Open water swimming can be social, competitive, and have great health benefits, but most of all: it's fun! However swimming in open water always comes with its dangers.
Tow floats and dry bags reduce these dangers by including safety features like whistles and lights, and using bright colours to make you more visible to other swimmers, rescue teams, and any watercraft around you.
Although tow floats and dry bags aren’t made for life saving (and should only be used by competent swimmers), they can support an adult's weight if needed. Making them great for supporting you during a mid-swim rest or while waiting for help to arrive during an emergency.
Often a requirement for swimming at certain open water venues or in open water races, it is important to find a tow float or dry bag that best meets your needs. Whether you want a simple tow float, a dry bag with an internal compartment to hold your valuables, or a float with special features, they’re all available.
Don’t have time to search around for the best one for you? Don’t worry, we’ve already found it! All you have to do is scroll down…
Best for short swims:
Swim Secure Tow Donut - £27.50
|Access to dry bag while swimming||Small dry compartment|
|Adjustable waist belt||Difficult to clean|
|One way inflation valve|
Swim Secure Tow Donut is great for those who enjoy going on short swims in open water or those who are building their confidence in open water swimming. Quick and easy to inflate and deflate due to the one way valve, the Tow Donut is ideal if you don’t have much time but want to go for a quick dip in the water.
The main feature of the Tow Donut is the dry compartment in the centre which can be accessed while in the water. This means you can easily have a quick drink, access medications, or store valuables like your phone and keys. Although this dry compartment can be difficult to clean, by only storing your smaller essential items in it, it shouldn’t need much cleaning. The small size of this dry compartment is perfect for short swims but isn’t big enough to store larger items like clothing for longer swims (Prefer a longer swim? You’re up next).
Best for long swims:
Lomo Dry Bag Swimming Tow Float with Mesh Pouch - £23.50
|Useful mesh pouch||Pouch can’t hold heavy items|
|Two air chambers||Leash wrong length|
|Extra dry bag seal|
If you enjoy going for a nice long swim, the Lomo Dry Bag with Mesh Pouch is the one for you. The mesh pouch is ideal for easy mid-swim access to essentials like a small bottle of water, medications, and swimming snacks. However, this mesh pouch is not waterproof and can’t hold heavy items (they are better in the internal dry compartment). We suggest that you only put items in the pouch that will not be damaged by water or those items are put in a waterproof bag before going in the pouch. This mesh pouch is bright orange (instead of the black pouches that are on many dry bags) so your pouch is practical without reducing the visibility of the bag.
Lomo’s Dry Bag also has two air chambers meaning if one of the chambers gets a puncture during your swim, the other air chamber will keep your bag afloat (and the items inside dry). Your items also have extra protection from leaks due to the extra PVC seal at the entrance of the dry bag. However, there are some issues with the length of the leash getting tangled in swimmers feet. But this can be solved by adding an extra leash to make the leash longer or folding the leash in half before attaching it to the bag to make the leash shorter.
Best for everyday swims:
Ultra Dry Tow Float 28L - £34.99
|Two handles||Phone case too small|
|Choice of three colours||Faulty phone case lanyard|
|Removable shoulder strap||Difficult to find the whistle (by the way it’s built into the top buckle)|
|Waterproof phone case|
|Built in whistle|
|Two air chambers|
The durability, ease of use, and extra features of Ultra Dry’s 28L Tow Float makes it great for everyday swims. It's easy to transport to and from your swim due to the useful detachable shoulder strap. Once you get to your swim location simply detach the shoulder strap, attach the leash to the bag with the easy carabiner clip, and off you go. There's an internal dry compartment to safely store all of your possessions, whether it be your change of clothes, car keys, phone, or a small towel.
This float meets all the main purposes of a tow float or dry bag with the very visible colour choices of light green, pink, or orange and the safety features of the built-in whistle, and the two support handles. With Ultra Dry, you don’t just get the tow float, you also get a waterproof mobile phone case on a lanyard which can be submerged in over 3 feet of water. However, this waterproof phone case doesn’t fit all phones and the lanyard attachment is prone to breaking (and sending your phone to a watery grave). We suggest instead of trusting your phone on the lanyard, use the case (if your phone fits) as a second layer of protection for your phone inside the dry compartment.
Best for competitions:
TekraSport TekraPod - £115
|No drag||CO2 cartridge costs|
|Detachable to help others||Black isn’t visible in water|
If you enjoy taking part in open water swimming races and competitions but they require you to have a tow float or you just want that extra level of protection, the TekraPod is perfect for you. Don’t want the faff or drag of an inflated float? The TekraPod’s streamline backpack hides away your tow float when you don’t need it. But you can inflate it in seconds if you do need it. The float can also be detached to help someone else in trouble.
The pull mechanism of the TekraPod means that every time the float is activated, the CO2 cartridge that inflates the float will need to be replaced. This adds a maintenance cost to an already expensive tow float (although it’s only £15 for 2 replacement CO2 bottles). The TekraPod can also be personalised with your name, club, or logo printed on the backpack, ideal for competitions.
Best for open water experts:
Swim Secure Tow Float - £22.00
|Very lightweight||Smaller - less able to see|
|Affordable||Leash isn’t adjustable|
|One way inflation valve|
|Space for name and emergency number|
Every swimmer can get in trouble out in the water, regardless of how much experience they have. So it is important that even experienced swimmers have a tow float with them. The Swim Secure Tow Float is ideal for experienced swimmers who just need a simple tow float to make them more visible in the water and to provide some support if they have an emergency and need to wait for help to arrive.
Small and lightweight, Swim Secure Tow Float produces little to no drag with most users not feeling the float at all when swimming. Although the floats leash isn’t adjustable, it keeps the float above your knees and out of your way, perfect for experienced swimmers who just want to enjoy their swim with that extra level of protection.
Best for open water newbies:
Dippy Wild Swimming Float - £24.99
|Dual colours||No dry compartment|
|Three handles||Single air chamber|
|Sturdy and durable|
Dippy’s Wild Swimming Float is great for those just starting out with open water swimming. Gain confidence in the water with a tow float that is sturdy, durable, and has been tested in extreme weather. The dual colours make it more visible and the three handles make it easy for beginners to get some support while resting in the water.
This tow float is affordable, giving newbies the opportunity to try out the sport without breaking the bank. The only negatives are the lack of a mesh pocket for access to a mid-swim drink and the single air chamber, meaning in the rare occurrence of a puncture, the float will fully deflate.
Best for night swims:
Zone3 LED Light 28L Backpack Buoy - £59.00
|LED lights||More expensive|
|Removable backpack straps||LED light battery costs|
|Reflective strips||No colour choice|
|Clips for safety items|
To see a swimmer in the daylight they need a bright bag, but in the dark a bright bag alone isn't that visible. That's why the Zone3 LED Light Buoy is the perfect dry bag for open water night swimming. Not only is it bright orange but it also has reflective strips and LED lights. These lights make it really easy for other swimmers, boats, and rescuers to see you in the water at night. The lights even have an option of a strobe effect if you need to attract more attention.
Zone3’s buoy also has straps which can be attached to the bag to turn it into a backpack, ideal for transporting your bag to and from your swim. When the backpack straps are removed for swimming, the fastening clips on the buoy can be used to attach safety items like a whistle or torch. This bag is more expensive and it has the maintenance charge of changing the LED light batteries, but is worth it if you enjoy open water swimming in the dark.
Best for storage space:
Swim Secure Dry Bag - £29.00 - £37.50
|Range of sizes and colours||Leash isn’t adjustable|
|Two air chambers||Only 28L in pink or citrus|
|Adjustable waist belt|
|Durable and long lasting|
Available in a range of sizes, Swim Secure Dry Bag is the best for storage space in the internal dry compartment. If you just want to take your valuables and maybe some light clothing with you on your swim, the 20L or 28L would be best. However if you are going on a swim hike and want to bring more in your dry bag, Swim Secure Dry Bag also comes in 35L or 50L. The 28L dry bag comes in orange, pink, and citrus. However, the other sizes of the Swim Secure Dry Bag are only available in orange.
A downside to the Swim Secure range is that the leashes attaching the dry bags to the waist belts are not adjustable. However, they are designed so that the bag floats just above your knees which is the perfect place to keep your bag close without it getting in your way or affecting your swimming. All sizes of the Swim Secure Dry Bag have two air chambers to keep your items protected even in the rare event of you getting a puncture in one of the air chambers.
Best for the environment:
Puffin Billy R20 Recycled Dry Bag Float - £28.99
|Made from recycled plastic||Single air chamber|
|Easy carabiner attachment|
Puffin as a brand focuses on producing open water swimming safety products that don’t damage the environment. Made from recycled materials, this dry bag is a perfect example of this combination of safety and care for the environment. With an integrated whistle to attract attention if needed, useful handles to give you support when resting in the water, and an easy to use carabiner attachment for the leash, the Puffin dry bag is an excellent choice.
The only downside is that this dry bag only has one air chamber meaning that in the unlikely event of your bag getting a puncture while out in the water, it will sink. This risks losing your possessions or getting them wet as the roll down closure method of the dry bag is not made to be submerged. If your bag is submerged, even by a little bit, water will seep inside the bag and your possessions will get wet.
Best for exploring:
Ulu Adventure Pro - £44.99
|Action cam mount||Need to add weights|
|Two handles||More expensive|
|Waterproof up to a depth of 1m|
|Made from recycled plastic bottles|
For open water swimmers who just want to explore, have fun, and make memories, Ulu’s Adventure Pro is what you’ve been searching for. With two grab handles on either side of the float, you can stop and support yourself in the water while admiring the view, playing with your action cam, or just having a rest. Ulu’s dry bag has an airtight zip instead of a roll down closure for the dry compartment. This means you can fit more into the bag and it is waterproof to a depth of 1m for up to 30 minutes.
The ability to attach your action cam is one of the main features of this dry bag, letting you record your journey, take pictures of the beautiful sights you see, or take a selfie. Attaching your action cam can cause the bag to flip but Ulu planned for this and added side pockets that you can put weights in to balance out the weight of the camera. This dry bag will cost you slightly more than other tow floats or dry bags but if the unique features are important to you, it is definitely worth it.