Best tow floats and dry bags for open water swimming
There are a number of different kinds of tow float on the market: we tested a range of products with different features so you can decide which is right for you. Some contain storage, others hydration options.
Read more about tow floats and why you need one for outdoor swimming here.
We tested: Pink Tow Float (£21), Tow Donut (£27), Medium Dry Bag (£30), Wild Swim Bag (£36)
Full range includes, Dry Bag with window, Tow Float Pro, Tow Float Elite, Hydration Float, Tow Woggle
Tow Float (£21)
The pioneer of tow floats and dry bags, the Swim Secure product range is the largest selling in the UK. The original orange tow float is also available in pink, which we tested. This is a simple tow float designed to give swimmers greater visibility in the water. Perfect if you need to wear a tow float for your local open water venue. Quality is high and the float is inflated using an easy to use non-return valve.
Tow Donut (£27)
The Tow Donut is slightly larger than the original tow float with a flatter profile. It includes a small transparent dry bag on the top of the float where you can store valuables, nutrition, a drink, mobile phone or camera etc. The dry bag is closed by folding down the bag and securing with a clip fastening. The dry bag is easily accessible from the water (although we would probably use a waterproof bag for your phone, just in case!). The Tow Donut is also great for night swimming as you can put a torch in the transparent dry bag.
Medium Dry Bag (£30) (also available in small, large and extra large)
Next from the Swim Secure range we tested their medium (28l) Dry Bag. This bag is also available in small, large and extra large. It’s great if you want to carry a bit of kit on your adventure swim. The medium will take a pair of shoes and light clothing – go for a larger bag if you are planning a bigger adventure and need to carry more stuff. Again, quality is high and the bag is inflated using two non-return valves.
Wild Swim Bag (£36)
The Wild Swim Bag is a 30 litre inflatable dry bag with shoulder straps, waist and chest straps. Walk, hike, run, then remove straps and it’s a tow float. Great for wild swim adventures. Also great for swimrun training if you want to carry a bit of extra kit with you.
We tested: Safety Buoy with hydration bladder pocket (£35)
Orca’s safety buoy features both an internal waterproof compartment (big enough to hold a travel towel, flip flops, shorts and t-shirt) and an external mesh pocket, that could be used for a hydration bladder or water bottle and snacks for a longer distance swim. On the model we tested, the waist strap runs through the mesh pocket, which means the pocket stays on the underneath – better for stability but we did notice some drag with this. The bag is reassuringly robust. This is a great product for a leisure swim with a picnic but we’d opt for something lighter if racing.
We tested: Billy Eco15 Drybag Tow Float £26.99
A great 15L unobtrusive float from Lake District-based company Puffin Swim that’s a friend to the environment as you explore it! It is eco-friendly and PVC free. The Puffin Swim range also includes 20l and 28l dry bag floats and a bubble float available in pink and orange.
We tested: 20l Swim Buoy ($49.95), Swim Bubble ($39.95)
The 20l Swim Buoy is also available in a smaller 15l size. These bags aren’t big enough for adventure swimming, like the Swim Secure dry bags, but would be perfect if you were racing and wanted to take a towel and your valuables with you. Both the dry bag and Bubble (buoy) are inflated with an easy to use valve that you screw to close. Available in a rainbow of colours.
We tested: Safety Buoy (£27.99)
Available in pink and orange, the Head Safety Buoy is also a dry bag large enough to stuff with a pair of flip flops and micro fibre towel. We liked the slightly muted pink but the traditional valve needed quite a bit of puff to inflate.
We tested: Dry Bag Swimming Tow Float (£19.99), Swimming Tow Float (£13)
The Dry Bag and Tow Float from Lomo are available in pink and high vis (although slightly muted) orange. We like the valves on the Lomo products – easy to inflate and very quick to deflate. Both the Tow Float and Dry Bag have grab handles either side. The Dry Bag is 28l, so large enough to take a change of clothes. We also like the carabiner hooks used to attach the leash to the bag. Good value products.
We tested: Hydration Buoy (£40)
Full range includes Swim Buoy/Dry Bag, Donut Swim Buoy
We liked this product from Zone3, a tow float with built-in hydration bladder. Fill the bladder with water or sports drink and insert in the tow float before inflating. Once swimming, hydrate by drinking from the tube that attaches to the side of the float with a clip. Can still be used to grab onto for a rest if necessary – the hydration bladder sits snug with no danger of falling out.
We tested: Open Water Guardian Towfloat / Drybag (£34.99)
The Ulu Towfloat/Drybag includes a couple of safety features we haven’t seen before, and which have been protected as Registered Designs. For added visibility, especially in low light conditions or to aid being found by a search light, there is a “Solas” strip on both the top and bottom. Then there’s whistle on a clip for attracting attention if needed and two grab handles on the top, making it easier to hold onto if you need to rest. As a drybag, it has a capacity of 20L, which is easily enough for a change of clothes. Ideally for adventure swims, and in a choice of orange, pink or yellow.
We tested: Ruckraft (£139.99)
The big daddy of tow floats, the Ruckraft is designed to easily carry a lot of kit. The concept is pretty simple. A small but sturdy inflatable raft to which you strap a massive drybag in which you can transport all your kit: rucksack, walking boots, food, tent or bivvy, camping stove, sleeping bag. At 70 litres it holds a lot of stuff – its only limit is what you can comfortably carry on your back. Suddenly new swim and hiking routes are opened up, multi-day adventures leap out of maps at you. In our test we easily towed four day-packs, four pairs of shoes, clothes, towels, flasks of tea and water, and a picnic. Verdict: A well-designed, well-crafted bit of kit, made in the UK, that allows you to take your adventure swimming to the next level.
We tested: Tow Woggle (£16.50)
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Designed with children in mind and packs down small. Can be used like a traditional swimming pool ‘noodle’ or for outdoor swimmers it can be towed behind you while swimming using the waist strap.
We tested: Tekrapod (€135)
A perpetual worry for open water swimmers is, what will I do if I get into difficulty in deep water and far from shore? If you’re wearing a Tekrapod, the answer is that you would reach behind your back and tug the device’s pull cord, which releases and automatically inflates a bladder that you can rest on or wave to signal you need assistance. In our tests, Tekrapod was easy to use, the bladder inflated almost instantly, and was easily deflated and re-packed for future use (note, you need to replace the CO2 canister after each inflation).
Unlike some other auto-inflate devices that you wear around your waist, Tekrapod sits comfortably and barely noticeably on your back between your shoulder blades, like a mini rucksack. The soft but grippy straps didn’t cause chafing. It can be used with or without a wetsuit. If you inflate the bladder because you need to rest and then decide you are able to continue swimming, you can trail the bladder behind you like a tow float.
Tekrapod is well-made, robust and a welcome addition to swimmer safety. It can also be fitted with a high visibility strobe light.
We tested: Swim (£85)
The smallest Restube available, designed specifically for swimming. Weighing just 210g it attaches to your waist and is not noticeable while swimming – but gives you peace of mind should you get into difficulties. To activate, pull a trigger which releases a CO2 cartridge and the Restube inflates. Cartridges are replaceable. Excellent for longer ocean swims.