How to Choose Open Water Swimming Goggles

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A good pair of goggles is essential for open water swimming. There are a few differences between pool and open water goggles – we explain the key things to look for when choosing yours.

Choosing open water goggles can feel confusing with the range of options available. Do I need polarised or tinted? What does photochromatic mean? And do I want wraparound lenses or something more streamlined?

Tinted lenses

Tinted lenses are designed to help you see in different light conditions while swimming outdoors. Smoked lenses reduce bright light and glare, amber lenses reduce some glare while also enhancing visibility, while pink/violet lenses are designed to reduce glare in moderate light. If you will be using your goggles in the pool as well as outdoors, consider a lighter tint.

Mirrored lenses

Mirrored lenses also reduce brightness and help cut out glare. Some swimmers enjoy the psychological advantage they feel that mirrored lenses give them in races by psyching out their competitors!

Polarised lenses

One step up from tinted and mirrored lenses are polarised lenses. They work the same as polarised sunglsses, reducing glare while also making everything look sharper. Good for swimming in bright sunlight, reducing glare off the surface of the water – and also exploring underwater!

Photochromatic lenses

Photochromatic lenses vary their tint from clear to smoked to adjust to the light conditions. The most expensive lens option, they are able to handle any conditions – from night swimming to full summer sun.

What size goggles?

Open water goggles are usually larger than pool goggles, although some swimmers prefer a small eye socket. Larger and curved lenses give greater all-round visibility. Mask-like goggles are also an option – these give the best range of vision and are very comfortable, although may cause greater drag if every second of your swim counts.


Read a full review of the best outdoor swimming goggles in the September issue of Outdoor Swimmer magazine.

01 Cover December

Issue 44 December 2020

  • Finding joy in 2020: Sarah Thomas looks back on a very strange year
  • Motivation: triple Olympian Keri-anne Payne on dealing with changing situations
  • UnstoppaBull: the extreme adventurer who swam in the highest lake on earth
  • Wild swimming: misadventures in the Peak District
  • Soul Cap: solving the problem of swimming with afro hair

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