Advice for Newbies – Part III – Kit

It has taken a while to gather the threads of my thoughts to be able to write. It almost seems that the more I stay at home, the more my thoughts meander far and wide and if ‘distraction’ were a qualification…… 😊

If anyone has any questions or would like more information or advice, please do let me know.

Right – kit! It seems to me that there are different flavours of people; those that have what they perceive as all the ‘right’ stuff and then others who subscribe to the ‘what can I use’ school. And of course, what is right for one person is not for another. I have honed my kit bag to the following BUT, with something where the physiological demands on your body’s system are quite extreme, it is whatever works for YOU!

Towel – large – old. I have a selection. The reason I prefer old ones is because they tend to absorb water better than new ones.

Towelling change towel. I use this to grapple with changing into dry clothes rather than my Dry Robe (other brands are available 😊 ) which I don before I go into the water and after I have changed. I have found that if I put my dry robe on over a wet swimsuit, then change, I end up with a very wet rump as the robe absorbs water from my swimsuit where my body bits protrude and then this water soaks back into my dry clothes, so I have discovered when I next sit down. I suppose you could have two dry robes, one for wet and one for dry – seems a bit excessive to me.

Neoprene Socks and Gloves. I wear these when the water is colder. For me, it makes a huge difference and it means I don’t have to worry about taking my rings off as fingers shrink with the cold. it also helps with underfoot pebbles etc. I don’t think they are designed to last much more than a season though so not really sure it is worth spending loads of money on these. Inevitably the gloves will last longer than the boots and if you are walking any distance in these then probably worth wearing something like a pair of crocs over rough ground. In the summer I often wear flip-flops to the water and then once in, I take them off and stuff them up the back of my swimsuit.

Swimming hat. I don’t wear a hat but most people do. You can use one – or two – normal swimming hats – bright colours are obviously better for visibility. You can also buy snug fitting neoprene ones – it can be amusing watching people trying to put them on the correct way round!

Wetsuit. I do have a wet suit but don’t wear it. I love the feel of the water, I am not aiming to be an Olympian and just enjoy the water as it is in ‘skins’ as it is called. However, wearing a wetsuit is absolutely, perfectly fine. If you are in a wetsuit, in the water then you are doing more than the vast majority of the population so it REALLY doesn’t matter. Just go in.

Mat. I bought a cheap yoga mat which has the advantage of being very light and the disadvantage of being very light and trying to fly away in even the lightest breeze. Chasing after said mat can help in the warming up process but better to secure it under the rest of your kit and either share with others or cut into smaller pieces for individual use. There are various diving and swimming change mats you can buy, often circular, in which you stand, change, take off wet kit and then just carry the bag off. Prices vary tremendously. Alternatively, you can buy a large (e.g. Ikea or similar) bag and just stand in it. Cost, minimal.

Layers. Post swim, particularly in the colder weather, it is vitally important to warm-up (see previous article) and the best way to do this is to put on layers. Do not try and bother with anything fiddly, a tee-shirt, loose, no bra (men OR women) battle, a thick shirt (my corduroy red one dates from 1986) or sweatshirt, another jumper, coat, dry robe. Trousers – elasticated waist or at least loose enough so you can just pull them up. Lovely, thick, wooly socks, multi-coloured are far warmer than plain and if they do NOT match, even better 😊 Slip on footwear like furry-lined boots are my preference.

Flasks and hot water bottles. I take a flask of hot water. I ensure that the flask lid is not too tight and that the hot water bottle is also loosened. Hot water bottle then filled directly post-swim, it has a cover on it – do NOT put it straight against your skin! I try and change with my feet very close to the bottle (better not to stand on it just in case cold hands haven’t secured the lid properly) and then once change, it is a cuddle bottle.

Changing order. if possible try and lay out your clothes so you can grab each piece easily, make sure things are undone. if it is raining or very windy, place things in your bag in the order in which you want to put them on.

Valuables. This is difficult. I have a ‘blank’ car key, one which unlocks the doors but nothing else. You can buy mini key safes which go over the tow hook on the car. Often we are lucky in that usually we have at least one ‘groupie’ who doesn’t swim and can keep an eye on our kit. More worrying can be dogs that pee on kit. There’s not much you can do about this apart form try and select an area where they are unlikely to find anything of interest and that isn’t on the usual dog walkers path. In essence, probably better not to take anything valuable with you to the beach or leave with your designated groupie.

Published by Victoria Thorneton-Field

Oceanographer, writer, advocate for mental health and environmental issues, all-year-round sea swimmer, located on the beautiful Isle of Wight.

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