Tow float bag
COACH,  EXTRA,  FEATURES,  GEAR,  Gear Advice,  May 2023,  Top Tips

What to carry in a tow float bag

Tow floats or tow bags are now widely used by outdoor swimmers, but what do people carry in them?

The initial motivation for swimmers using tow floats was to solve the problem of being difficult to spot in the water. Tow floats are literally bright floats that you tow while swimming. The only thing inside is air. Ten years ago, before the use of tow floats was as common as it is today, swimmers also experimented with other devices to improve visibility.

For example, I once tested a waist belt with a flag that waved and waggled above my backside as I swam. However, the simplicity and practicality of the tow float helped it become the dominant product.

Swimmers quickly realised that with a few product developments, tow floats could be turned into waterproof floating bags and serve a dual purpose: visibility and carrying stuff.

But what stuff?

Well, often, it is still just air. Swimmers buy tow bags but use them as tow floats. But what you could carry is only limited by your imagination and the size of the bag. Things I’ve carried or seen being carried include:

  • Telephones (useful for emergencies – but consider keeping in a separate waterproof pouch)
  • Keys (consider keeping keys with electronic fobs in a separate waterproof pouch)
  • A towel and your clothes (useful for point-to-point swims or if your clothes are at risk of being stolen from the beach or bank)
  • A drinks bottle
  • Energy gels or snacks
  • A picnic (swim to an island, picnic and swim home again)
  • Medication (for example, asthma inhalers)
  • ID and / or MedicAlert
  • Spare goggles
  • Flip flops
  • Bicycle lights (turn on the light for a glow-in-the-dark tow bag)

There is now a wide range of tow bags available so you should be able to find one to suit your needs. For racing, I prefer to use a simple tow float as they are the lightest and have minimal impact on swimming.

If I want my phone handy for taking pictures, I use a tow bag with a mesh outer pocket. I put the phone in a waterproof case (attached to the bag with a secure line) into the mesh
pocket so I can grab it quickly.

For a few lightweight items, I like the tow donut, which you can pack and unpack without
deflating. It’s also possible to retrieve items, such as snacks, from a tow donut while on the water. For point-to-point swims, a large bag that can hold shoes, towel and clothes is best.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen carried in a tow bag? Let us know.

What do you want to know about outdoor swimming? With new people coming into outdoor swimming all the time, we frequently get asked similar questions over and again. But we don’t mind. There are no stupid questions and a simple or old question can turn up an unexpected or new answer, so ask away: We love hearing from you.

To see all the online content from the May 2023 issue of Outdoor Swimmer, visit the 'Spring(s)' page.
Stay up to date with The Dip, our free weekly outdoor swimming newsletter.

Outdoor Swimmer is the magazine for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We write about fabulous wild swimming locations, amazing swim challenges, swim training advice and swimming gear reviews.