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What To Wear Cold Water Swimming

   December 1st, 2020   Posted In: Articles  

What To Wear Cold Water Swimming

To try and stay as warm as possible we have all kinds of options these days when it comes to what to wear cold water swimming. Getting comfortable with swimming in colder climates dramatically opens up your options for training and using the right gear can also vastly improve your overall performance.

Whether you’re swimming out in the ocean or a cold pool in the offseason, we want to make sure you have the right accessories to keep comfortable during your next cold water swim.


When you are trying to figure out what to wear for cold water swimming a wetsuit should be immediately considered. There are literally wetsuits and accessories out there that will keep you comfortable in every water temperature.

If you are going to be swimming in water that is below 65-degrees then a triathlon wetsuit is the way to go. In contrast, if you are swimming in a pool in the winter that is in the low 70s then a neoprene jacket or triathlon shorts may be just what you need to keep you warm.

There are also options out there like sleeveless suits or spring suits that can dial in your comfort when you find a cold body of water that you will be frequenting. Try to get a sense of how cold the water will be that you will be swimming in and then shop accordingly.

Head Coverings

This is like ‘what to wear cold water swimming 101.’ Your head is where most body heat escapes so putting something over it will help immensely. It may not seem like it but even a latex or silicone swim cap will help keep your head warm in cold water temperatures. A better alternative is a neoprene swim cap or hood. The added thickness of the neoprene does a great job of stopping your body heat from escaping. If you are wearing a wetsuit, a hood that tucks into the suit will help keep water from seeping in through the collar, adding warmth.

Heat Tip: If you want to maintain as much heat as possible wear multiple layers on your head. For instance, some swimmers like to wear a latex swim cap under their neoprene cap or hood which will help keep your head dry and warmer. You can even go as far as covering the neoprene cap with another latex swim cap. That will make for a 3rd layer that will add some serious insulation to the top of your head which will keep you nice and comfy.


Having cold hands sucks, so when considering what to wear cold water swimming we recommend getting a set of gloves. They are relatively cheap and will not only make your cold water swim more comfortable but it will also make changing out of your gear when you are done a whole lot easier. Swimming in cold water can make your fingers feel unusable and gloves will help eliminate that. Gloves also come in all different styles and thicknesses to suit your specific needs. One thing to consider though, the thicker the glove, the less dexterity you will have with your fingers. So put them on last.

Wetsuit Booties

Bare feet allow more body heat to escape than you probably think so when putting together your kit of what to wear cold water swimming boots or even socks should be an essential part. There are dozens of options out there, some with hard soles, some with soft soles, some thick, and some thin.

I am frequently in water that is about 58 degrees. I recently upgraded from 2mm booties to 5mm booties and it has made all the difference. If the water you are swimming in is not that cold, light neoprene socks might be the way to go. The fact is, your feet get cold fast especially in the cold water so find the ones the keep your feet toasty at the right temperature.

Heat Tip: If I know my feet are going to be extra cold I will wear neoprene socks under my booties to help lock in the warmth and it makes a huge difference.

Goggles & Earplugs

Ears emit a lot of heat and since you can’t wear earmuffs out in the water, you should get some earplugs. Not only do they literally help keep warmth locked inside your head but they also do wonders for stopping other issues that prolonged exposure to cold water can do to your ears. Many swimmers believe silicone earplugs work the best in cold water because they provide the best seal.

Goggles are not obvious either but they make a difference when you are considering what to wear cold water swimming. Goggles keep the cold water out of your eye sockets and greatly add to the overall comfortability while swimming. You might not get a ton of heat benefits out of them but swimming in cold water is all about comfort so any advantage you can get in the comfort category is going to make your swim easier and more fun.

Warmer Means More Fun

What to wear cold water swimming will be super important to how much enjoyment you get out of it. Obviously, if you are freezing cold the first time you try it you probably won’t be itching to go back in. But if you suit up using the gear we mentioned you should discover that swimming in cold bodies of water is an exhilarating activity that you’ll want to do again and again.

what to wear cold water swimming

Wes Severson is a fitness enthusiast and bodyboarder from San Francisco, CA who is always at Ocean Beach hitting the waves. He is also an Emmy Award-winning broadcast news writer and producer and a recording artist who goes by the name Wes Magic.

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One Comment

  • How do you loosen the glue holding the zipper in place on the wet suit. Have removed the stitching and have the new zipper but don’t want to tear the suit by pulling on the glue. Is there a way to loosen the glue? Heat? Solvent?

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