Swim gear
April 9, 2014 12:38 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to start swimming more regularly. I want some gear that will make it easier. I need goggles, earplugs, and a cap. Also, what's your favorite piece of swimming gear?

I'm looking for some great goggles, earplugs, and a swim cap. Googles that don't leak, earplugs that don't let water in, and a swim cap that won't pull my hair out.

I've also been eyeing some underwater headphones that will let me listen to music while swimming, but they seem to have mixed reviews on Amazon. Any ones that you've used and like? Do any of them possibly work with Spotify instead of iTunes?

Other than these, what is your favorite piece of swimming gear?

Thank you so much!
posted by 3491again to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
microfiber towel to wrap my hair in whilst i get ready, which seems to leave it much drier than normal towels do.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:14 AM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

For the swim cap, putting a little corn starch in in between uses mattered more for me than switching between different caps.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 1:26 AM on April 9, 2014

If you have really long hair, get a swim cap designed for it. I only discovered these a few years ago, but they work much better for me.

A good comfortable suit is also pretty critical.
posted by ktkt at 1:34 AM on April 9, 2014

Aqua sphere goggles. Come in lady face sizes! I have two pairs of the Kaimans and wouldn't swim in anything else.
posted by WayOutWest at 1:44 AM on April 9, 2014

I've been using the Underwater Audio ipod the last couple months and it's pretty terrific. Sound quality is meh, but it doesn't really matter. Just having music or podcasts while doing laps is a welcome relief from the boredom. I'd like to try out some different earbuds though (the ones I got were from the bundle on Amazon).
It's just a waterproofed ipod shuffle so I don't think Spotify would work on them.
posted by lowest east side at 1:59 AM on April 9, 2014

Relatedly, is there a waterproof case for a smartphone that won't leak (Amazon reviews are mixed on these too) so that I could put a phone in the water and use Spotify that way?
posted by 3491again at 2:19 AM on April 9, 2014

I always keep on a pair of flip flops - in the shower, the pool area, until I'm ready to swim - to help keep from getting any kind of foot fungus.
posted by foxhat10 at 2:49 AM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

After years of leaky goggles, the package of Speedo goggles I go from Costco a few years ago magically did not leak. It's a mixed package with a few different styles, which is nice, but if you don't have access to Costco, I'm sure you can order them from somewhere like Amazon as well. Link to pictures of goggles to help identify the package: http://costcorumors.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/speedo-swimming-goggles/
posted by instamatic at 4:34 AM on April 9, 2014

SwiMP3 makes it possible to swim forever without getting bored. Sound of music is transmitted through check bones so other sounds (water splashing, breathing, etc) are not as distracting. I've been using my first-gen SwiMp3 for about 8 years now and when it finally dies, will definitely buy the latest version: http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2013/08/neptune-swimming-review.html.
posted by cyrreb at 5:32 AM on April 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

As for swim caps, I'd go with getting one made of Spandex/Lyrca instead of rubber or silicone. They seem to be less "pully" than others.
posted by tilde at 5:58 AM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, when it comes to caps and goggles (and earplugs probably; I've never used them so I can't say), the answer to the question "what's the best" is always "it's a matter of personal opinion." For instance, some people swear by the "Swedish Style" goggles with no gasket, while others (like me) find them to be both agonizingly uncomfortable and impossible to keep from leaking. Others (like tilde) recommend Spandex caps, while I personally despise them because they feel like wearing a wet bag on your head.

You're really not going to be able to figure out what's best for you without trying out the options, I'm afraid. I can tell you that, for me personally, I prefer a silicone cap (nice compromise between rubber and Spandex; not as grabby as rubber, but still watertight, unlike Spandex) and Speedo Vanquisher goggles (good seal and good visibility). But your mileage may, and probably will, vary considerably. Happy swimming!
posted by saladin at 6:23 AM on April 9, 2014

. A Lycra cap, and if you want to stay warm or prefer a non-Lycra cap, at least put the Lycra one under the silicone or latex cap. It pulls your hair less that way.

. Barracuda goggles

. Club soda to rinse your hair
posted by jgirl at 6:54 AM on April 9, 2014

I use these earplugs for swimming, and they work quite well. I hated the squishy moldable silicone kind: they were fiddly, it was hard to get a consistently good seal, and hair and lint would stick to them.

If you do get water in your ears, Swim-Ear or a 1:1 mixture of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar can help dry them out and prevent stuff from growing. Put a couple of drops in each ear when you're done, and you're good.

I don't love silicone swim caps, but I vastly prefer them to Lycra caps. In addition to letting water in, Lycra caps eventually break down in chlorine and lose their stretch.

My goggles are whatever the cheap Speedo model is. To test fit, press the goggles against your face but don't put the strap around your head. If they stay put, they are unlikely to leak.

If you're going to be swimming regularly for a long time, it's a good idea to find a swimsuit in a style you can easily replace, since even with the best of care they eventually get eaten by chlorine. If you find one you like from one of the major brands (Speedo, TYR, etc.), and you give absolutely zero shits what you look like in the pool, you can get a discontinued color or grab bag for cheap.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:56 AM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're pool swimming then the Garmin Swim watch is a great bit of kit to monitor your swimming and check how you're progressing. It's relatively cheap (certainly compared to a full GPS multi-sport watch) and really helps to check how you're progressing.
posted by Mattat at 7:21 AM on April 9, 2014

Goggle fit varies dramatically with face shape, so trying on a bunch is the only way to know how well they work for you. I use the same test as Metroid Baby.

The best thing I purchased for swimming was a few lessons from a Total Immersion instructor. There are also DVDs and a book, but the lessons were well worth it. It's so much more fun to swim when you learn how to balance in the water.
posted by advicepig at 7:25 AM on April 9, 2014

I use a silicone cap but jump into the shower, rinse my hair with plain water, then put a little bit of conditioner on then the cap. I rinse off any conditioner by my neck/face and after my workout, it's easy to take off my cap and my hair is still coated with conditioner. I'm sure some leaks out to the pool but I don't use a ton. I'm sure there is more pee in the pool than hair product.

Other fave equipment: fins. Fins I use when I'm adding distance in free or back and my arms need a bit more help or for butterfly, which I find fun but I just can't sustain for more than a 50. I feel like a powerful swimming beast when I do it and fins let me do it right.

Finally, my workout from swimplan.com. There are lots of sites you can use to get a workout but I like how I can pick available equipment, strokes, etc. and they tailor your time goals for you a bit there. Keeps me on my toes if I can't come up with something on my own. It also helps to have a workout if you don't have something to distract you (like music or a problem to mentally work through) - it'll give you a goal and I promise you'll be focused on your body or the clock.
posted by adorap0621 at 7:59 AM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

My favourite pieces of swim stuff are this large microfiber towel and this waterproof lap counter. I've had both for about 2 years now, moderate usage (a few times a week, less during the summer), and both are holding up extremely well. I love the lap counter for being able to see how I'm doing while I'm swimming, as well as keeping track from day to day and week to week (in case it's not obvious - the lap counter fits like a ring, I wear mine on my index finger and hit the button to count a lap with my thumb - it's pretty intuitive once it's in-hand.)

I've tried a few different earplugs, and not been overly happy with any of them. These TYR plugs are what I'm using currently / stuck with the longest. My only complaint about them is they seal my left ear better than my right, but that's more me than them I suppose.

I quite liked these Speedo goggles before I stupidly forget them at the gym - they worked well for me, did not leak, and didn't fog overmuch.
I have a similar pair now and aside from my new pair being prone to fogging, have no complaints.

Speaking of goggle-fog, this stuff works pretty well.
posted by namewithoutwords at 8:20 AM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fins, because they are fun.
posted by steinwald at 8:28 AM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hand paddles. They're cheap, they force you into a good-form stroke, and they build upper-body strength by increasing the water's resistance to your hand.
posted by psoas at 8:37 AM on April 9, 2014

Ooh ooh ooh! I have tried a lot of swim products and have stong opinions about this!

GOGGLES: Speedo Vanquisher are the ONLY ones that do not leak on me AND have a deep enough eyecup that my eyelashes don't hit against them, though they are not the most comfortable goggles I have owned. I have also tried Aqua Sphere (comfortable, nice deep eyecups, leaky) and TYR (LEAKED SO MUCH).

EARPLUGS: Mack's AquaBlock earplugs are the ones that don't leak. I have also tried the soft Mack's that you mold, the Speedo ones, and the Barracuda ones, and none of them are even half as good as the AquaBlock. Word of warning on them: they seal VERY well, so be careful and wiggle them slowly out of your ear so you don't pull your eardrum out with them.

SWIM CAP: I like silicone swim caps, because they're sturdier than the rubber ones. With rubber you'll need to replace once a year, but those silicone ones are for life. Spandex/Lycra lets too much chlorine get into my hair, though admittedly they're easier to put on and more comfortable. I agree with the suggestion to get one specifically for long hair if your hair is shoulder length or longer, otherwise you'll constantly be tugging it down.

BATHING SUIT: You didn't ask, but my recommendation is Dolfin. They last forever, they are comfortable, they stay in place, and they're modest without being dowdy.

TOWEL: Peshtemal peshtemal peshtemal. They are absorbent and they dry quickly.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:53 AM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ditto to fins. When I was swimming a lot I wore Zoomers, which are pretty small so you don't feel gangly. It's fun to go fast, and you still get a good workout.

I also like Lycra swim caps, and Swedish goggles.
posted by apricot at 11:26 AM on April 9, 2014

I like Zoggs goggles. On my face they don't leak but they don't press too tight on my face either. Whichever brand you buy, get some with anti-fog coating, and always rise your goggles in fresh water when you get out of the pool (the anti-fog coating and seals deteriorate faster if you let the cholrine dry on the surfaces).

Zoggs silicone caps are also good and they last forever. Again, rising them in fresh water is a good idea, as is dusting the inside with a little talcum power. One thing that can make a cap liable to leak or pop off is a greasy forehead, so give your forehead a good wipe before putting the cap on (especially if you are dosing your hair in conditioner, which helps protect your hair and stop the cap from sticking).

I like Speedo's swym range of suits.
posted by girlgenius at 5:17 PM on April 9, 2014

I prefer the larger Aqua Sphere goggles, they seem to give a better field of view and a better seal since they sit on your cheeks more than in your eye socket. But really the most important thing about goggles is once you find a pair that fit, never ever ever leave them in the car or any other place where they will be exposed to extreme temperatures which will cause warping.
posted by anaelith at 7:22 PM on April 9, 2014

The "thing" (though not a physical thing) that makes swimming nice for me is finding the least busy time at the pool.

Crowded lanes are no fun - you spend SO much more energy and time waiting to overtake slower swimmers and making sure you aren't in the way of faster ones.

If you can find a time when there is only you and maybe one other person in a lane it's so much more enjoyable.
posted by trialex at 8:49 PM on April 9, 2014

My new favorite gear is the Speedo "elastomeric fit" silicone cap. I have never had a cap so easy to put on and take off. No hair-pulling. Not too tight. I love it.
posted by evilmomlady at 7:36 PM on April 10, 2014

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