Wild swimming: how a dry robe or waterproof changing robe helps when wild swimming, best in the UK 2022

How a dry robe helps when wild swimming, best in the UK 2022How a dry robe helps when wild swimming, best in the UK 2022
How a dry robe helps when wild swimming, best in the UK 2022 | How a dry robe helps when wild swimming, best in the UK 2022

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Open water or ‘wild’ swimming is hugely popular in the UK - and a changing or dry robe is the ideal accessory for keeping you cosy after your dip

Changing robes (more commonly known as dry robes) have had a stratospheric rise globally over the past 15 years - going from non-existent to must-have in a short period of time. As open water swimming in in the ascendency, so the changing robe is a new essential.

Prior to Robie introducing a towel robe in 2007 there was no such thing available commercially. Then DryRobe launched a waterproof changing robe three years later, and a new industry was born - one that’s been on the rise ever since.

With an ever increasing range of changing robes available, what are they for, and which is the best?

For clarity: in this article we’ll be using dry robe and changing robe interchangeably. It’s worth noting that Dryrobe as a run-together word is the brand name for the market leading dry robe (think Hoovers being synonymous for all vacuums!).

Best dry/changing robes at a glance

What is a changing/dry robe?

Designed for the outdoor swimmer, changing robes effectively perform a dual function. They’re something warm and cosy to climb into when climbing out of the cold water, and their oversized nature gives you enough room to allow you to change underneath, without losing heat and while maintaining a degree of privacy.

What should you look for in a dry robe?

When choosing the right robe for you there are numerous considerations to take into account. You’ll obviously need enough room for changing, but additional features like multiple zips can help make the process easier. Additional features like the type and position of pockets can also be a deciding factor.

If you plan on swimming in the colder months then extra warmth is of key consideration, as is an ability to withstand wind or rain, but with some robes these extra comforts either come at a higher price or result in a bulkier robe that restricts movement and is harder to pack away.

Some robe manufacturers put increased effort into snugness, providing velcro adjustable wrist straps and adjustable hoods, while for the hardier swimmers short sleeved robes are also available. You’ll also notice that while some robes are available in multiple sizes – including a few for kids – others go down the ‘one size fits all’ route.

Are there environmentally friendly dry robes?

Wild swimmers tend to be an environmentally conscious bunch, aware of the damage that consumerism can do to their favourite swim spots. This is reflected by a large number of manufacturers making at least part of their robes from recycled materials, so you can boast your own environmental creds by prioritising these products.

Finally, fashion also plays its part in decisions making, with robes pitched at hardcore surfers and triathletes or the more casual swimmer, with each community having its own view on what looks the coolest when keeping warm.

To help with your choice we’ve picked out 10 of the best robes on the market – nine for adults and one for kids – highlighting the key elements that make each of them stand out from their competitors.

dryrobe Advance Long Sleeve

Pros: Very warm, huge choice of colours

Cons: The most expensive in our list

Key Specs: Outer material: Outer shell fabric 100% recycled nylon

Inner material: Synthetic lambswool 100% recycled polyester

Sizes: S, M, L, XL, Kids (5-9, 9-13)

Long and short sleeves

Dryrobe lays claim to being the original waterproof changing robe and has hoards of outdoor swimming fans who won’t be seen in anything else.

Since it began, the company has now converted to using recycled materials for both the outer shell and inner shell and their range has expanded to include a huge choice of colours.

It may be at the top of the price range, but for your money you get instant warmth. Put the hood up and pull the two way zip to the top and you’re engulfed in a cosiness not too dissimilar to climbing into a luxury sleeping bag.

The toasty fleece lining extends right to the edges of both hood and sleeves for maximum comfort, and the velcro wrist fasteners further help to lock out the cold. Outside, the water repellent shell is tightly stitched for both protection and durability.

These are hugely popular robes, and with good reason.

Gul EVORobe

Pros: Affordable, Allows good movement

Cons: Thin outer layer

Key Specs: Outer material: 100% recycled polyester

Inner material: Synthetic lambswool 100% recycled polyester

Sizes: XS-S, M-L, XL-XXL

3/4 sleeves

If you’re only an occasional outdoor swimmer then you may find the price of many changing robes restrictive.

Gul’s EVORobe is a great option for swimmers on a budget, coming from a Cornish company with a long history of providing kit for cold water activities.

The outer layer may not be as tough as others, but it still provides good protection against the wind and rain and the inner synthetic lambswool lining offers ample warmth.

The sleeves are three quarter length which, along with the light, crinkly outer layer, makes it good for those who prioritise good movement while fully robed. It has a two way zip, hand pockets (not fleece lined) and an inner pocket with headphone slot.

A great choice for those on a budget.

Finisterre Tego Robe

Pros: Lightweight and space saving, Easy for changing beneath

Cons: Not as thick and cosy as other robes

Key Specs: Outer material: 100% recycled nylon

Inner material: 100% recycled nylon fleece

One size

Short sleeves

Cornish company Finisterre started out producing outdoor clothes for surfers who venture out in all weather, and they quickly established themselves as being a leading brand of protective jackets.

So it’s no surprise they’ve taken to changing rooms with aplomb.

The Tago’s lightweight nature means you can quickly sling it on like a jacket and allow the moisture wicking fleece lining to warm you up while the outer layer shields you from the weather.

Being a thinner jacket makes changing easier than most and it can be quickly packed into a smaller space. It has a two way zip, adjustable hood and two fleecy outer pockets.

Although it can stand up to the elements it won’t envelope you in as much protective warmth as thicker robes, making it much more suited to outdoor adventure during the warmer months.

Red Pro Change Robe Evo Long Sleeve

Pros: Lots of sizes and colour options, Very soft feel

Cons: Doesn’t use recycled material

Key Specs: Outer material: 100% polyester

Outer material: 100% polyester fleece

Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Long and short sleeve

Red produces a wide range of robes and their latest, top range product is this Pro Evo, one of the most fashionable looking in our list.

The robes are available in seven colours, from dark hues to the brighter teal, blue and pink. Subtle branding and a softer finish to the outer fabric all give it extra marks for style.

On the inside the water wicking fleece lining has one of the softest feels we found, making it extremely comfortable on cold skin. It’s very long and flexible, and with a two way zip and stretch side panels, maintaining privacy while changing is easy.

There are three outer pockets (two fleeced, one with a zip) and two more pockets on the inside, one of which is zippable.

You can tighten the hood with a cord and the sleeves with velcro straps, and you can further button down with poppers covering the zip – which further adds to comfort, protection and style.

Northcore Beach Basha Pro 4 Season Changing Robe

Pros: Detachable outer later, Roomy and flexible for changing

Cons: Not made with recycled material

Key Specs: Outer material: Polyester

Inner material: 100% towelling cotton

Sizes: One size fits all

Long sleeve

Northcore is a Scottish business used to the challenging conditions of the north sea to test their range of surf and watersports products, and in this innovative robe they’ve also managed to cater for sunnier trips to the seaside. Their neat trick is making the outer layer detachable, so you can use the inner cotton layer as a beach towel.

The cotton may lack the fleecy feel of other robes, but the outer polyester layer is tough and water resistant making you feel well protected against winter weather. There are only two pockets but they do come with a fleece lining so at least your hands can benefit from some comfort.

It’s a ‘one size fits all’ robe around 120cm in length with ample room for changing, which is aided by a double ended zip and wide sleeves with velcro straps.

There’s a good flexibility to the robe, which helps with changing, and allows you to pack it away easily – and with that detachable outer layer you save even more space for summer use.

Although Northcore are making impressive strides in their use of sustainable packaging, the robe itself isn’t made from recycled material.

Charlie Mcleod Eco Camo Sports Cloak

Pros: Free dry bag, Lots of toggles and straps for extra snugness

Cons: Feels a little bulky

Outer material: Recycled PET plastic

Inner material: Sherpa fleece made from recycled PET plastic

Sizes: Unisex XS, S/M, L/XL, Kids (7-10, 10-13)

Long and short sleeves

If you want to stand out for the wild swimming crowd then Charlie Mcleod’s bright fluoro camouflage designs are sure to attract attention (more sober navy and burgundy colours are also available).

Besides being the most colourful, we also found it to have one of the snuggest fits with a thick lining, velcro wrist straps and toggles to adjust the hood and waist all helping to wrap you up even tighter. While we appreciate the extra warmth of this bundled up approach, it may all feel a little more bulky and restrictive to some swimmers.

Despite the snugness it’s still easy to get changed in – it’s long, has ample width and a double zip to help matters. The inner and outer layers are produced from recycled PET plastic – they estimate around 110 plastic bottles are used to make one Sports Cloak. The thick Sherpa fleece lining provides instant warmth and comfort and the tough outer layer provides good protection from wind and rain.

There are two fleece lined pockets on the outside for hands to occupy, and a smaller velcro pocket to keep items safe, with a fourth zipped pocket on the inside.

It also comes with a free waterproof DryBag for carrying and storage – a great bonus for a robe that is already good value for money.

Frostfire Moonwrap Kids

Long and short sleeves for adults; ¾ length sleeves for kids

Pros: Range of sizes and colours, Tough feel is good for kids

Cons: No recycled material

Key Specs: Sizes: S, M, L, Kids (5-9, 9-15)

Outer material: Outer shell 100% nylon

Inner material: Synthetic fleece (30% acrylic / 70% polyester)

Frostfire produces a range of unfussy looking Moonwrap robes in a choice of colours and sizes, with some great options for younger swimmers among them.

These junior robes come in two sizes – kids (for 5 to 9 year olds) and teens (for 9 to 15 year olds) and are good value at around £90.

The outer layer has a heavy duty feel to it which acts as a great shield to the weather and will stand up to some of the rougher treatment younger beach goers might subject it to (and being easy-to-clean also helps).

Inside the synthetic fleece offers plenty of warmth. The two way zip has a rubber attachment that makes it easy for small, cold fingers to operate and they can plunge their hands into fleece lined pockets to warm them up.

A further zipped pocket on the inside helps keep precious items safe.

Frosfire doesn’t score as well as others on the sustainable front, but they get high marks for manufacturing a straightforward, cosy robe that’s ideal for kids.

Robie Dry Series Long Sleeve Changing Robe

Pros: Good environmental creds, Comfort, warmth and style

Cons: One of the more expensive robes

Key Specs: Outer material:100% recycled nylon

Inner material: Recycled heavyweight shearling fleece

Sizes: Unisex S, M, L, XL, Kids (one size)

Long and short sleeves

Robie takes its environmental impact very seriously, using Global Recycled Standard material, sustainable packing and even giving 1% of sales to support non-profits focused on preserving and restoring the natural environment. And with their Dry Series you don’t just get an environmentally sound product, you also get a great changing robe.

Inside a heavyweight shearling fleece makes it one of toastiest and most comfortable robes around, while the PFC free eco treated outer layer feels like it could repel the harshest weather conditions the UK can summon.

It has plenty of pockets: two zippable, fleece lined ones for hands, a buttoned breast pocket, and two on the inside including one with a zip and hole for headphones.

It’s excellent for changing beneath – the two way zip is easy to use and feels durable, and the wide sleeves, with velcro wrist straps, are easy to slip arms in and out of.

There are only two colour options, both a combination of grey and bright turquoise, but with less in-your-face branding and smart design touches we considered them among the most stylish on the market – which is probably why the company suggests you can even wear one when walking the dog.

Zone 3 Heat-Tech Changing Robe

Pros: Very warm and comfortable, Good range of pockets

Cons: Not using recycled material

Key Specs: Outer material: 100% polyester

Inner material: 100% polyester Heat-Tech Polar Fleece

Sizes: Unisex XS, S, M, L, XL and Kids (S, M, L)

Long and short sleeves

Zone 3 specialises in kit for triathletes, which may go to explain why this robe feels one of the lightest, most flexible of those we tested, making it ideal for those who are always on the move.

But despite feeling less cumbersome than others, it’s still incredibly warm thanks to a “triple-layer construction” and Zone 3s “Heat-Tech Polar Fleece lining” (whatever all that means, it works, repelling water while providing soft comfort and warmth).

The outer layer stands up to the elements, with a snap fast covering to the two way zip further enhancing its weather-proof creds.

Unfortunately, none of these materials have any positive environmental benefits flagged up. On the outside there are two fleece lined pockets for hands and a zipped pocket for storage, with a further zipped pocket on the inside also having a headphone slot.

It’s great for changing, seeming to be a little more oversized and loose fitting than others, with particularly long, spacious velcro strapped sleeves (although we found it less comfortable with the hood up).

With plenty of sizes available you can easily find your perfect fit, providing you like the the only colour combination it comes in: black with orange trim.

Gorilla Changing Robe Poncho

Pros: Great value, Extremely warm

Cons: Poncho style can be a bit restrictive

Key Specs: Outer material: 100% recycled ripstop nylon

Inner material: 100% polyester

Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL

Long sleeves

Gorilla have gone for a poncho design for their robe and, once you’ve wrestled it over your head, you’ll find it warms you up in an instant.

With a tough waterproof outer layer in blue or black, and a thick fleecy lining, it has a heavy duty feel to it that keeps you snug and secure against the elements, although it does make it less easy to pack away.

Being a poncho design there’s no zip on front, but a pair of side zips help with changing. T

he poncho approach also allows for a vast velcro fastened front pocket for storage with further zippable fleece lined pockets for hands.

There are velcro straps on the wrists and the huge hood can be tightened with cords. If you like the look of a poncho robe then this offers lots of warmth at great value.

Weight: 1.5kg

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