GEAR,  Product Reviews

What’s in our kit bag? January 2021

Thermal wetsuits and jammers, watches and changing robes. Here’s our pick of swim kit this month.

1. Alpkit Hurley outdoor swimming top (£29.99) and Hythe Jammers (£19.99)

If you don’t want to wear a wetsuit but would like the benefit of a bit of covering, the Hurley long sleeve top is a great option. Made from environmentally friendly Econyl yarn, we found that it helped reduce the severity of cold water shock by creating a barrier between skin and water on initial entry. You might not want to swim a 10k in it, but for wild swimming it is perfect – the snug fit isn’t restrictive and it retains its shape in the water with minimal drag. UPF 50+ protection against the sun. Available in men’s and women’s versions.

The Hythe jammers are also made from recycled ocean plastics such as nets. These are comfy jammers and we really liked them for wild swimming – they have been stuffed into my rucksack for summer dips in the Lakes and the Peaks.

Where to buy:

2. Zepp(E) Watch (£209)

There are so many wearable wellness devices it is hard to know where to start with technology today. Like many smartwatches the Zepp Sportswatch, with dedicated swimming mode, offers multiple health metrics for the wearer to keep tabs on their wellbeing. It also links to your phone for messages and calls. I particularly liked the sleep monitoring and tracking system for heart rate. It is affordable, simple to use, comfortable to wear and has an appealing design. The pool mode is great for tracking your training swims and accurate. The only disappointment is that it doesn’t track open water despite being able to track other outdoor sports.

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3. Global WAKEcup Zero Waste Lunch Kit (£40)

Evidently over the course of an average career, you will save around £50,000 by packing your own lunch – that will buy quite a lot of swimming kit! When we are allowed back to offices this lunch kit is a sustainable alternative to plastic lunch boxes and the risk of losing your best forks. The zero waste lunch bag is insulated to keep your lunch warm (or cold) and comes with a metal canteen with two compartments for your food. The sustainably sourced organic bamboo water bottle keeps hot drinks warm for two hours and comes with an infuser for loose leaf tea. And the roll up pouch contains bamboo knife, fork, spoon and chopsticks and a metal straw (plus cleaner). Great for waterside picnics and post-swim treats. 10% of profits from every sale are donated to the Marine Conservation Society.

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4. Insulated Thermal Tea Flask (£32)

A flask that is leakproof and actually keeps your tea as hot as recently boiled water – which is essential at this time of the year. This would make a super gift for a tea lover along with a box of their favourite loose tea. I love the range of bright colours and smart design. It comes with two filters for a long or short infusion. It has become my dedicated flask for tea only!

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5. Alpkit Haven changing robe (£79.99)

More of an oversized coat than a full-on changing robe, this is an economical option if you are in the market for a robe for swimming. The back is longer than the front, which we found good for sitting down on wet and muddy logs and rocks –and also gave a bit more coverage if bending over with no trunks on! Not big enough to easily get changed under like a voluminous dryrobe but cozy and snug for getting warm in after a swim – maybe try a size up if you are looking for a big changing robe. Showerproof and fleece lined (although this does not extend down the arms, which we found quite sticky when our arms were wet) with an elasticated hood. There is a big ‘Go Nice Places, Do Good Things’ logo on the back. All important pockets include cozy side pockets, an internal zipped pocket and a mesh pocket suitable for stashing your hat and goggles – or pants!

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6. Zone3 Thermal Aspire Wetsuit (£425)

Based on Zone3’s excellent Aspire wetsuit, we have found the Thermal Aspire to be a brilliant thermal wetsuit for anyone who prefers to stay warmer in the water over winter. Designed for autumn, winter and spring swimming in cooler waters, it features thick neoprene where you need it and a cozy thermal lining, while still maintaining flexibility in the shoulders.

We found the suit to offer a snug, but not restrictive, fit with the tight wrists and ankles doing a great job to keep out the cold water.

The “Heat-Tech” fleece lining around the chest and core gives added comfort and is highly effective in retaining body warmth. Tested against the regular Aspire suit the difference in heat retention was immediately noticeable and we were able to stay in the water longer when testing pre-lockdown in an unheated lido.

Despite the added fleecing, it is still flexible, and we didn’t find it prohibited stroke, with a combination of 4mm and 5mm thickness around the chest, leg and body, and a 2mm thickness around the shoulders and arm.

We are also big fans of the design: stylish gold cuffs and red highlights.

Verdict: A performance wetsuit offering excellent protection from the cold. Perfect for winter training and early- or late-season races in cooler temperatures.

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7. Stubble & Co Roll Top backpack (£105)

A stylish and versatile bag that is perfect for outdoor swimming, cycling and general outdoorsy activities. A departure from your usual outdoors styling, we loved the cool, urban look of this backpack. It isn’t form over function though – the 20l main compartment is roomy and large enough to fit plenty of warm clothes, towel and swim kit. The bright orange interior also features a zip pocket and two mesh pockets. The exterior has a larger zip pocket and two side water bottle (or flask) pockets. The back also features a laptop pocket. The bag is matt black, waterproof and made of recycled materials. We found it comfortable while cycling even when fully loaded – the back is padded. There is a chest strap but no waist strap. The roll top is secure with G-clip and choice of two two fabric loops.

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Outdoor Swimmer is the magazine for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We write about fabulous wild swimming locations, amazing swim challenges, swim training advice and swimming gear reviews.