What sport will I be using my wetsuit for?
This is the main thing to take into consideration when buying a wetsuit, as your sport/s of choice will determine how the suit is used and in what conditions. Take surfing for example; ideally you'd like a wetsuit that is super flexible so that it isn't restricting your paddle motion or movement when you're up on a wave. Stiff neoprene when you're surfing just means you'll burn up energy faster.
That being said, a surfing wettie can easily be used for sports like jet skiing, stand up paddle boarding and so on where pressure isn't an issue.
What style wesuit do i need?
The basic underlying message is that more neoprene means more warmth - that means if there's more coverage or if it's thicker, then that wetsuit is going to be suited to cooler conditions. Keep in mind that if your sport involves more time spent submerged than above the surface, you'll want to be a bit more generous with the neoprene.
Water is really effective at conducting heat, meaning it's faster at drawing warmth from your body than air. So if you're completely submerged in it, you're losing heat faster than if you were perched out of the water.
How thick should my wetsuit be?
Another major criteria, the neoprene thickness of the wettie that you will need, will depend on the water temperature in your area/time of year, and the sport you'll be using it for.
So what's the go with stitching?
Stitching matters. It's what joins your wetsuit paneling and is a huge factor in terms of durability and can change how flexible a suit feels. Because seams are weak points for water sealing due to the break in the neoprene, the type of stitching also influences how well your wettie seals against water. The quality of stitches on wetsuit seams, particularly with steamers, varies quite a bit.
In ascending order of quality:
- glued stitch (cheapest option);
- over-locked stitch (better, but can be uncomfortable and let water seep in);
- flatlock stitch (flat overlapping neoprene, which is comfortable & affordable) and;
- the blind stitch (interlocked: no piercing, so no leaking, but expensive).
It's important to note that you'll often see combinations of stitching styles used together. A great example of this is Glued and Blind Stitched Seams (GBS) which use flexible glue to reinforce a blind stitch and improve its water sealing. You'll often also see taping or welding on the interior and/or exterior of seams for the same reason, so if you're looking for a durable wetsuit that will last and perform than keep your eyes out for these sorts of features.