Roka Maverick Elite Fullsuit

If you're not in it to win it, by all means skip the suit. But if you have even the mildest aspirations to greatness (or just want a boost), you're going to want a wetsuit. Today's models are slightly buoyant and so lift you into an ideal swimming position, which makes your stroke more efficient.

We gave the Roka Maverick Elite, one of the "entry-level" wetsuits (for a bargain $450) a test swim and found its a buoyancy to be something of revelation. And while we ditched the suit for an August triathlon (which was in 78-degree water), every participant in front of us coming out of the lake – and we do mean everyone – still had theirs on on. A suit is even more of an advantage as the weather gets colder: According to USA Triathlon,  the number of competing triathletes in the U.S. drops from a peak of 300,000 in the summer to a spare 50,000 by October. The course is all yours! [$450; rokasports.com]