Wetsuit A swimming specific wetsuit is cut and shaped specifically for swimming. It provides an element of protection from the colder water experienced outside, as opposed to a pool. It also has inherent buoyancy. The benefits of these style of suits is that they can help increase speed in open water. The suits are made of neoprene and are smooth skin on the outside. Top end, brand new suits can be very expensive (£350-£500) but entry level new can be as low as £50. Some fantastic deals can be found on the various re-selling sites and these would be a great starting place for finding a suit to get you in the water.
Goggles Different to pool goggles, open water swimming specific goggles have a wider field of vision, aiding sighting and covering a bit more of the face, adding slightly to warmth. Lenses come in different shapes, sizes and tints to suit a variety of conditions. It is possible to order prescription, polarised, mirrored and various other specialist lenses if you have specific visual requirements.
Swimming cap Contrary to popular perception the days of the head covering, pink, embossed flowery swim cap are gone! Smooth, sleek, modern swim caps come in all manner of colours and a bright one is a good recommendation for open water swimming, allowing you to be easily seen and spotted by folks on land. They can be made of silicone, simple rubber or neoprene, the latter providing significant warmth to the head. Doubling up on swim caps is another way of trapping or retaining some heat. The bonus for those who swim and have long hair, is that the cap can retain you locks from waving around near your face, which can be a little annoying when you want to take a breath.
Tow float The popularity of the tow float and it’s practical use far outweighs the stigma that used to be attached to having one of them attached to you as a swimmer. They are usually highly visible in colour, visibly from the shoreline, inflated easily with air from your lungs and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, configurations and added extras. They can be simply a float, or they can have integrated within them a ‘dry’ area or even a drink bottle holder. Their main use however, is as an aid to flotation and support if you become tired or distressed whilst open water swimming.
Ear plugs For me, the benefits of ear plugs mean a lesser chance of ear infections, less chance of developing swimmers’ or surfers’ ear (bony growth exostoses that eventually require drilling out) and less chance of experiencing vertigo and dizziness from the ocular-vestibular reaction. Further details of this can be found in my blog post ....... 'Close your ears...!'