What Kit Do I Need for Swim Hiking?

Andrew Wallace
28.04.23 07:07 AM Comment(s)

Best Kit for Swim Hiking

Swim Hiking, also known as Swim Trekking, Swaim Walking, or Cross Country Swimming, involves walking along pre-planned country routes, interspersed by large bodies of water or sea, carrying your gear on land in a normal backpack, then swimming with your gear in tow in the water, to traverse the route from point A to Point B. The route may be a linear route, starting and finishing at different points, or it may be a circular route, starting and finishing at the same point.

Bearing in mind that you need to carry your gear and then tow it in the water, choosing the best kit for the job and combining it with making it as lightweight as possible, it a key factor in making sure you have a good swimhike experience.

The following kit list a rough guide and you should learn what works best for you, but it is important to understand the kit you will need is directly affected by the route and type of swim hike - as with any kind of outdoor activity, the terrain and weather will affect the kit required.

Below is a basic kit list that can be tweaked accordingly:

  • Loose fitting trousers and tops so you can get them on and off easily.
  • Lightweight hiking boots/shoes or sturdy trainers.
  • An old wetsuit or one that you don't mind getting a bit beaten up, swimrun suits are perfect as they are often nylon lined on the outside for added toughness.
  • A small backpack typically 20 to 30 litre capacity.
  • A small first aid kit.
  • Gels, chocolate bars or snacks.
  • A compact gas stove if you are planning longer distances or camping.
  • A bivvie or tarp type shelter and lightweight sleeping bag if you are going to camp.
  • A pen knife or multi tool.
  • A flotation system that will allow you to tow all of the above in the water such as a RuckRaft or even a homemade equivalent which is not difficult to set up. We have even done swim hikes with rubberized kit bags that simply float behind you, however they are not as streamlined beware of tiring yourself out!
Swim hiking around the Pembrokeshire coast
Towing your gear in the water on a swim hike means you have to pack light!


Aim to keep all of your equipment on the hike to less than 20 kilograms. A RuckRaft is perfectly capable of supporting up to 25 kilograms in choppy water.

Keep a record of how the swim hike went and what you took with you, look at what kit was used a lot, what was not, what kit you wish you had brought with you. Then refine your kit list on the next swim hike.

Work out the best order to pack the kit in your rucksack. Swim hiking is not the same as hiking, so you will find packing order is more important especially if the weather gets nasty and you need to warm up quickly.

Choose a pack with side pouches and/or zipped compartments, it saves time getting at critical gear rather than rummaging around and emptying your gear all over the beach!

Take lots of dry bags! However use the nylon ones as they fold and pack very small compared to the old style rubber ones.

Andrew Wallace