A wetsuit might be your comfort blanket when you go open water swimming for the first time, but there’s something incredibly freeing as plunging into the big blue free of a thick second skin. Not only is it much easier to fit an open water swim into a packed schedule when you don’t have to squeeze in and out of a wetsuit, few sensations are as liberating as moving freely with the feeling of the cold water on your skin.
Of course, open water swimming without a wetsuit is when you really start to notice the chill of the water and it’s vital that you take appropriate precautions if you’re about to shake up your swimming style. From easing yourself in to knowing your limits, we’ve got all kinds of tips when it comes to getting into cold water. What you wear will make a huge difference too, and while there’s no need to go out and spend a fortune on fancy gizmos and a whole wardrobe of swimwear, getting the basics right will keep you hooked. With this in mind, here’s what to wear for open water swimming without a wetsuit:
At the very least, you’ll need a swimsuit if you’re planning on open water swimming without a wetsuit. There’s no rulebook that says you must wear a particular type of swimwear for open water swimming, but we highly suggest a good quality, double lined suit for strength and durability because you’re going to pulling this piece on and off with numb fingers.
If you’re after a little extra insulation we’d really recommend a bonded swimsuit. This is made using the same material as traditional swimwear but two layers of fabric are bonded together to form a thicker fabric which gives you extra insulation and protection without the bulk of a wetsuit. We live in our Davy J Bonded Long Sleeve Swimsuit throughout the year for early morning dips, lake swims or through the winter months and the thumb holes that can be pulled down over the hands as well as the reversible colour options make it a real style and practicality hit.
Gloves & Booties
It’s always good to build up your layers if you are ditching the wetsuit and gloves & boots are really good ones for the kit bag. Neoprene gloves are generally what you should go for on the hands if you’re swimming in open water regularly, particularly during the cooler months, surprisingly your everyday woolly winter warmers will be effective too - but make sure you take them off when you get out of the water to prevent an unnecessary chill! If you do go for the former, we suggest a 3mm thickness. Unless it’s really cold or you’re swimming right in the middle of the winter, 3mm wetsuit gloves should offer enough warmth without restricting the range of movement in your hands. Neoprene boots or socks will really help with warmth and if you’re walking over hard stone or rocks we suggest opting for those with a hard sole for longevity.
Swimming Hat (& A Woolly Hat For After!)
The texture of a swimming hat can feel a little strange if you’re not used to wearing one, but we really recommend that you do so when open water swimming without a wetsuit. Not only will a swimming hat ensure that you safely stand out from the shoreline, but it will also make a huge difference when it comes to the way your body retains heat. A silicone or latex swimming hat is a great first step and then you can always progress to a thicker, neoprene option if you find you’d like your head to be warmer in the water. When you’re back on land, don’t forget to swap your swimming hat for a cosy woolly hat like our merino wool beanie!
Strictly speaking, you won’t be wearing this one when open water swimming without a wetsuit, but you’ll certainly need it when you get out of the water. A good changing robe is like a best friend to open water swimmers and offers what can only be described as a warm hug as you dry off and get dressed. You can’t really beat the cosy lining and durable construction of classics like Dry Robe’s Advance Long Sleeve Robe and Red’s Pro Change Robe. Simply slip on, sip on a hot drink with friends, and not wearing a wetsuit will shortly become a distant memory.
Swimming goggles aren’t strictly necessary for all open water swimming without a wetsuit. However, you’ll certainly want a reliable and leakproof pair if you’re planning on dunking your head under and swimming front crawl. When it’s sunny, certain swimming goggles can also provide anti-glare and UV protection without you needing to risk your favourite sunglasses. We don’t have any specific recommendations but brands like Speedo and Zoggs are popular and triathlon/open water specific designs can be better for choppy conditions.
With the right things to wear for open water swimming without a wetsuit, all that is left to do is take the plunge. Call a friend, set a date, and get in the water - we know you’re going to love it!