Are you looking to get into open water swimming and wondering what equipment you’ll need? Or are you already an experienced open water swimmer just trying to make sure that you have all of the essentials ready for your next swim?
Either way, you’ve come to the right place, because in today’s article we’ll be taking a look at the most important pieces of open water swimming gear.
For starters, open water swimming is quite a bit different than grinding out some laps at your local lap pool.
Some of the differences include- swimming technique and environmental challenges such as cold water for example. This requires you to have a different set of swimming equipment to overcome these challenges and optimize your open water swimming performance.
With that said, let’s “dive” straight in so that you can build yourself the ultimate set of open water swimming kit.
Open Water Swimming Gear And Equipment.
Here are 10 essential pieces of open water swimming gear-
- Open Water Swimming Goggles
- Open Water Swimming Wetsuit
- Open Water Swimming Buoy
- Open Water Swimming Cap
- Neoprene Swimming Socks
- Open Water Swimming Watch
- Swimming Training Equipment
- Zinc Oxide And Sunscreen
- Lubricant or anti-chafe stick
- Open Water Swimming Bag
1. Open Water Swimming Goggles.
Open water swimming goggles are specifically designed for triathlons and open water swimming events. These goggles usually have special lenses with a polarized coating and a wide field of view. This will help to reduce the glare from the sun on the water and will also protect your eyes from its bright rays, while the wide lenses help you to be thoroughly aware of what’s going on around you.
The design is also usually made to be quite comfortable and lightweight so that you can wear them for long periods of time while swimming without them feeling too tight or heavy and distracting you from your open water swim.
Some of the open water goggles that I like include the Arena Cobra’s, The Blueseventy Contour Goggles, and the Aquasphere Kayenne goggles.
The Arena Cobra open water goggles are a really low-profile and lightweight pair of goggles with some good comfort and hydrodynamics. They are a bit expensive but definitely worth the money, you can check them out on SwimOutlet by clicking here or on Amazon by clicking here.
The next pair that I’d recommend is the Blueseventy Contour goggles, these provide great vision in the water by allowing for a wide field of view. They are also really low-profile and hydrodynamic. You can consider checking them out on SwimOutlet by clicking here or Amazon by clicking here.
The last pair of open water swimming goggles that I like are the Aquasphere Kayenne goggles. These are a bit bigger in size but provide some of the best wide-angle vision out there. They are also hydrodynamic and their lenses are polarized to reduce glare on the water and light from the sun. You can also check them out on SwimOutlet by clicking here or on Amazon by clicking here.
If you’d like a bit more detail about these goggles and also a couple more options then I recommend reading my article on the 10 best open water swimming goggles.
2. Open Water Swimming Wetsuit.
Open water swimming wetsuits are easily one of the most important pieces of open water swim gear that you’ll need. More often than not, you’ll have to rock one of these suits when going for a swim.
The important thing to note here is that you won’t be able to simply use any old wetsuit for your open water swims. You require a wetsuit that’s specifically designed for swimming or triathlon. These wetsuits allow you to have a full range of motion while swimming without restricting you in any way. They also provide just the right amount of warmth so that you don’t overheat and are far more comfortable than wetsuits not designed for swimming.
Other than allowing for good range of motion and optimal insulation, swimming wetsuits also offer quite a few additional benefits.
This includes added buoyancy which will allow for an optimized body position in the water and as a result, you’ll be able to swim with lower drag which will lead to faster swimming.
These wetsuits also usually have compression technology which will help to enhance muscle activation and blood flow for better open water swimming performances.
Additionally, swimming wetsuits provide protection when swimming in rivers, lakes, or the ocean. They protect you from things like debris, birds like swans, and if you are in a competitive environment they can even protect you against fellow swimmers who might be trying to take a smack at you.
The type of open water wetsuit you wear will be largely dependant on the environment you most frequently swim in. Let’s have a look at a few options-
My top performance open water swimming wetsuit pick will be the Roka Maverick X wetsuit, this suit has a ton of performance features designed to make you as fast as possible in the water. It also uses a combination of premium fabrics to deliver optimal buoyancy, speed, and insulation. Unfortunately, it’s quite expensive, but if you are a frequent competitor then this suit might be worth the money for you. You can check it out on SwimOutlet by clicking here.
My next recommendation will be the Zone 3 Aspire wetsuit, this is your best mid-range option. It packs some great performance features, has a great and durable design, and comes in at a decent price point. What I like about this suit is the fact that it’s available in a full suit and sleeveless variation, so that you can choose the suit that fits you best. Consider checking it out on SwimOutlet by clicking here.
If you are looking for a great budget range wetsuit them I’m definitely going to recommend the TYR Hurricane Cat 1, this suit packs some nice features and has a pretty solid build while coming in at a really affordable budget price. It’s also available in a full-sleeve and sleeveless variation. It’s easy to see why this is a popular open water wetsuit. You can check out its latest price on SwimOutlet by clicking here.
That said if you are looking for a wetsuit that is designed for cold water conditions then your best pick is going to be the Blueseventy Thermal Reaction wetsuit, this suit also packs some great performance features, but it is specially designed to keep you highly insulated at very cold water temperatures. The price is quite high but not too bad considering that it’s a thermal wetsuit. You can check out its latest price on SwimOutlet by clicking here.
Now I am completely aware that wetsuits can be quite expensive, but they are unfortunately one of the pieces of gear that you can’t go without. So if you’d like a bit more insight about these suits listed above as well as some other options before purchasing one, then check out these articles:
3. Open Water Swimming Buoy.
An important part of open water swimming is to stay safe while in the water. A lot of the times you might swim in an environment where there are other water users such as people on jet skis or powerboats
A swim buoy will keep you very visible in the water and will ensure that you stay safe. It’ll also help lifeguards and other swimmers to know where you are at all times.
Additionally, the buoy can be used as a floatation device if you ever need to take a break mid swim or in case of an emergency like a severe calf cramp or if you swallowed water and require some time out.
It also serves as a useful storage device for keeping things like keys, your phone, or dry clothes.
Definitely one of the most important pieces of open water swimming equipment and something every open water swimmer should own.
There are 2 open water buoys I really like- The Ishof Swim Buoy and the New Wave Swim Buoy, these are by far the lightest buoys available and you literally won’t even feel them while swimming. They are also super visible and will make you spottable in the water from a mile away!
4. Open Water Swimming Cap.
Similar to the open water buoy, a swimming cap can also help to keep you safe while swimming by making you more visible. That’s why I recommend using a brightly colored cap so that others can see and be aware of you while you’re enjoying your open water swim.
There are 2 main types of caps used for open water swimming.
The first is your standard silicone or latex swim cap. I recommend using this type of cap when swimming in warmer water. They’ll keep you visible, they’re comfortable, and they’ll keep your hair out of your way.
There are a ton of latex and silicone caps to choose from and they are quite cheap which is kinda nice. I recommend checking out the wide range on SwimOutlet by clicking here or you can also pick one or two up from Amazon by clicking here.
The second type of cap is a neoprene swim cap. These are especially useful when swimming in cold water since they provide you with added insulation that will keep you warm. Other than that they are the same- allow for good visibility, comfort, and will keep your hair out of your eyes.
Personally, I’d recommend the Sporti Neoprene swim cap, it’s not the most visible neoprene cap available, but it’s by far the most comfortable one and it provides great insulation to keep you warm while coming in at a low price. You can check it out on SwimOutlet by clicking here.
5. Neoprene Swimming Socks.
For those of you planning on tackling a couple of colder open water swims throughout the year, you might also want to consider investing in a solid pair of neoprene swimming socks. Your feet will usually be the first area to get really cold and you can actually lose a ton of body heat through your feet.
That’s why I recommend wearing a pair of neoprene swimming socks on your colder swims. There are neoprene socks designed specifically for open water swimming to ensure you don’t feel restricted or heavy and they’ll keep your feet nice and insulated in those cold temperatures.
When it comes to neoprene swimming socks, I don’t really have a favorite pair, you can go with any pair you like really! You can check out a few pairs on SwimOutlet by clicking here.
6. Open Water Swimming Watch.
An Open water swimming watch can be a useful addition to your open water equipment set. Sure, it definitely isn’t as essential as some of the other gear on this list but can be quite useful, especially when swimming on your own or in areas where there aren’t clear distance indications.
An open water swimming watch will be able to track your swimming distance and provide you with a mapped route of where you swam for future reference. It’ll also provide you with a ton of other useful data and insights that can help you become a better swimmer.
Some of this data includes things like your pace, stroke count, stroke rate, stroke distance, heart rate, and SWOLF (this is a measurement of your swimming efficiency).
All of this data can be used and analyzed later on to improve your swimming efficiency and times. It will also clearly highlight areas that you can work on in training to become a better swimmer.
The distance measuring metric, however, is probably going to be most useful for most swimmers. It’s going to help you to get in a solid workout with some good distance when training in an open water environment, whereas if you didn’t have any reference of how far you swam you wouldn’t be able to continually ensure that you are actually getting in enough training volume.
Plus it’s cool to show your friends and family where and how far you’ve swum.
My recommended watch for both open water and pool swimming is the Garmin Swim 2 watch, it’s super-duper accurate and provides a ton of additional data about your swimming. It’s also priced really reasonably and looks great! You can check it out on Amazon by clicking here.
If you’d like to learn more about the Garmin Swim 2 or check out a couple of other models then I recommend reading my article on the 7 best swimming watches for open water swimmers.
7. Swimming Training Gear and Equipment.
As an open water swimmer, you’ll more than likely also be spending a lot of time training in a pool environment and not just open water. The pool is a great place to work on improving your stroke, stamina, and confidence in the water.
When training in a pool environment I recommend using some training gear and aids to spice things up here and there and to focus on specific parts of your stroke. This equipment definitely shouldn’t be used the entire time but using it here and there to work on something is a great way to become a faster and better swimmer.
The most essential pieces of equipment that you should be using when training in a pool environment is going to include fins, paddles, a pull buoy, kickboard, and a swimmer’s snorkel.
The fins will help you to build a ton of power in your legs which can have a drastic effect on your open water swimming performances.
I recommend using it in combination with your kickboard to do a couple of kicking sets every now and then. You can do kick sets focused on endurance and also ones more focused on speed and power.
Personally I really like the Arena Powerfin Pro fins, they have a great fit and provide a ton of thrust in the water. You can check them out on Swimoutlet by clicking here or on Amazon by clicking here.
If you want to check out some more swimming fins, I recommend reading my article on the 15 best swimming fins for training.
In terms of kickboards, you can go with any model you like really as long as it’s from a good swimming brand.
Next, a combination of paddles and your pull buoy can be used to build upper body strength and work on your arm technique. Having an efficient catch and pull can greatly benefit your speed and performance in the water.
The snorkel can be used when working on any part of your stroke since it’ll help you to maintain an excellent body line without having to worry about breathing. This way you can focus solely on the swimming technique that you’re working on at that moment.
My recommended swimmer’s snorkel is the Finis Swimmer’s Snorkel, it’s super basic and easy to use and comes in at a great price. You can check out it’s latest price on SwimOutlet by clicking here or on Amazon by clicking here.
Keep in mind you can also use each piece of equipment completely separately or in different combinations to target different swimming aspects. These are just a few examples.
8. Zinc Oxide And Sunscreen.
Although, not technically a “piece of open water swimming gear”, sunscreen or zinc oxide can come in quite handy when going for an open water swim on those sunny and warm days. Both sunscreen and zinc oxide will provide you with protection and block from the sun’s bright rays.
The main difference between the two is that sunscreen is more of a chemical formulation while zinc oxide is a more natural option that will create a white chalky look on your skin but still provide an optimal block against the sun’s rays.
9. Lubricant or anti-chafe stick.
Using some form of lubricant or anti-chafe stick is going to come in handy when you’re going for a long open water swim while wearing your wetsuit.
A wetsuit is going to inevitably rub against your skin which can lead to uncomfortable and painful rashes. That’s why I recommend using a lubricant or anti-chafe stick for your longer swims.
This is going to protect your skin from irritation and is going to make sure that you don’t get any bad rashes or chafes while swimming with a wetsuit.
10. Open water swimming bag.
The final piece of open water swimming gear, that I’m going to recommend to you will be a swimming bag. Swimming bags are specially designed bags that provide a way to neatly store all of your swimming gear and equipment while keeping your belonging dry and safe inside.
Sure, you can use any old bag you have lying around, but if you really want to look like a pro and keep all of your gear and equipment in good condition, then I recommend picking up a swimming bag.
There are 2 types of swimming bags, but personally I recommend picking up both since they aren’t too expensive.
The first (and most useful) type is going to be the swimming backpack. This is a rigid waterproof swimming bag that will be able to store all of your gear and belongings. The only problem with this bag is that you don’t necessarily want to throw all your soaking wet gear in there after your swim.
That where the second type of swimming bag comes in- the mesh bag. This bag can be used to store your training aids like fins, snorkel, kickboards and so on. The bag will let the water drip out so you don’t have to worry about spending 10 minutes drying everything off and packing it in your backpack every time.
You can simply throw everything in your mesh bag, put in the trunk of your car, and bam, you’re ready to go.
My recommend swimming backpack is the Speedo Teamster 35L backpack, it looks awesome and has a ton of space and pockets to store your swimming gear. You can check out its latest price on SwimOutlet by clicking here or on Amazon by clicking here.
I also really like the TYR Big mesh mummy bag for storing my wet gear. It provides a ton of space, it’s cheap, and even has a few pockets for smaller pieces of equipment. Check it out on SwimOutlet by clicking here or Amazon by clicking here.
For a full and in-depth article on swimming backpacks and mesh bags, I recommend reading my article on the 15 best swimming bags.
Making sure that you have all of the right gear for your open water swim is an important aspect to take care of! If you don’t have the right equipment you may find yourself in a tight situation or you might be putting yourself at a disadvantage in terms of performance by not using the right training gear, not receiving good insights into your swims, or not maximizing your buoyancy and speed in the water.
Every piece of gear plays an important role in helping you to become a better, faster, and healthier swimmer.
So with that said, I hope you now have a great set of kit and that you’re ready to conquer all of your open water swimming aspirations and goals.
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