A picture of a woman on the beach, stood on the sand with the sea behind her. She is stood with her arms in the air, wearing a long sleeved swimming costume and bobble hat
Image credit: Claire Tote

What to take cold-water swimming

10 recommended items to take on your next outdoor swimming venture

As someone who was originally introduced to outdoor swimming by my mum, I am now partial to a Boxing Day plunge and keen sea swimmer, meaning I have been lucky enough to have first-hand experience when it comes to everything you might need when going for a cold dip. One thing I should preface this list of suggestions with is that warming up after a swim is the number one priority (at least for me), so the fact that I recommend the following items for cold-water swimming is a testament to them.

Organising your items in advance is of utmost importance. Imagine getting out of the water and having to dig through your things for your towel while slowly turning blue. To make sure this doesn’t happen, layer your bucket of belongings appropriately, so what you will need straight after emerging from your swim is on top.

Here are a few tips: working from the bottom up, put your keys, phone and wallet at the bottom, then your clothes, on top, a changing robe, and a towel at the very top, meaning you can dry off and wrap up as soon as possible.

What to take:

1. It might seem obvious, but a swimming costume. Those bold enough can brave their dip with their everyday trunks or bikini, but a neoprene suit will keep you warmer and make sure you look the part. I recommend the ‘Two Bare Feet Arabella’ long-sleeved swimsuit from Swim the Lakes.

2. Much less sexy, but possibly of equal importance are neoprene shoes and gloves. Your fingers and toes reach a level of cold you couldn’t ever imagine possible, so these are essential.

3. Now synonymous with outdoor swimming, a woolly bobble hat will not only keep your head and ears warm, but will also serve as a reminder not to put your face in any water you’d rather not swallow.

4. A towel – the bigger the better, you’ll want to swaddle yourself like a newborn after emerging from your swim. Alternatively, you can take a towelling poncho to wear while you get dry.

5. Warm clothes to change into, that are easy to get on. Think tracksuit bottoms and a hoodie and warm shoes like Uggs or even Crocs with a pair of fluffy socks. Zippers and buttons will prove challenging with your fingers being so cold.

6. A hot drink in a thermos. This will warm you from the inside out, and the promise of a yummy hot chocolate is a great incentive to go for a swim. It is also brilliant to warm your hands up after your dip. My mum also swears by taking a warm bacon sandwich for afterwards, but I much prefer a piping hot coffee!

A picture of a red hydro flask on a wooden table in front of a scenic lake and grassy bank
A piping hot coffee after your dip is essential. Image credit: Pixabay

7. A big bucket-like vessel such as a laundry hamper or even a bag for life . This is slightly strange, but so useful. You can just throw all your stuff in there while you swim and have an easy way of ferrying things to and from your car. A brightly coloured one is best so you will be able to keep a watchful eye on your belongings on shore while you are swimming.

8. A changing robe like a Dryrobe. Not only are they incredibly warm, but they also mean you won’t flash any dog walkers or beachgoers as you’re frantically peeling off your cold and wet costume. Prior to having a changing robe, I would take my Oodie to the ponds when I would go for a swim, so anything big and cosy will do! Not only do they provide privacy when changing rooms are nowhere to be found, they also keep you warm and protected from wind chill.

9. A tow float. These double as a dry bag for anything you don’t want to leave on the shore while keeping you visible. These are particularly important when sea swimming or swimming anywhere there are boats or watersports to ensure you’re easy to spot.

10. Hand and feet warmers and / or a hot water bottle are great for those particularly icy days. Sometimes, no matter how many layers you put on, it seems impossible to warm up, so a hot water bottle is a lovely thing to have on hand to tuck into your jumper. Hand and feet warmers are a bit of a luxury, but popping them into your gloves results in unparalleled joy (once the feeling in your hands returns).

I hope this helps when either planning your next swim, or even preparing for your first ever outdoor dip.

If you’re worried about forgetting anything, you can print out the checklist below and tick things off as you pack.

Happy swimming!