The zipper of a wetsuit is an important aspect to determine the quality and durability of your wetsuit. Next to the preferred zip entry, the zip can have problems, it can get stuck or even break. This blog will help you find the right wetsuit zipper.
Wetsuit Zip Placements and Entries
This is the most common entry zip for wetsuits. It is the easiest way the get in and out of the wetsuit. Especially for triathlon wetsuits, this is very important during a swimming competition. Read more about a back zip wetsuit.
Front or Chest zip
This entry system is known for surfing wetsuits and some dive wetsuits. This wetsuit has a small zipper in front of the wetsuit around the chest. This way the wetsuit gives you more flexibility and prevents more water from entering the wetsuit. The downside of this zipper is that it is more difficult the get in and out. Read more about a chest zip wetsuit.
Zip free or zipperless
Zipperless wetsuits do not have a zipper. It gives you the maximum flexibility of the neoprene and even less water entering your wetsuit. You can already guess that entering this wetsuit is even harder than a wetsuit with a back or front zip. Read more about a zipperless wetsuit.
Ankle or leg zipper
Some wetsuits even have extra zippers placed around their ankles or legs to make it easier to slip in and out of the wetsuit. It’s a personal preference if you want a wetsuit with these zippers. You mostly see these zippers with dive wetsuits.
Wrist or arm zipper
Just like the ankle and leg zipper you can choose for a zip around your wrist or arm. It has the same purpose to get easier in and out of the wetsuit. Keep in mind that they can be irritating during your activity.
Relief or Pee zipper
Some people do not want to pee in their wetsuit and have a relief zipper for peeing. It is not really common and recommended but you see them more in diving wetsuits. As they can be in the water for hours. A relief zipper is mostly used in dry suits because they can’t pee in their suit. You can also use a p-valve if you do not want to pee in your wet or drysuit.
Wetsuit zip sizes and lengths
Zip slider or runner sizes
Wetsuit zipper sizes are displayed in numbers from 1 to 10. Where zipper size 1 will be the smallest and 10 the biggest. A zipper with size 10 is a lot bigger and stronger than a size 1. But it has the disadvantage of being too bulky and can irritate more easily.
For wetsuits, the most common sizes are between 5 and 10. You can see the size on the back of the runner.
Zipper teeth chain length
- Back zip wetsuits mostly have a longer teeth chain, around 23.5 inches or 60 cm.
- Chest zip wetsuits mostly have a shorter teeth chain, around 7.8 inches or 20 cm.
Wetsuit zip types
There are many different types of zippers and grades of waterproof zips. For example, you have waterproof and semi-dry zippers.
And in triathlon wetsuits, you have some special zipper types to break out your wetsuit more easily. These types are called the reverse and breakaway zipper.
Waterproof zip for drysuits
Waterproof zippers are mostly used in drysuits. The zipper has to be 100% waterproof and airtight. You should stay completely dry in a dry suit that is why the zipper should be 100% waterproof.
Here below are the different definitions of water let through.
- Water-resistant: able to resist the penetration of water to some degree but not entirely
- Water-repellent: not easily penetrated by water, especially as a result of being treated for such a purpose with a surface coating
- Waterproof: impervious to water
Semi-dry zips for wetsuits
In a wetsuit you will always get wet in the water, that is why you don’t need a completely waterproof zipper. They use semi-dry zippers that are waterproof but not 100%. The teeth of the zipper are closed making it waterproof but it will slightly let some water through.
The reverse zipper is not a very common zipper type and is mainly used in triathlons. It prevents the zipper from coming down during the swimming competition. It can happen that someone accidentally grabs the zipper cord or leash and pulls the zipper down. Aquaman is the first wetsuit brand that made this system. See video below
The breakaway zipper is specially made for triathlon wetsuits. It helps the swimmer easily break out their wetsuit during a swimming competition. One of the first wetsuit brands that have this system is Huub.
How to determine the quality of a zipper
How can you determine the quality of a wetsuit zipper? There are some key factors you can look at to define the quality.
Zip slider or runner quality
A zip slider should be strong enough the resist the forces of putting on the wetsuit and taking it off. Next to that, it should prevent the slider from saltwater corrosion. The most common sliders are made from plastic or metal. In quality wetsuits, sliders are made from metal for maximum strength and added with a special coating to prevent corrosion.
- Zinc or other coatings
- Stainless steel
Zip teeth chain quality
The teeth chain of the zipper can be made in different ways and with different materials. But the quality of the teeth mostly lies in what material is used. The Nylon coil will not be used in wetsuits as they let too much water through. You mostly see plastic teeth used in wetsuit zips and sometimes metal teeth.
The teeth’s surface should be smooth and soft. The smoother it is, the easier the slider will be able to move along it.
Teeth chain materials
The best wetsuit zip material combination
Usually, the best zip-type is a coated metal slider or runner combined with plastic teeth.
Wetsuit Zipper Problems
Zip slider is stuck
Most sliders get stuck because there is salt from the seawater in their slider. Or after some time the saltwater creates corrosion around the slider. These are the main factors your slider will get stuck. You can easily use some lube to prevent this from happening. Just do this once a year or see if there is salt popping up around the zipper.
Zip is off-track or came off
This is not a really common problem with wetsuit zippers. Because the quality of these zippers is mostly high. Because of the sizes and the material chosen for these wetsuits the zipper is really strong. It can be that after some time the corrosion breaks the material down or that you used too much force on the zipper.
Slider keeps coming down
This can be a problem, as well in a back or front zip wetsuit. Most wetsuits have a zip stopper or velcro to prevent this from happening.
Zipper separates or comes undone
Also not a common problem with wetsuit zippers but if this happens you would think that the teeth are broken or are worn out. But that is not the case it is the slider. The slider is worn out and doesn’t have the right tension anymore. To solve the problem you have to replace the slider.
It can be that you purchased a low-quality wetsuit that has a plastic slider. If you use too much force or after some time the slider will break. Then again this can also happen with a high-quality slider from metal. It will only happen if the slider is totally eaten by the salt corrosion.
There are easy ways to prevent the zipper from getting stuck, corrosion, or sliding difficult.
Rinse your zipper (just as your wetsuit) with cool or lukewarm fresh water every time you use it. And if you use some lube on the zipper once a year it will most likely prevent all the above problems from happening. This tip will also help with the durability of the zipper.
It can be any kind of lubricant or wax as long as you only use it on the zipper and not spray it on the neoprene. Here are some examples. Read more about how to care for a wetsuit.
- Silicone-based lubricant
- Special zipper lube (see here)
Professional slider replacement and teeth repair
It can be hard to replace the slider repair the zipper of a wetsuit. But luckily some companies will do it for you.
- Slider replacement and other zipper repairs the UK go to Bodyline Wetsuits
- For slider replacement and other zipper repairs in the USA go to Terrapin
Some companies give you the tools to fix the zipper yourself. One of them is Fixnzip. This company gives you an easy slider to clip on the teeth. If your slider is broken or came off you can buy the right-sized zipper here and clip it on the teeth chain. See the video here below the how-to self-repair a wetsuit zipper.
Wetsuit zipper Brands
There are many zipper brands and manufactories but the most common once used in a wetsuit are:
The YKK (Yoshida Kōgyō Kabushiki gaisha) is the most common zipper brand for a wetsuit. YKK was founded in 1934 in Japan (Tokyo). You will find these zippers in the most famous wetsuit brands like O’Neill, Rip Curl, Prolimit, ION, and many more.
The PK (PasKal) is also a known zip manufacturer that is making zippers for wetsuits and drysuits. PK is established in 1978.
Conclusion of the wetsuit zipper
Most wetsuit zippers are used to enter the wetsuit like a back zip or front zip wetsuit. But extra zippers can be placed on the arm or legs if wanted.
Bigger sliders are stronger and more durable than small sliders. The most used sizes for sliders are between 5 and 10.
The most common zipper type for the wetsuit is the semi-dry zip.
Usually, the best zip-type is a coated metal slider or runner combined with plastic teeth
The most common zipper problems are a stuck zipper from salt or corrosion.
The YKK is the most common zipper brand for wetsuits.