Open water swimming is a popular sport that can have great benefits for your health and is great fun. However, it can be very dangerous. Tow floats and dry bags make open water swimming safer due to their bright colours (making you more visible in the water) and their built-in safety features like lights and whistles.
Although tow floats and dry bags can support an adult’s weight, they are not made to be life savers and should only be used by competent swimmers. However, the support they provide can be useful if you need to take a break while in the water or if there's an emergency and you’re waiting for help.
As well as increasing safety, another reason to get a tow float or dry bag is because many open water swimming venues and competitions now require you to have one.
Whether you're new to open water swimming or an expert, enjoy going on shorter swims or longer swims, or want to enter competitions, you’ve come to the right place. Find the perfect tow float or dry bag for you below…
1. Short Swims
Swim Secure’s Tow Donut - £27.50
|Dry bag accessible mid-swim||Limited dry bag space|
|Can adjust waist belt||Dry bag difficult to wash|
|Great for a smaller budget|
|One way valve for inflation|
Whether you prefer short swims, are building up your open water confidence, or just don’t have the time for longer swims, Swim Secure’s Tow Donut is for you. The one way valve makes it easy to inflate so you can make the most of your time and get into the water quicker.
The best thing about the Tow Donut is the built-in dry bag which is perfect for bringing the essentials on your swim with you. As the dry bag is in the centre of the donut with the opening at the top, it can be opened while you're in the water, great for bringing a small drink or important medications with you. The dry bag is also great for storing your valuables like your phone and car keys. The small size of the dry bag is perfect for these short swim essential and valuable items, however it does make it slightly harder to clean. If you’re wanting to store more in your dry bag, have a look at 8 - dry bag space.
2. Long Swims
Lomo’s Dry Bag Swimming Tow Float with Mesh Pouch - £23.50
|Accessible mesh pouch||Only lightweight items in pouch|
|Two air chambers||
Feet get tangled in leash
|Second seal on dry bag|
The Lomo Dry Bag with Mesh Pouch is great for those who enjoy long open water swims. With two air chambers, the dry bag is less likely to sink as the second air chamber will keep the bag afloat in the small chance that one of the air chambers gets a puncture. This, along with the extra PVC seal in the dry bag, gives the items in your dry bag an extra layer of protection from leaks. Any larger or heavy items and items you don’t need during your swim can be securely stored inside the dry bag.
The highlight of the Lomo Dry Bag is the useful Mesh Pouch which can be used to store items you might need on your swim like a small drinks bottle, essential medications, and a swim snack. However, the pouch is not waterproof so if these items aren’t waterproof we recommend placing them in a waterproof bag before putting them in the pouch. This pouch is orange (instead of black like other brands dry bags) to not reduce the visibility of the bag when in the water. However, some people find that the leash gets tangled in their feet when using this dry bag. But this issue can be fixed by folding the leash or adding another leash to let the bag float in the right place for you.
3. Everyday Swims
Ultra Dry’s Tow Float 28L - £34.99
|Two useful handles||Phone case only for small phones|
|Pick from three colours||
Phone case lanyard faulty
|Removable shoulder strap||Hard to locate the whistle (FYI it's in the buckle)|
|Waterproof phone case|
|Two air chambers|
Everyday swims are easier and more enjoyable with Ultra Dry’s 28L Tow Float. Stay visible to those around you with a choice of three bright colours and stay safe with the built-in whistle and support handles. The dry bag has a detachable shoulder strap so you can easily carry your dry bag to and from your swim. When you’re ready to swim, simply detach the shoulder strap and place it in the dry bag with your possessions and secure the leash to the dry bag with the carabiner clip. Then off you go.
Ultra Dry’s Tow Float also comes with a waterproof mobile case on a lanyard that can be immersed in over 3 feet of water. However, this case doesn’t fit larger phones and the lanyard clip is unreliable. Therefore, we recommend using the case as an extra layer of protection for your phone (if it's the right size) and putting it inside the dry bag rather than on the lanyard.
4. Racing and Competitions
TekraSport’s TekraPod - £115
|Streamline||Refill CO2 cartridges|
|No drag||Black backpack not visible in the water|
Whether you’re swimming for pleasure or taking part in a competition, you still need to be visible and safe. Many open water swimming races require participants to have some sort of race legal tow float. The TekraPod is perfect for this. The small streamline backpack contains a deflated tow float which can be easily inflated within seconds by just pulling the cord. The tow float is packed away while you’re swimming until you need it, meaning there is no drag so you can give your best performance. The float can also be inflated and detached to help another swimmer.
Once the float has been inflated in the water, it has to be towed back to shore and will need the CO2 cartridge replaced before it’s ready for your next swim. This adds a maintenance cost of £15 for a pack of 2 CO2 cartridges, making an already expensive tow float more costly. However, if you regularly take part in open water races, it’s worth the cost. Especially as you can personalise the backpack with your name, club, or logo.
5. Expert Open Water Swimmers
Swim Secure’s Tow Float - £22.00
|Lightweight||Less obvious in the water|
|Affordable||Can’t adjust leash|
|Space for name and emergency number|
|One way valve for inflation|
However much experience you have, swimming in open water is still dangerous. This tow float is ideal for expert open water swimmers as it is simple but gives you the safety features you need. It makes you more visible to other swimmers, boats, and rescue teams (although due to its small size it is not as visible as other floats). And it gives you some support if you have an emergency and need to wait in the water for help.
Due to this tow float being small and lightweight, most swimmers don’t feel it at all while swimming, letting you just focus on your swim with that extra layer of protection. One downside to this float is that the leash isn’t adjustable. However, it is designed so that the float stays in the perfect place above your knees, making it accessible without affecting your swim.
6. New Open Water Swimmers
Dippy’s Wild Swimming Float - £24.99
|Each float has dual colours||Doesn’t have a dry compartment|
|Three useful handles||No second air chamber|
|Can adjust the leash|
Tow floats are important for all open water swimmers, but for those new to open water swimming, they are essential. Dippy’s Wild Swimming Float has been tested in extreme weather conditions, is durable, and sturdy, ideal for building the confidence of those who are new to open water swimming. It is also affordable so those interested in open water swimming can try it out without having to splash out too much money.
With dual colours, the float is more visible so you can have peace of mind that watercraft, other swimmers, and rescue teams can see you in the water. The three supportive handles are also great for beginners who may need to use the float for support while having a mid-swim rest. The only things that would make this float better would be a mesh pocket so swimmers could access a drink, snack, or medications while in the water. As well as a second air chamber to stop the float from sinking in the rare occasion that the float gets punctured in the water.
7. Night Swims
Zone3’s LED Light 28L Backpack Buoy - £59.00
|LED lights||More costly|
|Detachable backpack straps||LED light batteries need replacing|
|Reflective strips||No choice of colour|
|Clips for safety items|
Open water swimming in the daylight comes with its dangers, but open water swimming at night increases these dangers as you are even less visible in the water. Zone3 have created a dry bag with reflective strips and LED lights to make night swimming safer. Available with a strobe effect to attract more attention if needed, the LED Light Buoy makes you visible to boats and rescue teams where you would otherwise have been invisible.
This dry bag also has detachable straps so you can carry your bag as a backpack to and from your swim. For swimming, the clips that attach the straps can also be used to attach safety items, like a whistle. This adds another level of safety for your night swims. Although this bag does cost more than most of the other dry bags and it has the cost of replacing the LED light batteries, it is essential for safe night time swimming.
8. Dry Bag Space
Swim Secure’s Dry Bag - £29.00 - £37.50
|Four size choices||Can’t adjust leash|
|Three colour choices||Only orange comes in four sizes|
|Two air chambers|
|Can adjust waist belt|
|Long lasting and durable|
You’re spoilt for choice with the variety of colours and sizes of Swim Secure’s Dry Bag. The 20L and 28L are great for just bringing smaller items or your valuables with you on your swim. But if you want to go on a longer swim or a swim hike and bring larger heavier items, the 35L or 50L bag is the one for you. However, the pink and citrus dry bags are only available in 28L. The other size bags are only available in orange.
With two air chambers, all sizes of the dry bag will keep your items dry and protected even if one of the air chambers suffers a puncture. The leash that attaches the dry bag to your waist belt is not adjustable which some people might find a problem. However, the dry bags are made to float just above your knees which (like Swim Secure’s Tow Float) keeps the bag close by should you need it without affecting your swimming.
Puffin Billy R20 Recycled Dry Bag Float - £28.99
|Made from recycled plastic||Only one air chamber|
|Two useful handles|
|Can adjust leash|
|Attach with carabiner durable|
Caring for the environment and making open water swimming a safer sport are the main aims of Puffin. This led them to create this dry bag which is made from recycled plastic and has a variety of safety features including an in-built whistle and two supportive handles. This bag also has a carabiner attachment to make connecting the bag to the leash quick and easy.
However, this dry bag only has one air chamber which would be a problem if it happened to get a puncture, causing the bag to sink. Due to the dry bag roll down closure method, if it was to be submerged or sink, it would cause water to leak into the bag and would get your possessions wet.
Ulu Adventure Pro - £44.99
|Mount an action cam||Weights to be added to use the cam|
|Two useful handles||Slightly more expensive|
|Waterproof up to a 1m deep|
|Bag closes with airtight zip|
|Made from recycled bottles|
Open water swimming is more than just exercise. It should also be fun. Ulu’s Adventure Pro is great for swimmers who want to explore, make memories, and have fun. Fit more in your dry bag and be confident that it will stay dry due to it having an airtight zip rather than a roll down top. Uniquely, this dry bag can also be safely submerged for up to 30 minutes in water up to 1m deep.
Another unique feature of this bag is the mount for an action cam which lets you film your swim or stop to take photos of the pretty views (while supporting yourself with the two useful handles). Attaching an action cam can cause the bag to capsize. But this can be avoided by placing weights into the small pockets on either side of the bag. The Adventure Pro will cost you a couple more pounds, but for the unique features it comes with, it is worth every penny.