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Open water swimming kit

The age old question. What do I wear? Your swimming may be up to speed but you need to have the right open water swimming kit. Well, don’t fret because we’ve got that covered.

Open water is different to the warm embrace of a pool. To swim in it you need a few extra bits and bobs. So, here is our newbie’s guide to open water swimming kit.

Top five pieces of open water swimming kit

  1. Swim cap
  2. Goggles
  3. Wetsuit
  4. Tow float
  5. Pealess whistle

Swim cap

It’s vital that whenever you go swimming in open water you wear a brightly coloured swim cap, neon pink, yellow, green and orange have the best visibility.

The cap can be made from silicone or latex, or even neoprene for the colder months.

The cap will help to keep your head warm, but more importantly, it will make sure you’re easily visible in the water.


Comfortable goggles are a must-have piece of open water swimming kit. Goggles with a lot of rubber will increase your comfort.

If the day is bright you might want to consider tinted or mirrored lenses. This will help block the sun and let you see more clearly.


Wetsuits help to keep you warm, even in summer. The UK is not known for warm water temperatures.

They also help make you buoyant, which is safer and helps you to swim faster. It’s a good idea to get plenty of practise swimming outdoors in your wetsuit before a race or big event, as the wetsuit changes the position of your body in the water.

An ill-fitting wetsuit can put you off as it makes you fight the water rather than swim. Check out our how-to guide on how to choose the perfect wetsuit for your swim.

Never worn owned a wetsuit before now? Don’t worry, we’ve put together a handy guide on how to put on, take off and take care of your wetsuit.

If you’re going to take part in open water events, make sure your new wetsuit complies with FINA wetsuit rules, check out our post about FINA’s guidance on wearing wetsuits.

However, if you are going for a quick dip or short swim when you are well acclimatised you may choose not to wear a wetsuit, but for longer competitive events they are compulsory when the water temperature is below 18oc.

Tow float

If you are planning on swimming in an unsupervised location it is sensible to have tow float and pealess whistle to improve your safety in the water.

A tow float is a floatation device that makes you more visible to boats, lifeguards and other water users. You attach it to your waist, it’s lightweight to keep drag to a minimum and brightly coloured.

They can also be used to store phones, keys and/or drinks on longer swims. Please note a tow float is not a substitute for a buoyancy aid.

Pealess whistle

A pealess whistle is perfect for open water swimming, just remember to shake the water out before use. It floats on the water and it’s easy to store, you can clip it to your tow float or tuck it in your wetsuit.

Additional equipment to improve comfort 

Boots, gloves and socks

OK, these are three pieces of open water swimming kit, but they do the same thing. In colder water, lots of people wear boots, socks and gloves.

Look for a balance between keeping warm and being able to swim properly. Shop staff will be able to advise you on what will best suit your needs.

Lubricant or anti-chafe stick

A wetsuit can get uncomfortable during a long swim. It rubs against your skin and can create uncomfortable rashes, especially around your neck.

Lubricant or an anti-chafe stick can help. The sticks look like a stick of deodorant. They hold a wax-like substance that helps protect your skin from irritation. Both are available at specialist swim shops.