Wetsuits are arguably the most important piece of equipment in swimrun training and racing. It should provide good buoyancy, keep you warm in the water but also be easy to run in on land and to ventilate or ‘cab down’ (fold down the upper part) in hot conditions. This is the major difference compared to regular triathlon or open water wetsuits, only used for swimming. A good swimrun wetsuit should align itself properly with the body but we all have different needs and are individually shaped in different ways, e.g., have different body types; mesomorphic, endomorphic or ectomorphic. It can therefor be challenging to find a good wetsuit with a proper fit.
At the end of March, World of Swimrun (WoS), Swimrun France (SR-F) and Swimrun Germany (SR-G) teamed up in Marseille, France for the 1st ever international swimrun equipment test. During 4 days the team tested and debated swimrun equipment from over 40 manufacturers, among them, 10 different types of swimrun wetsuits. Contrary to normal calm conditions in the rugged and steep terrain of Calanque de Sormiou, Marseille, the test was conducted in rain, storm-winds, huge waves, strong currents and sun.
Since most of the swimrun races have a swim ratio of less than 20%, the running feeling and the wetsuits run characteristics are really important. The difficulty in comparing swimrun wetsuits is that some come with long legs whereas others are cut below or above the knee, e.g. a ‘shorty’. But since most swimrunners do end up cutting their wetsuit, our test treated each wetsuit as a knee-cut version. Each gear item was tested by the crew and given a score of 1 (poor) to 5 (best) and if there were specific characteristics or features worth noticing, a comment was written down during the test.
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Even though the models target different niches in the market, the overall test winner was the 2017 Colting SR02 Wetsuit. Its flexibility, hydrodynamic and running properties made it the test team favourite. 2nd runner up was the new 2017 Orca RS1, featuring short legs and an overall positive swim and run feeling. The testing team’s third choice was the brand new Utter swimrun wetsuit. However, this choice was more difficult as many wetsuits landed in close range.
Colting SR02 – The Test Winner And Team Favourite
During the testing weekend the Colting SR02 quickly became the team’s favourite. It was not only the fastest in the water, but it also provided the best run feeling. This wetsuit comes with flexible run stretch panels over the bottom and back thighs, and feature 1.5 mm thin panels on the side of the legs for maximum movability. The overall fit was excellent and the suit almost feels (or doesn’t feel) like a second skin. Even though the suit is designed to fit all body types, the endomorph type will probably find it a bit tight over the torso given the 4 pockets on the front inside limiting the flexibility of the fabric. However, the dual front and back zipper makes it very easy to open and to cab down, and the particularly long front zip facilitated good ventilation. The wetsuit provided the highest flexibility around the shoulder while swimming and did not cause any chafing in the neck. A common issue among several wetsuits. The thicker panels located on the front thighs provide additional buoyancy aimed at removing the need for a pull-buoy. The four inside pockets felt a bit small and two of them did not have Velcro, for fast in and out manoeuvring. It’s sold as a full wetsuit, but most people will probably cut the legs and pair it with a pair of Colting Swimcalfs.
Orca RS1 – The Successful 2017 Update
The new Orca RS1 is an eye catcher for sure and the team liked the new design and colours. This wetsuit has seen some updates from last year’s model that came with two zips, long arms, short legs and 6 mm neoprene on the upper legs for good buoyancy. The 2017 model comes with short sleeves, removable arms and no back-zipper. It turned out to work well taking the arms on and off and no water zipped in-between the sleeves and wetsuit once mounted. This was an especially good feature when swimming in warm and cold waters. The suit however might be a bit tight for those with strong upper arms. The now 10 mm neoprene on the thighs provided good buoyancy and position in the water. Most people using this suit will probably be able to skip the pull-buoy completely since this combination would make you float in the water. The he wetsuit worked better than expected when running and the thick neoprene layer didn’t disturb much. The team did however miss a back zipper. Without it, it’s nearly impossible to cab down the wetsuit on your own. And the front zipper felt a bit fragile – just as on last year’s model. The backside pocket offered good storage and we liked the small pocket on front for the whistle. It’s a nice touch!
Utter – A New Swimrun Brand Hitting The Market
This new French brand (Utter Pan) just recently launched their 1st ever swimrun wetsuit. The team felt that this was a good entry-level product which included a lot of the key features found back on the more expensive wetsuits. When pairing this already cut wetsuit with the company’s additional neoprene calf’s, it provided good buoyancy and position in the water. The thinner material around the shoulder provided adequate flexibility when swimming and the blue panels we thought gave the wetsuit a distinctive colourful touch. The rougher material on the lower part felt robust and resistant to wear and tear. The two-good size inner pockets allowed for adequate storage of equipment and energy, however the outside back pocket could be improved: the zip is too small to provide easy access. Even though it features front and back zipper, it did not provide the same ventilation capacity as other dual-zipper wetsuits and was a bit difficult to cab down, most likely due to the back pocket claiming space from the zipper. The wetsuit is comfortable to run in but when combined with the calfs, it felt a bit heavy. Overall, we liked it, especially since it’s a brand-new make and model.
Mako – New On The Swimrun Market From A Reputable Company
The Mako brand is better known for its fast triathlon wetsuits. They have now introduced a new swimrun wetsuit, which the team really liked and which will be a good entry-level product. This suit also comes with most of the technical features found back on the more expensive swimrun wetsuits. It’s delivered with short legs and long arms, a combination suitable for most cases. It provided a smooth feeling while swimming with good shoulder rotation, and those in their early swimming career will probably need to add a pull-buoy for more buoyancy and elevated position in the water. It comes featured with flexible panels added in key areas to improve ease of movement. We liked how these panels were distributed helping out in the running by providing good flexibility. The rougher material on the lower back part will help the longevity of the wetsuit. The two-long front and back zippers facilitated easy ventilation and cabbing down. The storing felt a bit limited with two small pockets, one on the inside and one on the outside. The accessibility of the latter could be improved for the not-so-flexible swimrunners.
Huub Amphibia – An Old Time Favourite
The Huub Amphibia is a well-known and old favourite for many and it quickly became popular in the testing team over the weekend. It was very popular when it came out in 2016 and it is still competitive with its simple, well-balanced design and features. Even though this wetsuit was not as fast as most others, it still provided a good feeling when swimming, being flexible around the shoulders. However, most people will probably need to add a pull-buoy for buoyancy purposes, especially if they cut the wetsuit above the knees. This suits strength comes in the running given its flexible material on the lower part. When cabbed down, this was one of the more comfortable wetsuits to run in and the material felt really smooth in the technical terrain. Some in the team experienced a bit of chafing in the neck, but overall this 2016 model is still a competent and competitive swimrun wetsuit.
Camaro – The Most Flexible Suit On The Market
When Camaro released Utö Pulsor 2.0, they took swimrun wetsuit development in a different direction. With only a diagonal long zipper in the front, open cell and extremely flexible neoprene material, this was the first full swimrun wetsuit you could comfortably run in. Its flexibility has stimulated the development of today’s wetsuits with run stretch material on the lower parts. It was also 1st with pockets on the lower back. The team really took a liking to this suit and especially its capacity in the running. It’s very flexible which provides a very comfortable fit, also in the swimming. This suit you don’t need to cut. It’s use of material and its displacement provides good buoyancy, but the team still felt the need to use a pull-buy for added buoyancy. You don’t heat up as much in this suit compared to others. However, it was difficult to get it to shut completely around the neck when swimming and the magnet on the front didn’t really work as expected. The 2 big pockets on the back were easily accessible and could store most of the equipment and energy needed.
Head Rough – The Great All-Rounder
The Rough was one of the first swimrun wetsuits to hit the market. The only modification to last year’s model has been improvements in the neck to avoid unnecessary chafing. The testing team really liked the all-round possibilities you got with this suit and that it felt almost indestructible. The material provided really good ventilation possibilities while running but the use of this material we felt had a negative impact on the speed when swimming. It’s really easy to cut. Back and front zippers, and the flexibility in material allowed for cabbing it down easily. The two small pockets on the inside was big enough for carrying some soft flasks or gels. Both in the front and back there were loops for attaching a swimrun cord. The team felt that this cheap suit could work as a good spare or backup when training and racing. It’s really visible in water why it’s the best choice for when training in open water conditions with heavy water traffic. You’ll find this a very flexible suit for all kinds of water sports.
Head Race – The Best Overall Head Wetsuit
When the Race was launched, it was originally designed as a top-tier wetsuit. At the time, this was probably the best wetsuit on the market. However, with recent developments it’s become a favourable choice in the now upper mid-range sections of wetsuits. The test team agreed that this was an overall good wetsuit, providing a good fit both swimming and running. Its flexible enough for the shoulder rotation and with its added buoyancy panels it provided a good position in the water. However, for the running the team agreed in unison agreed that all would cut the suit above the legs for better flexibility. This was the best overall compromise of the Head models and is believed to suit both beginners and advanced swimrunners. It should be noted that several in the team experienced chafing around the neck. That the material on the outside felt a bit sensitive, especially when sliding down the rocks on your butt and around the thigh where the rope is normally placed for holding the pull-buoy.
Head Aero – The Diamond for the few
The Aero has been a favourite among many swimrunners since it was launched in late 2016. With its combination of wetsuit material on the upper body and run stretch material on the lower, this suit took the feeling of swimrunning to another level. Another key feature was the removal of the back-zipper leaving the impression that you don’t take it off, you only ventilate it. This made it especially attractive for those racing short or sprint swimrun races. However, the trade-off, which was experienced in the team was that in order to take it off, you needed the assistance of a partner. That the run stretch material on the lower body meant significant loss of much needed buoyancy. The team was forced to compensate by using bigger pull-buoys to get adequate position in the water. However, the overall feeling in the testing team was that this is a good wetsuit, but probably designed for specific people or specific types of swimrun racing. Several team members also experienced that even though the suit had a really good fit over the torso, the leg sections did not provide a tight fit after having swum in the water, tending to furl-up above the knee and over the calves, especially if you jumped into the water feet first.
Head Base – The ‘Original’ Swimrun wetsuit
The Base wetsuit was the first ‘real’ swimrun wetsuit to hit the market, and the first production line had several issues in both material and stitching. Today, the Base is a good entry-level suit for the beginners. The testing team found this suit to be a bit ‘heavy’ in the material. The sizes seem to have been a bit roughly estimated why the team struggled to find a size with an appropriate fit. It worked ok both running and swimming, have dual-zippers for good ventilation purposes, and is an ok wetsuit to buy if you’re a beginner. It did cause chafing around the neck to several in the team, and the material, just as in the Race, felt a bit sensitive. Today there are plenty of other options on the market in the same price category.
Remember to always long-term-store all neoprene equipment turned inside out, folded or rolled-up, in a cool dark space. Never let it hang on a clothes hanger for longer periods of time and especially not exposed to bright light or the sun. Pay attention that some wetsuits tend to shrink between seasons.
We want to thank all manufacturers that helped us by providing equipment for our test:
We also want to extend a BIG thank you to www.randorunning.com for helping us with the logistics, Fix parents for housing the testing team, and last but not least, all you swimrunners who have followed us over the weekend, liked what we do and asked us so many intelligent questions. And don’t forget to test the wetsuit in real life swimrun conditions, since it will align itself properly only when you hit the water.
By swimrunners – For swimrunners
På återseeende – Tschüß und Auf Wiedersehen – Entendre en arrière – Until next time – Zbogom!
/The WoS Team, Swimrun France & Swimrun Germany