How snug should a wetsuit fit?

I just received a new Kokatat Farmer John Neozip wetsuit. This is for kayaking in colder days and water.

Just how snugly should it fit? Want to make sure I have the right size before killing any chance for exchange.

When I consulted Kokatat’s sizing charts the Large should be a bit roomy in most dimensions. It’s not roomy at all, it’s snug. It’s not so snug as to restrict movement, be uncomfortable or restrict circulation, but it’s definitely close to the body with only underwear and an undershirt on. Surprisingly so for the published dimensions.

My surfer son says this should be OK and that it will stretch a small amount over time with use.

Any experience to share?


It will stretch when wet.
If it’s snug when it’s dry, it’ll be comfortable when wet. The purpose of a wetsuit is to allow a thin film of water between the inside of the suit and your skin to form an insulating layer. Too snug is if you can’t breathe or move when it’s dry. Too loose, and the film of water doesn’t stay in place long enough to warm up.

Shouldn’t be able to move around on you
And a thin pair of something like underwear between you and it for the likely chafe spots like seat and small of back. Rash guard is literally that.

Sounds like it fits just right

It may be too large .
Wetsuits need to fit like a batman suit. A good fitting suit will feel a bit tight when you put it on, and it has not been wet or worn before. Wetsuits stretch a fair amount and they loosen up quite a bit when wet. Farmer John suits let a lot of water flush through the arm and neck openings so make sure it is as snug as you can tolerate. If you are comfy with your underwear on, it may be a bit loose. Good surfing full suits with arms are much warmer than a farmer John for paddling. Surfing actually requires more freedom of movement than paddling, so a well designed quality full suit that you can find on sale from last years models can work really well for about $150. Good brands to look at are O’Neil, Xcel, Ripcurl.

That’s how it fits now
Like a Batman suit, with almost zero room even at chest under armpits where I would have expected it to be loose. It’s tight everywhere, but not uncomfortably so.

Water is not an insulator. That thin
film merely fools the sensors in your skin into thinking you are not loosing heat. In fact, you will lose less heat if that space is filled with air than with water.

Be aware that a wetsuit’s tension will
fight against torso twist as well as arm and shoulder motion. And when I first used a full wetsuit custom made for me, I was surprised and temporarily alarmed by how it affected my balance and control when I was scouting rapids on land.

Your wetsuit will loosen a bit every time the Nylon facing is moistened. That’s good.

Wetsuits get tighter with time as nitrogen escapes slowly from the bubbles. The wetsuit I bought in the late 70’s is now hilariously small, shorter in sleeves and legs too.

It should fit snug enough to not allow
water to flush through it but be comfortable. Sounds like you got a good fit.

Why not try it in the tub
Fill the tub. Put the suit on, then immerse yourself and see how much water trickles in. Oh…use cool or cold water so you can really feel it!

There should be no more than a small trickle of water entering, if any. I found that if no water enters at all, the suit is too tight to paddle in comfortably. But I have a small neck, so if a suit’s neck seals really snugly, then my armpits and chest and everywhere else get straitjacketed.

Any water that enters in cold conditions does not insulate you, as the common lore goes. Your body will warm it up, alright…by losing much-needed heat to the water inside! Which tends to flush out and let new cold water in, causing your body to again lose heat to the new water. The only time water entering feels good is in very hot weather, when your body needs to cool down. In only a few minutes of very hot weather, that water warms up surprisingly fast, and when it flushes out the new cool water entering feels good. But you don’t want this kind of exchange going on in cold conditions.

Tighter is better, as long as freedom of movement is adequate. And that depends partly on the cut of the suit in relation to your body shape, partly on the type of neoprene and facing materials used.

Only hot liquid would work
The only kind of trapped water that’d warm you up would be if someone poured a thermos of hot liquid inside the suit! And then, after the surrounding cold water chilled it back down, that would just be more cold water your body would have to warm up.

Your body LOSES heat to warm up that cold water, at least until it is so hypothermic that it cannot do so.

Water inside a wetsuit CONDUCTS AWAY your own body heat. In summer, this is nice. In cold conditions, definitely not a benefit.

It’s just right when you can fit a Dime
between you and the suit.

They also shrink
"Wetsuits get tighter with time as nitrogen escapes slowly from the bubbles. The wetsuit I bought in the late 70’s is now hilariously small, shorter in sleeves and legs too."

I didn’t know the bubbles get smaller or less.

They also shrink as the skins shrink. Fortunately the rubber compounds and skins have improved enormously and are more flexible than ever.

Personally, I would rather have them a tiny bit loose than a tiny bit tight because if too tight, you will be buying another one in a few years. If they’re loose you can wear some polypro under them. I know from experience that sometimes a large is tight and an XL is too loose.

Neoprene lasts just a few years
don’t plan on wearing a wetsuit more than 3-4 years. If you use it regularly it will wear out /stretch out / oxidize etc. If you wash it in fresh water and keep it cool and in the dark it might last a very long time but why bother owning it?

Better than not having a wet suit

– Last Updated: Oct-23-11 2:05 PM EST –

A wet suit dramatically reduces the circulation of water against the skin. Water conducts heat from the body more than 20 times as effectively as air of the same temperature, but if one is immersed in cold water without a wet suit, heat is continually lost to cold water circulating against the skin which never warms at all.

So while not as effective as a dry suit, a wet suit is certainly better than being immersed in simple fabric clothing. Needless to say, any air "trapped" under a wet suit is not going to be there after you have been immersed for a few seconds.

Farmer John
Yes, it should be snug.

So, it you take it our to the lake and try it out, you should feel the cool water flush into the suit the first time you go in. After that, your body will warm that water that is next to your skin.

On subsequent entries, the wetsuit should be snug enough to prevent this from happeneing repeatedly. The second time you enter the water should not be nearly as cool as very little new water will be able to enter the suit.

A loose suit will allow water to continuously flush through the suit. A well fitting Farmer John will allow very little water in after the first immersion. A full surfing wetsuit allows virtually no water in.

THANK you (here we go again)

– Last Updated: Oct-24-11 4:14 PM EST –

Well said. I might add that a "film of water" does not stay trapped against your skin when you are out of the water. The NEOPRENE stays wet.

Most of this is simple stuff. Neoprene is pound for pound one of the best insulators and it doesn't lose that property as significantly as other materials when wet.

OK, thanks.
It sounds as though I do indeed have the right size, even if there’s some difference of opinion as to how wetsuits actually function.

So thanks, folks!

A wetsuit is frankly

– Last Updated: Oct-24-11 9:17 PM EST –

meant to let no water in. Not some water. But no water.

It should fit snug.

I think kokatat makes great stuff. Farmer johns included. The only problem I have is the idea of a farmer john. For the price and what it offers, you may as well buy a full surfing suit.

I have a full drysuit and a full surfing suit. I have to admit, if I am out surfing and looking for unrestricted movement when I am not responsible for other people. I wear a wetsuit. I have a really nice 4/3 surfing suit I wear. And I kinda love it. $200, for a full suit, chest zip front entry. The newer suits are very warm and very flexible. Great stuff.

A farmer john will just never do the same thing as a full suit. And for the price, you may as well have the warmth. The question is, are you going to be paddling and dry, or wet and in the water. If the answer is paddling and dry, a wetsuit is not for you.

A neo jacket would go great with this,
I got mine from NRS years ago and it’s still like brand new. Lot’s of zippers for easy on and off. It’s nice to be able to take it off when the sun beats down.