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FEATURES,  GEAR,  Gear Advice

Go to gear: outdoor swimming kit we simply couldn’t be without

The Outdoor Swimmer team shares the gear that keeps on giving – their ‘go to’ clothing and accessories that are never far from their kit bag. 

Thermal swimsuit by Jo Tinsley, Gear Editor

“I bought this neoprene long-sleeved swimsuit eight years ago and it has served me so well over the years. It’s lightweight and easy to pack into a kit bag or even take abroad, much less awkward than a full length wetsuit. I appreciate it most in the spring and autumn, when I want to feel the water while maintaining some core warmth, but I’ve also worn it for summer swim hikes and coastal foraging walks when it brings sun protection while cushioning the effect of temperature changes when getting in and out of the water, and for quick winter dips, too, so it’s a real year-round swimsuit. It’s also such a classic style, and easy to get on with a long back zip, I always feel comfortable wearing it and I can imagine I will for years to come.” Photo: Graeme Owsianski.

Swim shoes by Ella Foote, Editor

“The one piece of kit I never go anywhere without is my swim shoes, they are also the item most people comment on. My Vibram FiveFingers V-Souls are not traditional swim shoes or even designed and made for swimming. They are actually designed for yoga or Pilates but they are the best thing I have found for swimming. I find neoprene swim socks too tight and difficult to get on and off and most swim shoes fill with water and flop about. These, although more expensive, fit literally like a glove for your feet with a rubber sole that protects the skin. I can swim long distances, jump in and out of the water, clamber over rocks and walk in them. They are light, comfortable, flexible and easy to wash. I have had my current pair for three years, but I have been wearing the same style for over ten years!”

A tough drybag by Jonathan Cowie, Contributing Editor

“This little drybag for carrying my swim hat and goggles is my one year-round piece of kit. It will also fit in a lightweight towel – in summer it is often the only bag I take to the lake if I want to pack light. After swimming it stops my wet trunks and towel getting everything else in my bag damp. I use it when paddleboarding to store my wallet, keys and phone and on holiday, it becomes a washbag/beachbag/manbag! Who needs a designer handbag when you have a 3L drybag!”

Prescription swimming goggles by Simon Griffiths, Publisher

“I’d be lost – literally and metaphorically – without prescription goggles. Being able to see clearly adds so much to any outdoor swimming experience, whether it’s navigating to a turning buoy or the finish line in a race, watching out for rowers and other fast-moving hazards while training in the river, or catching an elusive dazzling glimpse of a kingfisher on a wild swimming dip. I have three go-to pairs, based on different conditions. For grey and overcast conditions and indoor training – and also great value for money – try Sutton Shark Goggles. For bright conditions or if you prefer a wider lens, try Sutton Surf goggles. While Swans SR2 Mirrored Prescription Goggles are great all-rounders.”

Hammam towel by Abi Whyte, Digital Journalist

“A vital part of my swim kit is my hammam towel. It’s so light, quick to dry and it rolls up nice and small so it doesn’t take up much room in my kit bag. Being 100% cotton, it’s also micro-plastic free unlike many microfibre towels. As well as a towel to dry with after swimming I’ve used it as a picnic blanket, something to lie on while sunbathing – I’ve even used it as a scarf on chilly evenings outdoors. It’s been a part of my swim kit for about five years now and it still looks as good as the day I bought it, despite frequent use. I LOVE it.”

A chunky bobble hat by Yvonne Turner, Commercial Director  

“I love my Big Bobble Hat. In fact, the whole family loves a chunky bobble hat, particularly when swimming in the sea during the colder months. It makes me feel braver entering the water and taking on the elements. We can be cosy and snug up top, and it remains on for the swim and even post swim for the inevitable fish and chips. I have had mine for five years now but I’m always tempted by different designs and colours. It’s good for me as I get nervous swimming in the sea but I find that this calms me as it takes away the wind and cold around my face – it bring everything almost closer in. Plus, I look better in pics with a big hat!”

What’s your ‘go to’ gear? Share a pic and your story with us on Instagram by tagging @outdoorswimmer and using #SwimWildAndFree

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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.