Getting into the water and thinking of using a wetsuit? Find the best-suited wetsuit with our handy wetsuit temperature guide for SCUBA diving, snorkeling, freediving, surfing and more!

Want to know more about wetsuits, what they are made from, and how they work?

Wetsuit Temperature Guide Scuba & Snorkeling

It is very important to find the correct exposure protection for the water temperature. You don’t want to overheat in a thick wetsuit in tropical waters, and you also don’t want to freeze or risk hypothermia in a thin wetsuit in chilly temperatures.

Infographic on wetsuit temperature guide scuba, snorkel, surf & more

Wetsuit Thickness Guide

So what do the numbers on a wetsuit actually mean? They indicate the thickness of the wetsuit’s material.

This is typically measured in millimeters. The higher the number, the thicker the wetsuit is. The thicker a wetsuit is, the warmer it will be!

The most common wetsuit thicknesses will be 3mm, 5mm, and 7mm.

You can also get wetsuits that have two numbers to indicate their thickness. For example, a wetsuit may be 3/2mm. This means the torso of the wetsuit will be 3mm thick, and the arms and legs of the wetsuit will be 2mm.

These types of wetsuits allow more flexibility and movement in the joints of the arms and legs, which is important when surfing or kicking with fins, while keeping the chest area nice and warm.

Water Temperatures above 30°C / 86°F

In these tropical temperatures, you can go without a wetsuit, and wear just your swimwear! This gives you a lot of flexibility and freedom in the water.

However, if you plan on being in the water for a while, then you should think about protection from the harmful UV sun rays. Rash guards or skin-suits are perfect for this. They are thin and will not restrict your movements in the water.

Some rash guards can give you added warmth if you prefer. And they also provide extra protection from stings or nicks from marine life, coral, and rocks.

Water Temperatures 25 – 29°C / 77 – 84°F

These are pleasant temperatures for a 3mm wetsuit, full-body, or shorty wetsuit. A 3mm wetsuit is thin enough to give you full flexibility, and also provide warmth in the water. A 3mm wetsuit is also versatile for both warm temperatures and cooler temperatures when layered with a wetsuit vest or hood.

Tip: It is also very easy to pack a 3mm wetsuit for an up-coming diving trip!

Water Temperatures 20 – 24°C / 68 – 75°F

Now the water is getting a bit more chilly. This is when you will definitely feel and notice the cold temperature. While 20°C (68°F) is nice on-land, in the water you will lose body heat up to 25% faster.

Try a 5mm full-body wetsuit. This will give you warmth especially around the chest and lower back. If you are sensitive to the cold, or you plan on being in the water for a long time, then you can add diving gloves, booties, and a hood. These will make a big difference as they are covering up your extremities which are highly sensitive to the cold.

Water Temperatures 15 – 19°C / 59 – 67°F

Brrrr…. Go with a 7mm wetsuit in these temperatures. You will lose body heat quickly so definitely protect those extremities.

Water Temperatures 10 – 15°C / 50 – 59°F

In these cold temperatures, get warmer and layer your 7mm wetsuit with a 5mm vest. Protect the chest area and go as thick as possible here. Go the whole mile and protect your head, hands, and feet.

Alternatively, you can opt for a semi-dry wetsuit with seals around the neck, wrists, and ankles. These seals are designed to minimize water from flushing in and out of your wetsuit. This will keep you warmer.

Water Temperatures Below 10°C / 50°F

Drysuit time! This is definitely cold. It’s time to get fitted for a personalized drysuit. This will stop ice-cold water from getting in and you can enjoy your dive for longer!

The Takeaway

Everyone’s comfort level with water temperatures will differ. Some people may feel the cold quicker, and some people feel warmer for longer. However, using this wetsuit temperature guide for scuba diving and snorkeling can give you a starting point when deciding what thickness wetsuit is perfect in those conditions.