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What Equipment Do I Need For Wild Swimming?
Wild swimming is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in nature, exercise you body and mind, and explore new areas.
Whilst a fairly simple sport, there are some key pieces of equipment that you need to ensure you stay safe, visible and warm when swimming in open water.
Whilst this list is not exhaustive, there may also be occasions when you can swim with less equipment, however, the following items are what we consider essential items for people new to wild swimming.
Whilst cold water swimming in skins (usually done in just a standard swimsuit) has grown in popularity, a swimming wetsuit can be key to safe and comfortable wild swimming year-round in the UK. Swimming wetsuits provide additional warmth, buoyancy, efficiency and also offer a certain degree of protection.
Whilst both wild swimming with or without a wetsuit requires some degree of acclimatisation, there are a number of additional safety precautions to take when swimming without a wetsuit. We therefore recommend a wetsuit for anyone new to the sport, wanting to swim year-round, or if you are just looking for extra comfort and efficiency.
Head over to our guide for wild swimming wetsuits to find full details on the different types available and the key features to look out for.
Unlike swimming in a pool, when you are outdoors you have to deal with murky waters and changing light conditions. The importance of your vision is also enhanced, as when swimming in open water, you have to orientate and navigate yourself.
UV protection is an important consideration you wouldn't usually have to think about when swimming indoors. However, with the reflection of light off the water on sunny days, it's really important to protect your eyes.
Polarised lenses help to cut out certain light, usually glare on sunny days, allowing you to see with more clarity.
Photochromatic lenses adjust lens tint depending on how bright the conditions are. So when indoors the lenses will be their natural clear colour, but if you head into bright sunshine (as you may encounter with wild swimming) the lenses will tint accordingly. Due to their adaptability in changing conditions, photochromatic lenses are a great option for wild swimming in the UK.
Having a swim cap not only helps to keep your hair out of the way but is also important for making yourself visible. Choosing a brightly coloured cap is one of the best ways to make yourself stand out from the water, a crucial safety element if swimming around boats. The brighter the better!
For cold weather, you can also purchase neoprene swim caps which help add warmth and avoid dreaded brain freeze! For added visibility you can layer the neoprene cap with a brightly coloured standard swim cap.
A buoy/tow float is another crucial piece of wild swimming safety equipment. They are high visibility, helping to make you stand out to other water users. Also, if you ever need to take a break then you can hold onto the inflated buoy/float to give yourself a quick rest.
Some buoys also feature dry bag storage, so you can carry essentials within the float. This can be especially useful for car keys and nutrition on longer swims.
Having a changing/drying robe can really help with both convenience and warmth. It makes getting in and out of your swim gear a breeze wherever you are. Importantly, as soon as you finish your swim a warm changing robe is a really good way to help bring your body temperature back up, helping to avoid the drop-off.
Swimming wetsuits are designed to fit like a second skin. After prolonged use, you may find friction in certain areas, most prominently around the neck, shoulders and underarms. Applying some glide to areas that may be affected before putting your wetsuit on is a great way to avoid any rubbing, and swim in comfort. Swim specific body glides are moisture-resistant and still allow sweat to transport through the skin for cooling. Avoid petroleum-based products which will damage wetsuit material.
When swimming in the winter and early spring months, water temperatures in the UK can really plummet. Neoprene boots and gloves can provide all-important extra warmth to keep your extremities warm in colder temperatures. Swimmers that feel the cold more than others may choose to swim in boots, gloves or both, year-round for extra comfort.
Wild Swimming Kit
Looking For More Information?
Beginner's Guide To Wild Swimming
With tips on equipment, safety and how to find wild swim locations, our beginners guide to wild swimming has all of the information that you need to get in the water.
Wetsuit Buying Guide
A swimming specific wetsuit not only provides warmth but also aids technique thanks to strategically placed bouyancy. Find all the information you need to choose your next wetsuit in our full buying guide.
How To Care For Your Wetsuit
Ensuring that you handle, store and clean your wetsuit in the correct way is crucial to maximising its performance and lifespan. Follow these top tips to keep yours in the best condition possible.