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Best swimming equipment for beginners

Heading to the pool for the first time? Or after a break? Then there are a few bits of kit you’ll need first. Dive in to our round-up of the best swimming equipment for beginners

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About to start swimming again for the first time in years? It can be a daunting prospect, especially when you start to think about the swimming equipment you might need.


But it doesn’t have to cause you a headache. There’s some basic swimming equipment you’ll need, plus some extra pieces of gear that’ll help you improve your performance.

In the words that follow, 220 Triathlon editor and open-water swimming coach Helen Webster explains everything you need to know.

What do beginner swimmers need?

The good news is that swimming is a relatively affordable sport in terms of the initial outlay on kit. So long as you have something to swim in and a bag to put it all in, you’re good to go!

There is also some additional kit that will make training easier and more effective though, so in the article below we have listed them, with a brief description of what each item does.

To start off with, invest in a decent swimsuit or set of shorts/jammers. Look for something that’s made from a good quality chlorine-resistant and durable material and which fits with your lifestyle (for example, some swimwear may be handwash-only, which if you’re short for time can be a right old faff).

Your swimwear should also fit you well without sagging, creating drag or being too tight or restrictive.

For women, a swimsuit that doesn’t impede the arm rotation for front crawl is ideal and depending on bust size, you may also want to consider a swimsuit with an inner shelf bust support.

For the chaps, choose from swim shorts (though baggy swim shorts will create drag), knee-length closer fitting jammers, or (if you’re brave!) a set of good old budgies! A drawcord at the waist can be a handy addition for fit.

On top of your swimwear, a swim cap is a good idea to keep your hair out of your face (and out of the water), plus a set of well-fitting goggles if you’ll be doing front crawl. Add a bag to keep it all in and a towel and you’re good to go!

What pool tools do beginners need?

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Pool tools are simply aids to help you improve your swim technique. If you are joining a swim training squad, or want to follow a swim set you’ve found online (find example swim training plans here), you’ll need some pool tools in order to effectively perform the drills.

Usually, these work to isolate one part of the body to enable you to focus more on how your swimming feels. Pool tools include:

  • Pull buoy: A figure of eight piece of foam that sits between the legs to raise them and allow you to swim without kicking, to focus on the front end of your stroke.
  • Swim fins: Flippers that you put on your feet. These help you work on your kick and also the feeling of moving more quickly through the water (useful in slower arm drills where you are not generating front end propulsion).
  • Kick board: This is held out in front of you to allow you to work on your kick without using your arms.
  • Hand paddles: Worn on your hands, paddles create more resistance against the water and help you to develop a feel for creating forward movement from the catch.

What’s the most important gear for swimming?

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Your swimwear is the most important item – after all, there are very few public swimming pools that encourage nudity… But after that, if on a budget our most important purchase would be a decent pair of goggles.

A good set will last you a few years (provided you rinse them and store them in the case they came with) and if they fit well and are comfortable, will help you avoid leaks and goggle marks.

For the pool you can choose a smaller set of goggles (as you don’t need the wider range of vision as you do in open water) and these will help you avoid drag. Choose a tint if you want to minimise the harsh swimming pool lights – and a mirrored finish if you want to look pro!

A couple of other inexpensive purchases that can really help beginners feel more comfortable in the water are a nose clip (stops water going up your nose on turns!) and ear plugs (to keep water out of your ear canal, which can help if you have sensitive ears or find swimming makes you feel a little dizzy or sick).

Best swimming equipment for beginners

Maru Pulse Swimming Goggles

For the pool, we would usually choose a smaller goggle for a more streamlined fit, but make sure the ones you choose also have soft and comfortable gaskets.

The Maru Pulse goggles come with multiple nose bridges to help you find the perfect fit, as well as a plastic case to protect them from scratches in your kit bag.

The mirrored lenses are great for protecting your eyes from the glare from swimming pool lights and Maru says they’ve also been treated with an anti-fog coating.

Vitally, at £13 they’re budget-friendly, too.

See our list of the best swimming goggles for more expert-recommended options.

Zoggs Byron Jammer Swim Trunks

Choose a decent set of jammers and they’ll last you a few seasons as well as being comfortable to swim in. Jammers are the kind of hybrid of budgies and surf shorts – knee length for modesty and comfort, but close-fitting enough to stay put as you swim and not create drag.

We like Zoggs kit as it offers value for money and good quality. These Byron jammers are part of the Zoggs sustainable product program. As such, they are made from Ecolast fabric which is made using fibre produced from recycled plastic bottles and consumer waste.

The fabric is also chlorine-resistant with UPF50+ and will last over 250 hours of swim time (according to Zoggs’ testing).

Two colourways are available, with a 45cm length and sizing from a 30inch to a 38inch waist. There is a drawcord at the waist for adjustability.

Dhb Moda Muscleback Swimsuit

Proof positive that you don’t need to spend a fortune on your swim kit, we picked out this suit from Wiggle’s in-house dhb range as being a great pick for new female swimmers.

Not only is the price competitive, but it looks striking and also includes a medium leg height and open muscleback design, both of which will help with unrestricted movement.

There’s a shelf inner bra and the fabric is UPF50+ (handy if worn outdoors!). The fabric uses 80% recycled nylon and sizes 6-14 are available.

Speedo Long Hair Swimming Cap

Love them or loathe them, in our book a swim cap is a swimming pool essential. Not only do they keep your hair out of the way while you swim, but they stop loose hairs from shedding into the pool which is (let’s be honest) a bit grim.

We’ve picked out this long hair swimming cap for swimmers who can often find their hair does not fit under a normal swimming cap (the normal size equivalent is also available from Speedo, though) and it comes in three colours.

Want more choice? Here are the best swim caps to wear in the pool.

Maru Pull Buoy

If you’re only going to buy one pool tool, then a pull buoy would be our choice. Use it between your legs to lift them in the water and help body position, as well as allowing you to forget about the kick and focus on the front end of your stroke.

We’ve had this Maru one in our kit bag for years and it’s still going strong!

Not exactly sure what to do with one? Here’s how to use a pull buoy for maximum improvement.

Zoggs Kickbuoy

Is it a kickboard? Is it a pull buoy? Well, handily, this device from Zoggs can be used as either. So if you’re on a budget (or don’t want to carry loads of stuff about) and torn about what to buy, then this could be worth a try.

While it lacks the streamlined shape of some kickboards, it will do the job of keeping your upper body afloat. Then spin it round and you can pop it between your legs to focus on the front end.

Swimz Short Blade Silicone Swim Training Fins

Swim fins are a good shout if you want to work on your kick – or for creating speed to allow you to work on the finer points of technique such as body rotation.

We like short blade fins for the pool, which allow you to generate enough extra speed and propulsion to whip up and down a 25m pool without being too long! These from Swimz offer good value, two colours and two size options.

TYR Unisex Big Mesh Mummy Backpack

By the time you’ve accumulated a few bits of swim kit, you’ll realise you need something to haul it all around in. You’ll probably want to avoid a standard backpack though, as they don’t dry very well and can quickly become smelly.

We came across the TYR range of bags a few years ago (everyone at our masters squad seemed to have them) and have never looked back.

This big mesh bag has room for all your pool tools, a separate pocket for your apparel and one for a drink.

The 40-litre capacity will house everything you need and the simple mesh construction means it all dries out quickly!


Top image credit: Getty Images