REVIEW: ESSENTIAL Warmth
The 4mm premium hooded full suit by needESSENTIALS can be had at a bargain price... but this is definitely not a cheap wetsuit. I've worn it in 42 degree water with air temps in the mid-30's, wind blowing, and overcast skies. Paired with their 6mm boots, and 5mm thermal mittens, I'm as warm as I am in much more expensive setups from Xcel and Rip Curl. This is fact.
When purchasing a wetsuit to protect yourself from the harshest of winter conditions, you shouldn't really skimp too much on quality. Being cheap can cost you in warmth, and being cold will cut your winter sessions short by a good measure. So doing your research and choosing a good wetsuit is very important. The type of rubber, stitchings, and glue all play into the price point, as each manufacturer claims superiority in the "fit" and "feel" of their suits. Materials range from petroleum-based and limestone neoprene rubbers to high grade glues, tapes, and stitchings. And while most new wetsuits made in the past couple of years will do a similar job of keeping you warm, a lot of them differ in comfort and style. You're just going to have to try them on to feel for yourself.
As for the 4/3mm Ultra Premium Thermal Hooded Chest Zip Wetsuit by needESSENTIALS, you can't go wrong. This bargain suit compares to an Xcel Drylock ($439.99). I've used these two suits side-by-side and there is no difference in performance. The thermal lining of the needESSENTIALS is similar in texture and feel to a high-end suit from any premium manufacturer. The limestone-based rubber feels soft and stretchy and the cut of the panels helps in reducing the restriction caused by wearing a winter full suit. Getting in and out of it after a surf is about the same as any other chest-zip constructed suit and I've seen no seams tear or stitches come undone from pulling it on and off.
So how about warmth? This suit is so warm I'm wearing it while most others are in their 5mm+ suits. Flushing is minimal and I'm often dry in the torso region when exiting the suit. The chest-zip uses an "already linked" zipper (Rip Curl I'm looking at you because your zipper system blows) and there's absolutely no leakage here. The hood also does an admirable job of keeping water out, and the chin panel has an extra stretchy lip for comfort. The drawstring helps seal the face, and most of the time my hair is relatively dry underneath, despite multiple duck dives.
What can I say? I love this suit. It compares admirably to my 2019 Xcel Drylock in overall weight and stretchiness... and at almost two hundred bucks cheaper. I've used my Drylock only a handful of times this winter/spring, and after experiencing the performance of a needESSENTIALS wetsuit, it's going to take a lot to get me to overspend on a premium-brand moving forward. So it's pretty much needESSENTIALS for all my rubber needs from now on!