Cold Water Swimming,  EXTRA,  GEAR,  November 2023,  Product Reviews

Best neoprene accessories for open water swimmers

Thermal socks, fleece-lined caps and baselayers: we review some of the best neoprene accessories (and natural rubber alternatives) for keeping you warm while you swim

The best neoprene accessories for wild swimmers

Best neoprene socks for stony ground | Orca Hydro Booties, £39 
Best neoprene cap for visibility |
Zone3 Orange Neoprene Swim Cap, £29
Best neoprene gloves for flexibility |
LOMO Swimming and Triathlon Gloves, £21
Best neoprene vest for women |
Orca, Heatseeker Vest, £54

HUUB Neoprene Swim Socks


They say: The HUUB Neoprene Swim Socks have a protective reinforced sole which provides ‘non slip’ protection and abrasion resistance, and a split-toe design to avoid ‘rolling’ on the foot. They also have adjustable Velcro closures to make this neoprene sock suitable to be worn either over or under your wetsuit.

We say: The remarkably comfortable split-toe design of these HUUB socks allowed me to kick through the water with ease, while the reinforced and grippy sole provided a surprising amount of protection on gravelly ground. Their longer length means you can wear them over or under your wetsuit to reduce water ingress, while the Velcro adjusters provide a tight seal. In skins, some water still seeped in though, but overall I was impressed.

LOMO Neoprene Open Water Swimming Socks


They say: Our soft and stretchy neoprene socks are comfortable to swim in and the glued, double-blind stitched seams have been liquid-seamed on the outside to keep as much water out as possible. Most neoprene socks let in a considerable amount of water and you often feel like you have large water bags attached to your feet. We’ve made a sock that keeps more water out by a combination of being tighter fitting, having better seams and an ankle gasket. 

We say: LOMO takes a buckle and braces approach with glued, blind-stitched seams on the inside and liquid seams on the outside for minimal water ingress. All that engineering means a snug fit, like a second skin, which took a bit of wrestling to get on and felt tight across my toes on dry land but I soon got used to it in the water. The soft soles mean you feel the bumps on the walk in.

Orca Hydro Booties


They say: These booties provide maximum thermal comfort to your feet. And thanks to their fit, they stay put and will not bother you while swimming. The pattern with a separated toe improves the fit, allowing the hydro booties to stay in place, thus preventing water from entering. In addition, the soft thermal lining provides added comfort and prevents chafing on the skin. This accessory should be worn under a neoprene wetsuit to minimise water entry. 

We say: These booties kept my feet so snug and warm during my swim. They’re super flexible and comfortable – I barely noticed they were on – yet the soles were thick and sturdy enough for walking about on the shore. As with the HUUB split-toe design, they feel a bit strange at first but I soon got used to it. They’re also easy to take off with cold, numb fingers – something I’ve found tricky with other neoprene boots.

Zoggs Neo 3 socks


They say: These Zoggs Neo 3 socks are perfect for the multi-sport athlete, especially when there is open water swimming involved. They are made of 3mm double stretch neoprene which provides great thermal insulation when in cold waters. This material means they have a longer life whilst still giving you breathability and freedom of movement. The 3mm neoprene is extremely robust with bonded outer seams.

We say: The stretchy 3mm neoprene fits snugly around the ankle, meaning minimal water ingress, and gives a good degree of flexibility and warmth in the water. Like the Huub socks, they have a nice long ankle length, meaning they can be tucked under your wetsuit leg (although I wore them without a wetsuit and they were fine, too). Unlike other socks tested, the sole doesn’t offer any grip, however.

C-Skins Freedom 4mm Round Toe Thermal Swim Sock


They say: These superb 4mm neoprene socks are specifically designed to provide thermal protection while enabling freedom of movement making them ideal for open water swimming use. The dura flex finished sole provides improved abrasion resistance and protection. Made from thermo tech pro poly lining for added warmth and performance.

We say: At 4mm, these socks are extremely warm and suited to the coldest of waters throughout the winter months. Despite this, it still feels comfortable to wear and doesn’t impede on movement through the water. The material feels durable enough to withstand more tough terrain outdoors.

Finisterre Nieuwland 2e Yulex Pant


They say: Our Nieuwland 2e collection has been designed for a growing community of cold-water swimmers and surfers around the UK. Built with Yulex natural rubber, manufacturing these wetsuit pants produces up to 80% less CO2 than using traditional neoprene. Designed with ergonomic panelling and flatlocked panel seams throughout, it’s built for maximum movement and comfort in the water. The 2mm suit thickness provides a layer of warmth without losing the feeling of the elements.

We say: These pants provide serious warmth without the faff that often comes with having to wear a wetsuit. I love the fact they’re made from Yulex, an eco-friendlier alternative to neoprene. There’s an accompanying jacket also available for the top half of the body. Together, they help you stay comfortable in the water for longer, while still being able to move freely.

Orca Base Layer Neoprene T-shirt


They say: The Base Layer can be used as an outer layer or as an inner layer underneath the wetsuit. In temperate waters, it can be used as an outer layer, protecting you from the cold and the sun without any restriction thanks to its elasticity. In colder temperatures, it is the ideal accessory to wear underneath your wetsuit while swimming in open water.

We say: This is a staple for me throughout the winter; in the coldest of temperatures, I’ve worn this under my wetsuit and have noticed a considerable difference. There’s a pattern specifically designed for women and another for men, both of which conform to the body’s shape for greater performance and comfort.

Huub Neoprene Vest (Unisex)


They say: The Neoprene Vest is a multi-function garment that can be layered up or used on its own. Whether you wear it under your wetsuit to provide extra warmthor wear it as a singular item over swimwear in the summer, it’s a perfect addition to your open water accessories. The super stretch four-way lined neoprene creates a soft and comfortable fit without impeding your swim stroke, providing a perfect solution to cold water races.

We say: This versatile vest is made from super soft and stretchy neoprene, and feels lovely to wear. I liked the high neck design and long length, which didn’t roll or ride up while swimming. I had reservations about how well a unisex vest, especially one without a zip, could fit and sure enough there was some gaping under the arms, which let water in. Next time, I would size down, as I felt the four-way stretch would accommodate it. I wore it over a swimsuit, and it kept my core warm.

Orca Heatseeker Vest


They say: This vest is designed to be used with or without a wetsuit over it. In temperate waters, it can be used as an outer layer, protecting you from the cold and the sun without any restriction thanks to its sleeveless cut. In colder temperatures, it is the ideal accessory to wear underneath your wetsuit while swimming in open water. It has a pattern specifically designed for women, which conforms to the body’s shape for greater performance and comfort.

We say: This neoprene top is a lovely snug fit and is easy to pull on and take off. There’s lots of flexibility in the shoulders for a smooth, unhindered stroke. The vest kept my core warm for a good length of time in the water – I felt I could do a couple of extra lengths in the lake. I really like the cut and shape of the vest; it would be great paired with some neoprene pants for the illusion of a one-piece suit.

Orca Gloves


They say: These gloves have liquid seams which prevent water from seeping into the panels, protecting your hands in the coldest conditions. With a 3mm thickness and an ergonomic pattern, the gloves adapt perfectly to the position your hand will take while swimming in open water. The extra-long pattern also allows the gloves to overlap the wetsuit for better insulation.

We say: While these gloves were superb for keeping my hands warm, I found the fingers a bit stiff and rigid, and they were quite difficult to take off after my swim. But there’s no denying the insulation they provide – the liquid seams protected against leakage, and the snug fit on my wrists also stopped any cold water getting in. These are top performing neoprene gloves, but could do with more flexibility in the fingers. 

Lomo Swimming and Triathlon Gloves


They say: These super stretchy neoprene gloves are very comfortable and feature a wrist gasket to minimise water ingress whilst swimming. The seams are glued, then blind stitched, then liquid seamed on the outside. The stretchy material allows the gloves to conform to the shape of the hand and the wrist gasket keeps water ingress down to a minimum.

We say: I really rated these gloves. As with the socks, they are skillfully designed to keep cold water out: the short cuff has a gasket seal that fits tightly to the wrist, while the 3mm neoprene is glued then blind stitched inside and there are liquid seams on the outside. All of this engineering means a snug fit (I had to wrestle with them a bit to get them on), but once in the water there was zero water ingress on a 750m swim.

Zoggs Neoprene Gloves 3


They say: These Zoggs Neo 3 Gloves are perfect for the multisport athlete, especially when there is open water swimming involved. They are made of 3mm double stretch neoprene which provides great thermal insulation when in cold waters. This material means they have a longer life while still giving you breathability and freedom of movement. The 3mm neoprene is extremely robust with bonded outer seams.

We say: While the lovely thick double-stretch neoprene did a great job of keeping my hands warm, the gloves felt chunkier and less flexible than others on test. Also, without a gasket or fastener at the wrist, they let more water in, although sizing down would probably fix this. With bonded outer seams, they felt robust and hardwearing, warm and easy to get on and off, so still a great option at a good price.

Zone-3 Neoprene Heat-tech Warmth Swim Cap


They say: Anyone who has experienced ‘brain-freeze’ when swimming in cold water will know how valuable triathlon skull caps can be to get you going! Our Neoprene Heat-Tech Warm Swim Cap offers fleece-lined insulation while maintaining optimal hydrodynamics through the water. Made of high quality 4mm Yamamoto Smoothskin material. Our design is focused on making this cap the best fit possible, with hook and loop fastening under the chin to cater for different head sizes.

We say: Very often when swimming, my head is the first thing that gets cold. This cap, with its fleece-lined insulation, keeps my head as toasty as the rest of my neoprene-clad body in winter months. I assumed the cap would be slightly clunky when compared to a silicone hat, but the hook and loop fastening allow for a really snug fit.

HUUB Neoprene Skull Cap


They say: The HUUB Neoprene Skull Swim Cap is a fully adjustable swim hat. It has an adjustable chin strap for extra comfort when swimming in open water and high-grade 3mm neoprene for added warmth. The most comfortable neoprene swim cap on the market.

We say: This cap is made from super soft and stretchy 3mm neoprene, which feels comfortable and keeps your head warm with a fit that doesn’t feel claustrophobic. While the silver branding on the top delivers some degree of visibility, you can always pop a bright silicone cap on top for racing or for extra peace of mind in the water. The cap is available in three sizes, but consider sizing up; the medium rode up a little without a silicone cap to keep it in place. A super neoprene cap for the price!

Orca Thermal Neoprene Swim Cap


They say: This neoprene cap offers extra thermal comfort thanks to its 3mm thick neoprene and thermal lining. The soft thermal lining provides added warmth, helping to trap extra heat and avoid heat loss, while preventing chafing which is common with these types of accessories. The Velcro chin strap allows you to adjust the cap to the shape of your head, providing our most comfortable cap.

We say: Usually I find swim caps too tight but the adjustable chin strap on this one makes it so easy and comfortable to wear. I’m prone to ‘brain freeze’ when I immerse my head in cold water, but the cap’s 3mm-thick neoprene protected me from any discomfort, while the soft lining – not present in other caps tested – felt like an added bonus, adding another element of comfort and warmth.

Zone3 Orange Neoprene Swim Cap


They say: Our Neoprene Skull Cap provides warmth while maintaining good hydrodynamics through the water. The biggest complaint from swimmers who use one-piece caps is that they can feel ‘tight’ under the chin. Our design gives the best fit possible, with a hook and loop fastening to cater for different sizes. 

We say: This bright orange swim cap is reassuringly visible. As well as keeping my head warm, the 4mm high-friction material didn’t budge and kept my goggles in place, while the fastening under the chin was the comfiest of the caps tested and offered a good amount of adjustability in terms of fit. As with all the caps tested, it can be tricky getting the right fit for long or thick hair. Measure your head while wearing a silicone cap to find the right size. 

Find all the gear you need for open water swimming, from adventure bags and swimming togs to tow floats and changing robes, at the Outdoor Swimming Shop. Read more gear reviews. If you buy a product through a link on this page we may receive a commission. Last updated Nov 2023.

Stay up to date with The Dip, our free weekly outdoor swimming newsletter.

Jo is the Gear Editor for Outdoor Swimmer and also writes news and features for the website. A keen open water swimmer and long-distance walker, she loves seeking out lakes and lidos close to her home in the Mendip Hills, Somerset. She is the author of The Slow Traveller, editor and founder of independent magazine, Ernest, and has previously tested outdoor clothing and kit for BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC Focus and Ernest Journal.