13 New 3mm Scuba Diving Wetsuits Tested By ScubaLab
ScubaLab tested 13 3mm wetsuits in two categories: above $250, and $250 or less. Here's our favorite in each category:
How We Test
We tested suits at Alexander Springs in Central Florida with water temperatures in the low 70s. Test divers with underwater slates scored each suit in the following categories:
Ease of Donning
How easy was the suit to pull on, zip, adjust and prepare to dive? Can it be done without assistance?
Relative to other suits of similar size, how is the overall fit to your body, with attention to areas including the lower back, underarms and extremities?
How is the overall comfort in and out of the water? With movement, is there discomfort at neck closure, wrists and ankles, zipper seal, crotch or underarms?
How well do sealing surfaces at wrists, ankles, neck and zipper block water entry? At depth, is there excessive water while swimming or moving?
What is the suit’s overall effectiveness as insulation, relative to similar suits? Does cold water move or flush through the suit with movement?
Range of Motion
Does the suit provide full and unfettered range of motion in and out of the water? Does it bind or restrict movement?
Ease of Doffing
How easily can the suit be removed after diving? Can it be done without assistance?
How We Score
Divers rated suits in each of the seven evaluation criteria with a score from 1-5, where 1 = poor, 2 = fair, 3 = good, 4 = very good and 5 = excellent. Scores for warmth and comfort are shown in the graphics accompanying each review.
Divers also recorded their comments and observations about each suit, and listed their favorites in each category.
Suits were also evaluated for design, construction and materials used.
Scuba Diving Wetsuits $250 or Less
IST SPORTS — PG-WS80
Sizes 7 men’s, 7 women’s
This update to the WS80 features a new lining of Puriguard, a zinc-treated fabric designed to protect divers from bacteria and eliminate odor (it also sports a UV rating of UPF 50+). Soft and smooth, it scored excellent for comfort and was the highest-ranking suit in its category for ease of donning and doffing. Made of a noticeably thicker and firmer neoprene than most of the suits in our test, the WS80 is no less flexible thanks to high-stretch panels used under the arms and at the lower back. “Really good range of motion; not restrictive at all,” one tester commented. Seals are made of the same material as the rest of the suit, and require a good fit to work effectively. But even with some water flushing around the wrist and ankles, testers still gave the suit the top scores for warmth in its category. A favorite of test divers, offering solid all-around comfort and performance, the PG-WS80 is our Testers Choice for 3 mm wetsuits $250 or less.
AQUALUNG — HYDROFLEX
Sizes 8 men’s, 7 women’s
Made of super-stretchy, non-petroleum-based neoprene, this suit has a ton of flexibility. It scored excellent for range of motion, and was very easy to don and doff. When it came t fit and comfort, testers were impressed. “Perfectly sized for me. As comfortable as they come,” one tester commented. “Super comfy, like a second skin,” noted another. Seals were snug and comfortable, but scored just good for effectiveness. Despite the suit’s body-hugging fit, testers still noted some water movement, especially in the torso. Liquid-sealed seams and a reinforced chest panel helped keep body heat in and cold water out, but overall, the suit scored just good for warmth. The HydroFlex was a favorite among testers.
CRESSI — TOKUGAWA
Sizes 6 men’s
With good all-around performance and spearo-oriented features such as its striking blue camo pattern, extended kneepads and high-density loading chest pad, the Tokugawa is a good option for divers looking for a versatile warm-water suit. The smooth-skin seal at the neck was rated good for its effectiveness and comfort, but simple rolled cuffs at the ankles and wrists did little to limit water entry. “Too much water flushing around to stay warm,” one tester noted. Lightweight, stretchy neoprene provides freedom of movement, scoring very good for range of motion. Testers found the anatomical cut offered a very good fit and solid comfort. Simple seals and a smooth zipper are quick and easy to don and doff.
SCUBAPRO — SPORT 3.0
Sizes 6 men’s, 6 women’s
The Sport 3.0 took very good scores for both comfort and fit. Testers described the suit as “kind of stiff, without much stretch,” but still scored it very good for range of motion thanks to its triathlon cut, which provides more freedom for the arms and shoulders. Neoprene seals were rated just good for effectiveness, with testers reporting noticeable water entry at the ankles and wrists. A plush lining in the torso helps the suit retain some of its warmth. “Core feels warm enough, but I think my extremities would get chilly after a long dive in these conditions,” one tester observed. Getting the suit on and off can require some tugging at the arms and legs, but the rear zipper is smooth and accessible.
SEAC — FEEL ULTRAFLEX 3 mm
Sizes 6 men’s, 6 women’s
Made entirely of super-stretchy 3 mm neoprene, the Feel is very elastic and flexible, providing an excellent range of motion. The suit fits like a glove, easily contouring to the diver’s body for a precise fit that scored excellent for both fit and comfort. “Like I’m not even wearing a suit,” one tester observed. The thin material provides plenty of stretch but little insulation. While its likely sufficient for tropical getaways, test divers found the suit a bit chilly in 72-degree water and scored it just good for warmth. The suit earned very good scores for donning and doffing. Its aesthetics inspired comments such as “looks neat” and “love the styling.” The Feel offers a comfortable, high-stretch fit for warm-water diving.
SEAC — SENSE 3 MM
Sizes 7 men’s, 6 women’s
“Comfortable and stylish,” was how one test diver described the Sense. Testers gave it top marks for its body-hugging fit and scored it excellent for comfort. Constructed of double-lined 3 mm neoprene, the Sense uses high-stretch materials at the collar and in the arms for increased flexibility and excellent freedom of movement. Donning and doffing can take a bit of tugging, especially when fishing your feet out of the ankles. Smooth-skin seals at the wrist, ankles and neck are “soft and comfortable against the skin,” as one diver put it. But they are also a bit leaky, scoring just good for effectiveness. Testers experienced some flushing with exaggerated movement, but overall scored the suit good for warmth.
Scuba Diving Wetsuits Over $250
BARE — REACTIVE 3 mm
Sizes 16 men’s
One of the warmest and most comfortable suits in our test, the Reactive uses an infrared lining to reflect body heat. “So warm and comfortable I don’t want to take it off,” one tester commented. Seals were scored excellent for comfort and effectiveness. “Exceptionally effective,” one tester noted. Glideskin material inside each cuff allows divers to slide hands and feet through the tight seals effortlessly. This, along with an extra-long zipper pull and stretchy construction, made it the easiest suit in our test to don and doff. It also earned the top score for range of motion. Showcasing outstanding performance, and picked as a favorite by test divers, the Bare Reactive is our Testers Choice for 3 mm suits over $250.
FOURTH ELEMENT — RF1 3/2 mm
Sizes 16 men’s, 15 women’s
Designed for recreational freediving, the RF1’s tight, body-hugging fit provides a high level of comfort and performance. The suit took excellent scores for fit and comfort, inspiring tester comments such as “fits like my own skin.” Effective seals and a tight customlike fit severely limit water movement in and around the suit, helping it score very good for warmth. Smooth-skin seals at the wrists, ankles and neck are tight, comfortable and bone-dry. “Seals so effective, suit actually squeezed me in the upper arms until I got some water into the suit,” one tester noted. A short zipper and an overhead bib complicate the donning and doffing process, for which the suit scored just good. The RF1 was a favorite among testers.
FOURTH ELEMENT — SURFACE
Sizes 15 men’s, 10 women’s
This multisport suit is part of Fourth Element’s OceanPositive line, and is made using sustainable materials. The design utilizes different thicknesses of neoprene at key points to maximize performance. With a mini chest zipper and several folds at the neck and shoulders, this wetsuit takes a certain amount of dexterity and patience to don. Once suited up, however, it provides an excellent fit with good warmth and comfort. “Surprisingly comfortable,” one tester commented. Seals were rated very good, and use grippy decals inside the wrists and ankles to help keep cuffs in place. The body-hugging fit effectively stopped water movement throughout the main body of the suit, scoring good for warmth.
PINNACLE AQUATICS — TEMPO XT
Sizes 16 men’s, 11 women’s
Outfitted with a merino wool lining, the Tempo XT (and its female counterpart, the Siren) offers plenty of insulation without adding excess bulk. The lining requires a bit more tugging and pulling to don and doff, but is exceptionally warm and comfortable. “Nice and soft throughout the suit,” once tester observed. Smooth-skin seals at the wrists and ankles scored excellent. “Dry and comfortable,” one tester noted. Flexible neoprene used throughout allows for excellent dexterity, and scored highly for range of motion. The suit tied top score for warmth, and was a favorite among test divers. With impressive warmth and comfort at a below-average price, the Tempo XT is our Best Buy for 3 mm wetsuits over $250.
SCUBAPRO — DEFINITION
Sizes 6 men’s, 7 women’s
The Definition earned very good scores for fit and warmth. Though some testers found it a bit confining in the shoulders, elastic materials used in the chest and side panels helped it score very good for range of motion. An infrared fleece lining, designed to reflect and retain body heat, further enhances the suit’s thermal abilities. Simple zippered seals require a good fit to be effective, and left testers unsure whether the bulky metal zippers were more of a hindrance or a help while donning and doffing. Ditto for the diagonal back zipper, which seemed eager to pinch skin when zipped carelessly. Comfortable and convenient, the collar zipper features a smooth-skin backing where it sits against the body.
SEAC — KOMODA 3 mm
Sizes 14 men’s, 9 women’s
Outfitted with Aquastop material at the wrists and ankles, the cuffs on this suit can be rolled over themselves to make a super-effective seal. “Seals so good that I still had a gallon of water in the suit after I got out,” one test diver observed. The suit’s comfortable lining clings tightly to the skin for a close fit that keeps water flushing to a minimum. The trade-off is that freeing oneself from the suit’s tight seals and sticky lining takes time, making donning and doffing a slow process. Test divers with broader shoulders noted some restriction in the suit’s freedom of movement, but overall, it scored very good for range of motion. The suit’s excellent seals and glovelike fit earned it an excellent score for warmth.
WATERPROOF — W5 3.5
Sizes 14 men’s, 11 women’s
Made of high-density 3.5 mm neoprene, the W5 offers a bit more insulation than the other suits in our test, complemented by quality construction and heavy-duty materials. The suit offers an excellent anatomical fit, which helped it score very good for range of motion despite the stiffer material. The suit scored very good for the comfort and effectiveness of its seals, which are hidden under zippered cuffs for easier donning and doffing. The inside of the collar and the beefy spine cushion feature smooth-skin lining to further limit water entry and movement. Testers gave the suit a very good score for warmth, along with praise such as “one of the warmest 3 mms I’ve tested” and “almost as warm as a 5 mm.”
What Suits You
There was a lot to like in this year’s class of suits. Here are a couple of things that really stood out to test divers.
3 mm neoprene only has so much insulation to offer. That’s why many of the suits in this year’s test utilize special interior linings to enhance their warmth and comfort. Infrared fabric, like that used in the Bare Reactive and Scubapro Definition, reflects and retains body heat, repurposing thermal energy that would otherwise be lost. The Pinnacle Tempo XT is lined with merino wool, making it as warm and cozy as a soft blanket on a cold night.
Whether suits were fully constructed out of super-stretchy neoprene, such as the AquaLung HydroFlex, or used strategically placed high-stretch panels, test divers were fond of suits that offered a natural, unrestricted range of motion.
The Waterproof W5 offers some additional carrying capacity in the form of an optional Velcro-mounted cargo pocket. Testers felt such a feature would be very useful for divers traveling with a stripped-down BC that doesn’t offer much carrying capacity. The Scubapro Sport’s thigh-mounted clip offers another attachment point for lightweight accessories.
In and Out
A ankle or wrist seal should hold in water but not cut off circulation.
Tight seals are essential for a wetsuit to perform properly, but sometimes they can be just a little too tight, requiring heavy tugging, pulling or stretching to don and doff. Not only can this be frustrating and uncomfortable for the diver, it also puts additional strain on the suit. In our test, several suits alleviated this problem using zippers at the cuffs, which can be opened for easy insertion of hands and feet while suiting up but secured against water entry before diving. Though effective, this solution can be bulky, and it can cause additional problems if a diver forgets to unzip the cuffs before doffing. The Bare Reactive uses a different solution, with buttery-smooth panels inside the wrists and ankles that allow divers to effortlessly slide hands and feet through the suit’s elastic seals without undue stress on themselves or the suit.
Ask the ScubaLab Director
Q: What is the most important quality in a wetsuit?
A: While there are many aspects and features to consider in a wetsuit, fit is the most critical. A wetsuit’s seals are meant to trap water inside the suit, where it can be warmed by your body and remain there. If water flushes in and out of the suit, it carries heat with it and the suit cannot insulate you well. A relatively thick suit that’s too large or does not effectively block water from entering will likely be colder than a thinner suit that fits perfectly and has effective seals.