurfing“, I’ve covered all the main features you should be looking for in the ideal winter wetsuit.

Some of the recommendations are based on personal experience and others based on discussions with fellow kitesurfers who are using the suits I’ve reviewed.

Best Winter Wetsuits under £200 ($260)

At this price level there are some great suits available, and they will keep you warm enough to kitesurf in all but the coldest weather/water temperature, below about 6C.

The compromises tend to be in the detailed features such as quality of water-tightness around areas such as collars and zips.

And, at the higher end of the budget, the big difference is in the quality of the neoprene, as well as the other features that add to comfort and water-tightness.

But, whilst this might lead to a little less comfort than the more expensive suits, they will keep you warm enough to enjoy your sessions on the water.

*N.B. All prices quoted are RRP and may vary depending on outlet. Exchange rates correct at time of writing

Gul Response 5/3

Gul has been around the surfing world since 1967, A UK based company founded by a surfer from Cornwall. So they know a thing or two about what’s needed in cold North European waters.

The Response is also available in 3/2 and 4/3, although the 3/2 has flatlock seams.

I’ve personally been using this wetsuit for the last 3 years and I can vouch for its quality and warmth.

For a suit at the lowest end of the winter wetsuit budget it does everything it needs to and I’ve used it right through the coldest of British winters.

Gul Response Front

Gul Response Back

 

Features:

Entry System – Back zip only with “S-Lock” overlapping flap to minimise leakage.

Seams- Blind stitched and glued with internal taping at crucial areas of crotch and legs.

Collar – Seamless internally lined with smoothskin for comfort.

Neoprene – Super flexible “X Flex” upper torso and arms for maximum flexibility. Legs in “D Flex” highly flexible and more durable. With knee-pads. Titanium lined neoprene to reflect back body heat.

Smoothskin panels on chest and back to reduce wind-chill,

Lining – “Thermospan” thermal lining on chest and back.

Available in both men and women’s fit. Also available in 4/3 and 3/2

Price: £150 ($195)*

Pros:

  • Excellent value for money
  • Super flexible
  • Great heat retention

Cons:

  • No chest zip option
  • Lack of ankle straps – causes “ballooning”
  • No internal gasket at zip entry so a minimal amount of water gets in

>>>>>CHECK THEM OUT HERE<<<<<

Gul Response FX 5/4

A recent addition to the Gul range. This suit takes all the features of the Response and adds a few refinements to take it to another level at not much extra cost.

Gul Response FX Front

 

Gul Response FX BackFeatures:

Entry System – Back or chest zip options. Back zip has internal gasket to prevent leakage and flushing. Chest zip has one-piece internal “batwing” to prevent leakage and flushing.

Seams Glued and blind-stitched with internal taping on crotch, legs, shoulder and chest.

Collar – Smoothskin single piece for comfort.

Cuffs and Ankles – Liquid neoprene internal strips to help seal out water.

Neoprene – X-Flex upper body and D-Flex legs for extra durability. “FX Lite” back panel which has extra hydrophobic quality external lining for reduced wind-chill.

Lining – “X-Flex Thermal” on entire upper torso and down front of thighs for great heat retention.

Available in men’s and women’s fit. Also available in 4/3 and 3/2.

Price: £180 ($235)*

Pros:

  • Excellent value for money
  • Super flexible
  • Great heat retention

Cons:

  • Still allows some water through ankles causing “ballooning”.

>>>>>CHECK THEM OUT HERE<<<<<

 

O’Neill Epic 5/4

O’Neill has been in the surfing industry since 1952, when Jack O’Neill opened the world’s first surf shop in Northern California.

He went on to invent the first wetsuit a few years later because he “just wanted to surf longer”.

And they’ve been at the forefront of wetsuit innovation ever since.

The Epic is O’Neill’s entry level winter wetsuit but enjoys a lot of the construction techniques that put their wetsuits amongst the best money can buy.

O'Neill Epic Front

O'Neill Epic Back

Features:

Entry System – Back or front zip option. Back zip has internal and external neoprene flap to help prevent leakage.

Seams – Glued and blind-stitched with internal tape at crucial points.

Collar – Two piece “Double Super-Seal” with smoothskin on inside to allow a comfy seal and freedom of movement.

Cuffs and Ankles – Slightly cinched with internal cuff/ankle

Neoprene – “Ultraflex” flexible neoprene throughout with smoothskin panels on chest and back. Durable knee pads.

Lining – “Fluidflex Firewall” on back and front of torso for chest zip option, only on front for back zip option.

Available in men’s and women’s fit. Also available in 4/3 and 3/2.

Price: £190 ($247)*

Pros:

  • Comfortable and fairly watertight due to double collar
  • Great O’Neill construction quality – should be very durable
  • Very flexible
  • Great heat retention

Cons:

  • More expensive than lower budget suits

>>>>>CHECK THEM OUT HERE<<<<<

Best Winter Wetsuits for £200 – £300 ($260 – $390)

In this price range there are a lot of suits available, but one stands out amongst the rest in my opinion in terms of value. So I’ll focus on that.

As we move up the price range the main difference you’ll get is in the quality of materials and features, which all contributes to comfort, flexibility and warmth.

But you’re also making an investment in a wetsuit that will keep performing for longer than the less expensive range.

C-Skins Re-Wired 5/4

C-Skins is based in Cornwall in the UK and has been in business since 1997. The founders were originally part of the Gul wetsuits team and have over 45 years experience in the wetsuit business.

Founded by surfers, these guys know what it’s like doing their watersports in freezing conditions.

The Re-Wired sits second from the top of their range and reflects a lot of the features of it’s more expensive soul-mate the Wired. The reason I’m focusing on this suit only in this price range is that it really packs a huge amount of value and stands out from its competitors.

If you’re spending more money than say £200, then you really need to know what that money is buying. And with the Re-Wired it really is about quality of materials.

C-Skins Re-Wired Front

C-Skins Re-Wired SideC-Skins Re-Wired Back

Features:

Entry System – “Enigma 3” chest zip with “Iris” closure – Top section of suit is all one piece with the zip enclosure sewn over the top. This gives excellent flexibility and waterproofing.

Seams – Glued and blind-stitched with neoprene tape bonded to inside of seams throughout the whole suit

Collar – “Super-Seal Glideskin”, double layer free-flowing so that the seal is super comfortable and flexible.

Cuffs and Ankles – Internal “liquid neoprene” strips to grip wrists and ankles and prevent water entry.

Neoprene – “Daimond-Flex” super stretchy across shoulders and arms. “Halo X” flexible neoprene on torso and legs. Lightweight with fantastic insulating quality and minimal water absorption. Durable knee pads.

Lining – “Thermotech” super warm quick-drying lining whole upper torso and legs, down to the knees.

C-Skins Thermotech
Thermotech Lining

Available in men’s and women’s fit and in 5/4, 4/3, 3/2 and 6/5

Price: £275 ($360)*

Pros:

  • Comfort and flexibility
  • Watertightness
  • Durability
  • Great heat retention

Cons:

  • No back zip option

>>>>>CHECK THEM OUT HERE<<<<<

Best Winter Wetsuit £300 – £400 ($390 -$520)

At this price range you really are stepping up in terms of warmth, comfort and durability.

And although you’ll be spending more money to get one of these suits, the investment is worth it as you can expect a suit at this price to easily last 5 or 6 years.

I’m featuring the two suits that stand out way above the competition in terms of comfort, warmth and having all the features you need in a wetsuit that will keep you warm no matter how cold the water is.

The review is based on the 5/4 versions of both suits but it’s worth bearing in mind that, at this level of suit you can probably get away with the 4/3 version for all but the coldest of conditions, below water temperature of about 6C.

It really depends on how much you feel the cold.

C-Skins Wired 5/4

I’ve already mentioned C-Skin’s heritage in the wetsuit world in my review of the Re-Wired. This suit has all the features of the Re-Wired and more, to keep the water out and the warmth in.

What you get with the Wired is the very latest neoprene technology, designed to give you complete comfort, flexibility, and the ability to stay out on the water as long as you want to in the coldest of conditions.

The neoprene that makes up the whole suit is C-Skin’s “Diamond-Flex” material.

When you look at it the surface looks like a diamond pattern.

It actually contains cells of air in the core foam and the lining is knitted with breaks between the cells to allow maximum stretch.

C-Skins Wired Front

Features:

Entry System – “Enigma 3” chest zip with “Iris” closure – Top section of suit is all one piece with the zip enclosure C-Skins Chest Zipsewn over the top. This gives excellent flexibility and waterproofing.

Seams – Liquid taped seams – no stitching, neoprene welded right through with liquid neoprene tape on outside and inside. Taped in critical stress areas around crotch. Super C-Skins Liquid Taped Seamsstrong, stretchy and waterproof.

Collar – “Super-Seal Glideskin”, double layer free-flowing so that the seal is super comfortable and flexible.

Cuffs and Ankles – “Lock-down” smoothskin cuffs to grip the wrists and seal water out. Liquid neoprene strips on inside of ankles to grip and prevent “ballooning”.

Neoprene – “Diamond-flex” super flexible, lightweight and warm on whole suit. “Liquid-skin mesh” smoothskin Diamond-Flex Neoprenebonded to chest and back area to minimise wind-chill. Flexible reinforced knees. Large one-piece panels to minimise seams for extra comfort and flexibility.

Lining – C-Skins “Dry-Knit” thermal lining on whole front torso down to knees and on back. C-Skins DryknitTraps warm air whilst shedding any water that gets in.

Only available in men’s fit. 4/3, 5/4 and 6/5/4 with hood.

Price: £340 ($442) for 5/4 version*

Pros:

  • Water-tightness
  • Warmth
  • Comfort
  • Flexibility
  • Durability

Cons:

  • No back zip option
  • Only available in men’s fit

>>>>>CHECK THEM OUT HERE<<<<<

O’Neill Psychotech 5/4+

I’ve already mentioned O’Neill’s background story in my review of the Epic wetsuit. But what you’re getting here is over 50 years of experience and development.

The Psychotech is O’Neill’s top-end wetsuit and every detail is covered.

The materials are the best on the market, in my opinion.

And the result is a suit that truly feels like a second skin whilst delivering insulation from the sea and wind like I’ve never experienced before in a suit.

I’ve had mine for a couple of months and, whilst my trusty Gul Response is still there for the Autumn, I’ll be wearing the Psychotech whatever the British winter throws at us.

Bring it on!

Firstly, the “+” in the name is new for the 2020/21 range. What O’Neill have done is added an extra 0.5mm to the neoprene. So what you’re actually getting is a 5.5/4.5.

O'Neill Technobutter
Tecnobutter Outer Lining

The thinking behind this is that there’s so much stretch in the “Technobutter” neoprene that they want you to still have the right amount of neoprene between you and the outside world, even when it’s at full stretch.

Normally the relationship between thickness and flexibility is that the thicker you go, the less movement. But not the case with O’Neill’s newest neoprene.

The core of the neoprene is made of a foam material that traps air and warms up from your body heat. It also makes it super-light.

Technobutter Firewall
Technobutter “Firewall” Thermal Lining

The outside and inside lining is made of a stretch knit nylon that ensures there is no restriction on its flexibility. And the thermal lining “Technobutter Firewall” is more like a foam lining than fleece.

This stops any water that gets in from being absorbed and means that the suit can dry extra fast between sessions.

Having said all that, I haven’t noticed any water actually getting into the suit yet. So that bodes well for the winter!

Features:

Entry System – Front chest zip “F.U.Z.E.” system or back zip “Z.E.N.” options.O'Neill Chest Zip

The front zip system has a single piece of material covering the whole upper chest and shoulder area with a pull-over collar. The zip flap is fixed over the outside of this to ensure water-tightness.

The back zip option has their “Z.E.N.” gasket covering the entry with a pull-over collar.O'Neill ZEN Back Zip

Seams – Stitchless “Fluid-seam” weld throughout.

The panels are joined with a liquid neoprene weld and then a further line of liquid neoprene covers the join inside and outside.

The seams are then taped internally throughout. This is the strongest, most water-tight seam construction available and remains totally stretchy.

Collar – “Glide-skin” seal. Super-soft smoothskin double layer that hugs the neck without constricting or chafing.

Cuffs and Ankles – Both are “cinchedprovide a tight yet comfortable seal, and have liquid neoprene tapes on inside to seal against the skin.

Neoprene – “Technobutter 3” super stretch material throughout. Durable knee pads. Smoothskin on chest and back.

Lining – “Technobutter 3 Firewall” (thermal lining) on upper torso down to above the knees.

Available in men’s and women’s fit and in 4/3+, 5/4+ or 6/5+. Hooded version also available.

Price: £330 ($430)*

Pros:

  • Superb quality of materials should last a long time
  • Really comfortable and flexible
  • Water-tightness
  • Quick drying
  • superb heat retention

Cons:

  • I can’t think of any
  • Maybe so warm I should have gone for a 4/3+!

>>>>>CHECK THEM OUT HERE<<<<<

Making the Choice

As with most things related to equipment in this sport, you get what you pay for. So a lot comes down to budget.

The lower budget suits I’ve featured will all do the job of keeping you warm enough to kite right through the winter. But the compromise is generally in water-tightness and comfort at points like neck, ankles and cuffs.

The more expensive suits will last a lot longer due to the quality of construction, particularly the neoprene and areas such as zips.

When I was choosing my latest purchase there was nothing to choose between the C-Skins and O’Neill suits at that price range.

I made my choice based on availability and the fact that I’ve had great experience with O’Neill in the past. But my buddies who use C-Skins are completely satisfied with them.

And, as I’ve said, I’ve been using a budget Gul Response for 3 years and been completely happy with it. It’s only when you step-up a class that you notice the difference to be honest.

So my advice is buy the best you can afford and that you can get hold of as quickly as possible!

I’d love to hear your views on this article and any experience you’d like to share on these or any other wetsuits. So please comment below and let me know what you’re thinking.

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