Swim Cap Buyers Guide (How to get the best cap for you)

Swim caps (also known as swim hats if you are in the UK) are a fundamental piece of swimming kit.

So many of us swimmers find a suitable swim cap fit and just go with it, never giving a second thought to the materials used or if there could be a better option out there.

In this article, I want to share all the knowledge I have gained from lots of swim cap purchases over the years. From beginner to pro, this swim cap guide will help you understand the most common swim cap materials, which to choose and why.

Before I jump into the details, this is the swimming cap I swim with every day. It is the Speedo Plain Moulded Silicone Swim Cap.

If you just want a great all-around swim cap that is comfortable and will fit a range of head sizes, then the Speedo Plain Moulded Silicone Swim Cap is a great option.

I have been swimming with this Speedo silicone cap for years now and it has certainly stood the test of time.

I only replaced it once…. and that was to buy a different colour.

Speedo Plain Moulded Silicone Swim Cap

  • One size to fit a range of head sizes
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Keeps the head streamlined

What Are The Different Types Of Swim Cap?

Swimming caps can be grouped into four main types, based on the material they are made from.

Swim Cap TypeAdvantagesDisadvantagesBest Buy
Silicone– Very comfortable
– Creates a streamlined head profile
– Easy to put on
– Can feel warm over long training sessions
– Feels tight at first
Speedo Plain Moulded
Latex– Does not “squeeze” the head as much as silicone.
– Cooler for longer training sessions or warm water.
– Cannot be worn by anyone with a latex allergy
– Tears easily
– Usually wrinkles, making it not as streamlined for competition.
Zoggs Latex Cap
Neoprene– Very warm. Designed for cold water or outdoor swimming.– Too hot for heated pools.
– Poor protection against chlorine.
Zone3 Strapless Cap
Polyester / Lyrca– Comfortable
– Easy to fit
– Poor-fitting.
– Long dry times.
– Hair gets soaked. A poor barrier to chlorine.
Firesara Lycra Swim Cap
This Table Shows The Pros & Cons Of Different Swim Cap Materials

How Do I Choose A Swim Cap?

When choosing a swim cap, there are a few things to consider that can help you make a better purchase.

For example, all the following factors can impact your swim cap decision.

  • The type of swimming you are doing, for example, competitions, fitness training or just leisure swimming
  • The temperature of the water
  • Outdoor or indoor swimming
  • Whether you have long hair
  • Whether you like a tight fit

Here is a quick reference guide of common factors that will affect your swim cap choice and some suggestions for the best swim cap for the job.

Swim ConditionsCommentsBest Swim Cap
Competition SwimmingSilicone is by far the best swim cap material as it can create a streamlined head profile which is best for speedBuy On Amazon
Fitness SwimmingSilicone or latex are good options. Latex is better if you tend to overheat while working out.Buy On Amazon
Leisure SwimmingAny swimming cap material will work, but if your priority is comfort, then polyester will work well. Polyester does feel very loose, so not ideal for lane swimming.Buy On Amazon
Cold Water SwimmingSilicone is best for colder pools. For outdoor or very cold water, then neoprene swim cap is the best option.Buy On Amazon
Warm Water SwimmingLatex is best for warm water material as the thin latex is coolerBuy On Amazon
Outdoor SwimmingSilicone or latex are best for outdoor swimming. Ensure you choose a bright and colourful hat so you can be seen.Buy On Amazon
Long HairSpeedo and Soul Cap do amazing silicone swim caps for longer hairBuy On Amazon
Tight Fit ProblemsLatex or polyester are great if you hate your head being squeezed. Polyester feels very loose to wear. Buy On Amazon
This Table Shows The Best Swim Cap For Swimming Conditions

Which Type Of Swim Cap Is Best?

A silicone swim cap tends to have more advantages over latex or lycra swim caps. Comfortable, affordable and sensitive to skin, silicone swim caps last a long time and are the best “all-round” swimming cap.

Suitable for all swimming conditions, if I had to pick one type of swimming cap as the best, then any silicone swimming cap from major swimming brands such as Speedo will work great.

Here is my favourite:

Speedo Plain Moulded Silicone Swim Cap

  • One size to fit a range of head sizes
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Keeps the head streamlined

Are Swim Caps One Size Fits All?

As a general rule, most swim caps are one size. This means that the swim cap is designed to fit all head sizes.

Typically, swimming caps that have alternative sizes tend to be for racing or have some thermal properties.

From my experience, I have found it best to avoid swimming hats with specified sizes unless the manufacturer has given exact dimensions to show what size their “large” or “small” swim caps actually are.

I have even seen swim caps for men and women in some major sports stores. This gender difference is for marketing only. There is no difference between swim caps for men and women.

Here is a more detailed article that investigates this:

Which Swim Cap Will Keep My Hair Dry?

Swim caps do not keep your hair dry. This often comes as a shock to new swimmers.

I have covered this topic in greater detail, including tips on how to keep your hair dry in this article, “Do Swim Caps Keep Hair Dry? (I tested it)

There are some things that you can do if keeping your hair dry is your priority, including:

  1. Wear two swim caps
  2. Wear a swimming headband with your swim caps

The extra protection offered by wearing two swim caps and a swimming headband will reduce the probability of your hair getting soaked.

As the water gets everywhere, however, it is hard to keep hair 100% dry when submerged.

Do I Need A Swim Cap?

Given that swim caps do not keep your hair dry, many new swimmers wonder if they actually need a swimming cap at all.

There are some wonderful benefits of using a swimming cap, including:

1. Speed

Swimming caps, particularly silicone swim caps, form the head into a rounded and streamlined profile.

For competitive swimmers, this is very important, as it is important to keep a streamlined shape in the water.

Where hair can drag and create water resistance, the smooth surface of the swimming cap can increase a swimmer’s speed, which will be seen at a professional level.

2. Hygiene

Swimming caps are essential in publically shared pools to maintain a good quality of water.

It is unpleasant to swim along and see other people’s hair floating in the pool! Using a swimming cap will reduce the amount of floating hair in the water and stop contamination of the pool water from hair products.

In some nations in the world, for example, Ireland, it is a mandatory pool requirement to always wear a swimming cap, even if you are just leisure swimming.

3. Protect Hair From Chlorine

Although hair still gets wet while wearing a swimming cap, the cap still helps reduce the amount of exposure of your hair to chlorine.

Without a swimming cap, your hair will get soaked with chlorinated water.

If you wet your hair first with clean water and then wear a swimming cap, you will reduce the amount of damage that will be done to your hair by the chlorine in the water.

4. Keeps Hair Out Of Eyes

If you swim with long hair, it is nearly impossible to keep hair out of your eyes.

Therefore, wearing a swimming cap is essential for those with long hair who are serious swimmers, as it will stop hair from going into their eyes as they swim.

Hair in your eyes as you swim is distracting and can impede your breathing as you turn to take a breath.

5. Visibility Outdoors

When swimming outdoors, such as in a river, lake or the sea, it is essential that you are seen.

Wearing a brightly coloured swimming cap is so important as other water users will see you.

Not only is this important in water with boats and watercraft, but it is also essential in the case of a rescue. Trying to see darkly coloured hair in a body of dark water is exceptionally difficult.

Wearing a brightly coloured swimming cap while swimming outdoors should be seen as essential for safety.

How Do I Care For My Swim Cap?

Just like swimming goggles and swimwear, swimming hats should be cared for to keep them in good condition.

Generally, washing the swimming cap in clean, cold water after your swim will stop the pool chemicals from degrading the material.

Storing your swimming cap wet is not a good idea, as it is prone to sticking together. This is particularly bad for latex caps, as the sides of the swimming cap can get so badly stuck together that the cap can tear while pulling it apart.

If you find that this is a problem for you, a common solution is to place talcum powder or baby powder into the swimming cap. This will cause the inside of the cap to dry out so that the sides of the cap will not stick to each other.

Personally, I dislike using talcum powder, as I find it goes all over my swimming gear. Instead, I place my soft microfibre towel inside my swimming cap.

This is a beautiful, compact and soft towel that dries out the inside of my swimming cap, stopping it from sticking together.

Final Thoughts

Swimming caps are an important piece of swimming kit that often get overlooked.

Having the perfect swimming kit can greatly enhance your swimming session and a good swimming cap is part of that.

From very comfortable high performing silicone caps to brightly coloured caps for outdoor swimming, there are significant benefits in experimenting with different swimming cap materials to see what works for you.

Once you put your swimming cap on, you should not be aware of it in the water. Once you find you are no longer thinking about or noticing your swimming cap, you have found the perfect one.

Emma Moore

Hi, I am Emma, and I am obsessed with all watersports, from swimming to surfing and everything in between. I spend my free time in the water or preparing for my next water travel adventure.

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