Whether you’re a serious surfer or just a summer splasher, donning a wetsuit just means that you can extend your fun for longer.

Often made from insulating neoprene, manufacturers bond thick and thin layers together to ensure the best combination of warmth and flexibility – and you can identify what kind of water temperatures the suit is built for from the thickness of the layers.

So, a 3/2 wetsuit is a mix of 3mm layers for warmth, around the core, with 2mm for flexibility around the arms and legs and as the numbers go up, so does the suit’s ability to keep you cosy as water temperatures plummet.

The best wetsuits combine usability with comfort and are constructed so that the seams and stitching don’t rub and you’re not constantly leaking cold water into the suit.

We tested in the sea when temperatures were hovering at a breath snatching 12C and put in some time surfing, paddleboarding and swimming to see how much room for manoeuvre there was with each suit, as well as how well it was suited for different activities.

Finally, all the suits that made our grade were easy to get in and out of – after all, the last thing you want is to look like you’re wrestling with the invisible man every time you take it on or off in a windswept beachside car park.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Xcel 4/3 axis x thermolite wetsuit: £184

This is a really well constructed suit with a panel of thermal material on the front and back to keep your body warm on those cold days when the surf is too good to miss out on. The design was also superb at minimising the “flushing” effect, when water gets down the back of the suit and causes temporary paralysis; that’s the last thing you need when you’re paddling out or getting into your swimming stride. Construction allowed us to move really well in and on the water and it didn’t impede our paddling ability when we were lying down on the board, or our ability to twist and turn when we were standing and paddling. It was also easy to transition in and out of thanks to an overhead zipper system.

Buy now

Finisterre nieuwland 3e wetsuit : £295

This Cornish manufacturer knows a thing or two about staying warm in UK waters all year round. They’ve come up with a 3.5/2.5 suit made from a material called yulex pure, which is eco-friendly natural rubber. We found it to be just as warm and comfortable as neoprene, and it allowed us to stay in the sea in May when we’d usually be sporting a snugger 4/3 suit. The fully taped seams added to the comfort factor, minimised water entry and provided good on board flexibility, while in the water we could easily windmill our arms while swimming. The front entry, through the top of the wetsuit, meant that we were in and zipped up without having to ask random strangers for any help.

Buy now

Rip Curl steamer e bomb 3/2 wetsuit: £259.99

This is a steamer wetsuit, which allows a limited amount of water in and then traps it between the body and the high stretch e6 neoprene, creating a thermal layer as your body heat warms up the water. It’s such a stretchy neoprene that it has allowed Rip Curl to make it zip free, so you just pull the suit up to your waist, get an arm in and pull it up onto your shoulder before repeating the action with the other arm, then you just pull the collar over your head and you’re good to go. The lock slide closure ensures a really good fit and prevents flushing, and we found that the super stretch material meant that after a few minutes in the water you’d completely forgotten that you were actually wearing a wetsuit.

Buy now

HUUB aegis III thermal triathlon wetsuit: £349.99

This 3/5 suit had a nice lean fit and is all about total flexibility and adaptability because it’s been designed with triathlons in mind. The panel construction was really conducive to swimming and offered lots of arm freedom when we were thrashing through the water, which could give competitors a real edge in cold triathlons where full-length suits are needed.

Buy now

Rip Curl chest zip 4/3 dawn patrol wetsuit: £219.99

With 4mm of neoprene on the torso and 3mm elsewhere, this suit will get you from spring to autumn in the UK and offers up good warmth without compromising on flexibility. The suit blends two different kinds of neoprene, with the more stretchy e5 material around the body’s joints, while thermoflex neoprene and mesh is used in the body to protect from the wind.

Buy now

Rip Curl flashbomb heat seeker 5/3 zip free wetsuit: £499.99

If you’re particularly active when you hit the water then this is a good choice as a wetsuit to see you through the winter. The 5/3 combination didn’t have an impact on the fit and movement in the wetsuit, and the neoprene has been engineered to generate heat as you move, keeping your arms and core as warm as possible. The wetsuit is also made with layers that channel water out of the suit more quickly, so the next time you put it on you won’t have to go through the torture of climbing into a sopping suit.

Buy now

Xcel 2mm long john axis summer wetsuit: £115

This warmer water design means that, even in the height of summer, you’ll have no problem staying in long after the trunks brigade have retreated to their beach towels. The all over 2mm neoprene allows for loads of movement and the fit is nice and snug without being uncomfortable. The armholes are tight enough to keep out water as you’re swimming, but the hems are soft enough so you won’t have to worry about chafing, which can be a problem with inferior suits.

Buy now

Hurley advantage plus: £206.95, Nike

This short-sleeved 2mm suit is a good summer option with very little flushing when fully submerged and although it seemed a little tight at first, after repeated wears the neoprene moulded well on the body. The absence of any seams across the shoulder blades and under the arms made movement in and out of the water very easy. There’s also a stash pocket on the lower leg, which we found quite handy for small waterproof items.

Buy now

O’Neill hammer 2mm chest zip wetsuit: £99.95

A well-designed ergonomic spring wetsuit that offered a tight aquadynamic fit without making us feel like we were being bear hugged in neoprene. The double “superseal” neck was effective at keeping out the water, and the construction meant we had no trouble with rubbing or chafing, even after a few hours in the water. A good entry-level wetsuit if you’re only intending to use it for that run to the sun down in Cornwall this summer.

Buy now

Patagonia r1 lite front zip spring suit: £200

Another environmentally-friendly suit shaped from plant-based yulex natural rubber that offered lots of stretch in the arms and was a piece of cake to get on and off. This was a real watertight wonder, which is probably down to a very effectively sealed front zip, combined with seams, which are triple glued and then taped to keep out any icy Atlantic blasts.

Buy now

The verdict: Wetsuits

The Xcel 4/3 axis x thermolite is a wetsuit for all seasons, at a great price, combining fit and flexibility while minimising flushing.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.