The Lomo tow float is a great companion for the cold water swimmer, keeping you visible and your valuables safe
I love to have a tow float when swimming in the sea. Since their introduction in 2012, tow floats have become a popular addition to the wild swimmer’s kit-list, especially if swimming alone or in remote areas. Though their advertised use is for visibility, the inflatable device, which is towed behind the swimmer, also gives you something to hold on to for extra buoyancy.
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It’s not a flotation aid – and manufacturers are keen to point this out. Some swimmers argue a tow float gives you a false sense of security – and that every wild swimmer should be aware of the risks and be responsible for their own safety. That’s true, but I feel something so unobtrusive, inexpensive yet highly visible (and which can store valuables) is a great idea.
I don’t just swim, I sail too, and jumping in the sea – whether from a boat or land – is one of my all-time favourite things. Whether you’re in a crowded anchorage surrounded by dinghies and other watercraft, or swimming across a remote loch, it pays to be seen.
This is especially true in the winter when cold water shock is a risk for wild swimmers.
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Lomo Watersports started out in 2000 as a small business in Glasgow’s east end, specialising in wetsuits. With a focus on value, they’ve since branched out into kayaking gear, drybags, sailing, diving and wild swimming, even specialising in niches such as motorcycle drybags and triathlon suits.
Lomo tow float
I bought my first Lomo tow float a few years ago – not, in fact, for personal safety, but for keeping my valuables secure. Living in Bournemouth, I regularly swim in the sea, and wanted to do longer distances – such as from Bournemouth Pier to Boscombe Pier – without leaving valuables on the beach.
The Lomo roll-top tow float has dual chambers to prevent failure in the case of accidental puncture, and the dimensions when inflated are 51cm x 23cm (circumference 50cm). When deflated it’s very compact and can just be carried in a regular rucksack.
I find mine is big enough to carry a bottle of water, phone, pair of sandals and a lightweight towel, like this microfibre one from Red Original.
How does the tow float work?
You simply blow up the tow float, pop your belongings inside, and attach it to your waist with a lead. When swimming it floats behind you. I find I occasionally kick it when doing front crawl, but mostly forget I’m wearing it. The waistband is adjustable to fit a range of builds.
Waterproof pouch for swimming
My lomo tow float has never leaked, but for double-security, I put my phone in a waterproof pouch first, such as this one, I bought on Amazon for a fiver. I tested it first in the sink, and once I was sure there were no leaks, put my phone inside.
You can barely feel the tow float once you’re in the water, but – being fluorescent pink, yellow or orange – it’s very visible to all around you.
Close encounters with watercraft
Once, when I was swimming off Southbourne, a research vessel came close inshore but stopped and turned around when it saw my tow float. The same thing happened with a jet-skier who was launching off Mudeford. Neither are vessels I’d like to have a run-in with!
Cold water swimming in groups
I also sometimes swim in a group, and it’s handy to lift my head every now and then and see tow floats all around me, so I know quickly, without having to count swim caps, that my companions are nearby.
In the hot August and September days, when the sea and air temperature are warm, I like to go for a run then jump in the sea afterwards. This means taking minimal belongings. I was tempted to leave my tow float behind, but when I mentioned this to Lomo, they recommended the swim run rucksack.
Lomo swim-run rucksack tow float
The newest addition to Lomo’s drybag range is the swim run rucksack tow float. It’s quite a mouthful, but it does exactly what it’s supposed to; you can swim with it attached to your waist and run with it using the rucksack straps.
Tow float for triathlons
The Lomo swim run rucksack is the same size as their standard tow float (51cm x 23cm with a circumference of 53cm). Removable and adjustable backpack straps are included with the float, which make it perfect for Swimrun events or triathlons, not that I’m planning any of those just yet!
The seal that looked like a tow float
Funnily enough, the one time I didn’t bother with my tow float, I ‘acquired’ one anyway. A grey seal pup decided to join me for my swim, and tagged to my ankles the whole time.
I didn’t notice until I finished my swim and the little fella popped up in front of me. The beach lifeguard was amazed.
“I thought at first you had a black tow float!” he said. “It followed you all the way.”
I can only hope his powers of observation improve if my next ‘black tow float’ happens to have a fin!