Wetsuit, No Wetsuit or Alternatives

The options for what you can wear in the water are endless. Many people are worried about what to buy, or how they may look when swimming in the river. Some people may want to cover up, others are more concerned about being "warmer" or about safety. 

There is no right or wrong answer, just lots of options. Please explore this page for ideas or suggestions. I am not making any recommendations for companies, just sharing the range of options available. 

Wetsuit or not? 

Wetsuits are made of a layer of neoprene which traps a layer of water against your skin, this warms up and in turn keeps you warmer than you would be without it. The neoprene also provides buoyancy to the swimmer. Wetsuits for swimming usually contain neoprene between 3mm and 5mm, but some have thinner panels. 

You can get simple surfing wetsuits, triathlon or swimming suits. All with various features such as thinner panels to ease movement, or "quick release" arms for a quick exit. 

The more features, the more the suit will cost with a basic swimming wetsuit being £100 upwards. Various swimming wetsuit companies make different types of suits for different swimmers or for those swimming breast stroke or front crawl. 

A basic surfing wetsuit can be a suitable option for someone dipping or swimming in the river with their head up. Short legs and sleeves can often make these suits easier to get off, and can provide the wearer with some "warmth" and buoyancy. 

Its worth asking yourself if you actually need a wetsuit. They will extend your time in the water, but can significantly extend your time wet and cold whilst you are trying to get out of it. This is the reason why many winter swimmers don't wear wetsuits - so they can get dry and warm quickly. 

Sizing can be a nightmare and larger women will find it easier to try men's sizes in some makes. Short legged and no arm suits are available as is front or back zip types. 

Where to buy: 

Cheaper basic suits - Mountain Warehouse, Sainsburys, Amazon, Wiggle, Two Bare Feet, Aldi, Decathlon. 

More specialist and therefore more expensive suits are often bought directly from the maker. A few options of outlets which sell a range are: Wiggle or Robin Hood Watersports or Swim the Lakes. 

At swimming events and amongst swimmer friends I see the following makes frequently worn: Orca, Zone 3, Alpkit, Blue Seventy, Zoot, Aquasphere. 

Also remember than many brands or specialist outlets will hire wetsuits for a season or a few weeks.

Other Options: 

Swimming in your costume is your simplest option. You can wear tight gym kit if you want to feel the comfort of a layer; it may make a slight difference to your temperature. 

LegsFrom neoprene leggings for surfers or longer length shorts there is a wide variety once you look. Don't be afraid of searching wider than swimwear. Surfing or Stand Up Paddleboard kit provides some extra options and look through the men's range too. As a plus size women most of my kit is from a men's range. 

Tops - Rash vests are pretty standard now - you can find lots of options from swim specialist or high-street names. 

Some wetsuit companies will have "separates" or a swim jacket or top. Long sleeve swimming costumes are increasingly available. 

Search for "modest swimwear" and you will be blown away by the options on offer. 

Remember that you need to be able to swim safely, so buy items in your size that will not get tangled or wrapped up in the water. 

Shoes, boots and gloves - often sold as diving or scuba kit you can get a wide range of gloves and footwear that's useful for keeping your extremities warm and shoes are often essential to protect your feet.
Simple water shoes are often available in supermarkets or discount shops.