Outdoor Swimming Gear Guide 2024

This outdoor swimming gear guide is themed more towards “winter” swimming kit. The reason being is most of the year swimming outdoors in the sea, lochs, lakes and rivers the water will be cold. Deep bodies of water do not heat up well. Add to this when the sun is shining and spring arrives, the water feeding into those lochs and rivers can be snow melt (Scottish highlands, Lake District etc). It may look warm, but it is not. So be prepared for the cold, remember you can always take your layers off. So if your looking for a comprehensive guide to shinny swimming stuff, outdoor swimming equipment, cold water swimming gear and wild swimming kit, then you are in the right place.

Compared to the pool where you just need a swimsuit and some goggles, wild swimming can be fairly kit intensive. So let get into the outdoor swimming gear guide.

Keeping your body warm when wild swimming / outdoor swimming /Cold Water Swimming. What To Wear?

Body: Wetsuit

Keeping your core warm is key. This is the upper torso, heart, lungs, etc. The best solution for modern-day outdoor swimmers is not goose fat, ocean greace (Yes, that is what they used to use when swimming the English Channel, some still do.) Cold water and ocean swimmers will often put fat or Vaseline on their bodies to help keep heat, reduce chaffing from swimsuits, help prevent salt burn, and help them through the water. I prefer to wear a Neoprene Wetsuit. but I am not swimming the English Channel.

Neoprene comes in a variety of thicknesses and coatings. Neoprene traps a thin layer of water next to your skin which heats up to body temperature. The thin warm layer and the layer of neoprene work together to form a barrier between you and the outside water and its temperature. Read more about how a wetsuit works.

For outdoor swimming, you are looking at a recreational wetsuit with good stretch for mobility and enough thickness around the core and vital areas. Most modern-day wetsuits are built with varying thicknesses of neoprene. For example, 4mm of neoprene around the body’s core, 2mm at the shoulders for flexibility and mobility and 3mm at the hips and legs for raised swimming position. However, many suits have a 3mm, or 5mm construction throughout. 

Thing to consider

1: Wetsuits work best when they fit well. Read the guide on why they work.

2: Recreational swimmers do not need £600 triathlon smooth skin mega tech wetsuits for swimming down the local pond once a month.

3: If buying a wetsuit with smooth skin, i.e unprotected neoprene outer, be careful and follow the manufacturer’s guide when putting them on and taking them off.


Hands: Neoprene Gloves

Cold Hands, I get cold hands sitting at a desk with the heating on. So a good pair of neoprene gloves is key for functionality and pain-free swimming. Look for blind stitched, glued seams and a gasket. These measures will reduce water ingress and keep your hands toasty warm when open-water swimming. 

Feet: Neoprene Socks

Feet like hands get cold fast and a good pair of neoprene socks will do wonders for your feet when cold water swimming. The same rule applies to socks as they do to gloves. Blind stitched, glued seams good fit, tight gasket. Swim Socks play another vital role for outdoor cold water swimmers and that is they protect your feet. Sometimes getting to the river, beach, or loch can mean traversing stones, pebbles, grassways, forested areas and more, walking across these landscapes with a few mm of neoprene in between you and the ground can increase comfort and prevent injury. Follow the size chart as sometimes you have to size down!

Head: Neoprene Swimming Cap

I always remember someone telling me when I was young that you lose most of your heat through your head, so wear a hat. But a quick Google says it’s not true. Mind Blown. Anyway there are three main things swimmers wear on their heads. Neoprene caps and face masks, silicon caps and bobble hats. The neoprene and silicon are best recommended if you do the front crawl or intend for your head to go under the water. Bobble hats are more for breaststroke and fun group events where frolicking, smiling, laughter and fun water experiences are to be had. Essential for cold water swimming.

Layers: Rash Guards

Just like when you’re in the mountains layering up and down can be done with your wild water swimming kit. Add a neoprene rash guard in 1mm, 2mm to your kit or a 3mm neoprene vest. Again, layering around your core is key to keeping you as warm as possible. Remember that some form of flexibility must be retained for effective swimming. So wrapping yourself up like the Michelin man from Ghost Busters is not ideal.

Post Swim: Changing Robes/ Dryrobe

Pre and post-swimming heat comes in the form of a changing robe or towel. Changing robes allow you protection from the elements whilst you get changed. There are many things to look for, but the main ones are that it is roomy enough to actually get changed in. It has good two-way zips, wide arms and a waterproof exterior. 

After Swim: Warm clothes, dry clothes, socks.

After you are out of your wetsuits or bathing suit, you need to warm back up and having a set of dry, warm clothes to get into is key. Warm undergarments (pants, socks, vest) and some dry warm outer garments like trousers and a jumper, will get you back on track to warm pronto. So store these items in a dry bag, as it may rain when you’re in swimming!

Extra Warmth: A warm Drink

A hot drink, be it from a flask or a local kiosk, is really exceptional after a cold swim. Some folks take their own gas burners! To make a brew. That’s dedication.

Wild Swimming Safety

It is strange to hear, but nature doesn’t care about you. Nature is dangerous, and she is ruthless, so take heed when you enter her bosom. Being prepared is the best way to stay safe in nature, in the outdoors. So before you go to that new swim spot, check the internet, speak to someone who goes there regularly or has been there before, join a Facebook group and ask around. Tides, sewage, access (barbed wire), hazards, and the weather (heavy rains etc) are just some of the information you must consider before going out. Be prepared and there is a high chance that you will have fun and an experience to remember. Do not prepare, and you may remember the experience for all the wrong reasons.

Outdoor swimming safety

Outdoor swimming can be a great way to enjoy your summer and winter and a great way to get some exercise, but it’s important to be aware of the dangers. There are many potential hazards when swimming in open water, including strong currents, tides and flows, cold water temperatures and underwater obstacles. It’s important to be aware of these dangers and take steps to stay safe. For example, good advice is to always swim with a buddy. If you can’t, then you should always make sure someone knows where you are (even if you’re with a buddy, it is still a good habit to form). If you do find yourself in trouble, try to float on your back and wave for help and blow your whistle.

Cold Water Shock

We are not talking about cool water; we are talking about cold water. Have you ever jumped into a cold body of water and had your breath taken away? That’s because of cold water shock. Cold water shock is a physiological response that happens when your body is suddenly exposed to cold water. It can cause an immediate loss of breathing and an increased heart rate. Cold water shock can be deadly, so it’s important to be aware of the risks before you enter any body of water.

Swimming in cold water can be a dangerous proposition if you’re not prepared for it. When your body is suddenly immersed in cold water, your heart rate and blood pressure increase and you start to hyperventilate. This combination of factors can lead to cold water shock, which can cause you to drown. The best way to defend against cold water shock is to slowly acclimate yourself to the cold water by swimming in it for short periods of time. Check out the Wim Hof methods for cold exposure training. 

Extra Visibility: Tow float

A few years ago no one would be seen dead with a tow float, now they are all in the range and for good reason. These small inflatable sacks of bright-coloured goodness are just that visibility aids. The primary function of towfloat is to assist you in being seen, withier by other water users, jet skiers, boats, fishermen or by rescuers. They are not floatation aids, and should not be purchased with this function in mind. The other plus of tow floats is some have external pockets and others have dry bag chambers and can then carry your dry clothes, phone or medication. Also, they are good for strapping your action camera too. 

Water Temperature: Thermometer

It is always a good idea to make a note of the water temperature. Determine where your comfort zone is, and how effective your kit was at that temperature. This way, you can make adjustments on the fly to make sure you will be warm enough. Also, you can make adjustments to the amount of time you plan to go in for, if the water is a lot colder than you are used to and you start to get cold at x minutes, then you could set your watch alarm to go off minutes earlier, etc. Not a competition to see who can stay in the coldest water the longest. Leave that for the Wim Hofers, we are talking about fun, wild swimming, and safety.

Communication and Location: Phone and Apps

There are several cool apps to keep you safe, from location apps like Three Words, to emergency apps that signal or notify a contact if you do not sign in by a certain time. Perfect for solo adventures. Weather apps, tide apps, and more. 

Before and After Swim: Changing Mats

Safety, changing mats? Yes, safety in the sense of protecting your feet. When you get out and you’re getting changed in your epic changing robe, it is always good to have somewhere safe and clean to stand on as you change. From a simple foam mat to a car mat, to a specifically designed changing mat. Your feet will thank you.

In Danger: Whistle

Yes, a simple plastic whistle. You can strap this to your tow float, or a lanyard around your wrist. If you get into difficulty, be it medical or environmental, you can signal and alert those close by that you need attention. 

Carrying kit: Drybags

These serve two key functions transport your dry kit to the swim, transport your wet kit away from the swim. Obviously, you can use multiple dry bags to segment your kit. Dry bags come in a couple of major designs, as a big empty sack, with rucksack straps and as a holdall. Determining what works best for you and the size you need and boom, you’re in the game. These are also key for carrying your key safety items like car keys, medication, sugar, etc. when on a swim. Even if a tow float has a dry bag, your best double bagging.

Post Swim Energy: Food and hot beverages

Everything is better with food and a cup of tea. It is always good to have some supplies with you. Especially if you’re new to cold water swimming.

Track Your Session: A Swimming Watch

A solid waterproof watch that can monitor your time in the water. There are also elite swimming watches that help you with your stroke, measure distance swam, swim strokes, heart rate and more. Impressive.

Navigate In Safety: Light/Torch

Some folks like to go swimming at night and use a torch inside their towfloat to illuminate it. However, swimming at night just adds danger and risk to your swim. We do recommend taking a torch as you may go swimming early morning where having a torch can be handy in getting you to the swimming spot before the sun comes up or it’s late and the sun is going down a torch can help you pack up and navigate back home. 

Eye Protection: Goggles

Just like swimmers in the swimming pool a good pair of swimming goggles can help protect your eyes from chlorine, but in the wild, they can help protect your eyes from excessive debris, and particles in the water, assist with visibility, and tinted glasses can help with the direct sunlight.

Ear Protection: Ear Plugs

A pair of earplugs are great for keeping river water out of your inner ear. There is actually a real danger here. EACE is commonly known as “Kayaker’s Ear”, “Surfer’s Ear”, and “Swimmers Ear”.

After years of repeatedly shocking your ear canals with frigid water; your ears may grow bony spurs as a type of defence mechanism. And it doesn’t take too much exposure to the cold water for this to start to develop. So wearing a pair of earplugs should be on your list. Just ask any long-time kayaker and they will tell you.


After all, life is about fun, and outdoor swimming should be fun. We swim outdoors for fun, community, health, and mental health.

Capture the Moment: Cameras

Action Cameras, still cameras, and phones are all great ways to record your swimming adventures. You never know, you may go on to create a YouTube channel. Recording your swimming adventures is a good way to express yourself. There are many action cameras available, but picking a waterproof one is key. 

Make a YouTube Channel.

Share Your Passion: Wild Swimming T-Shirts And Hoodies

Most of us open water swimmers are proud, we love to tell folks of our passion and our interest in the water and how our friends should take it up. There is no better way to do this than to wear a wild swimming t-shirt or hoodie. They are great icebreakers to get the conversation started. 

Outdoor swimming guide

Outdoor swimming things to consider

If you’re thinking about taking a dip in the great outdoors, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, make sure the weather is appropriate for swimming. You don’t want to get too cold or too hot. Second, make sure you have the proper clothing and equipment. A swimsuit towel and sunscreen are all essentials. Third, be aware of your surroundings. Make sure you know where the nearest exit is in case of an emergency. Finally, enjoy yourself! Swimming is a great way to relax and have fun.

Outdoor pools, rivers, lochs and lakes are a great way to cool off, refresh and exercise while getting some fresh air and vitamin D.

There are a few things to keep in mind when swimming outdoors in the UK. First, keep yourself safe. Second, make sure you are prepared and have the kit you need to keep yourself safe. Simple.

Outdoor swimming guidelines

While there are many wonderful benefits to swimming outdoors, there are also some risks that need to be considered. Foremost, it is important to make sure that the water you are swimming in is clean and safe. Check with your local health department or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for guidance on water quality. Some good links are ….

Second, be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to avoid hazards such as sharp objects, harmful wildlife, weather warnings, heavy rains and strong currents. Finally, always swim with a buddy and let someone know where you will be swimming and when you expect to return.

Outdoor swimming benefits

Swimming is a great way to stay in shape and it’s also a lot of fun. But did you know that there are also some significant benefits to swimming outdoors? Here are just a few of the benefits of outdoor swimming:

1. You can get some great vitamin D: Well, maybe depends on when and where and how much neoprene you have on. But if it’s summer and you’re out with minimal protection, then when you swim outdoors you will be exposed to the sun’s rays which can help your body produce vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for strong bones and it can also help boost your immune system.

2 You can burn more calories: When you swim in colder water, your body has to work harder to keep warm, which means you can burn more calories. A great form of exercise, which can be gentle on the bones and joints compared to running or hill walking, for example.

3 You can reduce stress: Swimming is a great way to relax and de-stress. The rhythmic movement of swimming can help to calm your mind and body. 

4 You can meet new people: Meeting with friends, being part of a community, laughing, telling stories and bonding is great for mental health.


Outdoor swimming is a fun activity with many health benefits. You can swim with as little as a bathing suit or you can go tool up with more shiny gear than an astronaut going on a ten-year mission to Europa.

The key things are to educate yourself about the areas where you are swimming and take the correct kit.

Stay safe, have fun and if this article was of any use. Please feel free to share. Sharing is caring :)

Team Best Outdoors

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