Essential Open Water Swimming Kit for Beginner Triathletes

It’s early April and lakes up and down the country are opening for a spot of open water swimming. Hurrah!


Beginner triathlete swimming kit for open water or lake swimming

I got back in the lake last week at Box End in Bedford and I can happily report that it was brilliant. Its still pretty chilly, but after the initial shock to the system I covered about 1km of pretty joyful swimming.

I’m no swim teacher – there are proper people for that sort of thing – so you’ll get no stroke tips from me but what I do know is that after a season or two of lake swimming there are a few things that you might want to take with you to make your first experience of the open water that much happier.

Here’s a list of the most basic [and obvious] stuff and also some things you may not have thought about but are worth the extra expense.

A Good Wet Suit.

It has to be a good fit and as with most tri kit the best advice is buy the best you can afford! I found this YouTube video of a lovely young lady getting into [and out of] her wetsuit whilst standing up and, without falling over! Typically, there is help on hand to zip you up but you may want to practice this before your first visit to the lake. Also, if you’ve not tried your suit on since last season it’s worth giving it a once over to inspect for any unwanted rips or tears.

A Good Swim Hat.

Again, a good fit – have atleast two – one thick one, for colder swims and one thinner one for when the water temperature rises.

Well Fitting Pair of Googles.

Yet again, a good fit is a must but personal preference is the key here, I’ve tried the fuller face type and the sleeker more eye-socket-only versions. Both have their merits. I prefer the smaller goggles better. Whatever your preference, leaking goggles is a proper pain in the arse, so test carefully. There is some good goggle choice and fitting tips in this video [in between the marketing waffle].

Anti-Mist Goggle Spray.

Some people use goggle spray – which is meant to keep your lenses from steaming up – and others use a more natural approach ie. spit. Decide whichever works for you but let me just say (as discussed on this thread) a clear pair of goggles makes all the difference.

An Old Towel or Two.

Given the state of most changing facilities near lakes, I’d suggest taking two old towels. One for you to dry yourself with and the other to stand on whilst getting changed. Job done.

Slide and Glide.

Not sure where the phrase ‘Slide and Glide‘ comes from but this is the stuff. Great for getting your wetsuit on and off and also for stopping unnecessary chaffing. I wouldn’t recommend vaseline as it can harm your wetsuit however, in races smearing my arms and lower legs with the stuff does help get your kit on and off that much quicker. Whichever you use you should give your suit a good wash after – am I sounding like your mum yet?

A Swim or Multi Sport Watch.

I don’t tend to measure too much while I’m in the lake [too busy trying to stay afloat] but sometimes it’s nice to know how far you’ve been etc, etc. If you do want to sweat the metrics make sure your watch measures distance in open water Nb. some pool specific watches are no good in the lake because they only count laps eg. a poolmate (like what I bought. Doh!).

The Swim Beeper Thingy.

Rhythm is key in any swimming even though it typically goes right out the window at the start of any race. I like to use a beeper to train my head and body into a natural rhythm because it counts for you and means you can concentrate on balance or breathing or whatever it is you’re focussing on – this is the beeping swim gadget that I use – Google ‘Finis tempo trainer’.

Some Cash.

Our lake has lockers, you need a £1 coin to work the damn things, I always forget. If you keep one or two in your swim bag you’ll be thankful. Plus it’s always good to keep a fiver or two in reserve for a pint with your chums afterwards.

A Bunch Warm Comfortable Clothes.

Typically warmer than the stuff you had on on arrival. This is especially true for the early spring swims when, by golly, it’s not warm. I’m sure there’s a suitable open water, apres-swim, onesie but if there is I’m not brave enough to wear it.

Shower Gel.

To wash yourself in the shower! Feels much better. Go to any supermarket.

A Can of Full Fat Coke.

This is probably a bit of an urban myth but I’m putting it in anyway. The ingredients in a full fat can of coke are said to kill the unwanted bacteria in your stomach after you’ve swallowed half the lake in a swim session. Makes sense to me, I’ve seen what the stuff does to coins. If you’re that bothered here’s a thread on the subject of coke and swimming on tri-talk. Yawn.

A Bin Liner.

It’s difficult to ring your wetsuit dry at the lake so have with you your trusty bin liner to take the sodden item home and then re-soak/wash it [always follow manufacturers instructions!] and then hang it up outside until its crisp and dry, ready for it’s next outing. Always remember to stuff the bin liner back in your bag too.

A Swim Buddy.

If it’s your first open water swim don’t forget one of these and preferably go with a version who’s done it before.

So there you have it. If I ever remembered all this stuff it would be a minor miracle. And I’ve no doubt missed tons of useful stuff so please do let me know in the comments below, it’ll help everyone enjoy the best swimming experience bar none.

Addition [see, so forgetful!]:

It’s not kit, but do eat some food! My advice is eat well about an hour before and have some flap jacks or chocolate or bananas handy for after you get out too.

One thought on “Essential Open Water Swimming Kit for Beginner Triathletes

  1. More stuff I missed off. Ear plugs (I prefer not to but some find them to help) and a swim suit for underneath the wetsuit, unless you’re going commando!

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