Gear Guide for Cold Water Swimming
Cold water swimming has become popular due to its positive effects. While it may not be suitable for everyone, it is said to provide various health benefits such as enhanced blood circulation, stress reduction, pain relief, increased libido, and promotes the formation of "good" fat, which aids in the burning of calories and combats obesity.
However, it may not be good for everyone because it has risks, particularly when we fail to use proper gear. So, when dipping in cold water, it is important to take the necessary precautions.
If you're new to outdoor swimming and wondering what to wear for cold water swims, you might be shocked to learn that you don't need a whole lot of expensive equipment or specialist gear to get started. Nonetheless, I've learned to value a few must haves in my cold water swimming gear collection. These items have not only increased my enjoyment and safety, but they have also expanded my potential for more daring swims.
Essential Gear for Cold Water Swimming
A wetsuit is a specific garment made for those who spend lengthy periods of time in cold water, such as swimmers, divers, and surfers. Wetsuits insulate the wearer, retaining body heat and preventing hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition.
It also helps in the management of the first gasp reaction and quick breathing when entering cold water, allowing more flexibility and comfort when swimming, and protects your skin from direct exposure, reducing the danger of frostbite.
These suits, made of a form of rubber known as neoprene, trap water between the neoprene material and the wearer's skin. As a result, the wearer remains continually wet, hence the name "wetsuit." The warmth created by the body assists to heat the thin layer of retained water, keeping the wearer at a pleasant temperature.
Wetsuits can cover the full body or cover selected parts such as the legs or torso. Hoods, coats, and vests can also be worn in addition to the wetsuit for increased protection.
If you're serious about cold water swimming, I recommend investing in a wetsuit that’s going to last!
You’ll likely need a full wetsuit if you plan to swim in water that’s any colder than 45°F. Though, it’s still helpful to understand which suit is best for certain temperatures. So, what are the different types of wetsuit?
- Full wetsuits – Wetsuits that cover the entire body, including the arms and legs, are known as full wetsuits. They are ideal for colder water temperatures and offer excellent insulation. Surfing, scuba diving, and cold water swimming are all frequent uses for full wetsuits.
- Shorties – Shorty wetsuits have short sleeves and legs, making them perfect for swimming in warm weather. They provide less covering and insulation than complete wetsuits and are commonly used in milder climes for activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, and surfing.
- Sleeveless wetsuits – Sleeveless wetsuits are ideal for quick changeover. They provide a less tight fit, making them appropriate for both gym goers and new athletes.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Wetsuit
- Thickness – Wetsuits come in a variety of thicknesses, which are commonly measured in millimeters. Of course, the thicker wetsuit is, the better insulation it provides. However, it can be a disadvantage as they may limit movement, so consider the proper combination of warmth and movement for your activity.
- Material – Wetsuits are primarily made from neoprene, but variations in neoprene quality can impact flexibility and durability. High-quality neoprene is often more comfortable and durable.
- Fit – The wetsuit must fit securely to prevent the layer of water from growing too wide in order to efficiently retain heat. Ensure that the wetsuit fits snugly but not too tightly. See the manufacturer's size chart before purchasing and, if possible, try on the wetsuit.
A neoprene swim cap is another must-have accessory for winter swimming. Because the head loses a substantial amount of body heat, wearing a neoprene swim hat or a cold water swimming cap can be extremely efficient in keeping you warm in the water. These caps are built in the same way that wetsuits are, with a snug fit that is essential for insulation. When you put one on, you may feel as if you're having a tiny facelift, which is strange but well worth it for the additional comfort during winter swims.
These swim helmets also have the added benefit of keeping water out of your ear canal. You may have spotted cold water swimmers wearing wooly caps while swimming. This is yet another fantastic alternative.
Types of Neoprene Swim Caps
- Standard caps – These are basic neoprene caps meant to provide thermal insulation and prevent heat loss from the head while swimming in cold water. They are typically form-fitting and available in a variety of thicknesses to accommodate varying water temperatures.
- Hooded caps –These caps feature a neoprene hood and chin strap. They cover the entire head and neck, providing optimum warmth and protection in extremely cold water conditions.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Swim Cap
- Thickness – Similar to wetsuits, the thicker the cap is, the better insulation it offers, but the less comfortable and flexible it is.
- Fit – A proper fit prevents water from entering and maximizes warmth.
- Insulation properties – Some neoprene caps contain thermal linings on the inside, such as fleece, to increase warmth and comfort. These are useful in extremely cold weather.
Neoprene Gloves and Socks
Don’t you hate stepping on sharp rocks whenever you go out for a swim? Cold water swimming gloves and socks keep you warm underwater and are an excellent solution for people who have sensitive and uncomfortable hands and feet. It is crucial to note, however, that they can make your arms and feet feel heavier. Choose ones that are snug fitting from swimming to ensure its effectiveness.
Loose or baggy socks absorb moisture and become less effective at keeping you warm. They can also make you feel as though you're dragging weights behind you, which can be uncomfortable. Tuck your socks inside your wetsuit while swimming to enhance warmth and comfort.
Types of Neoprene Gloves & Socks
- Gloves with webbed fingers – These give you more resistance in the water while swimming. They're great for pool workouts and increasing the intensity of your triathlon swim training.
Five-finger gloves – These gloves include separate compartments for each finger, allowing for greater dexterity and finger mobility. They are suitable for activities requiring precision, such as scuba diving and spearfishing.
- Booties –These are a combination of neoprene socks and tough soles that provide warmth and protection for your feet. They are often utilized in cold water surfing and diving.
Additional Gear for Cold Water Swimming
Pre & Post-Warming Gear
Getting in & out of the cold water is only half the battle. But especially in extreme conditions, you’re just as at risk for hypothermia out of the water as you are while swimming. If you lack the right pre & post-warming gear, you may have a dangerous experience. To stay warm on your way to & from the entry point, wrap yourself in a Surf-Fur water parka, which acts as a thermal buffer, preserving body heat and stabilizing temperatures before and after swimming in cold water. By preventing rapid heat loss and providing protection against wind and water, it significantly reduces the risk of hypothermia and ensures a comfortable and safe post-swim experience.
Surf-fur towels, on the other hand, work by effectively absorbing and eliminating moisture from your skin and swimsuit, resulting in a dry layer that acts as insulation. They assist you maintain a more steady and comfortable body temperature following water activities by minimizing rapid heat loss through evaporation, reducing the risk of hypothermia and improving overall comfort.
Thermal swimwear combines a thermal fabric with thermal water to protect you against cold water. Thermal swimwear's primary benefit is its better insulation properties. The materials used are intended to trap and retain body heat, keeping you warm in freezing situations. They help in faster swimming and protect you from harmful UV rays. All of this helps you stay fit and happy while doing what you enjoy.
What are the different types of thermal swimwear?
Drysuits are made to keep you fully dry by forming a waterproof barrier around your neck and wrists. Some drysuits additionally have an undergarment or thermal lining to provide thermal insulation. Drysuits are suited for use in extremely cold water. However, you’d never swim in cold water with them as they’re far too baggy.
Thermal rash guards
These are lightweight and have a close fit. Although they are not as thick as wetsuits, they provide some thermal insulation and are useful in milder cold water circumstances. They are frequently worn as an additional layer beneath wetsuits for warmth.
Although they can be uncomfortable, the benefits they provide to swimmers far outweigh their disadvantages. A swim cap, when worn properly, reduces water resistance and thus helps the swimmer swim faster!
There are several other types of swim caps to choose from that aren’t made of neoprene:
- Silicone caps – Silicone caps are more durable and last longer than latex caps. The smooth edges prevent hair from breaking and make it easier to put on and take off. Dome-shaped caps and a lack of creases also help in reducing drag in the water.
- Latex caps – A latex swim cap is made of a stretchy rubber-like substance that is thinner than a silicone swim cap. These caps are typically available in a single, plain color. Latex caps frequently have a matte surface and smell similar to balloons.
The key benefit of latex caps is their low cost, which efficiently keeps hair away from the face and protects it from pool chemicals, particularly chlorine.
Latex swim caps provide a snug fit due to its thin composition, resulting in lower hydrodynamic resistance as compared to other cap varieties. This explains why latex caps are popular among competitive swimmers.
Goggles are important for cold water swimming because they provide eye protection, maintain visibility, improve thermal comfort, lower the risk of infection, and provide a variety of other benefits that contribute to a safer and more enjoyable cold water swimming experience.
There are several types of goggles to choose from:
Clear lens goggles – As the name implies, clear lens goggles have transparent or clear lenses that allow for maximum light transmission. These goggles are designed to enable clear, distortion-free vision in a variety of swimming conditions and environments.
Polarized goggles – Polarized goggles are a type of swimming eyewear that has lenses with a polarizing filter. Polarized goggles are excellent for outdoor swimming, open water swimming, and other water sports since this filter reduces glare and improves visibility in bright and reflecting settings.
Your goggles are likely to fog in the first few seconds, especially with the contrast between your warm body heat and the freezing water. Make sure that your goggles are treated with the best anti-fog coatings so that you can see where you’re swimming & diving.
Dry bags are versatile and reliable accessories for anyone engaging in water-based activities or facing snowy conditions. They offer waterproof protection, buoyancy, and durability, ensuring that your valuables and gear remain dry and safe. Whether you're swimming, diving, or navigating snowy terrain, these waterproof dry bags provide peace of mind and convenience for safeguarding your belongings.
Cold water swimming is an exciting and satisfying experience that provides a unique connection with nature as well as a slew of physical and emotional benefits. However, it is critical to approach this sport with caution and the appropriate equipment to ensure safety, comfort, and enjoyment.
Using proper gear, such as wetsuits, neoprene caps, gloves, socks, goggles, and dry bags, is essential in cold water swimming. These products are specifically designed to provide insulation, protection, and convenience, allowing you to fully embrace the cold water and its many advantages.
Surf-fur offers a range of high-quality gear and accessories tailored for cold water adventurers. From cozy Surf Fur Waterparkas that stabilize your body temperature before and after your swim to waterproof dry bags that keep your valuables safe and dry, Surf-fur products are designed with your comfort and safety in mind.
So, jump into the cool waters of a mountain lake, fight the waves of the ocean, and swim in the midst of winter's wonderland! However, make sure you have Surf-fur gear. It's a key to an amazing world of cold water swimming, allowing you to experience nature's pleasures and calm while being warm, safe, and ready for adventure. Dive in with Surf-fur and embrace the cold!