How Thick Is Your Wetsuit for Tropical Snorkeling?

How thick is your wetsuit for tropical snorkeling? If you wear a wetsuit while snorkeling in warm tropical waters, what thickness do you like? Wetsuit thickness is measured in millimeters, with 3mm and 5mm being common. Suits are often made with more than one thickness, with thicker panels in your core, and thinner ones in the legs and arms, and they may be marketed as 3/2mm, or 5/4mm suit.

Have your warmth needs changed as you have gotten older? Have you always worn a wetsuit while snorkeling?

Do you always wear a wetsuit while snorkeling? If not, how cold does the water temperature need to be to wear it?

One reason we are asking this is because many wetsuit manufacturers provide generic water temperature guides that in many cases seem not very helpful for the snorkeling crowd. For example it is often recommended you may only need a 2mm suit for water temperatures 65-70°F (18-20°C). Personally we would freeze in a 2mm suit, snorkeling for a few hours in those cold waters. Maybe their recommendations are for more athletic activities, like surfing?

Please share your answers as a comment below.


  1. I used a 3mm jacket and pant wetsuit in French Polynesia in April 2022. It was OK, but I am skinny and get cold easily, especially after about an hour in the water.

    So on my trip to Fiji last year (Aug-Sept 2022) I went with a 5mm long sleeve shorty and used my 3mm pants. Also used this combination in Alor and Komodo in April 2023. I was pleased with it. It was not easy to find a long sleeve shorty with a full open zipper down the front, but it makes it super easy to put on/off when wet, or at the shore with no chairs.

    I also have a 3mm one-piece wetsuit that is impossible to put on/off if wet, so I rarely use it even though it is really nice.

    For short snorkels (30 -45 mins) I will use a 3mm vest or jacket with skins on legs for sun protection.

    I always use a nylon hood if I’m in warmer water or swimming, and a 3mm hood in colder water for warmth and sun protection.

    Remember, wetsuits must fit really snug to keep you warm.

  2. We just returned from a snorkeling trip to Wakatobi – 1 week on the Pelagian liveaboard and one week at the resort. The weather was near perfect – mostly sunny, water temp about 27°C (80-81°F) and moderate wind 18-21 mph.

    As our group was mixed, divers and snorkelers, Wakatobi does three 70 minute snorkels or dives per day (no night snorkels on the liveaboard but the resort allows night snorkels on the fabulous house reef up to 22:00).

    I started out wearing my Aqualung 3/2 mm wetsuit with a hood and aqua socks. I felt chilled after the first day on the liveaboard so I added a 2mm vest to my kit. This was perfect for thermal, if not a bit restrictive.

    Snorkeling at Wakatobi is superb but the currents seem to make one feel a bit cooler than otherwise 80-81 degree water normally would.

    On another trip to Raja Ampat we wore 1 mm skins in the south (water temp 84+) and 3 mm wetsuits up north (more current, cooler water).

    In addition to water temp, I think currents, wind and solar radiation affect how warm or cool one feels so I travel with a variety of gear (hood, socks, and various thickness wetsuits). I guess this is another advantage snorkeling has over diving in that it’s possible to bring multiple wetsuits without exceeding airline baggage weight limits given you don’t have to pack a regulator, BCD and heavy diving fins and booties.

  3. I wear wetsuits year-round and have many in my closet. I have found that the new, top of the line wetsuits are so much better, so I avoid cheaper, generic wetsuits. All my suits are surfing wetsuits, but since I wear a weight belt I’ve rarely felt they were too buoyant.

    I always wear a wetsuit for warmth and protection from the sun, and brushes with rocks. I also wear gloves and booties or thick fin socks. As I’ve gotten older I don’t need a thicker suit, but I feel the modern suits are much warmer.

    Going from warm water to cold, I wear my short sleeve, long leg 2mm chest zip wetsuit in water that is above 78 degrees. I like chest-zip wetsuits because I feel they are easier to get on and off. A back zipper that gets stuck can be a big pain.

    For summer here in Southern California, where water gets to about 68-72°F, I wear 3/2mm full suits, chest zip. I also wear a 5/3 hooded vest under my suit, unless temps somehow get up to 75°F. For someone with a wetsuit of any thickness, who wants to extend their time in the water, this will do wonders. For more tropical waters, a wetsuit hood might be enough to keep you warmer, plus will mean less sunscreen needed.

    I also wear the hooded vest under my 4/3 wetsuit, which works well below 65°F.

  4. I am 56 years old male, living in Trinidad. When I snorkel on our island’s north coast at Macqueripe Beach, the water is very cold for me and I believe I need a 3mm upper body wetsuit to be warm and comfortable. I can swim, so I use an O’Neill Gooru wake boarding unofficial life jacket to stay afloat and still I feel cold.

  5. There is an old saying among surfers: “It’s better to be warm than hot, but it’s better to be hot than cold.” I live by this adage. Of course, everyone’s thermostat is different, but the one constant is that the normal temperature of the human body is about 98 degrees. 85 degree water is 13 degrees below that, and you WILL get cold if you stay in long enough. In fact, you will get warm water hypothermia eventually, as many divers have experienced. And the effect is cumulative if you snorkel multiple times in a day. People also become more susceptible to cold as they age, due to a decrease in metabolic rate, as well as thinner skin and other factors.

    I wear a full wetsuit and a beanie in all water temperatures, for protection from the sun, jellyfish, coral abrasions, as well as warmth. I use a 5mm wetsuit (with sealed seams) below 65 degrees, 3mm (with sealed seams) from 65-80 degrees, and either the 3mm or a Thermocline suit (with or without a 2mm vest) above 80 degrees. If you only have one wetsuit, I think 3mm is by far the most versatile. A Thermocline suit plus a 2mm vest is also a versatile combination for all tropical waters.

  6. I have been wearing a full wetsuit for more than a decade. 2mm. I like ScubaPro the best, but the recent change in sizes no longer fit comfortably. I switched to Hendricks. I wear Tuga full rash guard suit underneath for ease of taking on and off especially stopping for lunch and still having full sun protection.

    I have done this in the Caribbean: (BVI), and Belize, and also in the Galapagos. I am no longer cold.

    By the way, I started with a shortie wetsuit years ago and progressed to a full wetsuit as I aged and lost collagen under my skin.

    I hope this is helpful. I am a gal at 80 who still loves being in the water.

  7. I recently did the Alor & Komodo trip, and I wore a rash guard suit from Tuga (found from this site!) every day with no hassle. But I will admit to one place being a little chilly. I wore the suits for the night snorkel as well with no issues.

    I do generally run hot and everyone else on the tour for the most part wore wetsuits. I brought two of the Tuga tops (with an attached hood) and bottoms and they dry so quickly which was an added bonus!

  8. I am a 65 year old male and have been snorkeling consistently for the last 12 years predominantly in the Pacific Islands – Fiji, New Caledonia, Tahiti, Rarotonga, Samoa etc. I am reasonably active but not exactly fit or at my ideal weight. I have definitely noticed less tolerance for colder waters in the last 3 or 4 years and I agree with some of the other comments that the conditions also play a part – especially wind for me.

    I travel all times of the year and pack a rash guard long sleeved top, 2mm vest, and a 3/2 shortie wetsuit. Probably 80% of the time the rash top is all that I need, but in cooler conditions, winter or windy, the vest is often used under the rash top. I think I have only used the shortie wetsuit 4 or 5 times over the past 12 years. However 2 of those have been this year and probably would have done another couple of times this year in hindsight on a poor weather winter Fiji Island cruise. I have never tried a hood but looking at the comments above I think I should add one to my list.

  9. I’m 67, my wife is 70. Yeah, we are old. We split time between Panama (Bocas del Toro) on our 47 foot sailboat, and Texas. We also travel the Caribbean and South Pacific, often on sailboat charters.

    We have 3mm shorty wetsuits. The only time we used them for snorkeling was in Hawaii. We DID like having them there. We’ve spent two months in French Polynesia, and we are headed there for the month in August, 2024. We don’t plan on taking them. We spend several hours at a stretch, and just don’t seem to want or need them.

  10. I have tried a 3mm long sleeve shorty (not warm enough after a while) and a full suit (rental, difficult to find a good fit since I’m 5’2”). The back zip never worked for me despite the long zipper pull. The sides along the zipper were often folded and/or caught.

    I finally settled for a rash guard, with a front zip farmer jane wetsuit from LevelSix and a front zip lined neoprene jacket from Bare. Having the layers allowed me to adjust based on the water temps and how long I snorkel.

  11. I use either a full body rash guard or a full Henderson 3mm wetsuit. I tolerate cold pretty well so very often just use the rash guard, for sun protection as much as insulation, but prefer to be comfortable and the 3mm is rarely too hot. The wetsuit also protects much better against jellyfish and stingy thingies. My wetsuit lining makes it very easy to pull on or off. Seams are double taped so I don’t notice any cold leaks. And the brand is reputable – after three years the lower part of the zipper seam opened up. My LDS sent it in, and since Henderson was so backed up with repairs, they sent me a brand new wetsuit!

  12. Is there any downside to using a triathlon wetsuit? I found one online (a bit thin at 1.5 MM) but seams are glued and blind stitched.


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