The 6 Best Wetsuit Hoods For 2021

by Chris Smith

This guide to the best wetsuit hoods in 2021 is a must read if you feel the chill on the ears and the scalp whenever you’re in the water. Let’s keep those lobes warm, eh?

You can keep your coral grazes and fin strikes. Stuff the shark attacks. There’s nothing more painful for a surfer than the shock of cold water to the face. Okay…maybe it’s not as bad as a great white bearing down as you wipeout of the barrel. But, hey, I’m allowed a little hyperbole – I’ve just paddled back in and still can’t feel my nose!.

The point is that most folk agree it’s never pleasant to feel the full thwack of <50-degree water to the head. Whether you’re surfing north California in the cooler months, Tofino when the snows are in, or northern Europe between November and March, this is one darn crucial piece of kit if you ask us.

Cue this list of the best wetsuit hoods for 2021. It runs through just a few of the top products currently on the market, with an eye on showcasing only the creme-de-la-creme. Yep, we won’t waste your time listing any old neoprene head cover here. We’ve gone in search of the hoods that we think outclass the rest in terms of heat retention comfort, and all-round surfing prowess. You’ll be duck diving in comfort in no time…

We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

This guide to wetsuit hoods is just one part of our bigger guide to wetsuits generally

A quick-jump guide to our best surf booties…

Best wetsuit hoods

Manera Magma 2.5mm Surf Hood – **top of our best wetsuit hoods for 2021

Highlights

  • Double-flap to prevent flushing (pretty much the only one on the market!)
  • Clever panel material choices to increase mobility where it’s needed most
  • Windproof neoprene

We can’t sing the praises of the Manera Magma hood enough. Only a couple of months ago this bad boy wasn’t even on our selection of the best wetsuit hoods in 2021. Then one of us scored one to get through the North Europe winter months and, suffice to say, there’ll be a few more purchases coming from The Surf Atlas offices when the colder months swing around again.

So, what’s all the fuss about. First, this is pretty much the ONLY wetsuit hood we’ve found that goes with a double-flap connection at the neck opening. One flap goes over the wetsuit and the other goes under. It seems so simple but hardly any head rubber does that. The effect is slash the amount of flushing that goes on. In other words, you won’t have so much ice-cold water flowing in and out of the hood whenever you duck dive.

But it doesn’t stop there. Manera have taken the classic hood model and done some serious thinking about where they place those panels. They’ve gone with stretchier rubber with Reflex-skin neoprene – a much lighter and flexier than the stuff that covers the head. Then there’s harder 2.5mm Glide-skin neoprene up top, which is some of the best we’ve used in high-wind conditions (none of that whistling and ear pain).

The Manera might clock a hefty price tag at $70 apiece but it’s the creme-de-la-creme of wetsuit hoods out there today. We’re actually even a little sad it’s been packed for the summer now. Like WHAT?! We never miss hoods.

Vissla 3mm 7 Seas Wetsuit Hood

Highlights

  • 3mm is a versatile thickness
  • Vissla’s trademark heat retention
  • Very stretchy neoprene for easy on and off

Best for? An all-rounder that’s great in all sorts of cold-water locations

Vissla have done it again. Yep, this creative surf gear name out of the  San Joaquin Hills comes close the top of our list of the best wetsuit hoods for 2021 by offering something a lot of brands seem unable to comprehend: Simplicity. This 3mm neoprene head cover isn’t about fancy frills or tech that you’d need a NASA scientist to decipher. It’s about one thing and one thing only – protecting your skull from sub-zero water.

It’s made entirely from the trademark Super Stretch neo, so it’s easy on and off, even when you’re fingers are numb following a long session in the Oregon wintertime! You get the same thermal liner that’s in the 7 Seas Wetsuit (regular readers will know that it’s one of our all-time favourites). But there’s also added comfort thanks to the Duramax membrane, which reduces the chance of chaffing against the neck.

The Vissla 3mm 7 Seas Wetsuit Hood also comes with a small peaked front. That helps it deflect head-on rays if you’re surfing on east-facing beaches in the morning or west-facing beaches in the evening. The result is an all-round corker of a cover with enough thickness to warrant use from fall to spring in most surf destinations south of Alaska and Scandinavia.

We did have this as our very top pick for the best wetsuit hoods in 2021. However, there have been super-irritating stock and supply issues in the first quarter, so it’s dropped a spot. We’ll keep an eye on all that, but suffice to say this is actually a joint-first winner.

Rip Curl Dawn Patrol Wetsuit Hood

Highlights

  • Light and easy to pack
  • Smooth skin lining on the outside
  • Feeling of freedom that other hoods don’t offer

Best for? Surf travelers heading to places with not-to-cold water

It should hardly come as a surprise to see the Dawn Patrol up here. This stalwart of the Rip Curl range is always a reliable choice for essential neoprene coverage. It harnesses the same Freeflex Neoprene as the brand’s main suits, which we think is one of the best out there for feeling light and airy in the water. You also get double-stitched seams, something key at thermal flashpoints like the head, which could do with as little inner water flow as possible.

More than anything, the Rip Curl Dawn Patrol hood is the perfect companion for surf travelers who want to hit the road without too many kilos in the baggage. It’s uber-light, 2mm thick (that’s not thick at all), and folds up into storage real easy. The downside there is that you won’t have the same heat retention of a thicker hood. However, this one can double as a summer surf hat, because it rarely cooks up too hot, even in moderate to mild surf conditions.

Xcel Men’s Axis Cap with Bill 2mm

Highlights

  • Thermal IR lining that works a treat
  • Clinch lock fixture
  • Fast-drying fabric

Best for? Warmth-to-thickness ratio

The Xcel Men’s Axis Cap with Bill manages one of the best warmth-to-thickness ratios we’ve ever experienced in a surf cap. That’s a bit of a coup here, because it’s generally accepted that the holy grail of cap design is to achieve as much heat retention as possible without adding weight.

Sure enough, Xcel have managed to keep this one to a rather minimalist 2mm in thickness. It’s feels much more of a surf cap than a full-on hood. But don’t judge a book by its cover. Or, indeed, a cap by its exterior. These guys have cleverly worked in their awesome Thermo Lite membrane. That’s let them shift the focus from bulky hidden seams onto infrared heat tech that utilizes the warmth produced from the blood vessels in the head to keep it balmy up on top.

There’s also a super convenient pully strap with a clinch lock. That helps the hood fix on for harder paddle outs, which we all know are pretty common in the colder months. It’s also a cracking option if you’ve got a strangely shaped head, but we’ll let you be the judge of that!

R3 Yulex Insertable Hood

Highlights

  • Eco friendly neoprene
  • Fantastic for very cold water conditions
  • Fair Trade certified

Some years back, Patagonia offered the surf community a simple deal: Pay a little extra for your gear and we’ll deliver on the sustainability front. Fast forward to today and bingo, you’ve got the Yulex range. It’s made from natural plant-based rubber materials with a forestry certification. What’s more, the whole Patagonia wetty range – not just this hood – has a baseline of 68% recycled material.

Okay, so it’s green. But what about performance? Well, the fact that veterans of Patagonia rarely go back to another brand should speak volumes. We’ve not personally made the leap yet, but have heard wonderful things on both the warmth and comfort front.

There’s should really be no doubting the heat that this one can keep in – it’s a tad thicker than most of the hoods on this list. On top of that, it’s the only option that comes with a long-tail bottom for seamless integration with a wetsuit underneath the cuff. Most hoods are designed to sit right on top, which can lead to water seepage and compromised insulation. This one covers the complete neck and the whole of the ear, from lobe to top. That’s why we rate it as one of the best wetsuit hoods for very cold water conditions (48°–55°).

O’Neill Psycho 3mm Hood

$52.95-54.95 (at time of review)

Highlights

  • TechnoButter Firewall is real warm
  • Fantastic for very cold water conditions
  • Fair Trade certified

Best for? Another good all-rounder with good durability

The O’Neill Psycho was once the go-to hood for all surfers. It still enjoys the prestige that comes with being a member of the bran credited with inventing the wetsuit, and manages to back all that up with good tech and simplicity in use. It’s enough to have kept me wearing one on our home breaks for the last three years running!

Hitting a nice midrange at the 3mm of thickness, this hood is a good option for a wide array of different surfing environments. We find that it’s perfect for midwinter European sessions when the water’s just shy of the 50°. Towards spring and certainly in the fall, it can be a little hot in there, leaving us undecided as to whether we want to pull it right off and brave the elements or put up with a little sweating underneath the hood.

What makes it a standout among the best wetsuit hoods is the long neck coverage and the vulcanized rubber rims around the face opening. They help stop any rubbing on the cheeks, while the elongated tail gives protection to any skin that’s exposed above the main wetsuit line. The hood also sports a neat cinch puller and small peak cap that helps fend off ocean spray when you’re caught behind the wave on precious offshore days.


We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

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