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What to Look for With Triathlon Wetsuits for Women

Updated on November 6, 2017
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Mr Drewson is a former triathlete, having raced in the upper midwest for fun and adventure.

Triathlon Wetsuits for Women

Triathlon wetsuits are meant to fit pretty snuggly, and since women tend to have a distinctly different range of body shapes from men, unisex suits tend to be too bulky in some areas or long in others.

Women are simply built differently. For this reason alone, it is important to find a triathlon or open-water swimming wetsuit that is specifically fitted for womens builds.

There is some leeway for certain types of triathlon wetsuits, as to the fit. For example, you don't need to worry about sleeve length with a sleeveless wetsuit.

And the fit is the most important thing.

Shortsleeve Wetsuit

What to Look for in a Triathlon Wetsuit

Before deciding to buy a triathlon wetsuit you should understand the rules which guide most triathlon events and races. The United States of America Triathlon (USAT) organization is the official governing body of triathlon in the USA.

USAT Wetsuit Guidelines

The USAT guidelines state that "everyone may wear a wetsuit if the water temperature is 78 degrees Fahrenheit or below. You are welcome to wear a wetsuit if the temperature is 79 degrees to 84 degrees but you won’t be eligible for awards. Anything 85 degrees or over, no wetsuits are allowed."

If the water is below 78 degrees Fahrenheit you should wear a wetsuit, as even a sprint distance race you will be much faster in a wetsuit. You will also save energy.

However, you will have to deal with taking it off in the first transition, before the biking. Practice taking off the wetsuit in the days and weeks leading up to the event and you will more easily make up for the additional time in transition.

A Triathlon Wetsuit is Different

A triathlon wetsuit differs quite a bit from the type used by scuba divers and surfers. Before purchasing a triathlon wetsuit, you should look closely at several criteria, such as; style of wetsuit, exit speed, construction, and thickness.

Style of Your Triathlon Wetsuit

There are several styles of triathlon wetsuits and they mostly depend upon personal preference and the temperatures in which you swim. Shorter sleeves allow for better range of motion, but will provide much less warmth compared to a long sleeve wetsuit. A full length wetsuit will also give you better flotation, which can be important for conserving energy on a longer swim, but also provides a sense of security to a swimmer.

Exit Speed

The Exit Speed is how quickly and easily you can exit the wetsuit. It will be a huge factor in how quickly you can transition to the cycling portion of the race. You will need a wetsuit design that can be removed easily and quickly. You should look for a triathlon wetsuit that has flexible areas at the ends of the legs and arms. This will allow you to stretch the wetsuit so that you can get out of it quickly. A common feature these days is a zipper, which allows you to easily remove the wetsuit very fast. In order to put on and take off the wetsuit quickly you should consider buying a bottle of Body Glide. It prevents chafing and allows the wetsuit to more easily slide over your skin.


As with most things, construction is an important consideration. Some wetsuits have glued seams, while others are stitched. Choose a triathlon wetsuit that has both glued and stitched seams.


You will also need to think about thickness when buying a triathlon wetsuit. You need a triathlon wetsuit that is of thinner material at the shoulders, which allows for more flexibility. The wetsuit should be thicker in the core area to provide more buoyancy during the swimming portion of the triathlon. Also, the thicker portions of a wetsuit will provide much more warmth than than that of a thinner material.

Triathlon Wetsuit Styles

A Wetsuit for Every Shape

The Three Styles of Wetsuits

The following are the three basic styles of triathlon wetsuits. You can also find hybrid versions, such as full legs, with shortsleeve wetsuits.

Short Cut -- Knee length Farmer John. 75 degree +

Sleeveless -- John, Farmer Jane. Made for 75 degree +

Full Cut or Full Length -- Coverage from head to toe. Made for 50 degree + water temps

Wetsuit Pros and Cons

Speed - Due to wetsuits hydrophobic coating, there is less drag in the water
Slower transition to bike
Bouyancy - The more wetsuit, the more bouyancy, generally speaking
Less freedom of movement
Warmth - This can be especially important in colder water
Can be too hot
Less energy expenditure, which means more energy for other parts of the event
Sleeveless offers good range of motion
A proper fit will improve the range of motion, comfort-level, and be easier to put on and take off.
Phantom Aquatics Women's Voda Premium Shorty Wetsuit, Black Coral, Small(6)
Phantom Aquatics Women's Voda Premium Shorty Wetsuit, Black Coral, Small(6)

This top-rated wetsuit is great for water sports, however it may have limited range of motion for competitive swimming during the first stage of a triathlon.


Now Get Going!!

The start of a big triathlon event
The start of a big triathlon event

© 2010 And Drewson


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      Giselle Maine 6 years ago

      A fantastic guide! Thanks so much for bringing together all this helpful information. I really like the women-specific approach you took here, instead of just talking about triathlon wetsuits in general. Very helpful.