Extend your season - Our Guide To Winter Swim Accessories
It might be that time of year when many triathletes have retreated to the comfort of the heated pool, making plans for training schedules for 2020 events. However, with the right equipment we are still seeing many open water swimmers heading to local lakes and coastal venues. While your 4/5mm suit might afford ample thermal protection from April through November if you really want to extend the season it all comes down to your accessory selection.
This will largely relate to gloves, socks and caps, but also consider under layers to really boost the benefits of your suit. At Robin Hood Watersports we carry a range of neoprene accessories, as well as having the experience to advise on what is most suited to your needs. Our main recommendations will come from Zone3, 2XU and O’Neill, with each having stand out products. Depending on your choice of swim stroke it is likely that potential thermal losses through your head will lead to the cap being your best friend, so let’s start there.
While the latex cap affords some protection from cold water its primary benefit relates to visibility and thus wearing a neoprene cap, whether in insolation of combined with latex, will provide massive benefits. The two main styles we recommend are the Zone3 and 2XU version, both of which have a place. The Zone3 version is a little thicker, using 4mm Yamamoto neoprene but the real deciding factor between this and the 2XU is the use of a Velcro chin strap. This certainly makes the Zone3 easier to get on and off. In contrast, the 2XU is constructed in a single piece and thus should be more comfortable, reducing any rubbing given the repetitive action of breathing while swimming freestyle. However, this is a small point and in reality customer feedback for either is excellent! Both also use a single lined outer, without nylon lining. The effect is to eliminate wind chill and thus keep you warmer. It also means the caps dry extremely quickly.
As well as wearing a neoprene cap it might be worth mention that our staff are massive fans of earplugs. Cold water ingress to the ear canal has many negatives, from confused balance to increased risk of ear inflections. A condition known as surfers ear is prevalent in many cold water athletes, effectively the gradual narrowing of the ear canal as a response to cold water. This will lead to hearing loss in the long term and a lengthy period off the water to correct. To mitigate these risks why not consider the ultra comfortable Surf Ears, which are used by all our staff and have no effect on your ability to hear. They really are excellent and come with an adjustable system making them one size fits all.
Keeping your hands warm is a request we hear from many customers and luckily there are a great range of gloves on the market. The initial split can be made by differentiating between those made by swim and surf brands. Models produced by the former, namely Zone3, will be longer in the cuff for improved integration. This is primarily because many swim suits are shorter cut in the wrist, so which gloves style suits you comes largely down to your suit selection.
In the swim specific camp Zone3 produce two models and the choice depends on how warm you want to be. Be wary of going too thick as this ultimately adds weight and affects your technique. However, cold hand won’t encourage you to spend time in the water so similarly don’t under spec your gloves. The Zone3 swim gloves are a long cuff 2mm model with glued and blindstitched seams to reduce cold water ingress. They are great to extend the traditional season a little but if you want to head into the depth of winter then look to their 3.5mm heat tech model. These again have a long cuff with Velcro closure. However, the seams are further reinforced with a liquid tape, all but eliminating the potential for cold water to seep in.
Looking away from the long cuff swim specific models, O’Neill do excellent options that are comparable to the Zone3, called the Psychotech 1.5mm and 3mm. You should think of these are offering the same benefits as the Zone3 but for those using suits that come down to the wrist joint. The 1.5mm version is again a season extender, while the 3mm offers opportunity to swim on all but the coldest days. There are thicker gloves on the market but we question whether these heavy options have too much of a detrimental impact of your technique. However, always get in touch for advice if needed.
Keeping your feet warm should be a key consideration and we also see demand in this area from customers looking for a little protection from rough surfaces as you get into and out of the water. It is impossible to use anything with a thick sole as while this would be preferable from a protection perspective it would negatively affect the swim kick technique. For those looking for thermal protection the Zone3 range are stand out products. As is the situation with gloves their standard 2mm swim sock is an excellent season extender, using glued seams and lightweight sole. For those looking for more serious warmth the 3.5mm heat tech version is preferable, using thicker neoprene and fully sealed liquid taped seams to all but eliminate cold water flush. Both use a longer ankle cuff with Velcro closure to ensure great integration with the suit. This is especially important with triathlon specific wetsuits, which tend to be cut to finish several inches above the ankle.
Just talking about winter swimming makes us want to get into the water and we hope you are feeling enthusiastic too. It is always fantastic to discuss your requirements so as to offer advice, so why not get in touch today.
Enjoy your swimming!
Robin Hood Watersports