The Wild Swimmer's Guide to Cold Water Gear: 10 Essentials for Outdoor Swimming Pros

There's something about swimming outdoors that just makes you feel alive. Add to that a crisp cold day and icy, exhilarating waters and there’s no feeling quite like it. 

Maybe it's the sense of adventure or the fact that you're surrounded by nature. Whatever it is, there's no doubt that outdoor swimming is becoming more and more popular.

And if you already love to swim in cold water, then you need some excellent cold water gear. 

Perhaps you already have some and are ready for an upgrade, or perhaps you've been braving it in the bare essentials until now and are ready to treat yourself to the kind of cold water swimming gear that's worthy of your love for swimming in the blue wilds.

In this blog post, we'll ‌look at 10 essential items for anyone who loves wild swimming. From wetsuits to changing robes, we've got you covered with our absolute favourite cold water swimming accessories to keep you warm year round.

A wetsuit or rash vest

Item number one on our list is a good wetsuit.

If you're going to be swimming in cold water, then a wetsuit is an absolute must and can make a huge difference, particularly if you've been braving it in just a cossie. 

Not only will a wetsuit keep you warm, but it will also protect you from any potential hazards in the water.

The type of wetsuit you choose depends on what's most important to you. Are you looking for a winter wetsuit for ultimate warmth or are you more interested in speed and efficiency in the water?

If you've been cold water swimming for some time, chances are, you're well used to acclimatising to bracing icy water — in fact, that's part of the reason you love to swim outdoors.

The Vivida Linda wetsuit is a perfect option for eco-conscious wild swimmers. It's a shorty wetsuit that's made from sustainable neoprene made from recycled elements and is designed to support you in the water.

It's reversible so it's just as stylish as it is practical, be prepared to get compliments on your new piece of kit!

Tow Float or Buoy

Chances are that you already have a floatation device or buoyancy aid. This is ‌important if you're cold water swimming in open water, as it will help to keep you safe.

For beginners, buoys are helpful to provide a bit of additional buoyancy but for those who no longer need the help, they provide a double purpose. They keep you seen.

This is particularly true if you're cold water swimming in populated areas where it's important to let fellow water lovers know that you're there. Whether it's kayakers, sailors, surfers or even the occasional water-bound hound, a tow device can keep you seen in the water.

For keen swimmers who plan on charging through the open waves, choose a tow float that's bright and durable. We love this simmering hot pink one by Zone 3 as it doubles as a handy dry bag. Perfect for keeping your valuables close to hand.

A dry bag

Item number three on our list is a dry bag to store your kit. If you're going to be cold water swimming outdoors, then chances are you're going to get wet. So, it's important to have a bag that can keep all of your belongings safe and dry.

You should look for a dry bag that you can sling over your shoulder as you hike across sands searching for your perfect swim spot, or from the car park to your favourite place to swim for that matter.

They aren't typically for taking into the water with you, but if you're cold water swimming somewhere secluded or you have someone to watch over your things, a dry bag is a great option and is great to pop your swim kit in after your dash to the shore.

For a lightweight stylish option in a range of colours, take a look at this Sea to Summit Dry Sack.

Poncho Towel

You might already own a poncho towel or towelling robe, they're an essential piece of kit that stops you from exposing your bare skin to the cold after some cold water swimming.

After a cold water swim, the last thing you want to do is put wet clothes back on. A towelling poncho allows you to change in privacy and warmth.

We're not saying your old poncho towel doesn't do the job, but if you've been swimming for some time, it might be time to treat yourself to one that's gorgeously soft and comes in a range of colourways to suit your taste.

Add to that a cosy kangaroo front pocket and a wonderfully warm oversized hood and you have the Vivida Original Poncho Towel.

A Swim hat or swim cap

This is another essential cold water swimming accessory for anyone who loves to swim outdoors.

A swim cap or hat will keep your head warm and protected from the sun. Or if the sun is a rarity in your parts, they are equally good for protecting your hair from abrasive salts or algae.

Perhaps the most important benefit of a neoprene cap or swim cap is for extra warmth — it's amazing how much heat we lose from our heads! Even if the rest of our bodies are keeping warm from being active, the air temperature can mean we're losing heat and along with it, vital energy needed to keep swimming.

If you're a regular year-round swimmer, this neoprene cap by Orca is just the ticket to prevent heat loss and keep your head protected from the elements.

Neoprene boots or swimming socks

If you're going to be swimming in cold water, then you need to make sure your feet are protected from the cold.

Neoprene boots or socks are a great way to do this.

Not only are they great for winter swimming but they keep your feet protected from slippery rocks or jagged surfaces as you're clambering into the water on the hunt for the perfect swim.

These Swimming Socks by Zone 3 are ideal cold water swimming accessories as they're secure, lightweight and designed for colder water. Ideal for a pro like you!

Ear Plugs

If you're going to be swimming in cold water, then you need to make sure your ears are protected from the cold and you're not getting too much water in your ear canal.

In populated areas or if the sound of the ocean's waves is crashing in the background, it's important to ‌hear what's around you.

So whilst these are a little more pricy, we love these earplugs by SurfEars.

They allow sound in and perhaps the most useful feature is the leash that connects your earplugs to you, so less chance of them getting lost.

Neoprene Gloves

If you're prone to cold hands in the water then a great pair of neoprene gloves will provide extra warmth.

Like their counterpart for your feet, no winter swimming is complete without a pair of these gloves as they serve the double purpose of keeping hands warm but also stop them from getting cuts and nicks from rocks you might encounter entering or exiting the water.

If you've been dedicated to open water swimming for a few months or even years, these Zone 3 Neoprene Gloves are a great investment to add warmth.

These long-length gloves are designed to fit beneath a wetsuit and their grippy palms will help you scramble down rocks in comfort.

A Smartwatch

There are scores of great waterproof watches on the market today, so it's likely you'll find one to suit most pockets.

For the more experienced swimmer, a smartwatch is a great way to keep track of your swimming workouts.

Garmin does a great range of watches and they're ideal for those who love to swim in nature. Many of them have an open water setting.

This Garmin Swim 2, tracks your distance, pace, stroke count, stroke type, and distance per stroke, along with your heart rate, then allows you to sync the results to your phone. It's lightweight and even can gauge your swimming efficiency.

A Changing robe

Every open water swimming enthusiast understands the value of piling on warm layers and grabbing a hot drink after they've left the water, especially in chilly winter months.

If you've contended yourself with pulling on several woollen jumpers, hoodies, beanie hats and big socks the moment you're on shore, a really high-quality changing robe could be a game changer.

Picture leaving the water — you're feeling exhilarated, happy but freezing! Rather than unpacking your clothes and trying to avoid getting them damp in the process, imagine simply pulling on your changing robe and immediately feeling enveloped in warmth and comfort. And once you're a little drier, a changing robe should be big enough to change beneath too.

If keeping warm is important to you, ‌look out for the following in your changing robe:

  • A quilt or fleece lining
  • A waterproof outer shell
  • Long sleeves and longer length for easy changing
  • Plenty of pockets to keep hands warm and valuables tucked away
  • Easy to transport — it either folds up neatly or comes with it's own carry bag

The Vivida changing robe is the perfect gift or purchase for regular swimmers. It's the warmest changing robe out there and is waterproof, sustainable and looks gorgeous.

So there you have it, our top ten essentials for open water swimmers who have earned their stripes or love to plunge into colder waters. This list of cold water swimming gear should provide you with the inspiration to treat yourself or a loved one to a truly special piece of cold water swimming kit. The right gear can fuel your love for swimming in the cold.

Vivida is a great choice for cold water swimmers. With a wide range of products to choose from. With gorgeous, high-quality wetsuits, poncho towels and changing robes, Vivida has you covered. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start swimming!


To shop our full range of changing robes, wetsuits and towelling ponchos, head over to Vivida Lifestyle. 

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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.