What to wear for open water swimming

Open water swimming provides a sense of freedom and is a great way to both explore nature and train. Yet, with water temperatures not always (read: seldom if you live in the temperate zones as we do) being fit for humans. You’ll need to dress for the occasion so to speak. To not scare you off, read our blog about Utö Swimrun. A race that can be cold, but is fantastic and not too cold. You’ll get warm during the runs!

A wetsuit is a great start and is the basis for your open water swimming to be fun, and safe. And with a couple of add ons, you will be able to swim earlier in the season and for longer! Sounds great right?

Great pieces that you can wear for open water swimming

Base layer

Just as with land sports, layering your clothes is a great way to keep warm. The same goes for swimming. Remember that neoprene is almost waterproof, so wearing something underneath your wetsuit will help you in staying warm. I recommend that you put on a merino wool shirt. Sure, it will get wet, but your body temperature will heat it and help you keep warm.


When you expose yourself to the cold water, your body will focus on keeping blood flow in your core. This is to keep your vital organs safe and functioning. That means that your arms will start to freeze! Counteract this by wearing long sleeves to your wetsuit.


Long socks are great to give you a bit of extra warmth. Use merino wool!


Neoprene gloves are great! They keep your hands warm and at the same time, they will let you have a feel for the water. If your hands get too cold. You won’t be able to feel the water during your stroke. And that will lead to poor technique. Making your swimming less effective. So, wear gloves!

Neoprene swim cap

You feel silly wearing it? Don’t worry, who is going to judge your style in the middle of the ocean? It will keep you warm, and swimming will be more fun! An added bonus is that it will scare off the Kraken!

Bonus tip!

Acclimatization is key! You can’t escape the cold, but you can control yourself in the extreme environment of cold water. Me personally, I try to take ice baths during the winter to work on controlling my breathing and calm. It is a skill that you need to work on. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that. Try turning your shower to the cold setting for a couple of seconds. You will get used to it in no time! 

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Don’t stress over the fact that this video and article was done with a swimrun-focus! What to wear for open water swimming is universal!

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