Water temp 'range' for 3mm wet suit?

Even though I live in Texas, the lakes here DO get cold, but I’ve been very comfortable in November water (prob above 50 F) in my 3mm sleeveless wetsuit and wetsocks.

I’m looking for guidance as to what temperature range my wetsuit should be good for - I know this is subjective to a degree and a lot of variables/unknowns may be factors, but any help understanding this is appreciated. Informative URLs are also welcome.

Definitely subjective, but most seem to say when the water temperature is close to or below 50, a dry suit is really needed.


Definitely subjective to your own cold tolerance and skill level for the venue involved.

I am good in my full 3/2 (3mm body, 2 mms legs and sleeves) surfing wetsuit down to near 50 degrees in rough water paddling/surfing. 50 degrees and under, I go up to a 4/3 full wetsuit. I have a pretty good roll and on the occasions I do bail and come out of the craft, I can remount/reenter pretty quickly. (Quick enough, usually under 5 minutes, that I don’t feel my body heat getting drained to the point of feeling chilled or cold.)

You said 3 mm “sleeveless…” basically a farmer john. I only use those in water temps of 65 degrees and above and usually with some sort of splash or drytop. The flush rate of 3mm farmer john probably gives the equivalent of 1 mm full wetsuit in protection. I suggest you try swiming around in waist/chest high water and time when you begin to feel sufficently chilled that your ability to perform task (like getting back into a boat) is deteriorated. How long did that take and is it well within your time frame affordable by your physical tolerance and skill level to get back into you boat? I suspect you’ll find that your 3 mm farmer john may not be sufficient protection in 50 degree water.




You’ll note I said “probably above 50 F”, I really don’t know - but after reading some, I’ll bet it was more like 60. I was swimming and wading some (Laser sailing). It was cold, but the wetsuit made it comfortable…

As Sing said the farmer johns flush with water easily through the chest area. This is exactly the part of the body you want to keep warm. White water paddlers use farmer johns usually with some tipe of semi-dry top in water temps down to 50-55 F, where they are only going to be swimming for a few minutes. For long hours of surfing in cold water I gave up on whitewater type farmer johns after my first year and now I wear regular surfing wetsuits. I suspect unless you paddle in the coldest days of winter in Texas you will be OK in the farmer john. You can invest in a thermometer and see what temperature your suit keeps you warm and warn you if you are going to be paddling in water less than about 50 F, In colder water you will want a full wet suit like a 4/3 or a dry suit , I’m not sure how much use you would get from either one. My brother in law paddles in Texas year round and does not own a wet suit, and he’s pretty safety conscious.

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As above, the flush rate coming in through the top of the farmer-john style can be significant.
The best thing about the farmer John style is that paddling motions feel less restricted.
The best thing about the more expensive wetsuit material is that paddling motions feel less restricted.
If you get a 1.5 mm top with the nice flexible high-end material and put it on over your farmer John, you get rid of the excess flush rate, add a significant level of protection to your top half, and keep a pretty high degree of that flexibility in your arms and shoulders.
You can do your own research, but the last I did, through surfing resources trying to find the most flexible/while still insulating neoprene, and visiting local surf shops to feel for myself, the winners we’re O’Neill’s Technobutter 3, and Rip Curl E6 neoprene. They both have long sleeved tops: O’Neill Hyperfreak, and Rip Curl E Bomb tops.
If you decide this might be a way you’d like to extend the mileage of your current suit, in my experience, skip taking the deal on the $80, $60, $40 bargain. Go for the good and flexible neoprene for your top. They retail at $100, and $ saved elsewhere isn’t worth the difference in feel.
You can also get full suits in these most flexible materials that don’t have all of their highest priced features like linings and such. The retail price will be around the $300 range. Surf shops will sometimes have discounts offered on all of these items.
I have definitely found that flexibility is a top priority in my selection of paddling neoprene.

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The good thing of a farmer John is you still have arm flexibility. It’s also cooler in the air. For those warm air cool water days.

Either way the first plunge before the thin layer of water between skin and neoprene warms up will be COLD!!!

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I have a Oneill Psychofreak 3/2 in Techobutter2 Neoprene. (their top of the line suit from last year)

As others have said, premium quality neoprene is much warmer and stretchy than the cheap stuff. Its worth spending the $ or searching Craigs for a good deal.

I replaced an old Oneill Mutant 4/3 with the Psychofreak 3/2, and the new 3/2 is warmer. The TB2 neo allows basically zero water or wind exchange. I wore it all last winter here in So Cal. Air is typically 45-60* and water is 50-58 over the winter. I was comfortable wet, in a strong wind. The farmer john is pretty worthless once you’re in the water for any period of time. Your arms are debatably the most needed appendage.

Since you’re in texas I’ll assume you’re not on big water away from help very often. a 3mm farmer john with the 1.5mm long sleeve top is probably a good combo for the cold months and the best idea so far.

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So I put on a little weight last year after the holidays, so that my small Xcel 5/4 hooded wintersuit was a tad bit snug… Lose weight, stop winter surfing or get another suit… Hmmm…? Anyway, I broke down and bought the “house” suit - Hyperflex - from Wetsuit Warehouse for about $300. Really stretchy and comfortable for a 5/4 suit (also perhaps because it is half a size bigger, MS… LOL!) I liked enough that I bought 3/2 from them this spring for about $100. Both are stretchy and comfortable for paddling. Jury is still out on the durability compared to my Xcel wetsuits, several of which are over 10 years old and still performing (but at 50-75% more in price…)


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This is starting to sound like a plan - previously I simply wore a long-sleeve compression shirt under farmer-john with neoprene booties and sailing gloves and gator ears (neoprene) - and did not go past November, so water temps (from what I’m seeing on lakes now) probably right around 60.

If I can adjust by buying a top, and maybe a few other changes, and get 10 months instead of 8-9, that’s a win! Hey, weather varies by year, and I will stay inside and roast s’mores in January and February.

I appreciate all the posts, and will continue to watch the thread, Thanks!

In wetsuits you do get what you pay for, but from my experience a lower price point O Neil, or Excel suit will work just fine. Getting a thinner neoprene top and wearing it over your farmer john when needed is a good idea. I have a 2 mm Oneil top that I bought 9 years ago, and in the fall and spring I wear it about 4 mornings a week. I don’t think it was the top of the line Oneil super stretchy stuff, just a regular surfing 2 mm top, and back then it cost about $80. The best time to buy wetsuits is in the spring when they are on sale, but sometimes it’s harder then to find a particular size or style. I probably have an advantage living in a surf capital; there are many shops in town and some of the shops give special deals in local sales.