Open water swimming is fun, a great form of exercise, beneficial to your physical and mental health, and can be social or competitive. But open water swimming without the proper gear is dangerous.
Making you more visible and giving you access to important safety features like whistles and lights, tow floats and dry bags reduce the risks when you go open water swimming. Your bubble of protection gives you the peace of mind you need to enjoy your swim, knowing that you are visible to any other swimmers or boats nearby.
Tow floats and dry bags can also be used for support while having a mid-swim rest or while waiting for help in an emergency. However, they should only be used by competent swimmers as tow floats and dry bags are not made to be life saving buoys.
Having a tow float or dry bag is often needed for swimming at many open water venues and open water swimming competitions to improve the safety of the sport. But with all the options out there, where do you start to search for your perfect float? You start here. Read on to find your perfect tow float or dry bag…
Top pick for short swims:
Swim Secure Tow Donut - £27.50
|Dry bag accessible in water||Smaller dry bag|
|Waist belt adjustable||Harder to clean|
|Single way inflation valve|
The swim secure Tow Donut is our top pick for going on shorter open water swims. The Tow Donut is also great for building your confidence in the open water. It's quick and easy to blow up thanks to the one way valve, meaning even if you’re short on time, you can still have a quick dip in the water.
Our favourite feature of the Tow Donut is the central dry bag. Able to carry your valuables, a small water bottle, and essential medications, which are all accessible while you’re out in the water. As the dry bag is small it can be harder to clean. However, as only essential and valuable items can fit in it, it shouldn’t need much cleaning. If you do need more space in the dry bag, check out our top pick for internal space.
Top pick for long swims:
Lomo Dry Bag Swimming Tow Float with Mesh Pouch - £23.50
|Handy mesh pouch||Pouch only holds light items|
|Two air chambers||Problems with leash length|
|Two dry bag seals|
Lomo’s Dry Bag with Mesh Pouch is the ideal float for long open water swims. From the internal dry bag for larger and heavier items, to the mesh pouch for smaller mid-swim essentials, you can bring everything you need with you. The mesh pouch is bright orange so it doesn’t reduce visibility (unlike the darker pouches found on other dry bags). However, this pouch isn’t waterproof so any items that aren’t waterproof should be put in a waterproof bag before going in the pouch.
As well as the useful mesh pouch, the Lomo Dry Bag is also ideal for long swims due to its two air chambers. This means that if one of the air chambers is punctured while you’re in the water, the other air chamber will keep your dry bag afloat. These dual air chambers combined with the extra PVC seal in the dry bag will give your items extra protection from leaks. However an issue with Lomo’s Dry Bag is the length of the leash. Some people find that the leash gets tangled in their feet when swimming. This issue can be resolved by folding the leash in half or attaching a second leash to make the dry bag float closer or further away from your body.
Top pick for everyday swims:
Ultra Dry Tow Float 28L - £34.99
|Two supportive handles||Phone case doesn’t fit big phones|
|Three colour choices||Unreliable phone case lanyard|
|Removable shoulder strap||Whistle is hard to find (its built into the top buckle)|
|Waterproof phone case|
|Two air chambers|
The Ultra Dry 28L Tow Float is great for everyday swims because it's durable and easy to use. With the detachable shoulder strap, you can easily carry your tow float to and from your swim location. It also has an internal dry compartment so you can bring your clothes, towel, and valuables with you on your swim instead of leaving them on the shore. This tow float comes in a choice of bright colours to make you more visible in the water and has a selection of safety features including a whistle and useful support handles.
With the Ultra Dry Tow Float, you will also get a waterproof phone case that can go underwater to a depth of over 3m. However, some people have found that the case is too small for their phones or that their phones have been lost in the water after the lanyard clip breaks. Therefore, we suggest that if your phone does fit the case, you use it as a second protective layer inside the dry bag instead of on the lanyard.
Top pick for races and competitions:
TekraSport TekraPod - £115
|No drag||Need to buy CO2 cartridge refills|
|Detach float to help others||Black backpack can’t be seen in water|
|Customise with name or logo|
TekraSport’s TekraPod is the float for you if you enjoy regularly taking part in open water swimming races. With the tow float packed away in the small streamline backpack until you need it, it is perfect for having no drag while being race legal. When you do need the float, all you need to do is pull the cord which activates the CO2 cartridge and inflates the float within seconds. The float can also be inflated, detached, and given to another swimmer if they need help in the water.
A downside of the TekraPod is its price. It is an expensive tow float which has a maintenance expense of replacing the CO2 cartridge after every time it's activated (a set of 2 replacement CO2 bottles are £15). However, this expense is worth it for competition regulars. You can even get your name, club name, and logo printed on your TekraPod backpack.
Top pick for open water swimming experts:
Swim Secure Tow Float - £22.00
|Affordable||Small float is slightly less visible|
|Very light||Leash not adjustable|
|Area for emergency contact|
|Single way inflation valve|
It is important that even the most experienced open water swimmers have a tow float as you still need to be visible in the water and emergencies can still occur. Protect yourself without it affecting your swim with Swim Secure’s Tow Float. Small and lightweight, this tow float creates very little to no drag and floats in the perfect spot to stay out of your way (meaning the leash not being adjustable shouldn’t be a problem for most swimmers).
As an expert open water swimmer, all you need is a simple tow float that makes you visible and can support you in an emergency. You also don’t need to spend lots of time preparing the float. The one way inflation valve makes it quick and easy to inflate. Then all you need to do is attach it to you and off you go.
Top pick for open water swimming beginners:
Dippy Wild Swimming Float - £24.99
|Three supportive handles||No dry bag|
|Two colours on each float||Only one air chamber|
|Leash is adjustable|
|Durable and sturdy|
If you’re new to open water swimming or just want to build your confidence, Dippy’s Wild Swimming Float is for you. With 3 useful handles to support you if you need to take a rest in the water, dual colours to make you more visible to those around you, and having been tested in extreme weather conditions, this float is ideal for beginners.
Not only is this float supportive, durable, and sturdy, but it's also affordable, meaning you don’t have to spend too much to try out open water swimming. However, there are a couple of things this bag is missing. A mesh pocket would be useful, especially for new open water swimmers to be able to have a quick drink while in the water. It would also be useful for the float to have a second air chamber so it wouldn’t sink in the unlikely situation that the float gets a puncture.
Top pick for night swimming:
Zone3 LED Light 28L Backpack Buoy - £59.00
|LED lights||Costs more|
|Can detach backpack straps||Replace LED light batteries|
|Reflective strips||Only comes in orange|
|Clips for safety items|
Swimming in the dark increases the dangers of open water swimming, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Zone3’s LED Light Buoy is bright orange to make you visible in the daylight and has reflective strips and LED lights to make you visible in the dark of the night. This makes you visible to boats and rescue teams which, without a float, would struggle to see you in the day and would find it impossible to see you at night. If you need to attract more attention at night, the LED lights also have a strobe effect to make you more visible.
Zone3’s buoy can also be turned into a backpack thanks to its detachable straps. This makes it easy to transport it to and from your swim location. Removing these backpack straps before swimming gives you room on the bag clips to attach safety items like a torch or whistle. The only downside to this bag is the slightly more costly price and the cost of replacement batteries for the LED lights. However, this price is worth it as this bag is essential for those who enjoy night swimming.
Top pick for internal space:
Swim Secure Dry Bag - £29.00 - £37.50
|Variety of sizes and colours||Leash not adjustable|
|Two air chambers||Not all colours come in all sizes|
|Waist belt adjustable|
Swim Secure’s Dry Bag has four different size options and three different colour options. The 28L dry bag is available in pink, citrus, and orange, whereas the 20L, 35L, and 50L dry bags are only available in orange. These size options let you pick a dry bag that best meets your needs, whether you just want to bring a couple of things on a shorter swim, or you want to bring more on a swim hike.
All sizes and colours of Swim Secure’s Dry Bag have two air chambers which gives you and your possessions extra protection in case one of the air chambers gets punctured. However, one possible issue with the Swim Secure Dry Bags is that the leashes are not adjustable. But, for most people, this shouldn’t be a problem as the dry bags should float just above your knees while you're swimming. This keeps the bag near to you but also out of the way of your swimming.
Top pick for being environmental:
Puffin Billy R20 Recycled Dry Bag Float - £28.99
|Made from recycled plastic||No second air chamber|
|Two support handles|
|Leash is adjustable|
|Useful carabiner clip|
Puffin prioritises open water swimming safety and looking after the environment. This Dry Bag Float is made from recycled plastic and has a built-in whistle so you can attract more attention in an emergency. Puffin’s Dry Bag also has two handles so you can be supported if you need to take a mid-swim break or if you’re waiting for help in an emergency.
The main downside of this dry bag is that it doesn’t have a second air chamber. This would be an issue if the bag suffered a puncture because with a single air chamber, the dry bag would sink. Whereas, if there was a second air chamber, the bag would stay afloat. This is especially an issue with this dry bag as it has a roll down closure meaning that if the closure is submerged at all, water will seep into the dry bag.
Top pick for exploring:
Ulu Adventure Pro - £44.99
|Mount for an action cam||Add weights to use cam mount|
|Two support handles||Slightly more costly|
|Bag is waterproof to 1m depth|
|Airtight zip closure|
|Two reflective strips|
|Made from recycled plastic|
Ulu’s Adventure Pro is a unique dry bag made for open water swimmers who enjoy exploring, making memories, and having fun. It's easy to stop and take in the view, have a breather, or take photos with the supportive handles on either side of the dry bag. Unlike other dry bags, the Ulu Adventure Pro doesn’t have the common roll down closure, instead it has an airtight zip. This gives you more room inside the bag and means that the bag can be submerged 1m underwater for up to 30 minutes.
The best thing about this bag is the action cam mount letting you take all the photos and videos your heart desires. However there is a downside. You may need to buy and add weights to the side pockets of the bag. This is to stop it from flipping due to the weight of the action cam making the bag unbalanced. This bag will also cost you a few more pounds than other dry bags, but with its unique features, it is worth it!