How to Choose the Perfect Swimming Costume for Cold Water Swimming


  1. Why is your swimming costume important?
  2. Why are you swimming?
  3. Where are you swimming?
  4. What time of year are you swimming? 
  5. What's your skill level?
  6. Choosing a swimming costume that's practical and ethical

Swimming in cold water can be a really invigorating experience, but it's important to choose the right swimming costume to make sure you stay warm and comfortable - or not if that's what you prefer!

In this blog post, we'll explore the key things to look for when picking a swimming costume for cold water swimming. We'll consider factors such as location, temperature and skill level so that you’re armed with the knowledge to pick your next cold water swimming costume like a pro. 

Why is your swimming costume important?

swimming costume important

If you're thinking about taking the first steps on your cold water swimming journey, you'll discover there are so many benefits to cold water swimming.

For the first few swims, you might pop on your trusty swimming costume that you wear to the pool and brave the elements.

Before you do, take a moment to consider why this essential piece of swimming kit is so important to you.

Aside from the obvious, your swimming costume can provide a few simple benefits:

  • They protect your skin from sea salt, water algae and the elements
  • They provide support whilst you're swimming - some will hold you tighter than others
  • They add a layer of warmth
  • A bright or patterned costume can help you stay seen

Suddenly the humble swimming costume takes on a whole new meaning when swimming outdoors.

So what else is there to consider when choosing a swimming costume for cold water?

Why are you swimming?

There are several reasons why someone might choose to cold water swim. These may be:

  • For socialising
  • For mental wellbeing
  • For exercise
  • For cold water immersion

The reason why you're swimming may be one or more of these, or none at all. The reasons for cold water swimming are completely personal which is what makes it such a popular and beautiful sport.

You should consider why you're swimming when choosing a swimming costume for cold water. 

For example, if your goal is to practice Wim Hof and cold water immersion, your regular swimming costume may be enough, or if you're trying to ease yourself in gently, then a long sleeve swimming costume or shorty wetsuit might be the perfect compromise.

If your goal is to enjoy yourself bobbing around in the water whilst chatting to pals and you live in a colder part of the country, you might want to invest in a full winter wetsuit.

If entering an event is your aim, you'll need to look for a great all-rounder swimming costume. You'll need one that offers plenty of support, allows you a good range of motion and also means you don't lose energy through heat loss. 

Sound like you? Our Linda wetsuit paired with swimming socks and neoprene gloves will see you kitted out wonderfully. Take a look at our list of 10 essentials for pros for a full list of cold water swimming gear.

Where are you swimming?

Another thing to think about when choosing a swimming costume for cold water swimming is where you'll be swimming.

If you're swimming on a crowded beach and don't have a place to change, you may want to choose a fabric that's lightweight and quick drying so that you can throw on a poncho towel or changing robe and grab a hot drink for extra warmth. A rashguard might be a good option.

Whether you live in the highlands of Scotland or the south of Portugal is likely to also make a difference.

For colder climates, a heavy-weight swimming costume with long sleeves is likely to be a safer bet. Unless of course you plan on wearing your costume beneath your wetsuit, in which case, a lightweight bikini might serve you well.

If you're swimming in a populated area with fellow water users like kayakers, windsurfers, or motorboats, you may decide to wear your swimming costume bright and proud. If this isn't for you, a brightly coloured swim hat or neoprene swim cap will serve just as well.

Finally, a small lake or lido is likely to be warmer than swimming in the sea. If you do choose to swim in the ocean, you might consider wearing long sleeves to protect your skin and add a layer of warmth.

What time of year are you swimming?

The next thing to consider is temperature. If you're a hardy winter swimmer and you're swimming in very cold water, then you'll need a swimming costume that will protect you from the cold and help you to retain body heat.

Look for swimming costumes that are made from thicker materials such as neoprene, and make sure they have a good fit so they don't let any cold water in. Our Linda reversible wetsuit is a great example of a long-sleeved, shorty wetsuit that can help you retain warmth without being too restrictive.

Wearing a wetsuit when wild swimming in the winter can make all the difference to keeping your upper body warm. How warm you wish to be is a personal preference.

If it's summer and you're expecting some rays of sunshine whilst you swim, protect your skin with UPF 50+ fabric and long sleeves. Our water warrior one-piece is a perfect pick!

What's your skill level

Whether you're training for your first triathlon, learning to be 'at-one' with the cold or have been dipping with a group of fellow swimmers for years, it's important to ease yourself into cold water and listen to your body.

If you're swimming in cold water several times a week, your body will be more used to cold water temperatures.

If you're just starting out, hypothermia is a real possibility so it's best to start out spending just a few minutes in the water at a time. Alternatively, retaining as much heat as possible by choosing your swimming costume carefully can help.

If you're just starting out and are determined to expose as much flesh as possible to the water, make sure you keep your head warm as it can make a huge difference.

Choosing a swimming costume that's practical and ethical

Many people in the cold water swimming community care deeply for the watery environment they take such joy in. It's natural that they should want to preserve it where possible.

In some cases, this will stretch to investing in a swim kit that considers the planet as much as the wearer. Here are a few things to look out for in a swimming costume or wetsuit. If you see a few of these listed against the swimming costume, you have your eye on, you can rest assured that you're making a good choice for the environment:

  • Fabric made from recycled plastic bottles
  • Neoprene that's eco carbon black made from upcycled tyres
  • Earth-mined limestone neoprene
  • Water-based glues
  • Eco-friendly manufacturing methods
  • Cardboard, paper or compostable packaging
  • Control Union Certified
  • Global Recycled Standard Certified

At Vivida, we want to empower adventurous spirits to swim more and respect the surrounding environment. That’s why all our swimming costumes are built to be supportive and look beautiful whether you’re swimming in choppy oceans or crystal reservoirs. We also strive to create beautiful swimwear from recycled materials. 

Shop our Water Warrior One-piece Swimsuit or reversible Linda Wetsuit for a magical cold water swimming experience.


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Indie Bornhoft is a personal trainer and watersports coach, who encourages her clients to make movement their mantra. She has coached every ability in wakeboarding, paddleboarding, SUP fitness, and windsurfing for over ten years, and is highly qualified in all disciplines. Discover more about her drive to just keep moving and be inspired to connect to the raw power of body & spirit through fitness.