The 5 Best Winter Wetsuits (2021/22)

by Oliver Sander

Check out this guide to the best winter wetsuits for 2021/22. It’s got some of the best-tech suits that are sure to keep you toasty in the water this season.

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!

We’re not gonna lie’: Crisp, cold-water surfs in the winter are some of our favorite. Seriously, there’s something awesome about braving the chills of a sub-zero morning and paddling out to icy swells. Not only that, but it’s hardly a secret that the winter months and the storms that go with them usher in some of the finest conditions of the year, from the French Basque coast to the beaches of SoCal.

To help with all that, we’ve put together a complete guide to the very best winter wetsuits currently on the market. These guys all have rubber that’s a thick 4/3mm and up, offering enough thermal retention to get you out in the H2O during the colder parts of the calendar.

As always, our picks are the tried-and-tested recommendations of The Surf Atlas staff. We’ve put most of these products through their paces the best way we know how: By actually surfing in them! That said, we’ll also aim to give the lowdown on why these reign as our best winter wetsuits in terms of what tech makes them stand out from the crowd, and why we think each deserves a place in your new surf war chest for the 2021/22 season. Let’s begin…

A quick-jump guide to our best winter wetsuits

Best winter wetsuits

Vissla 4/3mm 7 Seas Chest Zip Mens Wetsuit – Our top winter wetsuit in the UK

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED: £255.00

“I only surf in Vissla suits now…it just guarantees quality” – A close friend told me that a couple of years back, before I’d even bagged my first rubber from this California-based brand. Fast forward to today and you’ll find a couple V suits in my armory, along with a particularly worn 4/3 7 Seas that I have worn season after season without any complaints.

We’ll cut right to the chase: It’s incredibly good. They’ve really stripped back on all the bells and whistles to focus on creating one of the best winter wetsuits on the market today. Or, as they eloquently put it over on their own site: “A top-of-the-line wetsuit…without all the bullshit marketing gimmicks.”

But there is some marketing gimmickry, only it really does work. Take the trademarked Brain Fuzz hollow lining in the thermal insulation. It’s a creative material that utilizes a plusher and thicker layer of fabric to do war against cold water and wind at the same time (wonderful if you’re going to be braving strong onshore conditions throughout the winter). Then there’s the aptly named Smoothy Panels, which help to meld together the chest and limb sections of the suit to reduce any joins that could let out heat. It’s also a really tight fitting suit, so flushing is rarely an issue.

We also particularly love Vissla’s big push towards eco-friendly rubber. It’s not quite up there with Patagonia yet, but this one does come fully fitted in Japanese limestone neo, has dope-dyed fabric to reduce water use, and stuck together with strong, solvent-free glue.

If we had to pick a downside here it would be that it’s a 4/3 and so not a winter wetsuit for the coldest of places, but then that does add flex you won’t get in other steamers.

  • Strong, stretchy neoprene
  • Thermal insulation layers that perform very well in windy conditions
  • Eco-friendly credentials
  • You might find stock issues with this one – it’s so popular
  • 4/3 not 5/3, but still good for lots of places for most of the season.

Rip Curl 4​/3 Flashbomb

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED: £389.99

The Flashbomb has been a staple in winter wetsuit arsenals since sometime around the turn of the millennium. Nope, it wasn’t O-Town’s new album that did it. It was about then that Rip Curl’s trademark E-rated neoprene got very good once again (we say once again because RC was one of the original pioneers of wetsuit tech back in the early days). It was probably the main reason the company garnered three Wetsuit of the Year awards running in 2012, 13 and 13.

We think that the improvements have only continued since then. The suit of 2021/22 is a real pearler and the model has been a top-of-the-range performance choice for some years now. It’s loaded with E6 rubber, the latest iteration of thermal stuff, and boy does it do a job. To be frank, we don’t think there’s all that much in it between the E5 and the E6, except there is extra flex here. The guys in the factory call it “Ferrari neoprene”, because it really is that fantastic.

The quality of the rubber base is backed up by a whole range of features aimed at making that winter surf more comfy. There are Smoothskin chest and mesh panels that reduce chafing at key contact points like the neck and shoulders. You get lining tape along the openings to cut out flushing. There’s even UV protection inbuilt in case it’s one of those unforgettable crisp winter days.

It’s a stunner of a suit but the price tag eases it just out of our top spot, making it a touch better for the more committed performance surfer.

  • E6 neoprene is arguably the best on the market today.
  • Smoothskin panels to help cut chaffing.
  • Hardly any flushing.
  • The zipless version can be hard to get in and out of.
  • It’s expensive

Patagonia R3

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED: £420

Rarely does a wetsuit evoke such emotion as the R3. It’s fair to say that this one pretty much took the surfing world by storm when it was first released. It’s still turning heads today and we often can’t help ourselves but paddle over a wearer and ask them how it’s holding up when we see someone paddling out with the Patagonia logo emblazoned on high.

All that’s down to the fact that Patagonia really rewrote the rulebook when the developed their all-new Yulex rubber back in 2016. It was gamechanger in more ways than one, lead by a fancy material entirely sourced from hevea trees. Let’s break it down….

First, Patagonia claimed that this all-new suit structure was up to 20% more flexible than previous limestone models. Then they managed to make them lighter than limestone neoprene by up to 5%. It dries faster, can be moulded better, and is said to be WAY more durable than its traditional compadres (something that mitigates that soaring price tag just a little).

We have to say, this is one SERIOUSLY balmy suit for the winter. Oh, and there’s another major plus: Patagonia’s Yulex R3s are the most environmentally friendly steamers going. They’re made from much more sustainable materials and sourced from plantations that are certified by the Rainforest Alliance.

To be honey, the only reason we don’t put it up at the top of our list is the money it costs to bag.

  • All-new rubber material
  • Very warm and light
  • Environmentally friendly
  • It’s expensive
  • Stock is often an issue – everyone wants one!

Patagonia 3.5mm R2 Yulex (Women’s)

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED: £323.95

You might have already been able to gather that we have a VERY big soft spot for the Patagonia Yulex wetties here at The Surf Atlas. Yea, well its us and everyone else in the lineup we can assure you of that. They might have a rep for customers needing a second mortgage to get one of these fancy pieces of kit, but they certainly live up to the hype.

Before we even touch on how warm it is, let’s just make a nod to the eco features. Fully made from Rainforest Alliance-accredited plantations of low-impact hawea trees in factory processes all designed to reduce CO2 and plastic emissions, this one’s got enough to make Greta Thunberg blush. There’s no doubt that it’s the option if you’re getting eco-conscious about your ocean activity.

The suit itself performs exceptionally, too. It’s a tough mix of 3.5-4mm rubber that we’ve found has the moxie to keep us surfing in most European destinations (UK included) all the way through the winter, though you might need to have a 5-mil option handy for the coldest of days. It’s also super light and flexy, offering plenty of movement for more advanced female surfers. All in all, a cracking buy!

  • The most eco-friendly winter wetsuit in Europe
  • R2 Yulex covers you for most of Europe in the winter
  • Super thermal tech
  • The price
  • Often sold out

Rip Curl 4/3mm Dawn Patrol Back Zip Women’s Wetsuit (Women’s)

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED: £209.99

The Rip Curl Dawn Patrol has made its name as a sort of lower-to-middle range steamer that ticks all the boxes but rarely dusts off the piggy bank. What you get here really screams value for money. There’s 4mm of main-panel neoprene plus 3mm on secondary panels and cuffs, along with RC’s well-rated E5 fabric on the thermal inlays throughout the key parts of the suit. We’d say you get almost the same performance as a Flashbomb (one of Rip Curl’s best suits) for under 210 quid. Nice.

There’s really great panel construction on the whole thing. That includes double-stiched seams and a back-zip entry. That not only makes things tight fitting, but versatile for a range of body shapes and probably a touch better for beginner surfers. We also love the simplicity of the overall design – all black with that trademark wetties frontage. It’s a stylish number.

  • Some tech features that you get in pricier Rip Curl suits
  • The price!
  • It looks great
  • Back zip is a matter of personal preference
  • It’s not a top-of-the-range suit

This guide to the best winter wetsuits of the year is just one part of our complete wetsuits guide.

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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