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(The Gear Loop) - Wild swimming has exploded in popularity over recent years, partly fuelled by a global pandemic forcing folk to take up new hobbies, but also with an improvement in tech and the availability of dedicated swim suits to keep out the chills when putting in the laps.

What was once the reserve of hardcore triathletes, the dedicated swimming wetsuit has now been made tougher, warmer and - most importantly of all - more affordable for the masses.

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The Gul Petrel GBS Swim Wetsuit represents excellent value for money when compared to surf and water sports wetsuits of a similar thickness, but still comes packed with plenty of swim-specific features that make it great for open water sessions.

GulGul Petrel BS Swim Wetsuit review photo 3

We spent some time in the Petrel GBS to find out how it fares on the high seas… and in the odd outdoor pool.

Our quick take

Considering the current heavy discounts on the suit, the Gul Petrel GBS Swim Wetsuit represents great value for money when compared to some of the more performance-based models from the likes of Zone3.

That said, the mix of neoprene thickness dotted around the suit really benefits swimming and aids buoyancy where needed. We can’t help feeling that the use of 1.5mm rubbed in certain panels will mean it’s probably not the best for really cold waters, but should be fine for most summery wild swimming exploits.

Despite being glued and blind-stitched, we found there was some flushing, where water would enter the suit around the neck, while water ingress is naturally going to occur without taping seams like most of the surf brands now do.

Overall, it’s a neat option for those looking to dip a tentative toe in the wild swimming waters, or for those on the hunt for a reliable triathlon suit that doesn’t break the bank.

Gul Petrel GBS Swim Wetsuit review: a warm, affordable and buoyant swimming suit, no BS

Gul Petrel GBS Swim Wetsuit

3.5 stars
For
  • Great buoyancy
  • Performance attributes
  • Slips through the water
Against
  • Not the warmest suit
  • Narrow fit around shoulders

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In the Loop

Everything you need to know about the Gul Petrel BS Swim Wetsuit:

  • Made from Y39 (Yamamoto 39 Cell Neoprene Rubber)
  • Glued and blind-stitched (GBS), preventing water entering the wetsuit
  • Gul's exclusive Revo Fit Technology promotes body alignment and stroke efficiency
  • Gul Swim Y39 Buoyancy Panels - maximum buoyancy with a combination of 1.5mm to 5mm Neoprene thickness
  • SCS Coating: Hydrodynamic Silicone Coating
  • Comes with a mesh drawstring bag for storage and transportation 

Fit and features

First things first, this Gul suit comes up very tight for anyone who isn’t built like a racing whippet. The legs and torso are easy enough to slip into, thanks to the long back-zip entry, but the shoulders are narrow.

GulGul Petrel BS Swim Wetsuit review photo 2

We plumped for a standard M (medium), which was likely our main error, as Gul also offers MT (Medium/Tall), with longer arms and legs, as well as a ML (Medium/Large) variant that accommodates larger chests and shoulders. The latter would have likely been better.

Frustratingly, as it stands, Gul only offers these interim sizes in its medium wetsuits, with those smaller and larger folk stuck with just one choice.

However, the suits are designed to be snug, as the Revo-Fit Technology apparently aids body alignment and stroke efficiency in the water for an easier swim experience. This manifests itself in an almost elastic feel to the front crawl, where the pulling motion is assisted slightly by the springy rubber.

GulGul Petrel BS Swim Wetsuit review photo 4

On top of this, Gul throws in a Hydrodynamic Silicone Coating, which allows the suit to slip through the water with ease, while a huge variation in thickness of the neoprene (1.5mm to 5mm) provides additional buoyancy where required (under the chest and lower legs, for example).

In addition to this, the GBS in the title refers to the fact that the suit’s seams are glued and blind-stitched - a feature found in many modern water sports wetsuits - to stop unwanted water leaking in.

Performance 

Aside from a bit of a struggle getting into the suit, the fit and feel of the Petrel when on is great. It’s light, highly flexible and doesn’t feel like it is ever restricting around the shoulders nor does it prevent the legs from moving in any way.

GulGul Petrel BS Swim Wetsuit review photo 8

That said, there’s a fair amount of flushing when first dipping into the wet stuff and this can be quite uncomfortable in very cold water. It doesn’t take long for the suit to warm up, but those used to toasty warmth of a lined surf or water sports suit will be a bit shocked.

The clever use of thick neoprene to aid buoyancy really works, as the suit creates a lot of lift during front crawl and keeps body parts from dragging in the water.

As previously mentioned, the highly elastic nature of the rubber also helps promote a strong swim stroke, especially during front crawl, and we appreciated the way it didn’t restrict any shoulder movement - something thicker suits are often guilty of.

GulGul Petrel BS Swim Wetsuit review photo 9

We were not 100 per cent sold on the styling, as the large logos on the front and rear didn't seem to work in harmony and they looked a little garish, but that’s really down to personal taste. 

Our biggest bugbear was with the fit around the shoulders, as even with an extra long zip leash, it’s still not an easy suit to get in and out of. This could be helped with a larger size, but then we feel the rest of the panels might have been overly large.

Still, it’s flexible enough to wrestle on and off, you just might need to practise that transition a few times if thinking about using it for triathlon.

GulGul Petrel BS Swim Wetsuit review photo 7

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To recap

A neat option for those looking to dip a tentative toe in the wild swimming waters, or for those on the hunt for a reliable triathlon suit that doesn’t break the bank, the Gul Petrel packs some decent performance features and will be warm enough for most. However, there are better performing triathlon suits out there. They're just a lot more expensive.

Writing by Leon Poultney.