Swimsecure Dry Bag Tow Float

I have never been entirely convinced about the need for any sort of swimming tow float.  In part that was because I was apprehensive about having something towing along between my legs and partly because I could not imagine what I would so desperately need to take along when swimming.  Other people talk about phones, water bottles or car keys.  Then again my approach to the security of personal possessions is haphazard.  I either spread my stuff out and leave it on the presumption that someone might pick up a bag but they are unlikely to pack it first and will assume there are no valuables or I tuck my car keys into a nook in a wall, behind a bush or even just under a stone.  It is a game of chance however the places I swim are not high crime.

The other aspect of a tow float is of course simply to be seen and that for me is something of a double edged sword.  Again whilst the places I often swim are more ‘obscure’ and therefore exempt from the jet skies and pleasure boats that have become a plague in recent years, that obscurity does mean that any boat that may pass by is unlikely to be keeping a lookout for a swimmer.  However there have been several near misses with jet skis for other swimmers even on ‘swimming’ beaches this year.  Furthermore, as more swimmers use brightly visible floats, those without have become almost invisible.

swim secure dry bag tow float
swim secure dry bag tow float

Enter on the scene the Swimsecure combined dry bag and tow float.  Taking it from the package I had to reach for sunglasses, the pink colour is beyond bright, it is stellar.  No-one could possibly miss it, and the pink colour distinguishes it clearly from the many lobster pot floats, it’s a clear statement ‘Swimmer Over Here!’.    My first impression is also that the material is very high quality and this has been made to do its job in all the conditions a person could reasonably swim in.  In addition the inner can readily be washed clean.

Wild Swimming
Wild Swimming

The capacity is 18 litres though that probably reduces to about half with the neck rolled down.  Even so there is room enough for a towel, car keys, phone, a pair of shoes, sunglasses and paperback, should you find you need all these.

Having put items into the bag and rolled and fastened the neck the bag is inflated by blowing into the non-return valves for the independent front and back compartments.  The float is then attached through either carry handle to a short leash and looped onto the waist strap.  A set of D rings fitted beside the clip where the bag top rolls down could also be used to attach the leash using the karabiner provided.

Wild Swimming
Wild Swimming

I have now had an opportunity to use the float in calm and rough conditions, still air and strong winds, swimming crawl and breast stroke.  Under all these conditions the float has been all but unnoticeable whilst swimming without catching on arms or legs and offering no drag.  The float rides high in the water and the contents have remained bone dry.

After use to remove the contents and pack away simply remove the non-return valves.

Whilst I cannot promise to use it for every swim the advantages are obvious and having had a couple of boat near misses myself not to use it would be foolish.  However where I am really looking forward to using it will be the ability to jog to a spot swim across a bay and then jog back with dry shoes, I have plans already so roll on summer.

All I can really say in conclusion is ‘why did I not get one sooner?’.

 

Wild Swimming Map: Devon & Cornwall

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The Bag in Winter

As a seagull did something less than appropriate on my swimming bag when I left it on the beach earlier it needed a wash so I tipped the contents out.  Of course what an individual carries in their swim bag is personal to each of us, some carry more, whereas I try to travel light.  It is however now decidedly chilly both in and out of the water so I am stepping up to the challenge of a mile a day by carrying a little extra:

Fleece hat, neck buff and gloves,
Leggings,
Foam changing mat,
Bags for wet swimwear,
Swimwear, back-up swimwear, extra back-up swimwear,
Karabiner and hair bands
Towel
Hoody sweatshirt,
Goggles, noseclip, ear plugs,
No more tears (for anti-misting goggles),
Deodorant,
Tiger balm.

Wild Swimming
Wild Swimming

Wild Swimming Map: Devon & Cornwall

 

‘Hydrasuit’ by Speedo

I should point out up front that this is a review quite independent of the Speedo brand.  If however they’d like me to try out any of their swimming kit then that would be great.

I bought my first one of this design about 10 years ago and it is still going strong, which is surely a testament to the quality.  Though I don’t use it every day it has been used a lot.  Part of the reason it is not in daily use was that I bought a second one soon after (also still in constant use).

As I swim almost exclusively outdoors in both sea, rivers and lakes the singular appeal was in the high neck and full back design.  That extra cover acts in some respects like a wetsuit trapping in some warmer water to an extent that you would not immediately credit to a thin covering.  In addition the full cover has also afforded protection during jellyfish collisions and contact with other hazards and the suits have proved far more resilient to barnacle scrapes than bare skin.

Whilst some outdoor swimmer purists maintain that the best experience is achieved only from full contact with the water the freedom of movement in the Hydrasuit in no way detracts from the feel of the water in my opinion and I would also say that part of the joy of open water swimming is to return warm and undamaged to your towel.

I have also found the Hydrasuit to be ideal for wearing under a wetsuit.  Enter my 3rd a few years ago whilst I was preparing for and participating in the River Dart 10km event.  Many outdoor swimmers, experienced or otherwise, at some time or another experience wetsuit chafing and as often as not this is across the back of the neck.  The reasons for this warrant a separate blog post but the Hydrasuits are sufficiently high at the back of the neck to provide protection against chaffing and the wear in my suits is clear testament to the fact that I would otherwise have suffered.

In recent weeks as autumn has come along my Hydrasuits are being used more once again, though the oldest is experiencing an end of life moment.  I have just taken delivery today of two new ones.  These like the last were ordered directly from the Speedo on-line store, which was blissfully simple, though the search function does not return all the Hydrasuit options and worse the predictive form filling suggestion returns no items! 

Prices vary from £25 to £36 depending on offers and plain colours vs printed styles.  Black is still available as a standard but the purple I bought last time has been replaced by ‘royal’ blue with contrasting piping.  At the time I was buying there were 3 over printed designs, though the design I most liked is perhaps being phased out as it was available only in limited sizes.

My first impression is that though the material is the same 80% polyester, 20% elastane (lycra) mix it has a slicker feel than my previous ones, whilst being of the same fabric weight and thickness.  The designs are bold and an exact match for the on-line store images.  I particularly like the addition of the small tags to the zip fasteners and will be adding my own to my existing ones.

If there is one area where the Hydrasuits I have owned have been a slight let down it is the zips.  The zip on my first suit, whilst still serviceable does stick when being undone after swimming and obviously with chilly, wet fingers this has led to some unkind words.  It may well be that a tag on the zip would have helped, but I am convinced that the problem has come about from washing and hanging without first zipping the suit all the way up.  Doing that with my more recent suits has prevented a similar problem and largely fixed the zip of my first suit.

Having trialed both suits in the River Dart this evening they are both of course a pleasing fit and though I do prefer the feel of the high cut leg of the one over the other that I’m sure is as much down to body shape as it is personal preference.  Overall I simply cannot fault these swimsuits.

If you are considering these then there is an offer in the on-line Speedo Store which gets you a free rucksack style bag for your wet swim kit and I have to say that is very good too.

Wild Swimming Map: Devon & Cornwall