So, you are thinking about purchasing a wetsuit. The benefits of warmth and buoyancy are too hard to ignore, and the simple fact that they help make swimming easier, is not missed by triathletes.
What to consider when looking into purchasing a wetsuit:
1. Conditions of your race. Whether the water temperature will be extremely cold or just below wetsuit legal temperature (78 degrees; 78.1-83.9 legal, but no awards; 84+ not allowed) will determine whether or not you look into fullsuits or sleeveless suits.
Fullsuits. When considering a fullsuit, shoulder rotation will be your friend. You don’t want to be fighting the suit to keep your natural rotation through your swim stroke. The benefits of the fullsuit are: warmth, better buoyancy, and faster swim times.
Sleeveless. Sleeveless, in my opinion, is the way to go. It allows for more flexibility in racing (and don’t kid yourself, you don’t want to race in really cold weather, or at least not consistently). The benefits of sleeveless wetsuits are: more flexibility through the shoulder, quicker transitions, and better core temperature regulation in higher water temperatures for both comfort and overheating.
Either wetsuit will work, but consider your skill, race frequency, as well as race day water temperatures.
2. Cost. There are better suits which take advantage of more studying, but consider your skill when thinking about your suit (as well as number of races). The more expensive suit will have better feeling and flexibility, but unless you have deep pockets, you may want to consider that for your next wetsuit (once you know you’re doing these things often). There is little difference between wetsuits. Each manufacturer will tell you why the more expensive suit is better, but unless you are at the top of your field, you may not need all these added “benefits.”
3. Return policies. This seems like a weird one, but most stores don’t have wetsuits on hand for you to try on. With this being said, there is an advantage to a good return policy and if they have a “try it out” period that is even better. An example of this is Xterra’s Return & Exchange policy (the only “swim in it and return it” policy in the industry). They recommend you try on the suit and if at all possible do an open water swim in your wetsuit. This is something I highly recommend considering the fact that a dry wetsuit feels a lot differently than a wet one.
So, when while you are shopping around these are the three things I feel are most important to consider. I hope this helps and happy shopping!