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by Jim Harper

December 3, 2012

Here's what to put into your gear bag

This article is part of the Masters Swimming 101 series

Not much! The beauty of swimming is that the water provides all the resistance you need to work every part of your body. No machine can match it.


Bulky suits weigh you down and make it harder to swim efficiently, so the best choice is a skin-tight material in one piece, designed specifically for swim training. Note: “real” swimmers do wear Speedos, among many other brands, but the women rarely wear bikinis unless they are designed for swim training. Wear a suit that will not move when you dive into the water or push off the wall. For men, surfer-style board shorts make completing a workout difficult. If you’re not ready to don a brief, try jammers, which resemble cycling shorts and extend to the knee.

Goggles and Caps

To protect eyes and hair from chlorine, two other critical equipment items are goggles and caps. Although swimmers with short hair may forego a cap, goggles are a must, or eyes will suffer. For both products, low-cost versions are more than adequate.


Don’t rush out and buy other equipment right away—your new coach and teammates can help you save time and money by letting you try out some of their stuff first. Some clubs have kick boards and pull buoys available for their swimmers. Pull buoys are sturdy flotation devices placed between the legs that allow for concentrated use of the arms only. Your coach may also recommend fins, paddles, or a snorkel.

Good swimming equipment can be hard to find. Your local sporting goods store may have the basics. We also encourage you to support our sponsors, who do a lot to support Masters swimming nationwide. Masters swimming geeks will love products with the USMS logo. Other good places to find equipment are at large pools and swim meets, where vendors often set up booths to sell equipment to the attending athletes.


  • Technique and Training


  • Pull Buoys
  • Paddles
  • Snorkel
  • Gear
  • New Swimmers
  • Fitness