Best O’Neill wetsuits

Beach

Jack O’Neill claims to have invented the wetsuit in 1952, though that honor goes to Hugh Bradner, a UC Berkeley physics professor who designed the first prototype in 1950.

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What are the best O’Neill wetsuits?

O’Neill is one of the oldest wetsuit manufacturers with a loyal following since they first hit the market in the 1950s. It is easy to see why, as their wetsuits constantly rank as some of the best around. They focus on creating wetsuits for surfers and bodyboarders, though they also have options well suited to divers. 

The company releases new wetsuit designs almost every year, many of which feature innovative features not found in other brands. The Hyperfreak Series is one such example. Crafted with O’Neill’s TechnoButter 3 material around the arms and shoulders, it provides extra flexibility and stretch where it is most needed and has a soft Jersey-like material on the inside for comfort.

Hyperfreak is a competition-level suit designed for surfers, with a price tag to match. So if you have other uses in mind or simply don’t need a performance wetsuit, one of the company’s other options may be a better choice.

What to know before you buy an O’Neill wetsuit

How wetsuits keep you warm

If you have never used a wetsuit before, you may be under the assumption they keep you dry, and that is how they keep you warm. However, this isn’t the case. Wetsuits allow a small amount of water inside when you first submerge yourself. Your body heat then warms up this water until it reaches a comfortable temperature. If a wetsuit fits correctly, the seals will ensure that minimal water continues to enter or exit the suit once filled, so the heated layer of water will stay there and keep you warm until you remove the suit. 

Wetsuit thickness

Wetsuits need to offer enough insulation that the cold water on the outside cannot counteract the warmth created inside by your body heat. This means choosing one that is the right thickness for the water temperatures in which you will be swimming, diving or surfing.

You measure wetsuit thickness in millimeters, and many options will have a varying thickness in different areas of the suit. This is why you will often see ratings like 3/2 or 4/3 listed in wetsuit’s specs. The first number refers to the thickness of the torso, and the second refers to the arms and legs. 

Wetsuit types

There are many types of wetsuits, with the most popular being full-body and shorties. Full-body wetsuits have sleeves that come down to the wrists and legs that extend to the ankles. Shorties have half-length sleeves and legs that end a little above the knee. There are also some shorties for women that end at mid-thigh or shorter.

There are also wetsuits known as long johns and short johns. Long johns are completely sleeveless but have full-length legs, while short johns are sleeveless but have half-length legs. As you might expect, the more your body a wetsuit covers, the warmer it will be.

Features to look for in a quality O’Neill wetsuit

Stitching

There are several types of stitching used on wetsuits, including flatlock, overlock and blindstitching. Flatlock stitching creates seams that are strong and flexible yet not fully waterproof. This makes this type of construction best for moderate water temperatures, surfing and other activities where you often spend a lot of time out of the water and prefer a wetsuit that offers some breathability. Overlock stitching is very watertight but less flexible than flatlock.

With blindstitching, the seams are both glued and stitched. This creates a waterproof seam that is also flexible, making it one of the best options. In the highest-quality wetsuits, the seams have liquid tape, which is better than glue as it is stronger, more durable and equally flexible. O’Neill also has a proprietary fluid seam welding process that is a step up from liquid taped bindstitched seams. 

Zipper

Traditionally, wetsuits had the zipper on the back, but there are now also options that zip on the front. Back-zip wetsuits are easiest to put on but can be difficult to close without help. Front-zip wetsuits feel a little more awkward to slip over your body, but they can easily be closed once fully donned. O’Neill also makes some zipperless wetsuits, which can take some getting used to, but once familiar with them, most find them easy to put on.

Padding

The amount of extra padding you need in a wetsuit and its location depends on your activities. If surfing or performing other board sports, you’ll probably subject your suit to a lot of abrasions, so choosing one with knee pads is a bright idea. If using your wetsuit for diving, padding will be less critical.

Pockets

Unless you have friends staying on the beach while you surf, you’ll probably need a safe place to put your keys. Some wetsuits feature small stash pockets where you can place a key or other waterproof valuables that you don’t want to leave on the sand.

Hood and visor

If you plan on surfing in frigid water, it may be a good idea to buy a wetsuit that includes a hood. This helps prevent heat loss through your head and some feature a visor to keep the sun out of your eyes.

How much can you expect to spend on an O’Neill wetsuit

O’Neill is a premium wetsuit brand and, accordingly, commands a high price. Kids’ models usually range from $50-$100, and adult suits cost $100-$400.

O’Neill wetsuit FAQ

What should I wear under my wetsuit?

A. This is a matter of personal preference, but generally, people wear board shorts, swim trunks, a bikini or a one-piece swimsuit underneath. Some may also prefer compression shorts or a sports bra too.

How should a wetsuit fit?

A. To work effectively, a wetsuit needs to be tight enough that it creates a good seal at all of the openings. This may feel uncomfortable if you have never worn one before, but you will quickly get used to it. You’ll also notice that it feels much more comfortable once you are in the water. Wetsuits should never be so tight that they feel constrictive.

What is the best O’Neill wetsuit to buy?

Top O’Neill wetsuit

Hyperfreak Series

O’Neill Men’s Hyperfreak 3/2mm Zipless

What you need to know: Often touted as one of the most comfortable wetsuits around, the Hyperfreak utilizes the company’s Technobutter 3 material, which is both soft and durable.

What you’ll love: It has a lightweight and highly stretchy construction, so it doesn’t hinder your range of motion and features a zipper-free design.

What you should consider: Learning how to put it on has a bit of a learning curve, and the high price tag puts it out of reach for some consumers.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top O’Neill wetsuit for the money

O'Neill Women's Reactor 2mm

O’Neill Women’s Reactor 2mm

What you need to know: This is an affordably-priced shorty that is well-made. The Reactor is a great entry-level option for moderate water temperatures.

What you’ll love: It features seamless paddle zones to minimize the chance of chafing and has a windproof smooth skin that will help keep you warm when on your board.

What you should consider: The color can fade over time from sun exposure.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

O'Neill Men's O'riginal 2mm

O’Neill Men’s O’riginal 2mm

What you need to know: This long john wetsuit is a good choice for those who need some warmth but don’t want anything interfering with their paddling.

What you’ll love: Inspired by one of Jack O’Neill’s original wetsuits, the design has a retro style with some modern touches. 

What you should consider: The sizing runs a bit small.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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