Planning an outdoor swim sesh? Well, you’ll need the right kit. There aren’t any ‘best dressed awards in outdoor swimming, but you will need some basics to stay warm, stay safe and swim your best. Ready to find out what you should be packing in your swim bag? Let’s go 


Swim cap 


Let’s start at the top and work our way down, shall we? A swim cap is an essential item - and all the better for being seen if it’s brightly coloured. It’ll keep your hair clean and dry (ish) and most importantly, it’ll keep you warm. When you enter the Arla Great North Swim, you’ll receive a cap within your swim pack, which you will pick up and collect from the Information Point on event weekend. The cap will also have your unique swim number on it and will be colour-coded to your particular swim wave. 


Timing chip


Also in your swim pack will be your official timing chip. These chips go around your ankle and will automatically register when you start, and when you finish the event. You will then be able to go online later in the weekend and find your results online.


Goggles or swim mask 


Now to protecting your eyes - particularly important in open-water swimming where there are no bright pool lights, tiles or lane markers. A good, well-fitting pair of goggles or a swim mask will make you feel much more comfortable in choppy waters and help you on your way to the finish line.  


Ear plugs 


Not a mandatory piece of kit, but lots of open water swimmers like to use ear plugs to keep water out or to aid their concentration in a big event environment. If you’re at all angsty about water in your ears or excessive noise, pop a pair in and tuck them under your swim cap to help keep them secure.  




This will be your most important bit of kit and it’s worth researching the right one and investing in something that you will enjoy using. 


If the water temperature is 15 degrees or above then wearing a wetsuit is optional at the Arla Great North Swim, however if you choose not to wear a wetsuit you must ensure you've got a high visibility tow float with you at all times.


Wetsuits are not only great at providing you with a little bit of extra warmth, they also help to keep you more buoyant so that you sit higher up in the water – making it easier to swim. 


Wetsuits are meant to be tight and snug – if they’re baggy they won’t retain the warmth. So be prepared to have a bit of fun getting into them… We’ve got loads of tips by the way! It’s also worth having a practice in your wetsuit before event day if you can, just so you can get used to how it feels when you swim. 

There are loads of different kinds to choose from and it can be a bit of a minefield knowing which is right for you… But not to worry, you can find plenty of guidance and tips on finding the perfect match on the Zoggs website.


Swim trunks/costume 


And that brings us onto what goes underneath the wetsuit… If you’re wearing a wetsuit, it’s likely you’ll want to wear a costume or a pair of swim shorts underneath. Not only will it help to stop chafing, it’ll also mean you can strip off at the end of your swim without fear of flashing ;) Make sure it’s a costume or shorts/trunks that you’ve worn before, so that you know that it’s comfortable for your big day. 


Swim socks 


Also known as ‘booties’, these are a ‘nice to have’ rather than an essential, but if it’s cold and you’re prone to cold tootsies then swim socks are a quick and easy remedy. They’re also often anti-slip and provide a bit of padding when walking in and out of the water. 


Microfibre towel 


For afterwards, nothing packs a (dry) punch like a microfibre towel: small in size but big on absorption. Treat yourself to one for your kit bag.  


Whistle and compass 


At big events like the Arla Great North Swim you’ll be surrounded by other swimmers and plenty of safety crews, boats and kayaks all the way around, whose number one job is to look after you. If you’re planning on training in open water, perhaps somewhere more isolated, a whistle and a compass are vital additions to your kit. If you need to attract attention or navigate your way to safety, job done. And if you do plan to swim on your own, always let someone know where you’re going and what time you’re expected back.