Of all the pieces of equipment that separate the recreational swimmer from those who are training more seriously, the most obvious is the swim cap.
However, for those swimmers with long hair or larger heads, trying to find a cap that fits can be quite a minefield.
In this article, we will look at the options available for larger swim caps, as well as everything you need to know about swim caps.
On a side note, do not waste your money on useless gear purchases and check out my Best Triathlon Battle-Tested Budgeting Gear
- Do Long-Hair Swim Caps Work?
- Are There Extra-Large Swim Caps For Braids?
- Are Swim Caps Good For Your Hair?
- Should You Wet Your Hair Before Putting On A Swim Cap?
- Should A Swim Cap Cover Your Ears?
- Do Goggles Go Over A Swim Cap?
- Why Do Some Swimmers Wear Double Swim Caps?
- What Type of Swim Cap Is The Best?
- Should You Use A Swim Cap?
- Final Thoughts
Do Long-Hair Swim Caps Work?
Firstly, let us be clear that swim caps are not designed specifically to keep your hair dry! This may come as a surprise if you have not worn one before, but your hair is likely to be wet by the time you get out of the pool – regardless of whether it is a standard or a long-hair swim cap.
The issue for those with long hair is that it simply will not fit inside a standard swim cap. It is nearly impossible to get it to fit over your head, you end up with loose strands coming out all over the place and inevitably if you do manage to squeeze into it then it falls off very shortly after.
In this sense, long-hair swim caps absolutely do work. They are designed specifically to make it easier to put on and take off so that your hair will not snag.
The extra space means that your hair will fit comfortably while keeping a smooth fit. Check the video below for more on this,
Are There Extra-Large Swim Caps For Braids?
There are plenty of companies that produce swim caps for braids or dreadlocks. While you may pay a little more than you would for a standard cap, the difference is only a few dollars.
There is also a brand Soul Cap that claims that some of their caps are indeed specifically designed to keep your hair dry.
While they may not be built for speed, this option will at least allow you to get in the water and not have to go through the lengthy process of after-swim haircare.
Are Swim Caps Good For Your Hair?
You may be forgiven for wondering; if a majority of swim caps are not designed to keep my hair dry, then why should I wear one?
Swim caps will still protect your hair against all the chemicals in the pool. Chlorine can seriously dry out and damage your hair and wearing a swim cap can help in a couple of ways.
A swim cap creates at least a small barrier between your hair and the water which can limit the amount of chlorine damage.
Additionally, the cap will keep all your hair in one place and so it will not have chlorinated water constantly flowing through the individual strands.
Should You Wet Your Hair Before Putting On A Swim Cap?
You should always wet your hair before putting on a swim cap. Most swimming pools have a rule that you should shower before entering the pool, for hygiene reasons. This also applies to your hair, so in a public pool, you should be washing your hair first as a simple etiquette.
Aside from hygiene reasons, wetting your hair makes it a lot easier to put your cap on. There is less likelihood of strands getting snapped and caught when pulling the cap over your hair.
Another reason to wet your hair before putting on your swim cap is that wet hair is less able to absorb the chlorinated pool water than dry hair (source). While this will not create full protection against the chemicals in pool water, it will go some way to lessening the effects.
Should A Swim Cap Cover Your Ears?
Swim caps are designed to cover your ears, as well as your hair. As such, you should always pull your swim cap down to fully cover your ears. This will help reduce the amount of water that goes into your ears, but is mainly to stop the swim cap from falling off of your head as soon as you start swimming. It also serves a function in being more hydrodynamic.
Do Goggles Go Over A Swim Cap?
If you are new to wearing a swim cap then you may be wondering which goes on first; your goggles or your swim cap.
In most cases, you will see swimmers putting their goggles over their swim cap. This is because during breaks in your swim session you will likely want to remove your goggles for a period of time.
Wearing goggles continuously for longer sessions of an hour or more can lead to discomfort, so you will want to be able to remove them and release some of the tension that can build up around the eye socket.
Also, goggles tend to fog up which reduces visibility. In this case, you want to be able to quickly and easily remove your goggles and wash them out, if they are under your swim cap then this process becomes needlessly difficult.
Why Do Some Swimmers Wear Double Swim Caps?
You may have seen that some swimmers at triathlons or open-water swimming events wear two swim caps; there is a very good reason for this.
When you have a lot of swimmers in close proximity it is very possible that your goggles can get kicked off by a flailing foot in front of you. For this reason, many swimmers opt for the two-cap solution.
The process is to put on one swim cap, then your goggles, and finally another swim cap. By wearing two caps with the goggles sandwiched between them, if another swimmer knocks off your goggles, they will not fall off your head. Trying to swim a 10km race with no goggles is not a comfortable experience, and if they are prescription goggles then they are even more essential!
Another reason for the double swim cap is simply to keep your head warm. In some of the extreme triathlons, such as Celtman, the water temperature is around 11 degrees. By having a double layer of insulation you can keep your head that bit warmer and make for a less uncomfortable swim.
What Type of Swim Cap Is The Best?
The two main materials you will find for swim caps are latex or silicone. Which one is best for you will depend on your swimming needs:
- Latex Caps – Latex caps are cheaper than silicone ones but they are thinner and are more likely to break. They also tend to wrinkle over the midline of the head which can slightly increase the drag compared to a silicone cap. One positive is that they are more permeable than silicone caps, so they will keep your head a bit cooler if you are training for long periods in warmer water. This is a good choice for your daily training cap.
- Silicone Caps – These caps are more expensive, more durable and create less drag by having a smother fit. If you look at Olympic swimmers, they will likely use a latex cap under the silicone one in order to prevent the cap from slipping off. Another benefit for those with longer hair is that silicone caps are less likely to pull and snag your hair than a cheaper latex one. This is the choice of material for competition caps.
Should You Use A Swim Cap?
Wearing a swim cap is a great idea, especially if you have long hair. Although it will not necessarily keep your hair dry, it will create a barrier against the harmful chemicals in the pool. It will also create less drag, which is only going to improve your swim times.
In addition, it is a thoughtful thing to do for others. Strands of your hair will fall out while you are swimming, and both the other swimmers and the pool maintenance people are going to appreciate it if those strands are not left floating in the pool!
There are plenty of options for swim caps out there and having long hair or braids is not a barrier to stop you from the health benefits of swimming.
Unlike a lot of other triathlon sports equipment, caps are relatively inexpensive so experiment a little and find the right one for you.
Ultimately the best swim cap for you is the one that enables you to enjoy your swim the most by being comfortable and not having to worry about your hair.
If you want to read more about what to wear for triathlons then take a look at this article on Trisuit and Wetsuit Choices.