Wild swimming is an excellent way to get closer to nature and experience the great outdoors. But if you’re going to be braving the open waters, rivers, seas, lochs or lakes, it’s essential to have the right equipment. Read out the complete Open Water Swimming gear guide for everything you could ever need.
However, this article is about one of the most important items an open-water swimmer needs, the humble dry bag. In this guide, we’ll be discussing everything you need to know before purchasing the best wild swimming dry bags for your needs.
What are dry bags and why do swimmers need them?
What is a dry bag?
A dry bag is a waterproof bag that keeps your gear dry even when submerged in water. They come in different shapes, sizes, and materials. However, all dry bags have one primary purpose, and that is to keep your stuff dry even when you’re participating in water activities like wild swimming.
Why do open water swimmers need dry bags?
Swimmers need dry bags to keep their valuables and clothes dry while swimming in open water. Wild swimming involves going to secluded spots, which means you’ll have to carry your belongings with you. A dry bag will help to keep your belongings safe and dry when you’re out swimming. Dry bags are also crucial for protecting everything from your wet kit after swimming.
What should swimmers look for when choosing a dry bag?
When choosing a dry bag for wild swimming, several factors can affect your choice.
The functionality of Dry Bag
The main functionality of a dry bag for outdoor swimming is carrying your kit to the swimming spot, carrying your key essentials on the water, and then carrying your wet kit home.
Type of Dry Bags
- Dry Bag Tow Floats for on the water kit.
- RuckSack Dry Bags for transporting swimming kit and swimming with.
- Lightweight Dry Bags for separating kit.
- Holdall Dry Bags for swimming
What are tow floats and how do they work with dry bags?
Tow Floats are a key piece of kit for open water swimmers, their purpose is simply to increase the swimmer’s visibility when in the water. However, most brands do a dry bag tow float version. These dry bag tow floats allow you to increase your visibility and take key items out on the water. We would always recommend double bagging with a lightweight dry bag any essential items transported in your dry bag tow float.
What is a tow float?
A tow float is a brightly coloured buoy that swimmers tow behind them while swimming to improve visibility and safety. The tow float is a safety aid to help prevent incidents by increasing the swimmer’s visibility to boaters, kayakers, and other swimmers in the water. It can also help you if you get into trouble, those on the shore or river bank will be able to see you easier. Tow Floats are not flotation devices designed to help you rest in the water, they are visibility aids, nothing more.
How do tow floats work in conjunction with dry bags?
Tow floats with built-in dry bags reduce the risk of accidental loss of personal items while swimming. By using a tow float that has an internal a dry bag compartment, you can ensure your items stay safe and dry. Things like car keys, medicine, snacks, shorts and t-shirt etc can be taken with you on a swim with a dry bag tow float.
What are the benefits of using a tow float and dry bag together?
Using a tow float and dry bag together provides a double layer of safety and security for your belongings, preventing them from going missing and making you visible in the water. Larger tow floats with large volume dry bags and straps, if your travelling light (swimming costume, shorts, t-shirt, phone, car keys) could essentially replace your need for a separate dry bag to transport your kit!
Check out our dedicated Tow FLoat Buyers Guide. Where we break down what to look for in a tow float, like air chamber redundancies, dry bags, colour, volume and more.
What are Dry bag rucksacks and how do swimmers use them?
A dry bag rucksack (Waterproof backpack) is just like a normal rucksack or day sack except they are fully waterproof. These bags range from 10L to 60Litres in capacity/volume and most use a roll top closure to secure them and make them watertight.
Simply, Dry bag rucksacks are waterproof bags designed to keep your belongings dry. Open Water Swimmers use them to keep their valuables safe and dry when transporting themselves and their swimming kit to their preferred swimming location. Some swimmers also use them to carry their kit when they enter the water. Using the dry bag rucksack like a large tow float needs some DIYing. Most dry bag rucksacks are not designed for this and do not come with waist bands, a tow line or anchor points to attach the tow line. Check out Swimpacker extraordinary Heb Sea Swimmer and how he has modified his Lomo 40L with additional anchor points for this. Find links to his stuff in our Swimpacking Gear Guide.
The size you buy depends on what the swim gear you need to carry. The most common size is around 30 litres which is large enough to keep a towel, a change of clothes, a changing robe, some food and a water bottle. The bags are designed with a roll-top closure to ensure that water can’t get in, and can also be clipped shut with a carabiner or a buckle.
These dry bags attach to your back using shoulder straps which can be adjusted to fit different body shapes. The bags are also popular with cyclists, motorcyclists, commuters, hillwalkers, bushcrafters, kayakers, canoeists, and anyone who is planning on spending time on or near the water, or outdoors.
What are Dry bag holdalls and how do swimmers use them?
Dry bag holdalls are generally larger dry bags and are used by swimmers to carry lots of kit. Like a standard holdall, they have a larger mouth to house larger items. Perfect for a canyoning trip or a triathlon event or if you are planning to take the kitchen sink to the lake for your wild swimming session, the dry bag holdall can give you the capacity to take everything. These can range from 30L to 100 plus Litres in volume capacity.
What are ultralight Dry bags and how do swimmers use them?
These are mainly used inside the bag of your main dry bag or tow float. These are small dry bags that are used to double bag key items like phones, car keys, medicine etc. And they can also be used to separate or compartmentalise a larger dry bag, allowing you to separate wet kit from dry kit, food from medicine, electronics from sun cream etc highly recommend buying a few of these small ultra-light dry bags for your swimming kit. They range from 1L to 5L.
Which Size of swimming dry bag should you buy?
The first thing to consider is the size of the bag. You need to find a dry bag big enough to carry all your necessities. Finally, you need to consider the type of bag you want, whether a backpack, tow float, holdall or one of each.
As stated 30L is enough to carry all your swimming kit.
What are the best dry bags for open water or wild swimming?
The best dry bags for open-water swimming as described above really depend on your needs. We would recommend a kit bag be it a dry bag rucksack or dry bag holdall and a separate dry bag tow float for swimming with and of course, some ultralight dry bags to compartmentalise your wet and dry kit. Ideally, a 30L, a tof float and some 1 to 5L small dry bags would make up the basic kit for wild swimmers. This would allow you to transport all your swimming gear and be able to deal with any scenario that popped up.
Should swimmers consider dry bag backpacks, ultra lights or another type of bag for wild swimming?
It depends on your preferences and needs. For example, if you’re carrying more items, it would be best to go for a backpack or large dry bag holdall. On the other hand, if you prefer to have items more accessible, and you only have a few items, then a large dry bag tow float may do the trick.
What are the unique features of bags designed specifically for swimming?
What makes a bag suitable for swimming in open water?
Bags designed specifically for swimming have features that make them suitable for use in the water. They are often waterproof and can withstand the elements, including saltwater, sun, and sand. Additionally, they will often have brightly coloured designs that improve visibility in open water, and they are lightweight and easy to carry. The main dry bag that has been specifically designed for open-water swimming is the dry bag tow float.
What are the best swim bags with waterproof phone cases?
You can take your smartphone and Waterproof it in any dry bag. Using one of the ultra light dry bags as a dedicated Phone Pouch is a good idea. This way you are double bagging and if for whatever reason water gets into the dry bag there will be an extra layer of protection for your phone. (Remember phones are crucial communications device when things go bad, so making sure it is well protected is essential. Read our best Rugged Smartphones for the outdoors.) Keeping your mobile device safe from water damage while swimming.
What kind of swim bags are visible and safe for night swimming?
Bright Orange, Yellow, Green and the best colours. Check out our visibility article. Some tow floats and dry bags have mounts for lights and some can be lit or illuminated from the inside by a torch or lantern for night swimming. The bright colours improve visibility in low light, the brighter the better.
How can swimmers enhance safety and security with their dry bags and tow floats?
Simply by using a tow float, you will be increasing your visibility and therefore safety in the water.
What are the most important features to look for when choosing a tow float or dry bag for swimming safety?
The most important features to look for when choosing a tow float or dry bag for swimming safety include its waterproofing and visibility. it’s essential to choose a brightly coloured float that can be easily visible in the water.
What types of straps and leashes can help swimmers stay connected to their dry bag or tow float?
Swimmers can use straps and leashes to stay connected to their dry bag or tow float. A long leash or strap that is easy to clip onto the float can help swimmers keep their belongings close while swimming.
Care of your swimming dry bag.
Especially if you have been swimming in the sea, however, it is good practice to wash down with water the exterior and interior of your dry bag after use, peg it to the line and let it dry in the wind. No need for soap or harsh chemicals.
When it comes to swimming in open water, keeping your valuables safe and dry is crucial. Investing in a high-quality dry bag and tow float can make all the difference in ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience in the water. By considering the factors discussed in this guide, you can find the dry bag or tow float that best meets your needs and helps you enjoy your wild swimming adventure.