Woman in open water swimming kit by a lake

What to Wear Open Water Swimming

Open water swimming has become very popular since the swimming pools shut last year and everybody headed outdoors to their local lakes, rivers and beaches. Open water swimming is great for your health and wellbeing and has been linked to improving circulation, boosting your immune system and increasing happiness. Whether you’re a complete beginner or have been open water swimming for a while, it’s important to have the right kit so that you stay safe and enjoy yourself. So, we’ve put together this list so you know what to wear when you go open water swimming.



When you are open water swimming, you may want to wear a wetsuit, especially if you’re swimming in waters under 16°C. Some lakes don’t let you swim unless you have a wetsuit, so it’s worth checking their website before you show up.

Open water swimming wetsuits feature great upper body flexibility and added lower leg buoyancy delivering the perfect balance of comfort and performance. They are also designed to keep you warm in the water with thicker neoprene around the core so you can stay in the water for longer. Our range of wetsuits feature full suits, shortys and sleeveless wetsuits and we also have a range of triathlon wetsuits that have quick exit features.


Goggles are essential for open water swimming as you’ll need to see where you are going to look out for boats or a buoy if you’re racing. You might be tempted to just wear your pool goggles in the lake but open water swimming goggles have some extra desirable features such as polarized and UV protective lenses and some even feature photochromatic lenses which automatically darken in brighter conditions and remain clear in low light conditions. Other handy features to look out for when buying goggles are prescription, anti-fog and wide-angle lenses. In case you opt for goggles without anti-fog lenses, you can also buy an anti-fog spray for crystal clear vision.

Swimming cap

In warmer waters, a regular latex cap will do the job. When swimming in colder waters, you may want to opt for a neoprene swim hat which will reduce heat loss and cover the ears. Bright swimming caps are very useful for open water swimming so you can be seen in the water by other people.


First in and last out, your feet may be the ones to suffer the most when open water swimming. Wetsuit socks play a huge part in keeping you warm and preventing numb toes which can be very painful when climbing out of the water.


Numb fingers aren’t much better, especially at the end of your swim when you're trying to change out of your suit but have to wait 5 minutes until you can feel your fingers. Swimming gloves will keep your hands warm and somewhat dry when you're out swimming.

Tow float

Brightly coloured tow floats are an essential bit of kit for outdoor swimmers and, for some races, they are mandatory. Your tow float attaches to your waist and tow's along behind you in the water without you noticing it’s there.  It will increase your visibility in the water which is great for waters where there are boat users. Tow floats can be used to carry personal belongings and are 100% waterproof. Moreover, should you need to rest or require help, you can use your tow float for buoyant support as it is capable of supporting your whole weight.

Anti-chafing stick

There's nothing more annoying than your wetsuit chafing when you're crushing your open water swimming race. Applying an anti-chafing stick will prevent and relieve chafed, chapped and cracked skin and help prevent hot spots and rubbing.

Changing robe

Once you get out of the water, you’ll want something warm and cosy to warm up in. A changing robe is the perfect warm-up accessory that will get you from cold to cosy in seconds. Most places you go will lack facilities for you to get changed so having a change robe will give you the flexibility to get changed anywhere!


Written by Lucy Harris


Updated on 29th April 2022

Originally published on 17th June 2021 in Swimming

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