(The Gear Loop) - The wetsuit market is packed with established names: Rip Curl, Billabong, O’Neill and Patagonia to name a few. But with big brand names typically comes flashy innovation and lofty price tags.
Heat generating materials, high tech mesh panels and neoprene that has seemingly been produced in a NASA research lab are just a few fanciful marketing tactics that attempt to part surf, wake, wind, kite and SUP enthusiasts with their cash.
Granted, this stuff usually works in the water but there is a cheaper way to access high performance wetsuits without the massive outlay. Enter Needessentials.
The brand is run by surfers and it makes wetsuits primarily for surfing (although you can do all manner of water sports in them), which means innovations, such as a rapid dry thermal lining, glued and blind-stitched seams and flexible stretch panels all come as standard.
But the cost of such niceties isn’t necessarily passed on to the end consumer, as Needessentials only sells directly, keeps its packaging simple and doesn’t splurge on marketing materials. So, are they any good?
We donned rubber and headed for the waves to find out...
Despite the plain looks and distinct lack of colour options, the Needessentials 3/2 Liquid Thermal Chest Zip wetsuit sticks to its brief and offers a premium product at a fraction of the cost of some rival wetsuits.
Don’t be fooled by the basic exterior, because there’s a lot going on inside and it has clearly been stitched together by keen surfers, as it flexes in all the right places for the sport. In essence, it does all that you’d expect from the likes of Rip Curl, O’Neill and Billabong, but without the hefty outlay.
Needessentials 3/2 Liquid Thermal Chest Zip wetsuit
- Great fit
- Quick drying
- Quality construction
- It looks plain
- Sealed cuffs are tight
- Not as sustainable as Yulex option
Design and fit
Available in an impressive range of sizes, from XS to XXL with both tall and short variations in between, Needessentials will likely have something to fit everyone.
We opted to play it safe and went straight for a medium, which fit pretty much perfectly. Often, we find we have to reach for the MS (medium short) with some brands, but not so here.
The stretch limestone neoprene is soft and supple, making it easy to get on and off, even upon first wear. Although we found those sealed cuffs at the wrists and ankles to be quite tight, which is great for sealing the wearer away from unwanted cold water ingress, but tricky to get off with cold hands.
The chest zip entry is a nice touch and we prefer this to back zip suits, as it’s generally easier to live with and creates a better seal. All the zips, poppers and toggles feel robust and are clearly of good quality.
Inside, there’s a plush thermal lining, which is soft against the skin and adds an extra element of warmth. Although only a 3/2 suit, we found it to be extremely warm almost immediately and this is likely thanks to that lining. It's lined pretty much throughout, too, with only the knees and arms lacking the fluffy stuff.
On top of this, the suit also benefits from a softer neoprene around the neck area, to prevent chafing, while the four-way stretch knee pads and general cut of the suit allows for plenty of freedom of movement in the water.
As previously mentioned, the fit is great and it immediately feels like a premium suit when you step into it. The lack of external branding or flash designs (it’s black or nothing) does make it look a bit plain, and this could put some off, but it performs where it matters most. And that’s in the water.
The external liquid sealed seams (and glued and blind-stitched internal seams) do a fantastic job of keeping out the cold and there’s no noticeable flushing when first entering the water.
This 3/2mm model offers a great blend of manoeuvrability and warmth, especially for the slightly warmer spring and summer months in UK waters. It’s fantastically stretchy around the shoulders, which makes it great for paddling, while the knees and hips never feel restricted.
Once you’ve finished in the water, the rapid dry thermal lining lives up to its name and the entire suit dries off reasonably quickly. There are faster drying suits out there, but they’re likely not quite as warm as this one.
On top of this, Needessentials is hot on its environmental responsibility, so it only uses non-petroleum limestone neoprene (Yulex is also available at a cost), carbon black recycled rubber, and water based lamination glue. The suit itself also comes in a compostable mail bag.
The Needessentials wetsuit collection can happily hold its head up high against more established and more expensive rivals. If you’re not bothered about brand names and flashy design touches, this is one high performing and super warm suit to see you through the spring/summer months.