what to wear after a cold swim

What To Wear After A Cold Swim?

Choosing what to wear after a cold swim has been a lifesaver for me over the years. Almost literally. Outdoor swimmers like us need to be prepared before we take a plunge, not just for the time we spend in the lake. It pays to be sure that never happens to you by getting you set up for success on your very first cold swim. My essentials kit always contains a dry robe, loose, layered clothes, a mat and a warm ginger drink with a sugary snack. But there are several more things that you might find handy for your chilly dip. Today I’ll share exactly how to plan ahead for a cold swim. Whether you are headed to the local pool, a spring-fed lake or even the open ocean.


What Do You Wear To Stay Warm After Swimming?

Cold water swimming, or what some people call all-year swimming or all-weather swimming, is really popular these days. Hundreds of thousands of people enjoy this sport. And every day, somewhere in the world, somebody takes a cold plunge for the first time.

If your first day is coming soon, we definitely want you to feel prepared to enjoy swimming in cold water safely. The first thing to know is that what you wear to stay warm after swimming needs to be very close at hand and incredibly easy to put on. No buttons, zippers, hooks, shoelaces or anything else fancy.

Ideally, you want to go for pull-on everything because cold makes coordinating intricate closures tricky. And you want to bring layers of everything, including hats, gloves and socks. Read on to learn more expert tips for how to stay warm safely after swimming in cold water.

How Do You Warm Up After Swimming In Ice?

Knowing how to safely warm up after swimming in ice is as important as knowing how to safely exit a swim in icy water. So let’s take a closer look at the steps you need to take to warm up safely after a cold dip of any kind.

  • First, prepare for your after-swim warmup before you swim. This is vital! You will be very cold after your swim and it is very hard to think clearly (or at all) when you are shivering.
  • Be sure to have a changing mat to stand on to protect you from further heat loss through your feet. A simple yoga mat is a good choice here.
  • Lay out your warm clothes in top-down order and plan to put them on that way to protect your heart.
  • Prepare a thermos of a favorite warm beverage to sip and start sipping on it right away. And have a carbohydrate-rich snack like cake or a sandwich at the ready.
  • Finally, know the signs of hypothermia and have a friend on hand who can spot them in you and administer appropriate medical care as needed.

Should You Shower After a Cold Swim?

Lock this in your brain now. Never ever head for a hot shower right after a cold swim. This can be very dangerous! Why? Because when you force your body to transition from super cold to toasty hot very quickly, you risk a rapid onset case of hypothermia.

If you are not familiar, hypothermia, or after-drop as the cold water swim community calls it, is what happens when your body’s temperature dips too low and it cannot recover quickly enough on its own to avoid heart slowdown and possible failure.

What to Wear After Open Water Swimming

Swimming in cold open water is not like having a float in the tropics. You are going to be completely submerged in an icy environment that your body is not familiar with. Be sure that you can get out quickly from wherever you happen to be and get to your warm clothing quickly.

You will want to dress in layers starting with your upper body clothing first. This may feel counterintuitive, since you were probably taught that you lose the most heat through your head and feet.

Scientists now say you lose the most heat the most quickly through the area of largest body mass, which is your torso. So this is the part you want to warm up first.

Experienced open water swimmers recommend a garment called a dryrobe, which is a specific brand but also a word that describes a type of get-warm-quick all-purpose changing robe that is roomy and protective. Also be sure to bring along some warm wool or synthetic wool socks and gloves and a head covering to slip on quickly.

Best Cold Water Swimming Gear

Every part of your planning process for cold swim excursions is equally important. But this might just be the most important part of all: never cold swim alone.

You definitely want to bring a friend along to look out for you in case you get too cold too quickly. (If your friend wants to cold swim with you, make sure they are experienced at it.) From here, you want to tick each of these items off your cold water swimming gear list:

  • Dryrobe or similar all-purpose changing garment with moisture wicking
  • Loose, layered garments, including hat, gloves, socks and shoes, with no fasteners
  • Warm (not hot!) ginger drink and sugary carbohydrate-rich snack like cake for after
  • Dry mat to stand on while you change
  • Earplugs to protect your inner ears from the cold
  • Latex or neoprene or silicone cap, gloves and booties to protect your extremities
  • A wetsuit – this really is a safety-conscious choice especially for newbies

Safety Note

If your cold water swim is part of a bigger sports event such as a swim marathon or triathlon, a wetsuit really isn’t optional since you won’t have the luxury of warming up slowly in between events.

What To Wear After a Cold Swim

As you now know, deciding what to wear after a cold swim is a topic well worth careful consideration. The garments and supplies you bring along for your cold swim adventure really can make the difference between a trip to the emergency room and delightful memories to treasure and share.

Have you been cold water swimming? What are your favorite garments and accessories to warm up after a cold dip? Share your tips in the comments.

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