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

The best long sleeve swimsuits and tops for outdoor swimmers

Whether for warmth, style or modesty, a long sleeve swimming suit or top can be a versatile addition to your kit bag – great for spring or autumn dips or to add a few extra degrees under a wetsuit in winter. Read on for our pick, in men’s and women’s styles

Best for layering | Davy J Bonded Long Sleeve Swim Top, £110
Best for pool swimming | Speedo Women’s Long Sleeve Swimsuit, £48
Best for longer swims | Finisterre Men’s Nieuwland 2e Yulex Long Sleeve Top, £110
Best for bust support | Deakin & Blue Long Sleeve Swimsuit, Plum, £130

Alpkit Hurley Outdoor Swimming Top


They say: A form-fitting, recycled fabric swimming top for shorter swims when you don’t need a wetsuit. Made using ECONYL, a recycled yarn made from ocean plastics and nylon waste. Long sleeves and UPF 50+ offer warmth and UV protection. Figure-hugging fabric and panelled fit for freedom of movement in the water. (Chest 34”-49” – also available in women’s).

We say: Wearing this long sleeve top took the edge off entering the water, the thick material adding a couple of degrees warmth during our swim and reducing wind chill after. The fit was snug, but didn’t ride up or restrict movement. Unlike a rash vest, this top is specifically designed for swimmers so instead of a high neck (to prevent chafing), the neck sits flat on the collar bone to prevent water from flushing down your front.

Davy J Bonded Long Sleeve Swim Top


They say: A striking ocean green on one side and black on the other, this layering swim top is made from a 1mm bonded material that gives you the feeling of wearing something half-way between a wetsuit and a swimsuit but with no neoprene. The fit doesn’t need to be snug, which allows it to be worn over a swimsuit giving the illusion of a one piece. (Size 6-20).

We say: We absolutely loved this top, with its intentionally boxy, slightly cropped fit and thumb loops, which you can easily pull over thermal gloves. The reversible design felt versatile; we wore the ocean green with high waisted pants and the black layered over a swimsuit. The 1mm bonded fabric (made from waste such as fishing nets and plastic scraps) felt thick and comfortable, and the front zip made it easy to get on and off.

Finisterre Women’s Nieuwland 2e Yulex Long Sleeve Swimsuit


They say: Enjoy the elements whilst adding a layer of warmth. Made from Yulex natural rubber, it’s a clean alternative to neoprene, and added support and coverage will optimise your ocean time whilst aiding confidence and comfort. Ergonomic panels allows for a full range of movement whether your swimming, surfing or paddling. (Size 6-18).

We say: This suit was immediately comfortable, flexible and warmer than a swimsuit for extended time in the water. The fit is well-suited to outdoor swimming: the one-piece design meant no cold tummy and limited water ingress, while the shoulders were flexible enough for front crawl and the additional buoyancy didn’t interfere with body position. The only downside was needing help to take it off – the zip could be longer!

Zone 3 Men’s Yulex Long Sleeve Top


They say: With 1.5mm thickness throughout and full coverage across the back and arms, this Yulex swimming top provides core warmth and protection from the elements while allowing great freedom of movement. It is eco-friendly too; by using natural rubber, the suit’s CO2 emissions are reduced by up to 80% (Chest 32”-50”).

We say: Great for protection against the sun or cool water. Enough flexibility and buoyancy to support recreational front crawl or breaststroke swimming but wouldn’t substitute for a wetsuit in a race or on a long swim. Can be combined with matching Yulex Jammer for additional coverage but we found a gap opened between the two when swimming front crawl. We liked the understated styling, generous sleeve length and that it was less fuss to put on than a wetsuit.

Mor Swimmy Moons Recycled Short Rash Guard


They say: Our long sleeved swim top is perfect for taking the chill off your arms and upper body during colder winter months. Pair it with your swimsuit for double layers on your torso, or mix and match with our bikini bottoms, shorts or leggings. This design has a slightly cropped style with a wide waist band for comfort and security. (Size 4-30).

We say: We love the fun prints and joyful approach that this Cornish brand offers. All swimwear is made to order which means no waste stock, but also means the items are non-refundable – so check your size against their guide. This top did exactly as promised and kept the chill off back and arms. The thick band that sits on the waist, is soft and supportive and didn’t ride or roll up as we swam. Could be layered over any swimwear! Easy drying too. 

Davy J Bonded Long Sleeve Swimsuit


They say: A staple piece to see you through dips during the chillier months, this Bonded Long Sleeve Swimsuit features a flattering mid-high leg and is made from a 1mm bonded material that gives you the feeling of wearing something half-way between a wetsuit and a swimsuit but with no neoprene in sight. This reversible swimsuit features a classic full black side and a striking powder blue side with contrast stitching, has bound edge thumb holes. (Size: 6-20)

We say: A beautifully-made swimsuit, in a recycled 1mm bonded material that not only feels really premium but also provides extra warmth without needing to wear neoprene. The powder blue looks gorgeous, and it’s also available in a stunning ocean green. The long front zip made changing easy, which is not always the case with long sleeve swimsuits! As with the bonded top (above), the sleeves are lovely and long to fit tall folk and allow adequate arm movement when swimming, but can equally be folded back for those who don’t need the length. The higher leg cut felt great in the water and allowed fantastic freedom of movement.

Speedo Women’s Long Sleeve Swimsuit


They say: The suit includes a front zip opening, bust shelf liner and provides full coverage across the chest, back and arms. Offering higher chlorine resistance than standard swimwear fabrics, our ECO EnduraBrite fabric delivers superb colour performance and is made in part from recycled plastic bottles. (Size: 6-20).

We say: We really rated this swimsuit, one of four long sleeve styles from Speedo. The close fit felt comfortable, with light invisible bust support and great flexibility in the arms. The mid-leg cut struck a good balance between modesty and ease of movement. Although it has a shorter front zip than some, the stretchy fabric made changing easy. While it won’t add much warmth for outdoor swims, for recreational pool swims we couldn’t fault it.

Zoggs Women’s Long Sleeve Zip Sun Top


They say: Protect yourself from the sun’s UV rays with our long sleeve zip front sun top. Ideal for swim instructors or for a day at the beach. With flat seams for comfort and easy zip front, this top is an essential in the hot piercing sun. Made with Ecolast+ fabric that features REPREVE yarn made from recycled post consumer plastic bottles. The fabric has four times greater compression that generic swimwear fabrics, is 100% chlorine proof and comes with our Lifetime Guarantee. (Size 8-18).

We say: We wore this during a blustery afternoon paddle-boarding session followed by a quick dip in the river. The top kept the sun’s rays off and also provided a layer of protection from the chilly wind. We didn’t find the cut and ‘relaxed fit’ very flattering but it was comfortable to swim in and ideal for paddle boarding in the sunshine too.

Vivida Linda Reversible Wetsuit


They say: Made for swimming and surfing, the reversible shortie Linda Wetsuit is the perfect match for year-round water adventures. The Linda Wetsuit’s flexible, sustainable 2mm neoprene offers the ideal mix of insulation, ease of movement, elegance and connection with nature. The unique fully reversible design gives you two suits in one. (Size 8-18).

We say: We tried this out in 12.5 degree water and it kept our tester remarkably warm. We put this down to the snug fit and high elastane content, which meant it stayed put, alongside other well-designed features such as a secure collar seal and medium leg rise with stay-put binding, all contributing to minimising water ingress. The suit now features a longer front zip, which makes changing very smooth and easy. We love the ‘Map of Dreams’ design!

Finisterre Men’s Nieuwland 2e Yulex Long Sleeve Top


They say: Perform and stay warm in the
water for longer, with maximum comfort and movement. Calling on all our cold water expertise, the Nieuwland 2mm Long Sleeve Top is designed for ocean explorers. It’s made with Yulex Natural Rubber, a plant-based alternative to neoprene that cuts carbon emissions by 80%.
(Chest 35”-45”).

We say: The close-fitting style and four-way stretch of this 2mm Yulex long sleeve top felt supportive in the right places, comfy and flexible. The waistline pull cord stopped it riding up and together with the slight rise on the collar, prevented water ingress. As well as being flexible enough for front crawl, the top provided some welcome buoyancy, too. 

Speedo Men’s Printed Long Sleeve Swim Tee (Teal)


They say: Stay protected from the sun whatever the weather. Comfortable wet and dry, the relaxed-fit, pull-on style offers UPF 40 fabric sun protection. Ideal for the beach and pool, our Eco EnduraBrite fabric offers higher chlorine resistance. Made in part from recycled plastic bottles, the polyester yarn in the fabric is made from 100% post-consumer waste. (Chest 35”46”).

We say: Protection from the sun is essential when you are swimming and this long-sleeved swim top would be ideal for long summer days in and around the water; we will definitely be wearing it for paddleboarding next summer. While the style didn’t hinder our tester’s stroke, we found its looser fit made it better suited to short swims. It can also be worn under a wetsuit as an extra layer for warmth and with its high chlorine resistance, it’s fine for the pool, too. 

Orca Base Layer Women Neoprene T-Shirt


They say: The neoprene 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. 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. (Size 8-16).

We say: As a sole layer during a cold-water swim, this 1.3mm neoprene t-shirt felt flexible and comfortable and kept us warm for a long time in the water, while under a wetsuit we also noticed a considerable difference. There’s a pattern specifically designed for women and another for men. We also liked the fitted style of the top; it felt like a second skin, and the neckline was just right, not constricting at all.

Deakin & Blue Long Sleeve Swimsuit (Plum)


They say: Our sleek, elegant and versatile long sleeve swimsuit. For surfing, swimming or simply styling under denim shorts at the poolside bar this piece is designed to offer easy poolside style. Built-in bust support including luxe under-bust elastic for lift and shape, elegant boatneck finish to sit across the collarbone and super soft powermesh sleeves and hips for a sculpted silhouette. (Size 8-24, AA-HH cup).

We say: The mesh sleeves are not going to make a huge difference temperature wise, but the high-back-neckline and thick, quality fabric on this suit does make it a warmer choice. It takes the chill off the skin in and out of the water. As with all Deakin & Blue suits the bust support is exceptional, it offers comfort and decent support as well as style. We always get positive comments when we wear this suit!

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. If you buy a product through a link on this page we may receive a commission. Last updated Nov 2023.

Read our guide to the best neoprene accessories for cold-water swimmers.

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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.