Gear Shed

Q:

What Are the Best Winter Swim Electronics?

The pool bores me. But I swim a few days a week during the winter to stay fit. Is there any waterproof gear that can make it more interesting?

winter swim electronics outside gear guy bob parks

    Photo: Dmitry Berkut/Shutterstock

A:Many people retreat to the pool for a winter workout when either the temps or circumstances aren’t quite right for snowshoeing or skiing.

For me, the best items in a pool survival kit are headphones and a pace watch. Music and podcasts get me through long lap sessions, and the watch helps me set pace goals. With all that going on, pooltime goes by in a flash. For the purposes of this article, I borrowed several new products for a two-week review period, in addition to my usual favorites.

Being a recreational swimmer of modest skill, I was also curious as to what an experienced athlete takes into the pool. “Not much,” says Kevin Doak, an elite who competed in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic trials. “Top-level swimmers are sensitive to stuff attached to their bodies. We wear so few items in the name of efficiency that any additional equipment is an annoyance.”

That said, Doak does like music players that are engineered to send vibrations through the bones of your cheek instead of through headphones. “I found that bone conduction offers nearly flawless audio underwater,” he says. “Plus, I found the products easy to control; you can even change songs during a flip turn if you’re fast enough.”

My own impressions, I’m guessing, will be different from that of an elite. I’m willing to put up with a little cable management around my swim headphones. And I’ve enjoyed using the Garmin Swim, which automatically counts your laps and compares your average 100-meter splits with those of your previous swims. “We have coaches that tell us that,” Doak informs me. And there’s the difference. When people see me swim, they often comment that I probably need a lifeguard more than a coach. As a raw beginner, I find the metrics on my watch encouraging.

The following are our picks, and feel free to chime in in the comments as to what you use.

FOR UNDERWATER AUDIOPHILES: Waterfi Waterproof iPod Shuffle with Dual-Layer Protection and X-1 Surge Mini Waterproof Sport Headphones
FOR POOL PODCAST LOVERS
: Pyle Waterproof Headphones
FOR FLIP-TURN LISTENERS: Finis SWIMP3 X18 Audio Player
FOR POOL PACE SETTERS: Garmin Swim

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