Product Reviews

Winter warriors: Orca Openwater

Whether you are a skins swimmer or a wetsuit warrior, some well-chosen neoprene can help you extend your swimming season. CONTRIBUTING EDITOR JONATHAN COWIE has your guide to the Orca Openwater range.

Autumn is a funny time in the swimming calendar. Even though the water is warm enough for longer swims, you can feel that cold bite lurking. Winter is coming, and it is nearly time to pack away long outdoor swims with your shorts and sunglasses. As much as I love icy skins dips and shivering on the side of a lake, I do miss the headspace of long-distance swims. How can we extend our time in the water?

This autumn I am experimenting with supplementing skins dips with wetsuited longer swims and judicious use of neoprene accessories. Neoprene is great if you want a more comfortable swim and the ability to spend more time in the water, and there are many options depending on how much coverage you want or need.

Whether you are a committed skins swimmer or a winter wetsuit warrior, I put Orca’s legendary Openwater Core High-Vis Wetsuit and neoprene accessories to the test to see how they can help all swimmers extend their swimming seasons.

Extend your swimming time this winter

In cool temperatures, insulating the core is the best way to extend time in the water. A neoprene base layer like the Orca Openwater Baser Layer can be worn throughout the winter with or without a wetsuit. Without a wetsuit it kept me warm enough to swim a decent distance and it was thin and flexible enough not to restrict my stroke.

As the water gets colder you may want to progress to wearing a full wetsuit. The Orca Openwater Core High Vis Wetsuit is a safe bet for year-round swimming. Its 2.5mm neoprene panels in the core and legs make it great for cooler temperatures and for efficient swimming whatever the season. The thermal insulation helps you maintain an ideal body temperature and when twinned with a base layer, it will help insulate against the coldest of waters. Its bright orange panels give you greater visibility in the water, especially when teamed with a colourful Orca Neoprene Swim Hat and Safety Buoy. Great for misty winter mornings!

How to choose neoprene accessories

Whether you wear a base layer, wetsuit or just your togs, neoprene accessories will help you have a more comfortable swim. When the water gets really cold, painful hands and feet can hinder the enjoyment and length of a swim.

Our extremities get cold first as blood rushes to the core to protect vital organs, so neoprene gloves, socks and hats help combat that icy chill. I found the Orca Openwater Core Gloves and Swim Socks insulated against the cold and didn’t unduly hinder my stroke. The socks were also great at protecting my feet when getting in and out of the water on rocky shores. Both socks and gloves are suitable for wearing with or without a wetsuit, so you can layer up as you wish.

Well-chosen neoprene – whether that is wetsuit, base layer or accessories – can help you keep swimming whatever the weather and water temperature. We were impressed with the performance and good value of the Orca Openwater Core High-Vis Wetsuit and accessories for swimming all year round. Bring on winter!

Orca Openwater kit list

The Orca Openwater range includes:

Openwater High-Vis wetsuit – £169
Openwater Baser Layer – £55
Swim Socks – £35
Openwater Gloves – £35
Swim Hat – £29
Safety Buoy – £35

All clothing products are available in men’s and women’s sizing. Find out more on the Orca website. Read more expert product reviews and advice on cold water swimming. Photos by Jumpy James.

By Jonathan Cowie

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Jonathan is a year-round skins swimmer with a particular love of very cold water. He has competed in ice swimming competitions around the world. He is a qualified open water coach with a particular love of introducing new swimmers to the open water.