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Sumarpo Vanguard triathlon and swimming wetsuit review – Can it challenge the mainstream tri wetsuit brands?

Sumarpo wetsuits are a brand that most of us here at TRI247 HQ hadn't stumbled across until recently. But with promises of comfort and performance features that on paper would rival some of the similar - if not higher end - mainstream triathlon and open water swimming wetsuit brands. We were keen to see how the Sumarpo Vanguard wetsuit would perform. Read on to find out more, and get the verdict!

Writer & Long Course Triathlete
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Jenny Lucas-Hill

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Long distance triathlete Jenny Lucas-Hill, who confesses to an above average rotation of wetsuits over the years, has been taking the Sumarpo Vanguard wetsuit for a splash. First in the pleasantly tepid waters of her local lido, and then in the cooler waters of the Norfolk Broads. To see how it compares to some of the more well-known triathlon wetsuit brands on the market.

Last updated -

While it might look a little retro in its styling, the Sumarpo Vanguard triathlon and open water swimming wetsuit is anything but old fashioned.

In reality, this is a competition-level wetsuit packed with high tech features that make it a strong contender against some of the more well-known wetsuit brands on the market. With the features list including Yamamato limestone-based neoprene, Aerodrome Cell technology, grooved catch panels and a speedy coating. Sumarpo promise a wetsuit that offers buoyancy and warmth, without compromise on speed.

I’ll have to admit, I have a toxic trait which involves blaming my wetsuit whenever I have a bad swim. Which means my wetsuit history reads a bit like one of those reality TV dating shows where everyone is swapping to a new partner every few seconds. I confess: I have wetsuit loyalty issues. On the plus side, that means I’ve got plenty to compare this Sumarpo wetsuit with. From my entry-level Orca almost a decade ago when I first got into the sport. To several Zone 3 and HUUB models, and the much lauded Roka Maverick Pro.

As someone who has a love-hate relationship with wetsuit swimming – I struggle with the cold, so appreciate the warmth, but hate the unnatural feeling of fighting against neoprene – I was keen to see if this wetsuit could deliver the balance of buoyancy and flexibility it promised.

Summary

Natural-feeling open water swimming with good buoyancy and warmth

I was pleasantly surprised with this wetsuit. The fact I’ve been choosing this over my previous go-to – the Zone 3 Vanquish X – in recent weeks says quite a lot, because I’ve been a big fan of the Vanquish X. The Sumarpo Vanguard offers a good level of buoyancy, without feeling like my legs are being lifted too far out of the water. The flexibility around the shoulders and the grooved catch panels give a good feel for the water, and it feels far less restrictive than other wetsuits I’ve tried over the years. It’s also extremely quick to remove which will earn it bonus points in a race situation. Testing it out in my local lido, which is heated to 22 degrees C, I didn’t find myself overheating. Yet in the 16 degrees C water of the Norfolk broads, the thicker neoprene around my core did a good job of keeping me warm.

The styling is a little retro, and on dry land it’s tight around the neck which knocks it down a point or two. But overall this is a comfortable, high performance wetsuit that’s as good – if not better in some respects – than some of the other well-known triathlon wetsuits out there which promise similar tech, often at a higher price point.

PROS
+ Good level of buoyancy
+ Flexible around the shoulders
+ Quick and easy to remove
CONS
+ Higher neckline feels a little restrictive on dry land
+ Slightly retro design loses it some street cred
+ Size range could be better
Best For
Open water swim training and triathlon racing if you're looking for a wetsuit that balances buoyancy and flexibility
Level up your open water swimming with the Sumarpo Vanguard wetsuit
RRP
$559.99 USD / £459.95 GBP / €527.95 EUR
Sizes
XS, S, SM, ST, M, MT, ML, L, LT, XL
Colours
Black and Purple (Women's), Black and Red (Men's)

Initial impressions

A promising start

Out of the box the Sumarpo Vanguard has a premium feel that you’d expect for a wetsuit at this price point and beyond. It comes with its own dry bag – which gives it a few brownie points from me because other wetsuits I’ve bought in the past have only come with a mesh bag. Which is great for transporting it around when it’s dry… but means I’m dripping mucky lake water everywhere post-swim.

The Super Composite Skin outer coating gives the wetsuit quite a nice silky smooth feel, promising for giving me some much needed swim gains in the water. And the varying neoprene thickness – thicker around the core where you need it for warmth, shrinking down to just 1.5mm across the shoulder for flexibility – means the suit doesn’t feel too heavy. When you’re travelling to races, a wetsuit that isn’t too cumbersome to haul around is always a plus. In fact, one of the things I didn’t like about my Roka Maverick was that it just felt too big and heavy, given that it was a size small.

After doing the wetsuit wiggle, it was time to see what the suit felt like on dry land. First impressions compared to my most recent wetsuit, the Zone 3 Vanquish X, was how comfortable this wetsuit felt. It was easy to put on and the lining wasn’t at all harsh against the skin. Comparatively, I’ve found the Zone 3 a little scratchy on the arms and harder work to get on. Around the legs and the shoulders the Sumarpo Vanguard felt flexible and easy to move around in. It is worth noting that this wetsuit has a fairly high neckline, with a double layer neoprene collar to reduce water ingress (for additional warmth) and chafing. On dry land, it feels pretty restrictive – though I’ve found that once I’m swimming front crawl, it’s not an issue.

Jenny Lucas-Hill wearing the Sumarpo vanguard triathlon wetsuit
TRI247's Jenny Lucas-Hill wearing the Sumarpo vanguard triathlon wetsuit

FIT

Easy to put on, and comfortable once you get in the water

There’s always a fun level of danger that comes with trying on a wetsuit in the warmth of your living room. The ‘will I or won’t I have to go and stand under the shower to get this thing off again’ game, should you discover too late into wrestling with the neoprene that it’s a bit too small. Thankfully this wetsuit fit me like a glove – no emergency shower required. It’s tight without being restrictive, and it’s easy to pull it right up around the shoulders and the armpits for optimal range of motion. The inner lining made it extremely easy to take it off – even after working up a sweat flinging my arms around and dancing about the living room to test out the flexibility.

At 5ft 4” (163cm) the leg length in the size small is just about right on me, hitting between my ankle and my calf muscle. But if you’re tall for your build, you might need to go for the tall options available. There’s also small/medium and medium/large options if you’re a stockier build. Overall the wetsuit is true to size, and the sizing on offer is fairly wide ranging, though the size chart only goes up to an XL so as ever, it could be more inclusive.

As mentioned, standing up on dry land the neck on the wetsuit does feel quite tight, and I can imagine when I’m waiting around before a race with all the nerves flowing, it might feel a bit claustrophobic. But once I’m in the water and swimming it doesn’t feel tight at all – a bit of dry land discomfort is manageable as long as it feels good while you’re swimming!

There’s also a bit of extra neoprene above the fastening at the back of the neck designed to protect your neck from being eaten by the Velcro every time you sight. I forgot the wetsuit lube in my most recent open water swim, and did get a bit of a wetsuit love bite on my neck – but nowhere near as bad as I have in the past. So it’s a small detail, that actually makes quite a big difference.

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Comfort & PERFORMANCE

Loaded with tech and performance features very similar to other mainstream wetsuit brands

Let’s start by taking a bit of a dive into the tech this wetsuit comes loaded with. And then we can discuss how that actually translates to the real world swimming experience. Because lists of futuristic sounding materials and neoprene thickness levels sound pretty clever. But to me, they don’t mean much until someone can explain to me how that’s going to impact my swim!

First up you’ve got the neoprene. The Sumarpo Vanguard is made from Yamamato limestone-based neoprene. This is said to be a more eco-friendly alternative to petroleum-based neoprene, which also offers better performance for warmth and buoyancy. Sumarpo have integrated Aerodome technology – honeycomb shaped cells in the chest and thighs of the suit, which they say further help to boost buoyancy and trap air for additional warmth. Around the chest and upper legs, you’ve got 5mm thick neoprene to keep your core warm. But this tapers down to 3mm in the lower legs, 2.5-3mm in the back and just 1.5mm around the arms and shoulders for flexibility.

Sumarpo have also used SQ-Flex material on the inner lining to further enhance that flexibility. Plus, what they call ‘low modular technology’ which they claim reduces the amount of energy required to generate movement (such as swinging your arms), therefore reducing fatigue.

Given this is a competition-level wetsuit, there’s also features designed to enhance your speed. That includes a Super Composite Skin coating which Sumarpo claim will reduce drag and help you glide through the water quicker. Plus a grooved ‘paddle’ on the forearm to help you have more “grip” on the water as you’re pulling through.

Finally, before we well and truly descend down a wetsuit tech rabbit hole. The suit also features glue blind stitched seams, waterproof taping and Ti-α-Seal tech at the neck and cuffs to reduce water ingress and help maintain body temperature.

So how has all that tech been performing out in the real world? I’ve already mentioned the comfortable fit, and I think the flexible inner lining really helps with this. It’s not abrasive to wear, and the wetsuit feels like it moves with you rather than working against you. The shoulders feel flexible and whether it’s a placebo effect or something more tangible with the grooved panels – I do feel like I’m maintaining a better arm pull, where I had a habit of ‘slipping’ through the water once I put a wetsuit on before. There’s not really a scientific way to tell if the ‘low modular technology’ is requiring less energy – and I’ve only swum up to 2km in this suit so far, which probably isn’t long enough to really feel the fatigue kick in either way. But I’ve certainly not had that instant shoulder burn you can experience quite soon into a swim with less flexible wetsuits.

The buoyancy profile has worked well for me. I disliked the over-buoyant feel of my Roka wetsuit which made my lower back hurt. But the neutral buoyancy I tried in a Zone 3 suit a few years ago, and more recently the 3:3 buoyancy profile of HUUB Aura 2 left me prone to sinky legs once I factored sighting/lazy kicking into the equation. So far this has felt like a good middle ground – and it’s actually a very similar feel to the Zone 3 Vanquish X, which I also really like swimming in.

In the 22 degrees C water of my local lido, clearly staying warm wasn’t going to be a worry. But I was prepared for the 16 degrees C water of the Norfolk Broads to feel extremely cold in comparison – particularly as I’m someone who does struggle with staying warm in open water. The thicker neoprene on the core of this wetsuit, along with that honeycomb technology, seemed to do a good job on the warmth front though and I actually didn’t feel cold at all which was a nice surprise.

DURability

So far, so good

It’s a little too soon to give a true verdict on the durability of this wetsuit – I’ll need a full season of training and a few hasty removals in transition during races to really gauge how well it’ll stand up to the tests of triathlon! But so far, I haven’t got any immediate concerns about durability. The taped seams feel sturdy, and I’ve not felt the need to dig out the gardening gloves to put it on lest I risk putting a hole in it. That said, I haven’t had a manicure since 2019 so my short stubby nails probably aren’t much of a match for any wetsuit!

Either way, this wetsuit doesn’t feel at all delicate which bodes well for being able to get plenty of use out of it – fuss free. When you’re busy spinning all the plates that come with being an age-group triathlete, fuss free is always a benefit.

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VERDICT

Strong contender that stands up against more well-known triathlon and swimming wetsuit brands

There’s always an element of trepidation that comes with trying out a brand you haven’t heard of before. But the Sumarpo Vanguard wetsuit has been a pleasant surprise at every turn. It’s performed just as well – and sometimes better – than other wetsuits I’ve tried, which promise similar performance and often come in at a higher price point.

Other than a bit of tightness on dry land, it’s comfortable to wear and for me it’s offered really good flexibility around the shoulders that has helped to give a much more natural swimming feel in open water. The buoyancy profile seems to help me maintain a good body position in the water. And as a mediocre swimmer who’s always going to be in the water for longer than the speedy sharks up front in a triathlon, it offers a good level of warmth.  The inner lining makes it super easy to remove, which I’m sure I’ll appreciate when I’m trying to make up for my slow swim times in transition in a race situation!

Really, I think the only thing that lets this wetsuit down a touch is the design which looks a bit “old school” and doesn’t reflect its forward-thinking high tech features. But let’s face it – given that you spend most of your time while wearing a wetsuit face down in (often) murky water – looks aren’t the most important factor when you’re choosing a wetsuit. I’m probably going to choose the Sumarpo Vanguard wetsuit for my next race, which says it all.

Overall, this is a great triathlon and open water swimming wetsuit that offers a strong balance of buoyancy, warmth and flexibility. With an RRP of around $559.99 USD / £459.95 GBP, this wetsuit is at the more premium end of the market – but you could easily spend far more to get similar tech and performance. You might not have heard of the brand, but if you’re yet to find your ideal wetsuit for triathlon and open water or it’s time to put your previous wetsuit into retirement. It could be well worth giving this Sumarpo wetsuit a try.

Comfort
75%
Flexibility
85%
Performance
80%
Value
75%
Overall
79%
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