Being in the water quickly drains body heat. In fact, a person can lose body heat up to up to 4 times faster in the water than in the air. As a result, it’s important to know how to dress for the water both for comfort and for safety. As a general rule, the colder the water, the more gear is required.
Cold Weather Swimming
When swimming in the cold weather, it’s important to keep in mind the exact temperature and the amount of time planned in the water. The colder the water, the more fabric and coverage will be necessary. As the weather becomes colder, it becomes more dangerous to be in the water without proper gear.
Water that is only mildly cold, in the 50s or 60s, requires minimal gear if the swimmer only plans to spend a few minutes there. A light wetsuit should be sufficient for protection. However, for swimmers who plan to spend greater amounts of time in the water, more gear is necessary.
Swimming in frigid waters requires protection for the head, body, hands and feet. A heavy wetsuit should be worn to keep body heat trapped. The head, feet, and hands can all be protected with a material called neoprene. Neoprene helps trap body heat as well.
Head: A swim cap helps to keep the head warm and minimize heat loss.
Feet: Neoprene socks can help to protect feet in temperatures 40 degrees and above. Boots are more practical for temperatures below 40 degrees.
Hands: Neoprene gloves protect the hands from heat loss. The colder the water, the thicker the gloves are required.
Warm Weather Swimming
Dressing for swimming in warm weather is more simple. Although it’s important to first check the temperature of the water, the rules of swimming in warm weather are more relaxed. This is because there are fewer dangers related to body temperature when swimming in warm weather.
As a general rule, warmer weather means warmer water. Warm water means less fabric and material are necessary. This means that bikinis, tankinis, one-pieces, crinkle swimwear, or swim trunks are all options for swimming. Even in warm weather, however, it’s important to keep dry clothes and a towel handy.
For swimmers who plan to enter the water year-round, it’s important to keep the temperature of the air and water in mind. As a general rule, the colder the temperature the more gear is required. Those who are swimming in warm water and warm weather can wear a one piece bathing suit, swim trunks, or a bikini. Those who plan to swim in cold waters, especially for long amounts of time, should wear a wetsuit, gloves, socks, and a cap.