There are many different makes and models of tow floats or swim aids on the market making it difficult to pick the right one for you. Today, I'll go through the main types to look out for and which one might suit you best.
What Is a Tow Float?
A tow float or swimming aid is a brightly coloured inflatable bag that will help increase visibility when in open water. It is tied around your waist by a strap around a meter long. While you swim the float is pulled behind you, bobbing above the surface. All open water swimmers of any level should consider a tow float. Being visible to other water users or emergency personal could make a big difference if you get into trouble while swimming.
What are the main types of tow float?
Generally speaking there are 3 types of tow float. It's important to note that any tow float is a step in the right direction. That being said, some will suit certain swimmers better than others.
Type 1 - BUOY FLOAT
This type of float is the most straight forward in terms of set up. It's simply an air chamber that you inflate by mouth, tie around your waist and away you go. Made purely for safety and visibility, a buoy float is for those new to open water swimming or when required to wear a buoy when racing or training.
Type 2 - SWIM SAFETY BUOY & DRY BAG
Lager than the buoy floats, this dry bag version has an extra compartment for storage of Valuables, car keys, mobile phones, VHF, pack towel or even clothes. These models tend to be made from heavy duty material meaning they can withstand more rough and tumble than buoy floats. The downside is they sit slightly lower in the water. The average swimmer won't necessarily notice the extra drag but someone in a competition might.
Type 3 - LED LIGHT BUOY
Sharing all the features of the dry bag buoy, the LED light buoy comes with lighting strips and reflective logos to massively increase your visibility in low light conditions. The Zone 3 version even has a separate compartment for your phone that you can use without having to open the bag. The ideal float for those who may prefer swimming alone or going further when out with others.
I swim in competitions. Will a tow float affect my swim or slow me down?
A float is designed to stay on top of the water providing very little drag. It will stay lower than your backside and higher than your feet meaning you should not feel it as you swim along. If you find that you can feel the bag on your feet or lower leg you can shorten the length of the strap.
Can a tow float be use as a buoyancy aid?
NO! Unfortunately, swim buoys and tow floats cannot be used as buoyancy aids. They have no newton rating meaning they are not rated as personal flotation devices.
If having extra buoyancy is something you're concerned about there are additional products you can look at. One is the Spinlock ALTO. This is a lightweight, compact, inflatable floatation device worn around the waist. Manually operated, the inflatable tube is released from the waist pack and then supports the user under the arms and around the chest.
I have an air compressor, can I use it to inflate my buoy?
There is no need to use a compressor when inflating your buoy. In fact, your more likely to over inflate the air chamber and damage the float if you do. All the floats listed above are designed to be inflated by mouth. As you'll see below you can place items securely, inflate the air chamber and be ready to go in around 40 seconds
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