Best Wetsuits 2020: O'Neill Psycho Tech Back-zip - Stab Mag
O'Neill Psycho Tech Back-zip. All Photos by Katie Rodriguez

Best Wetsuits 2020: O’Neill Psycho Tech Back-zip

To zip, or not to zip.

Words by Michael Ciaramella

See the complete 2020 Best Wetsuits test here.

When’s the last time you owned a back-zip wetsuit? Unless you’re a bona fide purist or real trendy cat, chances are it’s not in the past decade. 

Before testing O’Neill’s Psycho Tech 3/2, I think it had been a good 15 years since I’d done the awkward reach-around shimmy in search of the zipper string. Which made me wonder: did chest-zips become so ubiquitous because they’re easier to use? Was it due to some genuine performance benefit? Or were they just a shiny new toy that we all had to have, resulting in an industry-wide shift?

I tested the Psycho Tech Back-zip in some pretty brutal conditions. The wind was blowing sideways at 30 mph, the surf was overhead and hideous. I basically spent two hours trying to stay in position and find the odd gem, which was an unsuccessful endeavor. But I did learn a lot about this suit in the process.

Windy conditions during the testing of O'neill Psycho Tech Back-zip wetsuit.
Can’t tell if actually windy, or Fu Wax is just that sticky.

My main takeaway was that the back-zip has no inherent flaws when it came to mobility. Despite the rigid structure down your spine, paddling is not affected in the slightest. Probably because the spine is a natural anchor point of the body, and the zipper just mimics this. 

However, there was one major downside to the overall structure of the back-zip—it creates a pressure point where the zipper naturally rests. And when you’re paddling for two hours straight, you really start to feel the bulge pressing against your neck. It’s…not the most comfortable.

On the other hand, the Psycho Tech suit itself is of the highest quality. Soft, warm, and supple rubber made me feel properly cocooned in the brutal weather. For me, it just would have been better as a chest-zip (or no-zip).

Official Scorecard
Warmth: 40/50
Comfort: 30/50
Bonus: 5 for nostalgia 
Total: 75/100

O’Neill Psycho Tech Back-zip ($459.95)

Up close with O'Neill's Psycho Tech Back-zip wetsuit.
Spinal design on the back of the O'Neill Pyscho Tech Back-zip wetsuit.

O’Neill Psycho Tech Back-zip ($459.95)


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