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How To Swim In Cold Water Without A Wetsuit

Posted by Alex Clasper

Whilst wearing a wetsuit is a good way of keeping you warm, some cold water swimmers are eager to ditch the wetsuit in favour of swimming without. Cold water swimming without a wetsuit can be liberating, however it’s important to acclimatise yourself gradually so that you stay safe. The cold is a risk even when wearing a wetsuit, and so it’s even more important to take the necessary precautions to stay safe when cold water swimming without a wetsuit. These are the key steps for how to swim in cold water without a wetsuit:


Keep Warm Before Your Swim

You’re definitely going to be cold as soon as you enter the water, and so you certainly don’t need to be standing around getting cold before you even get in the water. Make sure you stay warm on route to your swim by wearing a waterproof changing robe. The Red Original waterproof changing robe features a moisture wicking fleece lining which is perfect for keeping cold water swimmers warm before and after their swim. A wind baffle and toggled hood help to keep you extra cosy. You should only get undressed at the final moment before entering the water.


Enter The Water Slowly

One of the most important tips for learning how to swim in cold water without a wetsuit is to ease your way in slowly. Never jump or dive in as this can cause cold water shock which can cause you to hyperventilate and create a feeling of panic. In order to prevent this shock you need to wade into the water slowly, keeping your head above the surface and splashing your face with water to acclimatise yourself to the cold. Be patient and breathe as your body adapts to the cold. 


Never Swim Alone

Swimming with a buddy is an important part of how to swim in cold water without a wetsuit, however it’s also crucial for general outdoor swimming safety, whatever the season.It’s important to swim with someone else in case you run into trouble, for example if you are struggling with cold water shock. It’s important that there is someone with you who can call for help if necessary.

Women putting on Red Original waterproof changing robe after cold water swimming
Two women stood by a lake wearing Red Original waterproof changing robes

Swim With A Tow Float

It’s always a sensible idea to use a tow float when swimming in open water, however this is particularly important when thinking about how to swim in cold water without a wetsuit. This is because you don’t have the extra buoyancy that comes with wearing a wetsuit. A tow float provides you with that support, whilst making you more visible in the water. 


Keep Your Swims Short

As your body is adapting to swimming without a wetsuit it’s important not to overdo it too soon. That’s why you should start by sticking to short swims. Even if you feel like you could stay in the water for longer, make sure to limit yourself as the effects of hypothermia can quickly set in. Equally if you notice anything unusual, such as feeling particularly tired or achy then you should exit the water immediately.


Warm Up Quickly

Warming up after cold water swimming is essential for preventing the onset of the afterdrop. This is a phenomenon in which your body temperature continues to drop even when you’re no longer in the water. As soon as you exit the water, put on your Red Original waterproof changing robe. The moisture wicking lining will help to dry your skin off whilst keeping you toasty. You should also make sure that you’ve got a hot drink in an insulated flask ready to help warm you up. Once dried off, you should layer up as quickly as possible, including wearing a warm hat and gloves. Sit in a warm environment to help get your body back up to temperature and enjoy the post-swim glow!



For more advice on how to swim in cold water without a wetsuit and the equipment required, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team at Red.

Two women wearing Red Original waterproof changing robes and roam beanies in mustard
Woman drinking from Red Original insulated stainless steel water bottle