From stand up paddle boarding to kayaking and surfing, there are more ways for kids to have fun in the UK’s coastal waters, rivers and lakes than ever before and the key to prolonging their aquatic adventures is to get them outfitted with the right wetsuit.
Different thicknesses of neoprene are available to suit the water temperatures of each season – the thicker the neoprene (in mm), the more effective the wetsuit will be at keeping the cold at bay.
All the wetsuits we’ve tested here had to pass the teeth-chatter test, being able to keep the wearer warm for an extended period of time in the water.
Another important trait of a good wetsuit is to ensure that the neoprene doesn’t feel restrictive as wetsuits will need to accommodate movements that go above and beyond simply swimming - from frenetic kayak paddling to surfing an SUP in through the breakers.
We tested for comfort, flexibility and freedom of movement over a range of activities, to see which ones allowed the wearer to swim, paddle and surf as normal.
Finally, each wetsuit had to be easy to get on and off, after all the last thing any parent wants is to spend their time wrestling with a neoprene octopus when they could be out there having fun.
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Xcel 3/2 Kids Comp
This summer suit was an effortless and watertight fit, which meant that the tester was still going strong in the water long after lots of other suits had caused their users to call it quits. The nanoprene material was very stretchy, which meant it was suited to all kinds of pursuits from frantic swimming races to surfing and our tester found it very comfortable to wear for prolonged periods without any chafing or rubbing. The front-facing zip also meant that the user could get in and out of the suit with the minimum of fuss.
C-Skins legend 5:4:3 junior back zip steamer
A full body wetsuit (also known as a steamer) that has lots of stretch in the arms and was a real watertight winner thanks to some glued and blindstitched seams. The back zip entry didn’t pose any problems for our tester and it was particularly suited for surfing as the suit’s flexibility made it easy to paddle out on the board and twisted and turned with the body when riding a wave back in.
Huub junior tri suit
Have you got a budding Brownlee in your household? Huub has been tailoring its suits for adult tri athletes for decades and it hasn’t compromised on this junior version, which is sleeveless to allow for an unrestricted swimming stroke, but has a fleece lining for the bike stage and back mesh to keep things breathable. Our tester found the suit extremely comfortable and had no problems getting in and out easily with the rear zipper.
Alder girls impact 3/2mm shorty wetsuit
A nicely designed shorty with 3mm of neoprene in the body to keep kids’ core temperatures toasty and 2mm in the arms and shoulders, so that it will see any child through the summer holidays. Easy on and off and a colour scheme that’s not stereotypical.
Roxy Girls Popsurf 3/2MM chest zip wetsuit
Our tester had no problem getting in and out of this 3/2mm suit with the help of a front zip, which never jammed, even when it was wet. The eye-catching design was backed up with good construction from warm and stretchy neoprene. The Popsurf had a really nice tight fit, especially around the neck, wrists and ankles to prevent flushing, without being uncomfortable or constrictive.
Gul G-force junior T3
An excellent entry-level 3mm summer wetsuit with flatlock stitching that still allows some flushing (when cold water enters the suit) to keep its contents warm without constantly shocking the user with water every time the suit submerges. The neoprene was nice and flexible with the knee joints offering particularly good flexion, so if surfing or kayaking is on the menu this suit won’t hold you back.
O’Neill youth reactor II 2mm back zip spring wetsuit
This unisex shorty is perfect for the height of summer and some extended play in the surf with very little flushing thanks to a nice, ergonomic but tight fit around the neck, arms and legs. The neoprene moulds well to the body making it very comfortable and a good option for a child who isn’t used to wearing a wetsuit. With some nice extras, like a hidden pocket and a smooth back zip that’s easy to operate, this is a very good value wetsuit.
Zone 3 Adventure
As the name suggests this wetsuit is made to be tested and it proved to be a quality suit for junior swimmers with excellent movement in the shoulders, thanks to 2mm neoprene panels. The design will really appeal to kids too with different bright colours on legs, cuffs and the back making them easy to spot in crowded water. All over movement for other watersports was excellent and there was never an issue getting in and out of the suit quickly thanks to a high quality zipper.
The verdict: Kids' wetsuits
For versatility across a range of water-based activities from swimming to surfing we found the Xcel 3/2 kids comp a real winner, combining second-skin comfort with good heat retention and flexibility in all the right places.
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