A full description of the suit in this Zone 3 Evolution Review
When I received a box from Zone 3, I knew it had to be my new Evolution swimrun wetsuit! This wetsuit was called the 'game-changer of the Year' by 220 Triathlon when it first appeared, due to several features.
When I opened the box, I was intrigued to see the orange arm panels and the blue waistcoat. The Evolution wetsuit comes with the legs trimmed just above the knees, and with long arms. There were also 2 neoprene calves - each one being 8mm thick. That's a lot of buoyancy! Included in the box were a small plastic bag containing a compass and a whistle - both mandatory safety equipment in nearly all swim run events.
So, what are the main features of the Evolution wetsuit from Zone 3? Here are some of their notes;
1. The Evolution was designed in collaboration with leading World-class swim runners.
2. Constructed from high-quality Yamamoto neoprene
3. Leg panels are high-stretch to help running, with a rip-resistant backside.
4. Single front zip with pull cord for quick and easy opening on the run.
5. Plenty of built-in pockets; there are 2 internal pockets at the front, a large rear pocket with zip, and a small outer front pocket for the compass.
6. Very thick 8mm neoprene calves.
The Evolution has a large range of sizes and shapes - there are 9 size/shape options for men, and 7 options for women. I selected the Medium size, which seemed to match the Zone 3 parameters for height, weight and chest size.
In my initial excitement, I pulled a sleeve over my hand and wrist to check the fit. It seemed rather tight. In fact, I had to spend a minute or 2 gently wriggling the sleeve up over my arm. At first, I was a little disappointed. I thought I had ordered a size too small.
But I checked my measurements against the Zone 3 chart, and I was definitely a 'Medium'. I have several wetsuits, including triathlon suites, and I know that they are supposed to 'fit like a glove'. But this initial experiment seemed a bit extreme.
There was nothing for it, I had to try the whole suit on properly. The information cards that came with the suit reassured me that swimming wetsuits are supposed to be like a second skin, and will feel tight and restrictive at first, especially when dry. Once you get into the water, and get a little water inside the suit, it will move around and fit better.
So I put my Speedos on, and started the process of getting into my new Evolution. The legs went on relatively easily, as they are cut to just above the knee. All I had to do was slowly wriggle the lower half over my hips and round my backside.
The secret is to go slowly, and to gently ease each section of the suit into place bit by bit. It's important to make sure that the lower half is pulled up as far as it will go - the legs must be above your kneecaps, and the bottoms pulled up between your legs snugly. Only then is it time to put your arms into the sleeves.
My old swimrun suit is a HEAD RACE suit, with the sleeves cut back to just below the elbows. The Zone 3 Evolution suit comes with full-length sleeves - all the way to the wrists. BUT it has a dotted line INSIDE the sleeve to show where you can cut it safely, if you want shorter sleeves. But I wanted to make sure the whole suit fitted me before I cut anything!
So, I slowly wriggled my hand and arm into the suit sleeve. This took a few minutes, but eventually I succeeded. Next, I put my other arm in the other sleeve, and pulled the suit top over my back. This is where my partner came to my assistance, helping to wriggle the second sleeve over my arm, while easing the back of the wetsuit over my back.
This all went more easily than the first sleeve, oddly. Finally, I needed to zip up the front zip. After a bit more preparation - gently pulling the sides of the suit around to the front (the 'blue waistcoat') - I was able to pull up the zip quite easily.
I was in the suit!
Now that the suit was on, I felt more comfortable. Zone 3 make the point that the suit will 'give' slightly with wear, and also when wet.
But for now, I explored the features. First, there is the Rocket Pocket at the back. This is a wide and deep pocket that is closed with a small zip. This is a great feature. With my previous suits, I had to sew a marathon belt pouch onto my tow rope belt. This was relatively small and not easy to access with cold fingers. The Rocket Pocket, on the other hand, is easy to open, with its own small pull cord.
Next, I found the internal pockets, which have simple flaps without any velcro. I used to find the velcro fastenings on the inner pockets of my HEAD suit almost impossible to access with cold hands. The Evolution has great inner pockets.
And finally there is the small outer front pocket over the right-hand chest area. I assume this is for the compass, as it seems the correct size, but you could also get a gel packet in there if you wanted.
I put on some swimrun shoes, grabbed my hat and goggles, and set off for the beach, just 3 minutes away. My short run showed that the neoprene around my legs was indeed soft and easy to run in compared to the other suits I have. My upper body still felt a little constricted at this stage.
On reaching the water, I put my hat and goggles on and waded out until the water reached my waist. I noticed some water coming up through the legs, but not much. It's good to have the legs less tight, to allow water to drain out after a swim section, otherwise you are carrying the weight of the water with you on the next run!
Then I dived in, and started swimming. I was surprised at how little water came into the suit. There was none around my wrists, none through the zip, and very little around the neck. I am used to having a rear zip, and they always let in cold water on the back of my neck - I hate it! But the Evolution suit allowed hardly any water to enter in the neck area.
As I continued swimming, I realised that the tightness around my upper body had eased, and my arms were moving freely. It also felt like the suit had good buoyancy, although I didn't do any timed sections. After about 10 minutes I headed back to the shore to see what the swim exit would be like.
I have found that my other swimrun suits tend to collect a fair amount water inside them during swimming, which feels heavy when first putting my feet down on the bottom, and taking the first steps to exit the water.
As I got close to the beach, I looked for the bottom to come close enough to stand. When I saw the sand sloping up towards me, I put my feet down, and tried to stand up. The waves were moderate. It was easy to stand, and as I stepped forwards, I could feel water draining down through the suit and out of the legs.
To be honest, there was not a great deal of water inside the suit, due to the excellent seals at the wrists and the neck, and the lack of a rear zip; but there was still enough around my waist and legs to make things heavy if the water had not drained out. But it did, and quickly, too. Once I had taken a few steps into ankle-deep water, I started to run up the beach.
As always, I had 'jelly legs' for a few seconds, but then got into my stride. The Evolution suit felt great, and caused minimal resistance. For the short run home, I pulled down the front zip about 10 inches. This gave me a bit more room to breathe.
Back in my front garden, I pulled the zip all the way down, and tried to take the top off. I was able to get my shoulders out of the suit quite easily, due to the soft and elastic neoprene, but still found the wrists a bit tight. I was expecting this, as they sealed so well against water ingress.
But there are a couple of points to bear in mind here; First, the neoprene at the wrists is likely to 'relax' slightly with wear. Also, I normally use some Body Glide or Baby Oil over my skin in areas where a suit fits tightly, to help with putting the suit on. This seems to stay in place for some time, therefore helping with taking the arms off, too. And finally, there's always the option to cut the neoprene back if needed. But I will be waiting to see how things go before taking the scissors to my new suit!
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Overall, I'm very impressed with the Zone 3 Evolution Swimrun wetsuit. It is comfortable and snug without being restrictive; It has good buoyancy without being too thick; and running is much easier than in the other wetsuits that I own. And it has all those pockets!