Zone3 Vanquish Review
This Zone3 Vanquish Review looks at the background behind my decision to buy a high-end, competitive wetsuit as well as including some comparative usage insights to other wetsuits and some interesting factettes behind the design and specifications of the Vanquish.
If you are spending over GBP400/$500 on a wetsuit then it’s got to be good, right?
A somewhat truthful start to this post could have been “My Vanquish was 5% faster than an older Aspire I own” but, as always, the details behind such a ‘fact’ might eventually lead to a different conclusion about whether or not it’s worth forking out top-money for a top-end suit.
Although I am a GB Age Group triathlete (and duathlete), swimming is definitely not my strongest discipline and I would NOT class myself as a good swimmer…it’s all relative, I guess. I’ve used Zone3 wetsuits for several years now and alongside that, I also dabble with Huub, Speedo and 2XU. This Vanquish is probably my favourite wetsuit of the lot.
Why The Vanquish?
I seemed to have gained some “muscle” over Christmas 2018, I’m not quite sure why as I hadn’t been doing too much S&C work. Hmmm. A consequence of that extra ‘muscle’ was that my suit felt quite tight around the shoulders. My first few OW swims of the year were all slower around Shepperton Lake than last year and whilst my swimming motivation waned somewhat over the winter I did seem quite a bit slower than I expected. But the most noteworthy point was that after, say, 400m of steady OW swimming I found my shoulders tiring. Cutting a long story short, the suit was too small and my shoulders were working way too hard and to the detriment of my stroke (and lap times).
I borrowed a HUUB Archimedes 3 for a few weeks from a mate and even used it in the 2019 River Arun 3.8k race. That was a nice suit and I could have quite easily bought one of those. However, the reason that I was tipped into going for the Vanquish was that I hired one from Zone3’s pop-up store at Shepperton Lake and did comparative laps with that versus the Huub. The Vanquish was nominally 20 seconds faster than the Huub for the fastest single lap. However, fatigue or my usual ‘not-swimming-in-a-straight-line’ technique could have quite easily accounted for the difference.
What do I look for in a wetsuit fit? It needs to be tight to the skin and I always check that the crotch of my wetsuit is as high up as it can go and the same for each armpit. No air pockets at all, please. That’s normally good enough for me but my existing suit also met that same criterion. So that creates somewhat of a dilemma when buying a new suit as, clearly, a cheaper one that’s a bit too small might be seen as a good fit.
If you are used to wearing a regular wetsuit which is made from a consistent thickness of material all over then a high-end suit like the Vanquish comes as something of a revelation and offers notably better shoulder movement.
Another consideration for a triathlete is how quickly the suit comes off. A higher leg cut (shorter wetsuit legs) might facilitate easy removal but we all know that a bit of baby oil or Amazon’s ridiculously-priced BodyGlide on the legs and forearms makes much more difference.
But I think the bottom line when buying a new suit is that you need to swim with it as well as try it on. So for £20/$30, Zone3 at Shepperton let you try before you buy. For some reason, I wasn’t charged (added bonus). That trial swim sealed the deal for me and has got to be the way to go for manufacturers wanting to sell suits to satisfied customers.
Top Tip: By hook or by crook you need to swim with your wetsuit before you buy it. Beg, borrow, steal or just rent one.
For a sprint triathlon maybe you will get away with a less well-fitting wetsuit but for an Ironman or 5k OWS, you won’t.
What’s It like Swimming with the Vanquish?
I mean, how can I answer this? It keeps you warm and adds a bit of buoyancy. Supposedly it adds buoyancy around the hips and legs but I can’t tell the difference compared to other suits. Some of the arm and shoulder material is much thinner and some sections are lycra-like and so those parts of the suit definitely feel colder as they quickly let water through to your skin.
With both the Vanquish and the Archimedes, I felt very little fatigue in the shoulders even with tempo swims of up to an hour. Both seem to help my sinky-legs become floaty-legs as much as any other wetsuit..
As I said earlier, I was faster with the Vanquish on supposedly like-for-like laps of Shepperton lake compared to the Archimedes.
Zone3 Vanquish Technical Specifications & Key Features
This section covers the techy bits for this Zone3 Vanquish Review and why the technical specifications of the construction might make the Vanquish better. ie this section of the Zone3 Vanquish Review is, pretty much, what the manufacturer claims to be true with a few of my comments added for good measure.
Different panels of the suit have differing buoyancy levels, only being added where it is needed. A unique element of the buoyancy is that the fabric contains air pockets. Yep, it’s very expensive bubble-wrap;-) and you can see that bubble effect in some images further on.
The inner forearm has a thin, diamond-shaped piece of material, as shown in the image above, and that supposedly gives better ‘feel’ in the water.
Design Ethos: Shoulder, arms, upper back and lats designed to have as much flexibility as possible. Elsewhere maximum buoyancy designed around the quads, hips and glutes. This seems sensible to me.
- Thin, 1.5mm one-piece shoulder panel extends from the middle of the chest to the centre of the back. This is made with Yamamoto’s premium #40 SCS which is super-light and has a high stretch. Few people will need 5mm neoprene for shoulder buoyancy…so why include it? Zone3 do not include it with the Vanquish.
- Ultra-thin 0.3mm Yamamoto BRS SCS material on the arm sleeves. This is the world’s thinnest SCS neoprene and reduces the weight and buoyancy of the arms. Benefit?: quicker stroke recovery and reduced arm fatigue
- High stretch 2mm #39 SCS goes across the shoulder blades and from under the forearm down to the hip. Benefit?: maximise the propulsion you can achieve with each stroke and ensures a fluid roll with each arm pull.
- 5mm Yamamoto Aerodome chest panel design contains air bubbles to further improve buoyancy. Benefit?: aids and torso rotation, aids in course sighting during the swim navigation and aids heat retention. 5mm is the maximum allowed thickness, the air bubbles supposedly increase buoyancy over regular neoprene but there are other alternatives eg Huub similarly use a foam layer to give extra buoyancy.
- Hip and core areas are made up from a combination of three different materials, each with a thickness of 5mm (max under ITU rules). These panels are:
- NBR construction side panels designed to work in unison with the front leg panels. NBR is a super buoyant material which is commonly used in life jackets. Benefit? Maximum buoyancy
- Aerodome materials containing air bubbles used on the front legs from the hips to the knees to help support the core leg muscles. Benefit? Maximum buoyancy
- 5mm 39 cell SCS neoprene on the glutes. Benefit? Maximum buoyancy
- Full use of Yamamoto fabrics generally offering body flexibility, comfort and performance.
- Speed: The aqua dynamic ‘SCS’ Nano coating applied to the neoprene has low zero drag through the water. A stated drag coefficient of just 0.021 compared with 4.0 for regular neoprene wetsuits. The SCS coating also prevents the suit from absorbing water, therefore avoiding excess weight in the wetsuit.
- Flexibility: 480-580% in elongation, compared with human skin (underarm) which is just 60-70%. Flexibility and comfort further aided with an expansion of 7x conventional wetsuit materials.
- Buoyancy: Derived from limestone rather than oil which offers a 23% higher closed-cell structure. This increases the buoyancy levels for the swimmer.
- Warmth: High heat retention: Keeping the body warmer in colder waters to help reduce body fatigue and improve performance.
- Eco: The neoprene is also derived from limestone opposed to petroleum which is more environmentally friendly.
Key Features (manufacturer blurb quoted)
- Ultra-thin laser bonded neck panel: Comfort is further maximised with our innovative new 1.5mm moulded collar which is so soft and light you’ll be questioning whether you even have your wetsuit on! It allows a tighter fit on the body without feeling any discomfort around the neck. As soon as you try this unique design you may never want to wear any other wetsuit again.
- Sensory Catch Panel: Aeroforce fabric is used on the forearms to give an improved feeling and catch in the water. Rather than a traditional rubber fabric, the Vanquish uses a double layer of high performance, water repellent Lycra-based fabric. This firstly reduces arm fatigue, as there is not as much buoyancy resistance during the catch phases of the stroke, but also allows the swimmer to improve their efficiency in the water. No water can enter the suit but you will feel the coolness of the water on the forearm panel which helps to align your hand and forearm during the stroke to give more propulsion and also a more natural feeling swim. Ref#3
- Innovative Silk-Fit inner lining used on the body and legs to make the suit feel extremely comfortable next to the skin and also make putting the suit on easier than ever before.
- Our trademark Pro Speed CuffsTM on the arms and the legs for rapid removal after the swim to ensure the quickest transitions, saving you vital time on any course.
- Downwards YKK zipper making the suit easy to put on and take off but also with an upwards breakaway
Zone3 Vanquish 2019 vs earlier models
Gone is the textured forearm panel which supposedly gave more ‘grip’ and ‘in’ is a much more complex construction comprising many panel types with focussed buoyancy. The newer one looks sweeter! Several other smaller changes.
New vs. Old
Zone3 Vanquish vs Huub Archimedes III
I couldn’t find much to really choose between the two. I think the Zone3 looks nicer if that helps.
The only single aspect of the suit that made me go for the Vanquish was the great shoulder freedom. To be fair to the Archimedes, when I had the right size on that was pretty good too!
Try them both and go for whichever fits best.
Zone3 Vanquish Awards
You never know if paid-for advertising really pays for these awards. Here we go anyway:
- Triathlete Magazine USA: Best in Class 2017
- 220 Triathlon: Best on Test, 94% Rating. 2017
- Triathlete Plus: Gold Award – 5/5 Rating. 2017
- 220 Triathlon: Best Value – 2018. (Hmmm, not sure about that)
If you shop with Wiggle then you can soon earn discounts in the UK/EU of up to 17% for Platinum members. Add that to sale prices and there can be some great deals on offer.
Zone3 Vanquish 2019 vs cheaper Zone3 models, Sale Prices & Discounts
- Zone3 Azure – This is the entry-level model and is well-priced. It has an easy-off construction that will help short-course racers. Yet it is not a fully buoyant wetsuit. If you’re not a great swimmer then you will likely benefit from a more buoyant suit with 5mm panels rather than the 4mm of the Azure. RRP £120. the price jump up to the Vision or Aspire might be too much for you and you might well look instead at another manufacturer for a cheaper fully buoyant equivalent.
- Zone3 Aspire – You could get this model for about half the price a few years back at the end of the season and it is a popular model for those requiring buoyancy and an easy-off construction for a triathlon. I have one. RRP £330.
- Zone 3 Align – For those of you who have a naturally neutral swim position. RRP£325
- Zone3 Vision – This is the sensible “entry-level” suit for poorer swimmers wanting full buoyancy but at RRP£250 it’s not cheap for an entry-level suit
- Zone3 Vanquish – The model reviewed here for this Zone3 Vanquish Review – RRP £550 – check Wiggle for a hopefully lower price nearer to £400.
Zone3 Vanquish sales will always happen towards the end of the season, perhaps starting in August if you are lucky. Zone3 Vanquish discounts seem harder to come by in the early part of the season and are dependent on the retailer. The image below gives an option to check several retailers including Wiggle. If you are new to Wiggle use can use the NEWGB (NEWDE, NEWFR, etc) code for a discount but the more you shop there the bigger discounts you get. When I bought the Vanquish at Wiggle I got a whopping 20% off (£100).