A Complete Guide to Neoprene
By: Pat Quinney – North American Sales Manager at Level Six
What is Neoprene?
Neoprene is a synthetic rubber that has many applications, from mouse pads to electrical insulation, neoprene is a versatile material. This blog post will focus on the type of neoprene that we use for aquatic insulation purposes.
Neoprene is the material used to build what are more commonly known as wetsuits. Wetsuits are constructed using a foamed neoprene which contains tiny chambers filled with gas. These tiny gas chambers are what provide divers, paddlers and swimmers with warmth while in the water.
Former Olympian Rhys Hill is pictured here wearing the Jericho short sleeve top and Jericho pants while on his SUP yoga board on the Ottawa River. The Jericho collection is constructed using a 0.5mm Eco-Stretch neoprene and is perfect for warm days when the water temperature is a little cooler. Shop the Jericho collection by clicking here.
Why Do I Need it?
The second law of thermodynamics in its most simplified and organic form states that heat always flows from warmer objects to colder objects. In this degree (no pun intended), we can understand that when we jump into water below that of our own body temperature (98.4F) we lose heat. This heat loss eventually leads to a condition called Hypothermia in which our body cannot warm its core temperature back up on its own. If left untreated long enough Hypothermia can lead to death.
It’s also worth noting that water is more dense than air as it is a liquid and not a gas. This means that there are more molecules surrounding your body when you swim. Therefore, water carries heat away from your body about 40 times faster than air.
All the above means that we need an insulator while in the water. Insulation is how we stop or prevent heat escape, which leads us into our next question;
How Does Neoprene Work?
Think of neoprene as any other type of layer you would wear when it’s cold out. Already understanding the second law of thermodynamics (heat always flows from warmer objects to colder objects), we as humans stay warm by layering up with jackets, which, in turn creates air locks. From there, our body warms up the air trapped in the air locks created by our clothing.
Now, we know that our wetsuits are constructed using a foam-based neoprene that contains tiny chambers of nitrogen gas. This type of neoprene is designed to absorb a very thin layer of water and trap it close to your skin. From there, your body heat warms up the thin layer of water trapped close to your skin and that layer of tiny gas chambers keeps the warm water from escaping.
So fundamentally, your wetsuit is just like a winter coat, only designed as an insulator for water.
When Should I Wear Neoprene?
Neoprene is available in a variety of different thicknesses. The thickness of the neoprene is dependent on the temperature of the water, the colder the water the thicker the neoprene. Other factors include depth (due to pressure) and time spent in the water.
Generally, paddlers need neoprene in the Spring and Fall when water temperatures are cooler, and insulation is needed. However, Level Six has some thinner forms of neoprene that are great for paddling on cold bodies of water during hot days. Below is a breakdown of the neoprene products Level Six makes.
Level Six features 4 different thicknesses of neoprene within it’s product line and offers over 30 neoprene products. On top of that, Level Six also boasts two different types of neoprene. Below is the full breakdown of the Level Six neoprene line.
Level Six offers various neoprene products for kids. In this picture Azlyn is wearing the Level Six Youth Shorty wetsuit constructed from a 2mm Thermo-Stretch neoprene. The Youth Shorty is great for keeping your little one warm while at the cottage or during swimming lessons at the local pool. Shop our kid’s neoprene collection by clicking here.
Thermo-Stretch is a traditional petroleum-based neoprene. This type of neoprene has a high stretch rating and is more cost effective than its limestone-based counterpart.
Shop the Thermo-Stretch line by clicking on the logo
Eco-Stretch is a limestone-based neoprene. This type of neoprene has many clear advantages, it is better for the environment to produce and better for your skin. Eco-Stretch neoprene is lighter, warmer, more durable and has a higher stretch threshold than its traditional petroleum-based counterpart.
Shop the Eco-Stretch line by clicking on the logo
How Should my Neoprene Fit?
Neoprene is designed to have a skin tight fit due to how it behaves as an insulator. A loose fit will only make you colder, so it is imperative that your neoprene garment is in contact with your skin. For more information on fitting your neoprene please visit our fit guides.
Men’s Size Chart: https://www.levelsix.com/pages/mens-size-chart
Women’s Size Chart: https://www.levelsix.com/pages/womens-size-chart
Pictured here is North American Sales Manager Pat Quinney wearing the Jericho SUP jacket. This jacket is constructed using our 0.5mm Eco-Stretch neoprene and is perfect for windy days on the water or cooler early morning paddling. Shop the Jericho SUP jacket by clicking here.