Only a swimophile could have a fantasy kit bag. Most of my friends covet handbags, but I can’t get excited about Mulberry or Louis Vuitton or whatever. But talk to me about the contents of your kit bag, and you’ve got my interest.
My bag is a rather pleasing khaki-green canvas tote. It has carry handles and a long strap so you can sling it across your back. It’s a single-compartment slouchy affair, a gift from family in Perth, Australia. It was originally filled with beer, but I have commandeered it. It’s mine. It’s got a bit of mildew on the inside. And I get quite arsey if someone else tries to use it.
Inside, at this time of year, is my towel, costume, swimming cap, fins, goggles, wash bag and some loose change. Sometimes I also take my swim watch. In open water season, I add my wetsuit, baby nappy cream for wetsuit rash, tow float and polarised goggles.
Just as you can tell a lot about a person by the contents of their handbag, what can you work out from a swimmer’s kit bag? I think mine says quite clearly that I’m an entry level, moderately serious recreational swimmer.
My clear goggles are Aquasphere Vista, which I love for the way they stick to my face rather than trying to pop out my eyes, and give me a clear field of vision. My polarised pair are Slazenger Triathlon Mirror goggles, which reduce the glare on a bright day, fit in much the same way as my Aquaspheres, and, essentially, don’t fog up while I’m swimming.
My swimming costume is a Zoggs boyleg swimsuit. As a swimming teacher, I’ve been through hundreds of swimming costumes. Zoggs has absolutely been the best in terms of longevity and fit. Their chlorine resistant material is wonderful; it lasts use after use. And I love the boyleg fit simply because it means you don’t have to be attentive to your lady garden. Priorities.
My hat is a Diana 3D competition swim cap. It’s actually a race cap, which I didn’t realise, but because it’s moulded, I find it easier to get on my large head. I also have my Macmillan and Great North Swim latex caps, but I feel it’s a bit like putting a condom on my head, and it gradually pops off while I’m swimming.
I actually love my wetsuit. At £280, this was my biggest, most important purchase. I got it from the Triathlon Shop in Bristol, where I asked for a suit that would fit someone with a man’s height and woman’s curves. They got it spot-on first go, and I got to try it in their brilliant infinity pool (I want one). It’s a Zoot Z-Force 3.0. I find it really easy to swim in, with good movement on the arms. excellent warmth and buoyancy. I’ve done 3.6km freestyle wearing this little beauty.
My towel is the only bit of kit over which I haven’t agonised. I would like a dryrobe and a sherpa hoodie. For open water swimming, my fleecy jogging bottoms, alpaca beanie and Uggs are essentials too.
I could spend a fortune on Wiggle, Pro-swimwear and Selkie Swim Co. I probably need a tow float at some point. And if I take on winter swimming, a neoprene hat, boots and gloves might be on my shopping list.
While swim kit fantasies have infinite possibilities, you actually don’t need to spend a lot to enjoy swimming. Unlike cycling where you need a decent bike, or running where you need good trainers, all you really need to swim is a towel, goggles and something to wear in the pool.
Many open water swimmers prefer to swim without a wetsuit. I love wearing a wetsuit, and love my middle-of-the-range number. But you can hire or buy second-hand, and many places offer the chance to hire for the summer and then buy at the end if you like it.