How to Keep Warm in Cold Water Without a Wetsuit

Last Updated: February 24, 2023

Plunging into cold water sounds pretty exciting and challenging. Taking a nice dip is indeed a delight to plan out as an outdoor activity. Who does not like to swim by the beach when the hot sun is right above your head?

Swimming during the winters can be a task though and a risky decision as well. If you plan to swim in cold waters, your body will not be ready to take up the difference in temperatures. One has to prepare themselves mentally and physically since cold water drains the body heat in no time.

Even for confident and experienced swimmers, cold water swimming can be a challenge. ‘Cold shock” is a situation when your body goes through an episode of changes in breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. It can cause panic and you may even feel breathless.

how to stay warm in cold water

So, should you avoid hitting the cold, even though you love to swim? No way! You may take some time to get used to swimming in the cold water, but it isn’t impossible. With the proper techniques and gear, you can always chill and enjoy the experience to the fullest.

Cold Water Swimming Without a Wetsuit

A wetsuit is a skin-tight suit that provides insulation by trapping the heat within. Though these suits are a recommended gear by many, one should think if it is worth the buy or not.

If you are someone who frequently swims in cold or freezing water, then consider buying a wetsuit. However, if you hit the pool or the lake only once in a while during winters, purchasing an expensive wetsuit may not be feasible. You can always rent one if you are in dire need.

Though there are zillions of gears to keep your body warm, learning few knacks to swim without their assistance can go a long way.

Why is Staying Warm Important?

There are certain dangers attached to swimming in cold conditions. You may feel the high and rush before diving in, but we need to be extra cautious.

Cold shock though a prevalent accident, can have grave repercussions. It causes rapid breathing and heart rate change, which is not a good sign. If we do not follow specific steps to keep ourselves warm, it may lead to higher risks of breathlessness and even drowning.

While in cold water, shivering is something that you may experience typically. However, if this prevails, get out immediately. Similarly, if it starts to feel like your heart is pumping hard, it’s time to get out.

These can be the signs of hypothermia, a condition where the body starts losing heat faster than it can produce. Warming up your body is highly important while you feel this, as it can be fatal.

Ways To Stay Warm in Cold Water

With the advent of technology, we have tons of protective gear to safeguard us from the rash elements. Being frequent swimmers, we cannot always depend on these and need to learn to survive in the cold water without them.

Below are a few steps and tips to consider before you take a deep dive into the cold environment.

Start With a Warm-Up

Before you jump in with excitement and vigor, it is better to prepare your body. Do a few stretching exercises and lunges that will help in raising your body temperature.

These exercises and movements will also give you that much-needed push and raise your heartbeat before jumping in. The warm-up will help avoid any cold shock your body may experience once you hit the freezing water.

Keep Moving To Heat Up Your Body

Suppose you are in a notion that once you hit the cold water, you should curl up and save your body energy. This would be wrong. Once you are inside, start moving your limbs instead of standing still. The constant movement will help you charge up your body and, in turn, keep it warm.

Moreover, if you stop moving, it will become difficult to start over again. Hence, keep paddling your body slowly and get it accustomed to the cold conditions.

Get Accustomed

Always go into the water slowly and steadily instead of jumping. Getting acclimated is crucial to protect your body from the sudden drop in temperatures. It will be challenging to feel the water’s chillness slowly, but gradually, the body will get used to the fall in temperature.

Slather Animal Fat

Though a traditional way of keeping your body warm, it usually works wonders. Smearing your body with animal fat before getting in cold water will provide insulation to your system. Since fat takes time to mix with water, your body can keep warm for a decent amount of time.

This method, even though age-old, is a go-to tip by many swimmers and athletes. If you plan to swim without a wetsuit, then animal fat is a great alternative to keep your body at bay from the cold.

Practice Swimming in Cold Water

Swimming, though a recreational activity, requires consistent practice and dedication. The same applies too if you plan to swim in the cold temperatures. It can be strenuous to swim through the chilly waters, and you may require more energy to exert than usual.

Practicing few strokes every day may help you on the actual day of your swim.

Blow Bubbles

When you dive into the pool, your face hits the surface first. Since the temperature is low, you may experience shock. You may end up swallowing water, and even your lungs may contract. So instead of consuming more water, start blowing bubbles inside the pool as your face hits the water.

This method will help in preventing any breathlessness which you may feel otherwise.

Focus on Inhaling and Exhaling Evenly

It is crucial to control one’s breath inside water. While swimming your lungs may contract and tighten up because of the low temperatures. Focus on your breathing while you swim and inhale and exhale at regular intervals.

What To Wear in a Cold Swimming Pool?

stay warm in a cold pool

A lot has to be kept in mind while deciding on taking a splash when the temperatures have hit low levels. Apart from squeezing into a wetsuit to keep warm, there are few other gears that you can consider wearing.

Neoprene Swimming Caps

Wearing two neoprene caps will keep your head dry and help in the retention of the heat. Two layers of the cap will trap the heat and will block it from getting evaporated quickly. Purchase good quality swimming caps, which will go a long way in protecting your head while you swim.


They are an excellent investment if you are planning to hit the cold water during your holidays. Earplugs will help in protecting your ears from being flooded with water. Since our ears are susceptible to low temperatures, it is advisable to wear earplugs to avoid any pain while or after the swim.

Neoprene Gloves and Socks

If you want to enjoy swimming in chilly water, then it is better to keep your feet warm at all times. The same goes with your palms as well. Once the cold hits your body, your feet and hands may become stiff because of the chillness. It may also become numb due to the adverse drop in the temperatures.

Recommended Read: What to Wear For Scuba Diving in Warm Water

Neoprene gloves and socks will help lock your body heat and keep them warm while you take a plunge.


Goggles are an essential protective gear as compared to others. They keep the water out of your eyes and help you to swim without any hindrance. Goggles do not provide any warmth to the body, but protect our eyes from unpleasant splashes of cold water.

Neoprene Wetsuits

If you are considering swimming in winter months more often, it is better to switch to neoprene wetsuits. They will immensely help to keep your body warm. If you are a regular swimmer, then it is an excellent decision to invest in a wetsuit to keep your body safe in adverse conditions.

Quick Tips To Stay Warm After a Swim

Once you have victoriously completed your swim, it is important to follow few tips once you are out:

  • Dry yourself: Always keep a robe or a thick towel ready at the end of your swim. Follow this method to dry and dress up immediately since it will be challenging to do so if you start shivering.
  • Get indoors: After taking a dip in the icy waters, go back home and warm yourself so that the blood circulation in your body becomes normal. It is essential to keep yourself warm after you are out of the cold pool.
  • Eat and drink: After your tiring swim session, drink or eat something warm for all the energy lost. It will restore all the stamina you lost and make you feel warm after swimming in the low temperatures.

Safety Precautions To Follow

There are few safety measures that you should swear by before taking that dip you were planning. Below are few steps that you can follow to be safe and sound:

  • Never forget life jacket: Even if you are reasonably experienced, never go for a swim in chilly waters without a life jacket. Since the weather can be unpredictable, it is advisable to put on a jacket for your protection.
  • Swim close to the shore: Always stick close to the shoreline and avoid open waters. The reason being that if you suffer from cold shock or shiver uncontrollably, then it will be very tough to swim back and get yourself out of water.
  • Time limitation: It is always better to limit your time inside cold water to a shorter span. Unless you are a pro swimmer, you should stick to a 10–15-minute dip. A long swim may lead to cold shock or, worse, hypothermia.

Final Thoughts

Swimming in cold water can be tedious but delightful at the same time. If you take the necessary measures, indulge in proper training, and become aware of the dangers attached to it, you can excel in the cold waters. No soul can then stop you from having your share of fun swim even during winters.

Prepare yourself mentally before you hit the water, and you can easily swim through even without a wetsuit. So why the wait? Hit the deep blue waters and reenergize yourself!

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