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What is in our Kit bag? Co founder Laura, offers her recommendations for beginners...
Just what is it that you need to pack for a summer sea dip? mountain lake? or to float down a lazy river? Wild swimming in its purest form requires your birthday suit and a towel, but once you get hooked on open water swimming you will develop your own all season, all weather, ‘couldn't live without’ items. For now, here is our beginner guide to wild swimming and our kit bag recommendations…
Skins vs Suits
Are you a skins swimmer or a neoprene suit lover? Skins swimming means wearing trunks or a costume. We love swimming in skins! In the winter we go for an icy dunk and in the summer we can spend longer basking in the warm waves feeling the water flow against our skin. On the other hand a neoprene (swim) wet suit allows us to stay in the water for longer, provides much needed warmth in winter and protection against the elements. What you will need will depend on the time of year, temperature, weather and length of time you want to swim for. So let's get started on our top ten items….
1) Costume or trunks.
You can always go without,but they are great for protecting your modesty in the great outdoors and for keeping your wobbly bits in! Swimming costumes are made from plastic and as we like to reduce our impact and footprint on the planet we like to wear recycled plastic costumes. There are lots on the market but our favourites are listed below..
2) Swimming wetsuit
Wearing a wetsuit means you can stay in the water for longer. They trap water against your body which creates a mini hot water bottle effect where your body warms the water to a comfortable temperature. It also reduces the response your body might have to cold water shock. Wetsuits also make you more buoyant in the water. A swim specific wetsuit such as the Alpkit design reduce drag and use neoprene that repels water. Swimming wetsuits usually feature thinner neoprene in the upper body, particularly in the underarms and shoulders, to give you the freedom of movement you need for swimming.
We recommend one of these Alpkit suits…
3) Swim shoes/ boots
This is one of our absolute musts! Even for a skinny dip. Most of the terrains we cover are wild. This can mean there are sharp slate and rocky surfaces that can slice through a bare foot. Other locations like the sea have their own inhabitants like the weaver fish who have a painful way of dealing with being stomped on! You can wear old trainers but we recommend you purchase a swim shoe which are fairly cheap online and won't hold water weight. These are often available for a couple of pounds. Our favourite and most sturdy choice is the Gull 5mm boot which are not only warm but they also feature a thick protective sole.
4) Flask of Tea/Coffee/ hot drink
This is one of the best ways to warm up after your swim. A warm cosy drink will not only make you feel amazing but it will also help bring your core temperature back up! We use the ‘hydro flask’ as they not only keep your drink warm for longer but they also support our marine conservation work for Surfers Against Sewage.
Don’t underestimate the power of a good pair of wetsuit/swimming gloves. Your extremities are normally the first things to feel the cold ( after the initial catch your breath moments). New swimmers always comment that their hands are the first to feel the tingling sensation of the cold (and they wish they had our gloves!). We recommend anything between 5-3 mm to feel the benefit. In winter we always go for the 5mm to get the laps in!
6) Towelling robe/ Dry-robe/ Towel
Getting changed on the side of a lake or at the beach can be far from glamorous. In order to keep our modesty covered we use a towelling robe as you can put the hood on to keep you warm and pull the arms in to get changed. The ultimate in luxury is our Dry-robe - Weather proof with a fleece lining we couldn't do without these in the winter. They also bring our core temperature back up quickly. Let's also not overlook the basic towel!The type of towel you bring will depend on the adventure of your choice! When we pack for our adventure swims we need to keep weight down to a minimum therefore we pack a microfibre travel towel or a Hamman towel.
7) Wooly hat
Even when the sun is shining and you return to the shore you will feel your body temperature drop. The best way to keep the heat in is to pop on a wooly hat. In the winter we often swim in our bobble hats to stop the heat escaping! Don't underestimate the power of a wooly hat to bring your core temperature up!
8) Suncream/insect repellent
We swim in the wild rugged landscape and coastline of Snowdonia. Even on a cold day in the water you can suffer from sunburn. If we are travelling to lakes and rivers you have the additional company of midges and other insects. All part of the beauty of being outdoors. Better to be safe than sorry we always slather ourselves in insect repellent and sunscreen.
9) Swim hat/ bonnet
A swim hat not only keeps the warmth in and your hair dry but they can also make you more streamline in the water. We love swim bonnets in the winter with a chin strap to keep the hat pulled down over your ears. A must for front crawl in icy waters. You can also get them in bright hi vis colours which are excellent when you swim in areas with other water users such as boats and kayakers.
10) Tow float
We love a tow float on longer swims. Bright and highly visible you blow them up and attach them around your waist to create a human buoy that is quick and easy to inflate and can instantly keep you seen above the water. They often come with internal pockets to keep your items dry. When we get tired on a long swim we hold on to them to have a natter or to float along the river watching the clouds. Not an essential item but one we can’t do without for longer swim adventures. We love LOMO for their price point and Puffin Swim for their eco billy tow float.
And there you have it! Our top ten recommended items to pack in your kit bag. You wont need all of them but some are essential. There are other items you may also want to invest in such as open water goggles, fins and for all this kit you will need a decent rucksack or dry bag. You can purchase 30 ltr dry bags which are excellent investments especially if you want to tow your belongings with you….great for a lazy river swim or to throw your wet kit in after a dip. Remember to pack warm (easy to put on) layers to get dressed into. There is nothing worse than trying to pull on a pair of heavy denim jeans with soggy legs! Happy swimming watery friends...