Swim Gear: What You Need and What You Don't

Are you blowing cash on useless swim gear?

If you are new to swimming, there are things you need in your swim bag and some you don’t. We all know the industry is not short on companies pining for your business, so how do you save cash on the things you really do need. Let’s take a look at the swim gear you need and the swim gear you don’t. Also provided is a list of tips for choosing the best swim gear.

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Swimmers doing freestyle in lane
Corey Jenkins / Getty Images

Goggles are an absolute necessity when you are in the pool. Goggles protect your eyes from chlorine, they improve visibility in the water, and they keep debris out of your sockets in open-water. If you are a competitive swimmer, the correct pair of goggle may reduce drag in the pool. Make sure you choose the best ones for your sport, your swimming goals, and the amount of time you actually have them in the water.

What you need: When you are looking for goggles, keep these tips in mind:

  • The seal is the most important feature. If you can, go directly to the retailer and try the goggles on. You can try different lens styles from various companies to see how well they fit over your eyes.
  • The goggles should have a strong strap, which is preferably not a rubber-band-like strap. Inexpensive goggles often don’t offer the best fit or the most durable straps.
  • Make sure the goggles are comfortable on your face. If the seal is right and the fit is uncomfortable, continue to search for a pair that fits your features.
  • Consider goggles with double straps so they stay in place.

What you don’t need: Try not to buy into the hype. You will have a hard time finding research that support or denies the claim that goggles reduce drag in the water. If you are new to the sport or you are not a competition swimmer, the added feature of drag reduction does not really affect you.

When choosing goggles, go for the fit that is best for you and make sure your read reviews before you buy. If you buy goggles online, ask about a return policy that allows you to return the goggles if they are not the best fit.

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Super suits

Male swimmer in front crawl
Henrik Sorensen / Getty Images

 You’ve seen the suits the pros wear. Real design teams work hard on the best suits for professional athletes. There is a great deal of emphasis on the suit—the style, the fabric, the features—and how it can improve performance, but you may not need it.

What you need: When you are shopping for a suit, don’t buy the most expensive one that makes big promises. Buy with intention and your sport in mind.

  • Research the brand(s).
  • Read reviews and product information before you buy.
  • Consider the materials in the suit. If you are in the pool every day, you are going to want a suit that can withstand constant exposure to chlorine.
  • Look at the features of the suit and compare them to your needs in the pool. Swimsuit needs for competitive swimmers, open-water swimmers, and casual swimmers are completely different.
  • Make sure it is the right fit. If it digs into your skin or it does not lie flat on your stomach, it is too tight.

What you don’t need: You don’t need a suit that is too tight, and if you are not a competitive swimmer, you don’t need to drop the big bucks on a bodysuit right off the bat. Bodysuits are often more expensive and not at all what you need for your swimming goals.

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Swim Caps

Young swimmer.
Fran Polito / Getty Images

You will see a sea of swim caps at competitions and triathlons. Are they necessary, and do you need one if you are new to the sport? If so, how do you buy one?

What you need: Wearing a swim cap has many benefits:

  • Protects your hair from the chemicals
  • Keeps your hair out of your face
  • Protects the head in cold water swimming conditions
  • Protects the head from UV light outside
  • Reduces drag in the pool
  • Protects from swimmer’s ear

When you are buying a swim cap, be aware of your budget and your needs. You will find caps made from cloth, latex or silicon. When you are buying a cap, try it on and focus on comfort. If cloth is not your thing, try on latex or silicone caps.

What you don’t need: You don’t need a cap that costs a fortune and makes big promises about performance and speed. Silicon caps are the most popular among professional swimmers, but if you don’t need to earn the gold, you can stick with cloth or latex. Just a heads-up: if you have long hair, latex can pull your hair when you remove the cap.

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Nose clips

Underwater view of mature female athlete swimming during workout
Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Many people buy nose clips when they first start out in the water, and after a few laps, the nose clips get tossed in the bag – forever! You probably don’t need nose clips. What you need to do is to learn how to breathe effectively in the water. Check out breathing drills to help you breathe better in the pool. Embrace breathing techniques to increase your diaphragm strength.

Do your research

Are you ready to get into the pool or dive into the open-water? The biggest takeaway from this is to watch the sales pitches and focus on your needs. Everyone wants to tell you what you need so you will buy their products, but not all swimmers are the same. Do your research! The more you watch out for your needs, the happier you – and your wallet – will be.