Many of those who have been on Swimtrek's long distance training camp in Malta will have benefited from Nick Adam's really useful seminar on the kit that he takes on a Channel swim. But after the amusement that's been caused down at Swan Pool recently by my little patch of carpet, I thought I'd introduce the contents of my everyday open water kit bag - something which I've refined over the last couple of years and which enables me to get dry and start warming up as quickly as possible. This might be helpful to newer swimmers who are still experimenting with their kit and post-swim routines.
Starting with the bag - I use my Coventry Triathletes bag, which is roomy, water-resistant and generally robust.
This has a separate section in the base which is intended for wetsuit storage, but which is the perfect place for my crocs (easy to get on when cold; easy to identify on the beach in Dover among 30 other pairs); vaseline and latex gloves; sun screen; and most importantly, my little square of carpet...perfect for when you're changing on gravel paths (Swan Pool) or stoney beaches (Dover). It may look a bit daft, but it's a nice bit of comfort.
At the bottom of the main part of the bag, I keep some goggles, hats and a spare swimming costume... I can't be the only person to have driven an hour to the lake after work only to realise that I haven't brought a costume! So now, I always keep a spare in there, just in case. Plus, it's always good to have some spare goggles in case the light conditions change from what you expected, or a pair start leaking or just feeling uncomfortable for some reason.
And next...a woolly hat. Any regular open water swimmer knows how important it is to keep your head covered when you get out. This is a key part of the "routine" that people learn with Swimtrek, and down in Dover - swim hat off, give your hair a quick rub, then woolly hat on. (Then you change your top half completely, adding on all your layers, followed by your bottom half - it should all be done as soon as you get out - no standing around chatting etc). I like this one because it covers my ears too.
Some other bits - a whistle (at Swan Pool, you have to carry one down your cossie in the water in case of emergencies), plus a bottle of water to sip on before and after a swim. I also carry some wet wipes and some anti-bacterial hand gel - in general, it's better to warm up slowly rather than hopping straight into a shower after swimming (plus a lot of venues don't have showering or changing facilities), but I prefer to wipe off vaseline, suncream, and any weedy lake-gunk, at least off my face and neck, and if I'm going to be eating post-swim (which I usually do), I'll use the gel on my hands (although given how much I've probably already ingested, this may be something of a futile gesture...).
My final bit of everyday cold water kit is my padded jacket. It packs down into a nice small stuff bag - about the size of a micro-sleeping bag - and easily squeezes into the bottom corner of my bag.
And then it opens out into a light, warm jacket that really helps with the warming up process. It was quite expensive, but worth every penny - I don't go anywhere watery without it.
There is one more piece of cold water kit that's worth mentioning, although this is something of an indulgence rather than a requirement.....Bob, our campervan: a place to change out of the wind; an endless supply of hot drinks and snacks; plus, a duvet and a place to lie down should you need it.
So that's it - my cold water kit. The important thing is that you know exactly where everything is that you need, and that you can access it quickly and easily. I've found that the more you can get those routines in place, the easier it is to recover especially from colder swims, and the more you can focus on the swimming itself.