27 April 2021 by Gemma Hellawell
Open water swimming, wild swimming, dipping, swooshing, racing - getting in the water outside means a myriad of things to different people, but to adapt a phrase coined by The Outdoor Swimming Society – there is room in the water for everyone. If you are thinking of giving it a go, here are my recommendations for kit to make your time in the water more fun and most importantly safe:
Goggles – You need to find the right fit for you, so it is worth experimenting and perhaps trying them out in your local swimming pool before taking them outside. Some people find swimming masks give them better visibility in the open water to help with sighting. Others swear by polarised lenses to help when the sun is shining. For me, I like a clear lens and comfortable fit and use the same goggles for the pool as in open water.
Bright Swimming Cap – The brighter the better. You want to be seen, especially when swimming in the sea, busy rivers or larger lakes. And for particularly cold days in the water, try two caps to keep you warm.
Tow Float – At its most simple this is a brightly coloured float, attached to you by a waist belt used to help with visibility in larger stretches of water and in the sea. The more advanced versions act like a roll top drybag with space to hold essential items to take with you while you swim.
Wetsuit – Some people love them and some people hate them. I love mine. It means I can swim for longer for more of the year, it’s a win-win. If you do decide that swimming in a wetsuit is for you, it’s worth making sure that it fits really well, tight like a second skin. For a good range of wetsuits and good advice try looking here www.swimthelakes.co.uk they even offer virtual wetsuit fittings.
Anti-Chafing Balm - If you do choose a wetsuit over skins swimming (the open water swimming term for wearing a swimsuit only), it is worth investing in some anti-chafing balm. On longer swims your wetsuit may start to rub your neck or under your arms and this will prevent any unnecessary discomfort. Make sure that you chose a product that does not contain petroleum which may damage the neoprene in your wetsuit.
Socks, gloves and vests – For longer swims or colder days, keeping your core, hands and feet warm will mean longer in the water. Swim socks are much thinner than a traditional wetsuit boot, keeping your toes warm whilst not interrupting your stroke. A neoprene vest will act as another layer under your wetsuit for colder days or can be used without a wetsuit when you need just a bit more warmth than a swimsuit.
Ear plugs - Cold water in your ears can make you feel disorientated or even nauseous. Swimming ear plugs prevent this without causing you to miss out on any of the sounds of nature.
Towel - Once you are out of the water getting dry and warm quickly is essential. Turkish towels are ideal for this because they are super absorbent without the bulk of a traditional towel. Arc Lore’s Active Collection has a range of beach and travel towels, the Mydo and Hara, which are great to dry off your body or to use as a wrap post-swim. Their smaller Samimi range is perfect to use as a hair turban to dry your hair before putting a warm woolly hat on.
Warm Coat/Parka Robe – Once you are dry it is important to layer up with warm clothes quickly and warm from the inside out. So wrap up in a thick warm coat or a parka robe while enjoying your post swim tea, or my top tip - hot blackcurrant cordial.
Swimming in open water can be dangerous. Only swim where permitted, swim with others, don’t swim too long, get out before you get cold and know the water that you are swimming in, tides/rip tides, currents can all take you by surprise.