What to Wear in a Cold Swimming Pool: Ways to Stay Warm

what to wear in a cold swimming pool

Whether you’re swimming in your own backyard pool or a public pool, depending on your constitution (and especially if you’re a woman), you may find it to be a little chilly for your liking.

Yes, things get better as you start moving around and your body naturally heats up, but the first few minutes can be unpleasant. People who are particularly sensitive to the cold may never heat up enough to feel comfortable. So what can they do about it?

If you’re too cold in a swimming pool, you can wear neoprene swimwear such as a wetsuit, swim cap, gloves, and even booties. This is what scuba divers and open water swimmers wear to insulate their body heat and help them stay warm, and you can do it at the swimming pool as well.

There are certainly a few things to keep in mind – like how chlorine can wear down your neoprene gear quickly, and also some psychological barriers you might have to overcome. You might also be wondering if you can wear a T-shirt or rash guard to keep you warm. Keep reading on to learn the answers to these questions.

How to Stay Warm in a Cold Swimming Pool

If you are having trouble staying warm in the pool, the answer is simply to wear neoprene. You can choose to wear a full body wetsuit, a shorty wetsuit/springsuit, or a two-piece combo (pants and jacket).

Neoprene wetsuits come in various thicknesses, but for the swimming pool, all you need is 1-2 mm. Too thick, and you will overheat and find it hard to perform your swim strokes.

You’ll also feel extremely floaty – neoprene is highly buoyant – which may or may not be good depending on how you plan on training.

I also recommend getting a wetsuit with a front zipper. If you find yourself getting too hot, you can easily unzip it and let some cool water in to cool yourself down.

And of course, wetsuits are only effective if they have a snug fit. Too loose, and they will not keep you warm at all.

Start out with either a neoprene jacket or a shorty wetsuit – anything more for swimming may be overkill and cause you to overheat.

If you will be swimming laps and need the extra mobility around your shoulders, look for a wetsuit in the farmer john style. This could also help if you find yourself getting too warm.

Get a Wetsuit Specifically for Swimming

You may not know this, but there are wetsuits designed for various sports, and they all have slight differences.

For example, do not make the mistake of buying a scuba diving wetsuit for swimming, which is generally thicker all around because scuba divers do not need to do any complex movements and would rather stay warmer.

Even a surfing wetsuit is thicker as it is designed for warmth (wind chill is no joke), with zippers on the back, and extra padding on the knees and chest panel.

Conversely, a triathlon wetsuit is designed for swimming, and its focus is on speed – whether it’s in the water or on land. Thus, it needs to fit like a second skin on you to reduce drag and improve your range of motion for these various activities.

All wetsuits are buoyant, but a triathlon/swimming wetsuit has greater thickness in the torso and thighs to lift the body up and help maintain a horizontal position in the water. It is much thinner in the arms so you can freely perform your strokes without obstruction.

These are just some of the differences a wetsuit designed for swimming has compared to other wetsuits. The point is, get the right wetsuit or you may struggle to swim properly.

Other Neoprene Garments That Keep You Warm

With a neoprene wetsuit on, your hands, feet, and head are still exposed to the cold swimming pool.

If that is a concern for you, then consider getting a neoprene swim cap (not the usual silicone or latex ones), dive gloves, and dive booties.

If you started out with only a neoprene jacket and still find it chilly, then now is the time to get neoprene pants or swim leggings.

Protect Your Wetsuit From Chlorine Damage

In much the same way that you have to rinse your swimsuit and let it drip dry to prevent chlorine damage, the same should be done for your neoprene garments.

Generally speaking, wetsuits are not recommended for swimming in the pool. Chlorine is really harsh on clothing, but at least for swimsuits, they are much cheaper and easier to replace.

With something more expensive like a wetsuit, it can be a little heartbreaking seeing it deteriorate due to chlorine exposure.

That is why you should probably get a cheaper wetsuit that you can “sacrifice” at the swimming pool, instead of your good one. Also, rinse your wetsuit immediately after swimming to limit how long chlorine lingers on the material.

Louise from ChaseTheWater experimented by wearing a wetsuit to the pool for 50 swims, averaging 40 minutes a session, and noted that afterwards the wetsuit “was still in good condition, however, the material had lost its bounce and it certainly looked tired.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I look weird wearing a wetsuit in the pool?

Honestly, maybe. It depends. Obviously if it’s your own pool then it doesn’t matter. You may be the only person wearing a wetsuit at a public pool.

Some people may stare, and most people are too self-conscious or too focused on their own thing to care about what others are doing. As long as it’s not against the rules, just enjoy staying warm in the pool and try your best not to care either.

Do you need to wear anything under the wetsuit?

For swimming, no. Are you really that cold? If so, you may need a thicker wetsuit or you can wear the other neoprene garments in combination with a wetsuit.

Are there chlorine-resistant wetsuits?

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any chlorine-resistant wetsuits on the market. You’re just going to have to take good care of the wetsuit by thoroughly removing any traces of chlorine afterwards.

Do clothes keep you warm in cold water?

Thinking about swimming in your T-shirt or gym shorts? Think again. Not only is that a huge drowning risk and therefore against the rules, it doesn’t even keep you warm in the water.

Regular clothes fit too loosely, allow water through, and do not provide any insulation underwater. On that last point, even many water-appropriate clothing fail to keep you warm.

Do rash guards keep you warm?

Case in point, rash guards do NOT keep you warm (unless it’s a thermal rash guard). Most fit you too loosely and regular rash guards also do not provide much insulation if any at all.

The purpose of the rash guard is in the name – it protects your body against rashes. Surfers wear them to keep their torso and nipples from getting scraped up when they are rubbing against their surfboard all day. It’s not really designed for swimming or keeping you warm.

Photo Credits: Jean-Marc Kuffer (CC BY 2.0)