Wild swimming or open water swimming has grown in popularity in the UK.
And who can blame us when it has great health benefits, including a boost to the immune system, better sleep quality and an increase in happiness to name a few.
After a cold water dip, warming up quickly is essential.
Enter dry robes, otherwise known as swim coats, wild swimming coats, swim parkas or changing robes.
From robes with chemical-free water repellent fabric to oversized coats made from recycled plastic bottles, the pebble team have rounded up 5 of the best eco-friendly swim coats for all your wild swimming needs.
Quick links to our fave eco swim coats
What are swim coats?
Swim coats are essentially oversized coats, parkas, robes or ponchos that help you stay warm before or once you’re out of the water.
They’re generally waterproof with moisture-wicking fleece inside, have large pockets for cold fingers and big hoods which you can pull up to warm wet heads.
Swim coats aren’t just for wild swimmers.
Designed to keep you warm in the elements, they can be used for any water activity whether it’s after diving, surfing, on boats, camping or glamping. Or even on a wet and windy dog walk!
The key feature here is that they’re warm and waterproof so they double up as both a coat and a towel.
Why eco-friendly swim coats are important
If you’re a wild swimmer, you’ll know that an essential part of your kit is an after swim coat to warm you up – particularly if you’re braving the (sometimes rather chilly) UK weather!
But just like any outdoor gear, swim coats come with an environmental impact.
The materials commonly used in outdoor gear for their durability and waterproofing tend to be made from synthetic materials such as polyester or nylon, both petroleum-based and with a huge environmental footprint.
Not to mention, they’re difficult to recycle and cause microplastics.
Why wild swimming coats aren’t typically eco-friendly
A problem with swim coats and outdoor gear is the waterproofing.
Swim coats have a durable water repellent finish (DWR) often contain perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) or PTFEs.
These are synthetic chemicals that are non-biodegradable and toxic to the environment. What’s more, they can rub off your gear as you wear them.
PFCs have been found in remote ecosystems all over the world from glaciers to coastal waters and even in the stomachs of polar bears.
For these reasons, it’s important to use outdoor gear made from sustainable materials and free of perfluorinated compounds to guarantee the only things you leave in the environment are footprints – or in this case, ripples.
The good news is there’s a lot of research into finding more sustainable solutions to PFCs that are just as effective.
Outdoor and adventure gear brands are also starting to use recycled materials derived from recycled plastic rather than virgin synthetics as a way to remove pollution from the environment.
But it’s worth noting that using recycled plastics is a double-edged sword.
Although these materials help remove ocean pollution, they still need to be effectively recycled at the end of the product’s lifecycle for the process to be truly sustainable.
It needs to be forever recyclable, otherwise, it’s still a garment made from plastic.
You’ve only shapeshifted plastic bottles into a plastic coat…
With that in mind, here are 5 of the best swim coats from brands that are striving towards being more sustainable, whether it’s through PFC-free fabrics, recycling schemes or ocean conservation.
5 Of The Best Eco-Friendly Swim Coats
1. Most transparent after swimming coat: Finisterre
The brand focuses on garments and products for those who are passionate about the wind-swept British coastlines, whether it’s in the form of sailing, surfing, swimming or hiking.
Finisterre offers a modest but high-quality range of unisex changing robes made from a two-layer DWR recycled water-repellant nylon outer and 100% recycled fleece inner that wicks moisture and keeps you warm.
They also have large pockets, full front zip and adjustable hood to make it easy to change into swimmers or clothes whatever the weather.
The pebble team loves that Finisterre is transparent about its supply chain with full and detailed information about the factories it uses on its website.
What’s more, despite its use of petroleum-based materials (nylon), it’s careful to make sure they’re regenerative. This means these fabrics can be re-recycled forever.
pebble’s verdict on Finisterre’s swim coats
Pros: Uses regenerative materials | Offers a repair service | Transparent | B Corp certified | Warm and lightweight robes | Easily portable
Cons: Uses nylon which is plastic but you can trade in your old Finisterre items to be recycled | Some taller people may find the sleeves are a little short
Swim robes are priced at £135.00. View on Finisterre.
2. Best budget-friendly swim coat: Voited
Germany-based Voited is an outdoor brand that’s conscious of its impact.
Its Outdoor Poncho is suitable for wild swimmers, surfers, campers, vanlifers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Available in a range of versatile colours, it’s a handy staple to have wherever your adventures take you.
The poncho is lightweight and packs like a travel pillow on the go.
It has a waterproof Teflon EcoElite™ coating outer layer, the first renewable sourced and plant-based non-fluorinated fabric treatment for durable water repellency.
Its 100% recycled Ripstop fabric is made from Repreve, a material derived from plastic bottles.
It also features a quilted mid-layer made from synthetic featherlight recycled fibre for extra cosiness and insulation.
The 100% recycled polyester microfibre fleece inside is quick-drying, moisture-wicking and absorbent too.
pebble’s verdict on Voited’s swim coats
Pros: Affordable | PFC-free | Vegan-friendly | Virgin plastic free | Versatile poncho with a range of uses | Highly rated for comfort and practicality
Cons: Unclear what other sustainable initiatives Voited has other than with fabrics | Products are made in China and pebble would like to see more transparency about the factory it uses | No product end of life recycling scheme
The Outdoor Poncho is priced at €89.00. View on Voited.
3. Best oversized swim coat: SITTINGSUITS
SITTINGSUITS makes oversized coats suitable for whatever chilly weather activity is thrown at them from wild swimming to sitting outside in winter. The Danish brand is available from Norse Supply in the UK.
Established by serial entrepreneur Rebecca Johansen and designer Vibe Johansson, the oversized coats (or sittingsuits as they’re formally called) are big enough to cover your ankles, go over your standard outerwear and have practical side openings for you to reach your bags and pockets underneath.
Born out of the idea to keep guests warm without relying on patio heaters when dining outside, the sittingsuits aren’t just a cosy invention – they’re sustainable too.
They’re made from chemically tested Oeko-tex certified fabrics, and the padding is made from 100% certified post-consumer recycled plastic bottles.
The pebble team likes that they’re very low maintenance and can be easily cleaned with a damp cloth. In the rare times they do need a machine wash, they dry within 15 minutes.
And another thing? It does wholesale coats for B2B clients including hotels, sports clubs, festivals and more.
pebble’s verdict on SITTINGSUITS’ swim coats
Pros: Reasonably priced | Versatile uses | Range of patterns and styles | Transparent brand | Free of harmful chemicals including PFCs | Carbon neutral orders available
Cons: Not plastic / polyester free | No product end of life recycling scheme
4. Best changing robe swim coat: Passenger
Based in the New Forest, Passenger is all about escapism and helping you explore the great outdoors with a lighter footprint.
True to form, its range of Escapism Changing Robes are perfect for those who like adding a pop of personality to their wild swimming outfit.
Choose from black, rust or larkspur blue with Passenger’s signature mountain logo on the back.
The pebble team loves that the after swimming robes are built with 100% recycled single-use plastic bottles with a PFC-free water-resistant coating.
Inside, it has 80g recycled polyester coating and a full vegan-friendly microfleece towel lining so you can get snug and dry after being in the water.
Passenger uses fair trade manufacturers based in the UK, Europe and Asia. It manufactures its products as close to the fabric source as possible to limit its carbon footprint.
What’s more, for every product sold, the brand plants a tree. It also supports The Rainforest Trust and Surfers Against Sewage.
pebble’s verdict on Passenger’s Swim Coats
Pros: Vegan-friendly | Choice of beautiful colours | Virgin plastic free | Supports reforestation and ocean cleanup initiatives | PFCs-free
Cons: Although it’s not virgin, polyester is still plastic | pebble would like to know the end of life plan for recycled polyester robes
Changing Robes start from £99.95. View on Passenger.
5. Best waterproof swimming poncho: Fourth Element
One of the biggest ocean polluters is ghost fishing nets.
Fourth Element has two unisex Storm Ponchos to choose from in burgundy, new blue or black.
They’re made using fabric manufactured according to the Bluesign Standard which means they’re free of harmful chemicals.
The ponchos have a PFC-free waterproof outer layer and snug inner fleece containing 37% recycled yarn from single-use plastic bottles.
pebble likes that Fourth Element uses S.Café technology which incorporates coffee grounds into the recycled yarn to increase drying time, UV protection and odour resistance.
Complete with pockets, a hood and side seam pockets for easy access, the poncho offers practical protection against the elements.
pebble’s verdict on Fourth Element’s swim coats
Pros: Supports ocean conservation | Working on zero waste production | Working on single-use plastic free packaging |No harmful chemicals | Not as sustainable as the others but honest about its progress
Cons: The poncho contains only 37% recycled materials | No product end of life recycling scheme in place although the brand has plans to do this in the next five years | Not every product is OceanPositive
The Storm Poncho is priced at £143.50. View on Fourth Element.
Loved this article about eco swim coats? Take it further…
Find more brands in our sustainable men’s swimwear roundup
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