“Swimming is a rite of passage, a border crossing,” wrote the late English author, naturalist and documentary filmmaker Roger Deakin. “When you go into the water, something like a metamorphosis happens. When you leave the land behind, you go through the mirror surface and you enter a new world.” Documenting his watery journey through the British Isles, his seminal 1999 book waterlog helped propel the wild swimming movement in the UK. Today, bookstore shelves are devoted to the sport, as a growing number of people flock to rivers, lakes, ponds and the sea, regardless of the weather or season. According to Google Trends, searches for wild swimming reached an all-time high in 2021, more than doubling from 2019.
While we tend to romanticize outdoor swimming and enthusiasts use cheerful descriptions – invigorating, rejuvenating – to brace themselves for frigid temperatures, immersion in cold water has long been considered beneficial for the mind and body; reducing stress, boosting the immune system and improving circulation. But it shouldn’t be too punishing. Whether you’re taking a quick dip or doing longer laps, here are a few little luxuries that will keep you warm and comfortable this winter.
Finisterre Nieuwland Women’s 2nd Yulex Long Sleeve Swimsuit
Finisterre’s Nieuwland long-sleeved swimsuit strikes a happy balance between a wetsuit—which some may argue takes away from the authentic, natural bathing experience—and a regular one-piece swimsuit that offers little protection from the cold. Made from a natural plant-based rubber called Yulex, it’s a sustainable alternative to traditional neoprene wetsuits. £125, finisterre.com
Zone3 Vapor Goggles
For those eager and strong enough to dip their faces into the water, these comfortable goggles in a range of splashy colors will suit most conditions. The anti-fog treated lenses keep your vision clear and provide complete protection against UVA and UVB rays. The glasses are available with polarized lenses to minimize glare from the sun, and photochromic lenses that darken in brighter environments. £35, zone3.com
Yeti Rambler Bottle
Yeti’s durable 18fl oz stainless steel bottle not only keeps drinks piping hot with its double-wall vacuum insulation, but is also 100 percent leak-proof. The convenient 360-degree HotShot cap can be rotated completely, allowing you to sip from either side of the bottle, making for a very convenient post-swim cup. £29.99, en.yeti.com
This cozy weatherproof onesie is the perfect companion as you leap out of the water into the icy air. After drying, the thermal fleece lining will insulate your natural body heat and keep you warm. The lightweight suit is available in navy blue, green and black and is designed to be worn over a swimsuit or underwear. The flattering fit means you might be tempted to leave it on long after your dive. £160, wylding.co.uk
Luxury hiking towel
A practical but nicer alternative to a microfibre towel. This super soft organic cotton peshte mold is traditionally ravaged with a double jacquard weave for added thickness, making it suitable for cooler seasons. While highly absorbent and generously sized to pack, the flat weave means it dries quickly and can be rolled up small to fit in a bag. £49, lukslinen.com
Limbs are particularly vulnerable after a wintery wade, but these breathable valenki felt wool boots will keep your feet toasty. You can complement them with a practical red or black rubber overshoe that is easy to put on and take off – we recommend wearing them barefoot to avoid having to put socks on over your wet feet. Traditionally worn by Russians since the 18th century, this contemporary reinvention has been sustainably handcrafted in small batches in two riverside workshops in Russia. £195, voylok.com
Ucon Acrobatics Frederik backpack
This functional, waterproof roll-top backpack has a full-length zip that allows you to easily fill it with all your gear. It also has a reinforced back with padding for extra comfort – who knows when you’re scrambling over rocks or rough terrain to reach that perfect blue spot – and the fleece lining protects your gear from scratches. With a sleek, gummed, matte finish and laptop sleeve, this bag is ideal for when you’re taking a dip between work or social life. €79.99, ucon-acrobatics.com