Which Open Water Swimming Tow Float Should I Choose?

So you want a tow float but don’t know where to start or what to look for? You’ve come to the right place. In this blog we will guide you though the main things to think about and look for in a tow float. Then you can decide what works best for you and find the tow float for you.

What Should You Look for in a Tow Float?


Open water swimming is made safer due to the high visibility of tow floats in the water. This lets nearby watercraft, other swimmers, spotters on land, and rescue teams know where you are. If you choose a dark tow float (like blue or black), the purpose of having a tow float is defeated and you’ll just blend into the colour of the water.

Instead, what you need is a bright, neon, high vis float to make you stand out in the water. The most common and most popular tow float colour is orange. Bright and effective, an orange tow float is a great choice if you’re not swimming in a group. However, if you are swimming in a group, due to its popularity, it’s likely that most of the group will have orange tow floats. If you also have an orange tow float, it can be more difficult for your friends within the group or on land to identify you within the group. So if being identifiable within a group is important to you, it might be better to pick a pink, lime green, or yellow float. These colours are just as bright and effective as orange, but might make you stand out more in the crowd.


Of course all tow floats need to have a good level of buoyancy to serve their purpose. But the level of buoyancy is a factor you need to consider when choosing your float. The first thing to consider is the number of air chambers. Tow floats can have one or two air chambers. We recommend two air chambers so you have the best protection, even in the event of a puncture to your float. With a single air chamber, a puncture will cause the float to fully deflate, leaving you with the task of carrying your deflated float while trying to swim back to land. However, two air chambers means if one chamber deflates, the other chamber will keep your float buoyant, meaning you stay more visible and safe in the water.

Another option is a dry bag float which has two air chambers surrounding the internal dry compartment. Although you can use a dry bag float as a tow float without anything in the internal compartment, usually objects are kept inside the internal compartment which makes the float heavier. This means a dry bag float will float lower in the water than a tow float, causing slightly more drag (although not enough to make a big impact on your swim).

Both tow floats (with two air chambers) and dry bag floats are good options. Which one is best for you will depend entirely on what you will use it for. For competitive swimming, a tow float might be better as it is lighter and so causes little to no drag meaning it shouldn’t affect your swim speed. However, if you’re a recreational swimmer, a dry bag float might be a good option. This is especially the case if you want to bring some possessions with you or if you want a different swim start and finish location.


When choosing your tow float, you need to decide if you want either internal storage space, storage accessible in the water, or if you don’t need any storage at all. Floats come in a range of styles with different types and sizes of storage, so you can choose what works best for you.

If you only have a couple of possessions you want to bring with you on your swim or you want to be able to access your items while in the water, a tow float with an external clear pocket, mesh pocket or dry compartment might be for you. This would allow you to bring essential items with you (instead of risking leaving them on land) like your car keys, a water bottle, medication, or an energy snack. 

If you don’t need to access your items in the water or you want to bring some larger items (like a towel or light clothing), a dry bag float might be a better choice. Different sizes of dry bag floats are available with up to 50 L internal storage capacity. However, it is important to not overfill your dry compartment or make your float too heavy as it will affect its buoyancy in the water.


The most common attachment style for tow floats and dry bags is a leash and waist belt. The adjustable waist belt keeps your float securely attached to you throughout your swim. The leash can be adjustable or non-adjustable depending on the brand of float. We recommend non-adjustable leashes as these don’t loosen over time, meaning your float stays in the ideal place without needing constant tightening.

The method of attaching the float to the leash and waist belt varies depending on the brand of float. However, you should be able to find the instructions on how to attach your float either with your float or online. For Swim Secure’s floats, their instructions are available in their FAQs.

Another attachment design is backpack straps. These backpack straps are usually detachable and for use on land only, with a leash and waist strap for in the water. This is great if you want to go on swim hikes or if you walk to your swim location. 

There are a couple of tow floats available that use backpack straps even in the water. However, these floats stay deflated in the backpack with the ability to inflate them in an emergency. We don’t recommend these types of floats as it’s important for floats to make you visible in water throughout your swim, not just in an emergency.

Safety Features

A final consideration is the type of extra safety features you want on your float. Tow float safety accessories include items like lights, whistles, and handles which can be either integrated into your float or attached onto your float. 

The important thing is that you bring the safety features with you on your swim, whether they’re integrated or just clipped to your float doesn’t matter. You can buy safety lights and whistles separately to your float and can attach them to any loops or handles on your float. Lights can also be placed in clear or mesh pockets on your float. The Tow Donut is ideal for this.

It’s also really useful to have handles on your tow float. Although tow floats shouldn’t be relied on for keeping you buoyant in the water, in an emergency situation your float would be able to support you in the water. Float handles (either plastic or rope) make this easier by giving you something to hold onto until rescue teams get to you.


Once you’ve considered colour, buoyancy, storage, attachment, and safety features, you should have a better idea of the type of float that will be best for you. Whatever kind of float you’re looking for, you’ll find it in Swim Secure’s range. Check them out today and make sure you’re safe and visible on your next open water swim.

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