Why use a swimming cap?
Swimming hats have many benefits, whether you enjoy competitive or recreational swimming, indoor pool or open water swimming, or a quick dip or a longer swim. Many people believe that one of the main reasons for wearing a swim cap is to keep your hair dry. This is not the case. Although some swim caps might keep your hair reasonably dry, they won’t keep your hair fully dry (and some won’t keep your hair dry at all). This doesn’t mean the cap doesn’t work properly, it’s just not made for that purpose.
For open water swimming, one of the main purposes of wearing a swim cap is safety. Wild swimming caps are usually brightly coloured which adds to your visibility in the water (along with your high-vis tow float or dry bag). This means that those around you are more likely to see you in the water, including watercraft, rescue teams, lifeguards, and other swimmers.
Wearing a swimming cap is also important on your open water swim because it provides some insulation for your head. Although the level of protection from the cold open water will vary between different swim caps, they will all provide some level of extra warmth to help you regulate your body temperature on your swim.
Another benefit of using a swim hat is that it keeps your hair out of your face making it easier for you to see where you’re going. It also keeps your hair out of your mouth when you come up for air. Swim caps can provide some protection for your ears from the water. However, to better protect your ears, we recommend using ear plugs. Your swim cap will help to keep your ear plugs in place.
Most swim caps (including all the hats on this list) are unisex and can be used for open water swimming races. As a competitive swimmer, a swim hat is essential for reducing as much drag as possible and ensuring your swim speed is the best it can be.
Best Wild Swimming Caps
Best for Open Water Swimming
Swim Secure Bubble Swim Cap - £9
- Keeps your head warm
- Available in four high-vis colours
- Made especially for open water swimming
- Only available in one size
Specifically made for open water swimmers, the Swim Secure Bubble Swim Cap is available in four high-vis colours (green, pink, yellow and orange) to help you stand out in the water. It’s made from durable silicone with a bubble design which creates extra insulation in the hat. Not only does this provide the extra warmth needed when swimming in cold open water, but it also makes the cap more flexible.
Although the bubble cap only comes in one size, it's designed to be slightly larger than standard swim hats. This makes it more comfortable so you can avoid those irritating pressure headaches and enjoy a full day of swimming (if you have the energy). Its flexibility also means it can stretch to fit people with different head sizes and longer hair. Many people find that this cap also keeps their hair reasonably dry throughout their swim.
Best for Hair with Volume
Soul Cap - £16
- Choice of size for different volume and length of hair
- Eight colour options (four high-vis options)
- Secure but comfortable seal
- Can become heavy
The Soul Cap is a silicone swimming cap that comes in four different sizes (M, L, XL, XXL) to fit different lengths and volumes of hair. The option of these different sizes means people with dreadlocks, braids, afro hair or long hair can find a swim cap that fits them. If you can find the right fit for you, this cap does a good job of keeping hair fairly dry and the air in the cap provides some extra insulation. However, if the cap is slightly too big it might let more water in. If this happens, due to the larger sizes of the cap, it can get quite heavy.
This swim cap has been designed for swimming in open water or an indoor pool. Although there are eight colour options, only four (bright green, pink, red and yellow) of the colours are practical for open water swimming. However, this is still a good variety of colours to choose from as each colour is available in each cap size.
Orca Swim Hat - £29
- Adjustable velcro strap
- Good visible colour
- Helps to keep your head warm
- Slides slightly while swimming
The Orca Swim Hat is made from 2.5mm neoprene and works the same way as a wetsuit. The hat lets in a little bit of water which heats up between the neoprene and your body creating a layer of warmer water, great for staying warm in cold water. This swim cap is also good for wild swimming because it comes in bright orange, ideal for being visible to people and boats around you. Although orange is the only colour option, there are three size options to choose between (S/M, L/XL, XXL).
With this range of sizes and the adjustable velcro strap on the back of the cap, the Orca Hat will fit most people. However, this hat is not as secure as the silicone caps as it can move and slide slightly while swimming. Therefore, only consider this cap if having the adjustable strap is important to you. Although neoprene is good for insulation, if you’re looking for the best cap for staying warm, we recommend the Swim Secure Bubble Swim Cap for open water swimming. It’ll keep you just as warm, is more secure and will save you money.
Swim Secure Silicone Swim Cap - £9
- Choice of two high-vis designs
- 100% silicone
- Very comfortable
- Best for summer water temperatures
Our choice for best design is the Swim Secure Silicone Swim Cap. With a choice of two designs, these caps are both attractive to look at and brightly coloured so you’re visible in the water. Both celebrate the beauty of nature and open water swimming. Whether you choose the pink and blue coral design, the red and yellow penguin design or get one of each, on your next swim you’ll be safer and more stylish.
This swim cap is made from 100% silicone which makes it strong, flexible and comfortable for shorter or longer swims. However, this is a standard cap so it doesn’t have any extra insulation features. This isn’t an issue for open water swimming in warmer temperatures during the summer. But if you enjoy swimming in colder winter water (this should only be done by experienced open water swimmers), you may want to consider a hat like the Swim Secure Bubble Swim Cap.
Best for the Environment
Speedo Recycled Cap - £13.50
- Made from recycled silicone
- Only available in one size
- Colours not visible in the water
The Speedo Recycled Cap is our top pick for the best environmental cap. As open water swimmers, we know how important it is to protect our oceans and keep bodies of open water as clean as possible. This cap helps our oceans as it’s made from recycled silicone that would otherwise have gone to waste (and possibly ended up in our oceans).
Although this cap is better for the environment and is strong and durable, the colour options are not ideal for open water swimming. Available in light grey or a blue leaf design, both colour options for the recycled cap will make you blend in with the water instead of making you more visible. This cap also only comes in one size. The silicone material does make the cap flexible but without the bubble design, it’s not flexible enough to fit a large range of head sizes or lengths of hair.
Using a swim cap will make you safer in the water, improve your swimming speed, keep your hair out of your face and make your swim more enjoyable. All of the swim caps on this list are great caps. But our favourite for open water swimming is the Swim Secure Bubble Swim Cap. Buy yours today.