2013 Winter Swim Gear
We often get inquires about what type of gear we use when swimming during the winter months. Truth be told, it’s a very non-scientific “trial-and-error” process where we’re constantly experimenting to find out what works and what doesn’t.
So with that in mind, below is the current setup that I use that – for the most part – has helped me successfully navigate all that Old Man Winter throws at us during the coldest time of the year.
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WINTER SWIM GEAR – 2013
The first layer is whatever you would normally wear when swimming. I use swim jammers since they fit well under a wetsuit.
Believe it or not, we all use regular triathlon fullsuits that are designed for swimming – not heavy duty scuba wetsuits or drysuits. These typically have 3mm neoprene on the arms and back with slightly thicker layers on the chest and legs to assist with buoyancy.
Once you get over the initial shock of the cold water entering the suit, the layer of water warms up pretty quickly and you can swim quite comfortably without needing to resort to a scuba wetsuit or drysuit.
We all use neoprene dive boots to keep our feet warm. I currently use Bare 7mm Cold Water Tall Boots, and they work quite well:
This is the only area where we are still experimenting. I currently use the XS Dry Five 5mm gloves. They’re slip ons, but they do a pretty good job of keeping out the water if placed on properly. The problem is that it’s often ridiculously difficult to put these on with one hand already gloved.
I tried out other 5mm gloves with velcro wrist fasteners, but they just didn’t seem to work as well as the slip-ons. Bottom line, we still have yet to find a neoprene glove that keeps our fingertips warm for more than about 15 to 20 minutes in the water once it goes below 40F.
Silicone swim cap
I wear this underneath my neoprene cap to add an extra layer on my head and to keep the cold water out of my ears:
Neoprene dive hood
I use a Cressi Castoro 5mm Hood. The other swimmers use similar scuba hoods, but they have bibs on theirs. I’ve never gotten comfortable swimming with a hood that has a bib, but everyone else seems to be fine with it.
One plus of having the bib is that it helps protect your neck from the cold water. With the Cressi hood, there’s a small part of the back of my neck that’s still exposed. It’s a bit of a cold shock (literally) at first, but it doesn’t bother me after a couple of minutes.
I use standard swim goggles. I used to use larger ones that covered more of my face, and these do make a difference in the cold water. But I now just put some petroleum jelly on the exposed parts of my face, and that works fine.
I’ve written about this in a previous post, but it’s definitely worth repeating. It’s a good idea to irrigate your nasal passages after you swim in the lake. In the past, I used a Neti pot, but now I use one of these:
Finally, I use a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and isopropyl alcohol to help prevent swimmers ear. I keep a mixture of it in a small bottle, and I just add a few drops to each ear as soon as I get home.
That’s it! Now you have no excuses whatsoever for not swimming in the lake all year round…