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Guide to different wetsuit zips

You may have heard people talking about back zip, chest entry and zipperless or zip-free wetsuits before, but what’s does it all mean? All these phrases refer to the entry system on a wetsuit, and can affect the flexibility and how watertight a suit is, as well as how easy it is to get on and off. Which one is best for you is largely down to personal preference, but read on for a little insight into the differences between them all…

Back Zip

A back zip wetsuit is the more traditional style of entry system. It will have a vertical zip on the back of the suit, usually running from the top down to the waist, and there’ll be a long tag on the zip so you can pull the zip up yourself.

The benefits of this style of zip is that it’s probably the easiest to get on. The wide opening on the back of the suit means no wriggling your hips through a head sized hole, and no awkward arm positions to pull the sleeves up.

One of the key downsides is flexibility, the zip is the key area of the wetsuit that doesn’t stretch, so you may find this restrictive when paddling out in the waves. The other downside is that back zips are more prone to flushing, especially on cheaper wetsuits, so you may experience the shock of cold water down your back if you fall in.

Here’s how to put a back zip wetsuit on.

Chest Zip

Chest zip wetsuits are increasingly popular, and consist of a much shorter, horizontal or diagonal zip across the chest. Some chest zips fully detach, meaning the top collar is attached like a hinge and will fold back completely. Others have a zip which stays attached, meaning you spend less time trying to put the zip together and more time on the water.

The great thing about a chest zip is that you get much less flushing due to the smaller zip and the design of the seal, which keeps a barrier of neoprene between your skin and the zip. Additionally, due to its smaller size and position on the upper front section of the suit, it minimises the disruption to your flexibility, giving you the full range of movement across your back and shoulders.

Here’s how to put a chest zip wetsuit on.

Zip Free or Zipperless

As the name suggests, this type of wetsuit doesn’t have a zip, but relies on overlapping layers of snugly fitting neoprene to seal the suit.

With no zip restricting it, you’ll get the most flexibility from this suit and the least amount of flushing. It can be a little trickier to get in and out of, but once you’ve got the knack to it you’ll find it pretty simple. To make it easier to wiggle into, zipperless wetsuits are generally made of stretchier neoprene, and you’ll reap the benefits of this on the water as much as you will while changing.

Here’s how to put a zip free wetsuit on.


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Written by Eliza Tilbury

Updated on 26th April 2023

Originally published on 30th August 2019 in Wetsuit Guides

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