One-pieces, two-pieces, bikinis, tankinis, jammers, shorts, briefs and trunks... we’ve been trying out the best swimming cossies for outdoor swimming
it’s an exciting time in the world of swimwear, with a number of new brands emerging to better address the needs of ‘real swimmers’ and the broader ethos of outdoor swimming, adventure and environmental responsibility and marking a much needed shift in focus across swimwear manufacturers.
New kids on the block
KinaMara, founded by outdoor swimmers Dawn and Pete, have bright jammers, shorts and one-pieces “for everyone who loves to swim – especially in the outdoors”. They recently launched at London’s Brockwell lido with a ‘splashmob’ of real swimmers.
On to Devon, a hub for wild swimming, where development economist Helen Newcombe has founded Davy J, a female focused “swimwear brand for open water life. Designed to survive a dive and pull off a cliff jump.” Its first range, ‘The Waste Collection SS2017’, uses 100% regenerated nylon yarn from waste, including spent and ghost fishing nets.
An average of 640,000 tons of fishing nets are left in the oceans every year (a tenth of all marine litter). For every ton of waste nets collected there is enough nylon regenerated to create more than 10,000 swimsuits.This first collection features a swimming cossie, bikini briefs and choice of bikini or crop top. As part of their ‘Real Swim Wear’ campaign, Davy J is showcasing incredible women who are doing amazing things, in and around the coastal environment, including Channel swimming, paddle boarding and the all-female expedition crew of Sea Dragon, an ocean-going scientific research vessel that spent last month in the Caribbean looking at plastics pollution. Their next expediton is Round Britain, setting sail from Plymouth in August 2017.
The gap in the market for attractive technical swimwear and something more than a flimsy thong on the beach, that empowers swimmers on their walk from the changing room to the pool, seashore or river bank, is also being addressed by Deakin And Blue, who have launched this summer with a collection of one and two-pieces that focus on the female body shape, for women with up to HH cup. “Choosing swimwear should not be a choice between fashion and function, or femininity and athleticism”, says founder Rosie Cook, articulating the feelings of women across the swim community - amen to that swim sister!
In that same spirit, Lisa Montague founded Blackfish swim wear when she was given an Olympic quality swimsuit. She couldn’t believe how sporty it made her feel and now she is on a mission to making high performance compression swimwear incorporating the muscle toning and fitness advantages of competitive swimwear in designs accessible to women. A new collection is launching soon with swim coaches Swim Lab.
It’s early days for these new brands. With their first collections launched, they are all committed to engaging with their customers to make sure that their designs continue to evolve to meet the needs of real swimmers – now there’s an idea!
Well established brands are also offering more swimwear choices for the environmentally conscious swimmer and a variety of body shapes. Aquasphere are using Recycled Reprieve Yarn and the environmentally friendly body hugging Vita fabric in their swimming costumes. Dhb are also using Vita; and, like Davy J, Ocean Positive, the swimwear range from Fourth Element, the diving lifestyle brand, uses Econyl, regenerated nylon from ghost fishing nets.
Along with the beautiful stylish Roka and Zone3’s Xinfinity range that are bringing stylish training designs, the scene is set for a wonderful year of outdoor swimming.
As all swimmers will know, cossie sizing can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. A size 12 in one brand does not always equate to size 12 in another. The swimsuit needs of my curvy 32GG frame and Jonathan’s slimline athletic figure are not the same as the needs of other swimmers; so where possible we’ve got some other swimmers to help try some cossies out – thanks to the Outdoor Swimming Society and Manda from Team Mermaids and Channel Swimmer Lisa Lloyd for their input. We hope these reviews give you a helpful steer and inspiration to find the swimming costume that makes you feel the best version of you possible.
1. Aqua Sphere Lita Black Gold
Sizing: Available in size 30-42. We tried the size 36.
Available in a variety of colours. We tried the black and gold.
They say: Aqua Sphere’s best-selling suit, which offers a universally flattering design and built-in shelf bra for added support.Whether you are a new swimmer looking for a introductory suit or a seasoned swimmer looking for extreme comfort at an attractive price, Lita is the suit for you.
We say: Slimming, figure hugging and supportive. Felt really good. Combined with the Vita fabric made from recycled polyamide, incorporating muscle control and chlorine and UV protection, makes it a really positive choice. Feels more sculpting than sporty but nevertheless makes it a great versatile swimsuit for a variety of shapes and swim challenges.
2. Arena Gallery Swimsuit
Sizing: UK 28-46
Two-tone motif and overlapping geometric shapes. We tried the Navy and Turquoise swimsuit. Medium leg.
They say: Designed for training and frequent use, experience faster swimming in this women’s technical swimsuit. The open back offers ease of movement while swimming, and you’ll feel supported with the comfortable wide straps. Cut for a perfect fit.
We say: Loved this. Wore it to swim training and it was supportive, sporty and I felt like an athlete. A bit of a surprise as it didn’t look like a swimming cossie that would be supportive for a bigger bust, but it was. I can’t stop wearing it.
3. Arena Tulum black/multi-coloured one-piece
Sizing: UK 28-46
Sporty, multi-coloured print with thin straps. Medium leg.
They say: If you want to bring some colour to your swimming sessions then the Arena Tulum swimsuit is a great choice for swim training and fitness swimming. The multi-coloured print will make you stand out from the crowd and express your individuality at the swimming pool. Created with Arena’s ‘Max Life’ fabric which gives this swimming costume enhanced durability. Designed with the stylish Light-Dropback, which has thin adjustable straps that offer high levels of comfort and give you freedom of movement in the water.
We say: Bright, fun and a good sporty training costume. Not as good a fit for my body shape as the Gallery but clearly this is a good all round thin-strap cossie.
4. Blackfish Snapper racerback and shorts
Sizing: UK 10-16
High neck, racer back and orange liner will offer extra bust support and high performance sculpting.
Shorts £59; Top £65
They say: Performance will be optimised thanks to compression fabric and high performance sculpting. You’ll love the way you feel, look and swim.
We say: As is the way with high performance fabric, you need to approach putting on the shorts and top carefully. The fit feels awesome and is very flattering. Stomach held in and bust supported – the Snapper top design is my preference compared to the original tankini if you have a bigger bust. It’s very sporty and allows you to transition from the bike or a run to the pool and vice versa. One of the more expensive brands, but you can feel this is great quality, versatile swim gear.
5. Davy J The Crop
Sizing: UK 8-18
The ultimate active two-piece. Available in red, blue and black.
Cost: Crop top £65; Briefs £45
They say: The Crop is every woman’s answer to the ultimate active two-piece. Beach runs, open water swimming, sailing undertop, kitesurfing partner, if you only pick one – this is it. For the briefs, no more frantic rearrangement as you surface from the water – these things stay on! Simple midi-cut briefs with rubber trim and an elastic waistband.
We say: Stylish and well cut. The fabric has a strong beautiful feel, making it robust for a variety of water adventures. Equally good in fresh water and the sea. This is Davy J’s first collection and early feedback suggest sizing is coming up small on the briefs so bear this in mind when choosing your size.
6. Deakin and Blue Signature Swimsuit
Sizing: 8-16 and a “muse measurement” for the bust under the names of Hepburn (AA-B), Monroe (C-E) and Hendricks (F-HH)
Sleek and Supportive. Available in coral, navy and black. We tried the coral.
They say: Designed and tested on real women’s bodies, our sleek and supportive Signature Swimsuit uses high quality, technical fabrics and beautiful design to ensure you look and feel great on your swim or by the pool. Designed for dynamic and active use in water, our Signature Swimsuit is perfect for all your adventures. Feminine and fabulous, it’s guaranteed to make you feel like a superheroine.
The swimsuit is made with a bonded stretch material consisting of 78% Polyamide (Recycled), 22% Lycra (Extra Life).
We say: Hooray! Never has a swimsuit worked so well with my curves. I’ll be honest, I’ve never worn a swimsuit like it before and my first impression was that although very pretty, it looked almost too glamorous for me – definitely something to lounge by the pool in with a cocktail. And then I put it on… and…it… felt …amazing! Figure hugging but not too tight; the black mesh is flattering in all the right areas, accentuates your waist, smooths the hips and allows just a hint of cleavage at the top but not in a getting your baps out kind of a way. The bust support is excellent and I walked with confidence from the changing room to the pool. And in the water? Low cut underarms allow free comfortable movement and the lycra gives a subtle hint of extra buoyancy. I felt held in place, streamlined, sexy and supported by its thoughtful design. Lovely.
This is Deakin and Blue’s first collection, and it will definitely empower women to embrace the water. At £105 it is a significant investment and the design is perhaps not perfect (yet) for long sea swims as I think the detailing would be vulnerable to chafing on a really big swim, but versatile, feminine and fabulous it most definitely is. A really exciting and much needed addition to the swimwear market.
7. DHB Water Glitch Printed Muscleback Swimsuit
Sizing: UK 8-16. We tried the 12.
Shades of blue to match the lido. High leg, X back, thick straps, and fully front lined.
They say: Perfectly crafted for all levels of swimming, the dhb muscleback swimsuit offers a sport specific fit which follows the curves and contours of your body. Made with Vita XTRA LIFE LYCRA® for a long lasting fit.
We say: Good freedom in the shoulders, supportive, sporty and great in the lido and for training. The upper body cut can look a little brief on the larger bust, but this is a great value for money choice. High leg and thin but robust material gives this a really nice feel.
8. Fourth Element Ocean Positive Salina Athletic Swimsuit
Sizing: UK 6-16
Athletic, purple and pink with lightweight padding (sewn in).
They say: An athletic shape swimsuit with contrasting front panels and cross back. Designed to stay in place in the sea or in the pool.
We say: Pretty colours, and the high cross back design is cool. A cossie best suited to swimmers with a smaller bust. Good for splashing but not a technical training costume.
9. Fourth Element Ocean Positive Maluku Black Bikini
Sizing: UK 8 -18
Black, athletic bikini.
Top £23.95; Bottoms £19.95
They say: This athletic styled bikini top offers great support without the need for clasps or ties, making it ultra comfortable under a wetsuit or rash guard. The panelled crop top design incorporates lightweight, sewn-in padding to give further support, while the cut-out racer back straps sit comfortably and securely between the shoulder blades. The panelled mini briefs sit comfortably on the hips with the athletic design offering good cover at the back.
We say: This bikini has a cool beach vibe and the material has a lovely smooth feel. Great for the beach, splashing in waterfalls or on active SUP adventures and could work well under a wetsuit. Best suited for a smaller bust if jumping up and down a lot.
10. KinaMara Classic Zena One-Piece
A classic bright design, designed for the active swimmer.
They say: This is our signature one-piece, created for the active swimmer who doesn’t want to compromise on style, coverage and fit. The bold colour panels are shaped to flatter, while the booty-cut, wider straps and internal bust lining will give you comfort and support in all the right places. Made with premium Italian swimwear fabric which is tough enough to resist snagging, colour fading and the effect of chlorine and sea water, yet soft enough to shape, sculpt and dry quickly. Perfect for every swim.
We say: Bright, fun and great for a wild swim adventure. The straps were secure and overall the cossie felt very comfortable.
11. Roka Women’s Elite Triangle black print, Crystalline Blue
Sizing: UK 26-40
Streamlined fit with a focus on performance and durability. Available in a variety of colours. We tested the Crystalline Blue (size 34)
They say: Get the most out of your training. For those with the drive to compete and get better every day, the Women’s Elite One-Piece swimsuit provides a streamlined fit without losing focus of what’s important: performance and durability.
We say: Really nice. Felt low on the bum but on the chest nicely high and the material feels great and supportive. A great cossie.
12. Roka Women’s Elite Strap Back Solid Red
Sizing: 26-40. We tried the 32.
Red Baywatch style streamlined fit with focus on performance and durability.
They say: Get the most out of your training. For those with the drive to compete and get better every day, the Women’s Elite One-Piece swimsuit provides a streamlined fit without losing focus of what’s important: performance and durability.Premium Italian Carvico Darwin fabric optimizes comfort, performance, and durability. Shape-retention construction rests smoothly against your body, creating a streamlined fit.Two-way stretch allows fluid, athletic movement with flexible comfort.Chlorine-proof polyester PBT material withstands countless workouts. Pill-resistant fibers keep the surface of your suit smooth.UPF 50+ UV protection.
We say: Really nice. Low cut on the bum, but straps nicely fixed over chest, with a go faster Baywatch feel. Another great Roka cossie.
13. Zone 3 Xfinity Classic Costume
Wave design print on the sides. Shaping fabric and contoured design.
They say: Double lined inner bra for comfort, support and coverage. Shaping compression for a toned, flattering waist. Contoured design with graduated side panels for a slimming effect. Medium height leg cut for confident coverage.
We say: I really liked this. Supported, sculpted yet sporty. The design is subtle. A versatile and flattering cossie.
1. Roka Men’s Elite HD Racer Swimsuit
Sizing: 26 to 38
Classic design makes these stylish trunks suitable for both racing and relaxing poolside (perhaps with a martini to hand)
They say: Performance and simplicity meet head-on. Premium Italian Carvico Darwin fabric, which optimises comfort, durability and performance. Streamlined fit with two-way stretch allows athletic movement with flexible comfort. Chlorine-proof and pill-resistant to keep the surface of your suit smooth. UPF 50+ UV protection.
We say: The classic choice for the stylish gentleman. Well-fitted and true-to-size, I have used these for training, racing and relaxing on the beach. Comfortable, durable and flattering. Available in black and blue.
2. Roka Men’s Elite HD Square Swimsuit
Sizing: 28 to 38 Vintage good-looks and high performance make this a stylish option for training
They say: Offers a bit more coverage and training drag than the Elite Racer with same comfort, performance and durability. UPF 50+ UV protection.
We say: We really like Roka’s understated designs. Available in plain black, and black with contrast red or blue waistband. I wore these under my wetsuit at Ötillö Üto and on the beach in Barcelona and they performed equally well in both situations.
3. Fourth Element Tima Swim Trunks
Sizing: S to XXL
Traditional budgie-smuggler with eco-credentials
They say: Made of 78% recycled nylon and 22% xtra life Lycra for improved chlorine and salt resistance. UPF 50+ UV protection.
We say: Traditional swimming trunks with subtle branding and contrast draw-cord. Sizing came up a bit small so maybe go up a size. Available in black and blue.
4. Fourth Element Cayman Swim Shorts
Sizing: S to XXL
Old-school swim shorts for those demanding a bit more coverage
They say: Made of 78% recycled nylon and 22% xtra life lycra for improved chlorine and salt resistance. UPF 50+ UV protection.
We say: Made from recycled fishing nets, these generously cut swim shorts are available in blue or black with contrast stitching and draw-cord.
5. dhb Water Glitch Jammer
Sizing: XS to XXL
Good value jammers offering comfort and durability
They say: Designed for training and fitness swimming with the regular swimmer in mind. Made with VITA recycled fabric. Chlorine resistant with excellent UV protection. Length: 44cm.
We say: We like the design on these top value jammers from dhb. The material is soft and comfortable and the front lined panel protects modesty. A more highly cut jammer than some.
6. Aqua Sphere Denzel Jammer
Sizing: 30 to 40
Good-looking and eco-friendly jammer
They say: Denzel is a comfortable jammer with a sporty design. Made from eco-friendly Repreve fabric. Chlorine resistant. 42cm length
We say: Made from recycled plastic bottles, the Denzel feels comfortable and solid. A serious jammer for proper training. It has a full inner lining and the material is thick and durable.
7. KinaMara Ziggy Jammers
Sizing: XS to L
Designed by swimmers, these jammers are perfect for your next wild swimming adventure
They say: Our classic men’s jammer features integral v-front lining and a smooth, hydrodynamic silhouette. The distinctive colour panels make a bold statement in the water and are designed to flatter and sculpt the body. Perfect for endurance swimming.
We say: Available in four bright colourways, new kid on the block KinaMara’s funky swimwear is soft, comfy and Instagram-friendly.
8. Arena Manga Low Waist Short
Sizing: 30 to 40
Cute and fun, these low-waisted trunks are designed to get you noticed
They say: Inspired by the dynamic spirit of comics, these low-waist shorts offer more upper leg coverage than a brief but the same range of motion. MaxLife fabric makes a durable swimsuit for serious swim sessions over long periods of time.
We say: We love the pattern and fit of these trunks – but found them a bit skimpy so maybe go up a size.
9. KinaMara Zak Briefs
Sizing: XS to L
Funky brief perfect for outdoor adventures or posing on the beach
They say: Our swim shorts sit low on the hips and are designed for a snug, ultra-comfy fit. Perfect for every day use.
We say: Flattering panels and the same soft material as the jammers, these briefs are perfect if you don’t like traditional budgie smugglers. Available in four colourways.
10. Arena Unbelievable Jammer
Sizing: 30 to 38
Designed by Chad Le Clos, a fun pair of jammers offering serious performance
They say: We partnered with world swimming champion Chad Le Clos for a collection of swimwear that embodies his dynamic spirit. Made for pool practice and frequent swimming. MaxLife fabric. 45cm length.
We say: Unfortunately we weren’t as fast as Chad in the pool, but we like the more racing fit of these jammers. Side panels of graffiti are fun and flattering.
11. Zone3 Cosmic Jammers
Fun and stylish trunks from the British triathlon brand
They say: Made of Xfinity fabric, which is 100% chlorine proof with fantastic shape retention, is breathable, fast drying and offers UV protective (UPF 50+). Designed to stand up to the demands and rigours of training day-in, day-out.
We say: Zone3 may be better known for wetsuits, but their swimwear range is a bit of a hidden gem. Good fit and a range of designs, we especially like the Cosmic jammers with their neon trim and subtle galaxy print. Good fit and comfortable.
12. Zone3 MF-Xfinity Men’s Aquashorts
Sizing: 28 to 40
Glam black and gold design offers serious performance with a touch of bling
They say: Designed with former World Champion and Olympian, Mark Foster, and including the all-important MF-X mark of approval. Structured double lined inner to ensure maximum support. Xfinity compression shaping fabric for comfort and streamlining. Chlorine proof for prolonged lifespan.
We say: If they are good enough for Mark Foster, they are good enough for us. We like the gold wave up the left side of the trunks – a subtle bit of bling.Performance swimwear at a sensible price.