Speeding through open water is one of the most liberating ways to work out there is. Whether you’re a keen triathlete or are just dipping a toe into the world of lake, river or sea swimming, arm yourself with the kit that seasoned pros use to keep them safe and warm in open water.
11 must-have bits of outdoor swimming kit to make you paddle like a pro
1. Futura Biofuse goggles, Speedo, £21
Forget tiny budgie smugglers – the only Speedos you should make sure you’ve got in your kit bag are their brilliant goggles. Speedo have been making swimming gear since they started out on Bondi Beach in 1914 and now stock 70 models, but the legendary Futura is one of their bestsellers, and for good reason. Gender specific, it matches soft gel eye seals and a rigid main frame with wide antifog lenses for a crystal clear view of the depths.
2. Neoprene Warmth vest, RaceZone3, £55
Year-round dippers swear by this titanium-coated vest. “It keeps my core warm, provides a little extra buoyancy and the seams are flatlocked so it never rubs, which really matters in open water.” says wild swimmer Rosee Woodland. Pair with swim shorts or bikini bottoms in warmer weather or stick it under a wetsuit when the temperature drops.
3. Orange swim cap, Wiggle, £6
There’s a reason that most photos of sea swimmers in action are just of an ocean of bright bobbing orange caps and splashing arms and legs – wearing a neon-coloured cap makes you much easier to spot in murky waters. Neoprene or silicone caps like this Zone3 number are good for cold water, and if you’ve got long hair opt for one designed to fit a ponytail (or man bun).
4. Safety buoy, Orca, £35
In the same vein as a neon cap, a brightly coloured, inflatable safety buoy tied to your waist acts as your own personal flag when swimming. Your little orange pet on a leash is a signal to boats that there’s a human somewhere in the water. This one from Orca doubles up as a dry bag, so you can pop your keys in and keep them safe whilst you work out.
5. Goose fat, £2, Waitrose
Not just for your Christmas spuds. Swimmers crossing the Channel having been smearing themselves with goose fat for decades, and whilst its now been proven that this doesn’t actually insulate your body, fat does protect your skin from wetsuit chafing. If you don’t fancy smelling like a Sunday roast then a layer of Vaseline or even cooking oil works well, too. Sexy.
6. Dry Robe, from £79.99
Hit up any swimming event and there’ll be a line of fuzz-lined Dry Robes ready for by the water’s edge for their freezing owners. Waterproof, windproof and lined with lambs wool, these babies will save you when you get out of winter water and really feel the cold bite, and are also great for getting changed under before a race.
7. Aqua Plugz earplugs, Zoggs, £7
Swimmer’s ear is real, and it’s zero fun. Avoid the dreaded Otitis Externa, an inflammation of the ear canal often caused by swimming (I really don’t recommend you Google what it looks like) by popping some swimmer-specific plugs in your shell-likes. These ergonomically shaped silicone buds will protect you from infection and also stop ice-cold water in your ears giving you brain freeze.
8. Blueseventy Helix thermal wetsuit, Wiggle, £209
Your wetsuit is the key to surviving (and enjoying) open water swimming in cold conditions, and the one bit of kit it’s really worth splashing the cash on. Swimming and triathlon wetsuits differ from surf suits – the neoprene is cut for wider strokes and body rotation and are often more buoyant, with a slick finish. Blueseventy’s Fusion is a good entry-level suit for warmer sessions. For winter, Blueseventy’s Helix packs all the bells and whistles, with a thermal layer which will keep you warm at temperatures as low as 48°F.
9. Sony waterproof MP3, from £79
If you need the dulcet tones of your favourite band (Wet Wet Wet, perhaps?) to get into the workout zone, never fear, your gym playlist can come underwater with you. These slick Sony sports headphones are waterproof to two metres and can store around 4,000 tunes. For added hilarity try singing along underwater.
10. Valiant Water Sports Accessories Kit, £39.99
Just getting started with serious swimming? Keep your extremities warm with this starter kit from Valiant, which includes warm neoprene gloves, slim booties with good grip and a handy close-fitting rubber cap, which I like popping under a lycra cap on cold days for extra warmth.
11. Johnson’s baby shampoo, Boots, £1.50
A clever little trick from the pros: keep baby shampoo in your swim bag and pop a smear of it onto your goggles, then rinse off. Voila, fog-free lenses.