I was provided with free wetsuit hire for the purposes of this honest review.
If you’re a curvy, plus-sized or larger person then you will know the HORROR that can be involved in finding a wetsuit in anything bigger than a size 16.
I’ve already shared my top recommendations for where UK watersports lovers can buy plus size wetsuits in size 16 to 30, but what if you’re not ready to commit to buying your own wetsuit? After all, even modest wetsuits can easily cost upwards of £150 and that’s a lot of money if you’re not sure it’s going to fit comfortably, or be suitable for your chosen activity.
The answer, friends, is to HIRE a wetsuit. Now, I didn’t even know this was a thing, but you can actually pay a modest fee to hire a wetsuit for a week, month or whole season. And a growing number of suppliers are realising there’s a demand from people who want wetsuits for a summer holiday or just a day out with friends and family. Oh, and not all of those people wear a size 12!
Tri Wetsuit Hire invited me to try out their wetsuit hire service, and challenge their team to find me the perfect wetsuit. I’m a size 16 on the bottom and a 20/22 on top, so it wasn’t going to be easy! Here’s how it went:
Selecting a Wetsuit
To get started, head to the Tri Wetsuit website and choose your preferred hire package.
The website will ask you for some details about your height and weight, as well as what sort of activity/swimming you want to do (including the stroke). The company specialises in wetsuits for open water swimming, but a swimming wetsuit will work pretty well for a week or two if you want to try other watersports.
A swimming wetsuit will generally be less buoyant than the sort of wetsuit you’d buy from the high street. This is especially important for bigger people because we tend to float exceptionally well – great news if you’re in a shipwreck, less so if you want to swim and keep your body under water. Swimming wetsuits are also designed to allow greater movement of the arms and legs, and don’t have some of the reinforced padding you’ll find on suits designed for surfing or kayaking, for example.
Don’t worry if you want to hire a suit and paddle board for a few days – a swimming wetsuit will be fine for occasional use for these sports.
Anyway – the great thing about the hire service is that it’s not up to you to look at countless size charts and decide whether you’re an XL in this brand or an XXL in another brand. Will that suit really fit you? Will the arms be too long? The team at Tri Wetsuit team are really well-informed about the major wetsuit brands and will do all the hard work for you, based on your measurements, weight and needs.
Choosing your Package
After I’d entered my sizing info I was able to choose how long I needed a wetsuit for. I chose two weeks, so that I could use the suit while we went to the Lake District and then to Wales. I wanted to really put it through its paces! The cost of hiring for two weeks is £45, or £90 for a whole season.
I added a swimming float and a tube of lubricant in case I needed a bit of extra help getting in and out of the suit. Actually, lube has saved my life a few times when I’ve worried that I might not be able to get a wetsuit sock over my heel!
My wetsuit arrived just under a week later, securely packaged and complete with my chosen accessories. There was also a guide on how to return my wetsuit.
How did I get on?
I was sent an XXL Aqua Sphere full wetsuit, which has an RRP of around £230 – making my £45 hire great value.
The soft inner lining is REALLY easy to slide on and off, and the zip is deep so that the inflexible among us can get them on and off without having to ask a teenager for help. Unlike some larger men’s suits, this one doesn’t have overly long arms and legs, so I didn’t need to roll up the sleeves and ankles, despite only being 5′ 3″. It was a pretty good fit on top, and I felt a little roomier on the bottom.
The ladies at Tri Wetsuit Hire did a fantastic job based on my measurements. The suit fitted really well. It was comfortable, and I didn’t have any worries about being able to breathe! I would say the only slight concern I had was that the ankles and wrists seemed very tight when I put the suit on.
Testing my Hire Wetsuit
To put the wetsuit through its paces, we headed to Newby Bridge in Cumbria. From this pretty bridge you can swim/paddle up the River Leven to the southern tip of Lake Windermere. It’s a really pretty spot, and you end up at Fell Foot National Trust, where there’s a beautiful lawn for a picnic (or the boathouse cafe, if you need a hot drink).
The suit wasn’t at all restrictive when I was in the water, and there was so much less buoyancy compared to my regular DHB wetsuit. I don’t usually wear a wetsuit with sleeves because it’s easier to kayak in a sleeveless suit, but this version was easy to manoevre in, and toasty warm.
As with most suits, the zip at the back allowed water into the suit, but it didn’t flush through. This meant after an hour in the water, my calves had the same shape as a butternut squash. Pulling the fabric at my ankle unleashed a HUGE gush of water, and I had to repeat that process a few times to get rid of the all the water trapped in the suit.
If I’d wanted to, I could have asked for a different suit, but it wasn’t enough of a problem for me to not wear the suit, and I also wonder if the grip might loosen a little with repeated wear (the suit I received was brand new).
Overall Impression: Should I Hire a Wetsuit?
A wetsuit is a big investment! Unfortunately, for a long time buying a wetsuit was the only option if plus-sized people wanted to know they could definitely take part in activities on holiday.
With this type of wetsuit hire service, you now have a more affordable way to get out in the water, and take part in the fun with everyone else. If you don’t want to spend anywhere from £100 to £400 on a wetsuit, then a £45 hire might just be the perfect alternative.
As an added bonus, Tri Wetsuit Hire is also offering hire inflatable SUPs for the summer season. What better way to really make the most of your summer holiday?