In this article, we want to go through the best ways of choosing a swim cap.

We may be a supplier of pencil grips, but after our own personal experiences with swim caps we decided to do the research and put together the most relevant information on how to choose a swim cap that improves the swimming experience for each person. We see swim caps as the pencil grips for pencils; just as the right fit can improve the writing experience, the right fit for a swim cap can improve the swimming experience.

When going to buy your next (or possibly first?) swim cap you may want to consider a few things to make sure you get the most out of it. Many people choose their swim cap just based on colour and, maybe, price but there are actually quite a few things to take into account before buying one. Its important to remember that swim caps have a purpose. Although many people may think they simply keep our hair dry, that's actually not what they are meant for. Swim caps have a number of purposes such as keeping hair away from our face, making a swimmer more aqua-dynamic in the water and protecting hair from chlorine.

1. Types of Swimming

woman wearing swimming cap

Are you a weekend, swim when I can, type of swimmer or a die hard, competitive swimmer? Why ask? Well this will affect what swim cap suits you best.

For those who swim as a hobby or to stay in shape, you may want to consider a swim-cap made of silicone or rubber. A swim cap made from these materials will typically be quite durable and last a fairly long time. Then there are Lycra swim caps which are suitable for those looking for an affordable option. They are also very easy to put on however if keeping hair dry is a priority, then a Lycra swim cap would not be a good choice as they are not water resistant.

2. Open Water Swimming, Racing, And Just Practice Swimming

swimming in open water

For hard core, competitive swimmers being aqua-dynamic, reducing drag and staying distraction free (keeping hair out of sight), are more of a priority rather than price or durability. Latex or silicone are usually the preferred materials for these swimmers.

For these types of swimmers, swim caps approved by FINA (International Swimming Federation) may also be important when choosing one.

Swim caps that are made from materials like neoprene or silicone are more suited for those who do open water swimming because they insulate against the cold temperature of the water. Rubber swim caps are also another great choice for open water swimming. In particular, rubber bubble caps are very popular for colder swimming conditions.

With regards to practice and race swimming, the most suitable types of swim caps are either latex or silicone.

For practice swimming, a standard latex swim cap might be the most suitable as they are fairly affordable.

When it comes to competitive swimming, it might be more effective to use a molded swim cap. Molded swim caps can be made from silicone or latex, just like race swim caps, but the difference is that the molded caps are more smooth which aids the swimmer during competitions by having less surface friction and therefore being more aqua-dynamic, however these type of caps can be quite expensive which is why they are usually only used in a competitive swimming environment.

3. Exercise Vs. Lap Swimming

lap swimming man

For those looking for a swim cap best suited for exercise swimming, the ideal choice would be a silicone or neoprene as they don’t pull on hair and are both durable, with silicone being the more durable of the two.

When it comes to lap swimming, reducing drag and keeping any hair tucked away is going to be one of the top priorities when choosing a swim cap. For this, the most suited type of cap would be a molded latex or silicone swim cap, as we discussed earlier. A molded swim cap will have a more smooth surface, reducing any friction in the water.

4. What material is the best?

swimming cap material

As briefly mentioned above, there are different materials for swim caps with each having its own benefit. The range of materials used in swim caps includes silicone, latex, neoprene, rubber, Lycra and spandex.

Silicone typically tends to be the most popular choice for swimmers mainly due to its affordable price and durability, usually lasting for many years.

Latex swim caps may not be as popular as silicone ones for the average swimmer due to the fact that they're much thinner and so are far more likely to tear. However, with that being said, latex caps do have their advantages with one of them being their breath-ability which is an important factory for those swimming in warmer waters.

Similar to latex swim caps, rubber swim caps are also another affordable option for swimmers, however rubber caps are more durable than latex caps.

Then there are swim caps made from Lycra and spandex which are best known for being soft and not catching hair. The downside of these swim caps is that because they are made from a fabric material, they allow water to pass through them.

Neoprene caps are a preferred type for swimmers who swim in cold environments.

Like Lycra swim caps, they also don’t pull on hair, which is a another plus.

5. Lots of hair vs no hair

long vs short hair

Another factor to take into account is hair length. For example, those styling a long head of hair will not benefit greatly from a latex or rubber swim cap, but would be comfortable wearing cap made from silicone or neoprene.

For those with very short or no hair, there is a wider choice to choose from given that they don’t have the same issue as those with long hair, however the most suitable type of swim cap would be a latex cap as they are more stretchable. Another benefit of these latex caps is that they are more suited to multiple head sizes.

6. Sizes and Shapes

sizes and shapes of swim cap

Generally speaking, standard swim caps aimed at the average swimmer will come in standard sizes and will be applicable to most swimmers, regardless of their head size. However, for those who need a specific size, you can choose a swim cap specific to your head size by measuring the circumference of your head, just above your eyebrow.

A small swim cap will typically be 20.5 - 21 5/8 inches in size, a medium sized cap will be from 22-22 3/8 inches and a large swim cap will 22 3/4 - 23 1/8 inches.

7. Water Temperature

water temperature tester

For waters with warmer temperatures, swimmers will want to choose a swim cap that is thin so that it does not hold the heat and cause the swimmer to become overheated. Latex is one of the best materials for this due to the thinness of the material, allowing heat to dissipate through the head and therefore not causing the swimmer to feel overheated.

As for colder temperatures, neoprene, as mentioned above, is one of the most suitable material’s as it is a thicker material and therefore holds more heat. Neoprene is the same material which is used for underwater swim suits and is normally the choice of material when the water is below 62 degrees in temperature.There are also many neoprene swim caps that come with a chin strap included, which helps to also keep the ears warm in cold waters. Rubber caps, discussed earlier, are another suitable type of swim cap for colder waters due to the thickness of the material.


Swim cap FAQs:

Do I have to wear a cap?

Wearing a cap is not a must, but does provide many benefits, most of them discussed above. Depending on the type of swimming, different caps will provide different benefits and many times will allow the swimmer to get more out of their efforts. For example, a swimmer attempting to increase their lap time would benefit by wearing a latex or silicone molded swim cap, allowing them to reduce drag in the water and be more aqua-dynamic when racing.

Will a swim cap keep my hair dry?

Swim caps are not made for the sole purpose of keeping hair dry, although there are some that do a good job. A rubber or silicone cap will, generally speaking, keep hair dry due to their thick material and tight fit which prevents water from soaking through. If keeping hair dry is a top priority, then you should stay away from neoprene caps as they are a permeable material, allowing the water to soak through the swim cap.

woman swimming with cap on

So why wear a cap at all?

As mentioned earlier, depending on the type of swimming, a swim cap can provide much benefit to a swimmer. This can be through increasing performance, improving the swimming experience or providing more comfort to the swimmer.

How to Put On a Swimming Cap

Sometimes putting on a swim cap might not be the best experience. Some swim caps, like rubber or latex may pull on the hair.

To avoid any problems when putting on a swim cap, try first wetting your hair to allow the cap to slide on more easily. Then hold the swim cap and stretch it out, placing it at the front of your head first and then pulling it to the back of your head.

When to replace your swim cap?

As soon as your swim cap shows signs of wear and tear that may affect your performance in the water, its time to consider getting a new one.