I’ve talked about what I wear when I swim over winter and I’ve talked about what can happen to our bodies when we get really cold. I haven’t yet come up with what happens afterwards. Obviously we get cold when we swim outside in winter but how do we warm back up?
Here’s where the hot fashion of open water swimming extends to the joy of what to wear afterwards.
The Short One and I started out life swimming in wetsuits and getting out tentatively to a towel. That then progressed to investing in a changing robe. Basically a massive waterproof, windproof fleece lined dressing gown. They’re big enough to get inside and get changed in without inappropriately flashing any passers by. Mine also stops me soaking my husband’s car seat as I drive back home after an early morning dip.
Over summer our Dryrobes are enough to warm us up but once we tackled winter swimming the quantity of post swim kit exploded. We’ve now learned the more the better. Not only are the gigantic pockets on our Dryrobes bulging at the seams with warm clothing, we usually take a bag as well. Oh, and it’s all got to be pretty scummy, it’s all going to get mucky and wet by a river or lake.
To be fair if we’re doing a wetsuit swim we usually keep everything on, bung our Dryrobes over the top and drive home as quick as we can to warm up in the warmth of our own homes – which are only five minutes away. That’s OK in a wetsuit, it holds all the heat in. In polar bear attire we need to get dressed as quickly as possible afterwards.
With that in mind the following relates mostly to our Polar Bear dips.
Our basic post swim changing kit now consists of:
- Fleece trousers. Mine were stolen out of my husbands old kayaking kit;
- Massive snuggly fleecy jumper. Supermarket loungewear is perfect for this;
- Towel. A changing towel is good but anything you don’t mind getting filthy is fine;
- Something to stand on to save your feet from frozen ground;
- Sheepskin boots. Good old Ugg style boots are perfect;
- Big hat;
- Gloves. I have fingerless mittens with a flap over the top;
- Hot water bottle.
Additions to this often include an extra few thermals, down jackets and leggings underneath the trousers. We have to be able to get all of that on when our hands are numb so it needs to be baggy – there’s nothing worse that getting stuck halfway into a snug fitting top when the wind’s whistling around your bits.
In addition we put all these layers out in the order that they’re going to be put back on. You really don’t want to be scrabbling through a bag when you’re slowing turning into an iceberg on a river bank. We usually whack the hot water bottle right in the middle of all the kit so it pre-warms everything.
Said hot water bottle is usually shoved up inside our jumpers once we’re fully clothed again.
How long does all this clothing stay on after a swim? As long as it takes to warm up. Sometimes half an hour, sometimes the rest of the day. I’ve often dared to remove my hat too soon, only to be met my sudden shivers. It’s not unusual to find me cooking a Sunday roast in full post swim kit after we’ve been out for a sneaky dip.