Our guide to the best changing robes for wild swimming

Changing robes to keep you warm and dry – we tell you which one to buy.

Outdoor swimming has never been more popular. The Outdoor Swimming Society says that an incredible 7.5 million of us in the UK are plunging into rivers, lakes, lidos or seas – and the numbers are still increasing.

With this rise in cold-water dipping, we’ve seen a surge in the popularity of changing robes, including Dryrobe, Charlie McLeod and Red. Many of us had never heard of them, let alone worn one, until recently.

Now changing robes aren’t just being donned at the water’s edge, but are being sported by dog walkers, shoppers and team sports supporters alike. But what exactly is a changing robe and why do you need one?

Man in camoflage print changing robe
Editors Choice

Our choice of the changing robes

Charlie McLeod Long Sleeve Eco Sports Cloak


RRP: £129.95
Who’s this for?
Anyone who is outdoors in cold weather. It’s heavy, but it’s durable and warm.
A woman in a pink changing robe by the sea
Editors Choice

The best eco changing robe

Smoc Smoc Eco Changing Robe


RRP: £99
Who’s this for?
Eco conscious swimmers
A man wearing a changing robe
Recommended

Best lightweight summer robe

Passenger Roaming Changing Robe


RRP: £119.95
Who’s this for?
Summer swimmers, beach trips and van life.
A changing robe
Recommended

The original changing robe and a great buy

Dryrobe Advance Long Sleeve


RRP: £160
Who’s this for?
Year round swimmers and anyone wanting reliable warm and waterproofing
Woman in a purple changing robe

A slimline and soft changing robe

Red Original Long Sleeve Pro Change Robe Evo


RRP: £159.95
Who’s this for?
Anyone looking for a soft lighter-weight robe which can multi task as a coat.
A black changing robe

Great budget buy

Two Bare Feet Adults Weatherproof Changing Robe


RRP: £69.99
Who’s this for?
New dippers looking for a budget buy for year round use
A woman wearing a bright blue changing robe

A luxury versatile robe

Red Revolution 3-in-1 Change Parka


RRP: £349.95
Who’s this for?
Year round swimmers and outdoor lovers

We asked a group of wild swimmers from the Bluetits Chill Swimmers to test a selection of changing robes and give us their verdict.

None of the robes are cheap – most retail at more than £100 and one cost an eye watering £350. So before you invest, read our essential guide to find out which one is best for you.

What is a changing robe?

Changing robes look like oversized coats and are made in a range of colours. They are different to traditional towelling ponchos as they have a weatherproof exterior, full length zip and a warm fleece or towelling lining.

The first designs came out more than a decade ago to keep surfers warm while they changed in all weathers. The oversized design allows the wearer to bring their arms inside the robe and get changed out of their swimwear and into their dry clothes in privacy. Users can then continue to wear them as a protective layer.

Do I need a changing robe?

If you love dipping in cold water then these are very useful pieces of kit. But they aren’t just for water lovers. You’ll now see them worn by runners, triathletes, horse riders, outdoor sports spectators and dog walkers. In fact, they are for anyone who wants to stay warm and protected from the elements.

Kate O’Brien, Bluetits swim coach and owner of Black Mountains Swims, says: “To be honest, most wild swimmers dry off and get changed under a towelling poncho.

“Then we put our changing robes on over our clothes to keep us warm and dry while we are chatting and having a hot drink and cake afterwards. The robes are useful for so many things, not just after swimming, so they are an essential piece of kit for us.”

A group of women by a river wearing changing robesCredit: Exceptional.com

What to look for in a changing robe

Robes are available with short or long sleeves. Short sleeves allow for more arm movement and are great for summer and beach use, but long sleeves give you the best coverage and protection in cold and wet weather.

Changing robes are designed to be oversized so you can change beneath them. However, if you plan to wear your robe only as a jacket then you may want to size down. Always check individual size guides as some are gender specific, while others are unisex.

Some robes are fully waterproof, while others are only water resistant. Think carefully about what you’ll be using your robe for before you make your decision. If you want your robe to double up as a coat to wear in wet weather, then pick a waterproof robe. If you are a fair-weather summer swimmer, then water resistant may be enough.

Some robes have removable layers to make them more versatile, and others boast storm flaps, weatherproof cuffs and two-way zips.

Our cold-water swimmers agreed that pockets are very important. Zipped pockets are great for keys, phones or wallets. A ‘poacher style’ inner pocket is also useful for underwear or wet swimming costumes. External fleece-lined hand warmer pockets are a must if you plan on using your robe in colder weather.

Most brands include recycled or sustainable materials. Some of the brands themselves also boast eco credentials. We found some brands better than others for sustainability – so check if it’s important to you.

How we tested

Our team of cold-water swimmers put the robes through their paces in April this year during a week-long test, when temperatures were still unseasonably cold. We looked at the following:

  • The look and feel of the robe
  • Warmth of the robe
  • Its spaciousness – can you change inside it?
  • Its features – number of pockets, hood size, zips, wrist fastenings
  • Weight and packability
  • Sustainability
  • Value for money

Charlie McLeod Long Sleeve Eco Sports Cloak Overview

Our choice of the changing robes

Charlie McLeod Long Sleeve Eco Sports Cloak

Man in camoflage print changing robe
Editors Choice
Competitive

We really rate the Charlie McLeod, it’s an excellent all rounder for men and women.

Warmth

Design

Features

Sustainability

Value for money


Who’s this for?

Anyone who is outdoors in cold weather. It’s heavy, but it’s durable and warm.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Warm
  • Lots of pockets
  • Durable
  • Heavy

Expect to pay

RRP: £129.95 The launch price is a very fair amount for this robe, although at the tie of writing it was cheaper at Amazon.
  • Outer: Waterproof recycled plastic
  • Lining: Sherpa recycled fleece
  • Sleeve length: Long, but short also available
  • Colour: Ten combinations
  • Sizes: XS, S/M, L/XL
  • Storage bag: ‘Dry bag’

The eco-credentials of this changing robe are great. Each robe is made from approximately 110 recycled plastic bottles, and the firm is committed to sustainability and social responsibility.

It’s another heavyweight, with the medium size version weighing just shy of 2kg (4lb 7oz). It’s boxy, but has an internal drawstring to tighten it up.

The robe has lots of pockets, elasticated cuffs with thumb holes, and a chunky zip with big tabs – and for an extra £5 you can get your name embroidered on the front or back.

The free 40 litre (nine gallon) ‘dry bag’ is waterproof, and the robe and your valuables will fit inside.

We tested a striking Camo Green colour robe with matching green lining; it was size medium and weighed 1.9kg (4lb 3oz).

A woman in front of a river wearing a changing robeCredit: Exceptional.com

What our tester thought

Tester Jane Brooks says: “I give this a fabulous 10 stars. When used as a changing robe it was perfect; really long and with ample room to change in and out of swimwear without unnecessary exposure to the elements. The zips were easy to use when you’ve got cold and numb hands, and it was cosy to wear after my dip – the inner drawstring allowed a snugger fit.

“I also used it as a cosy blanket in a broken down vehicle on a cold night and when walking the dog on a wet and windy beach. It kept me cosy and dried off quickly. Some mud splashes were easily wiped off. It had five generous pockets, three of which were securable, great for my keys, phone and dog treats. I would definitely buy one of these.”


Smoc Smoc Eco Changing Robe Overview

The best eco changing robe

Smoc Smoc Eco Changing Robe

A woman in a pink changing robe by the sea
Editors Choice
Budget

Smoc Smoc robes are eco-friendly, budget friendly and look lovely. They are hard to fault, although tall people may find them a little short in length.

Warmth

Design

Features

Sustainability

Value for money


Who’s this for?

Eco conscious swimmers

Our likes and dislikes

  • Great eco-credentials
  • Soft and wicking
  • Lots of pockets
  • Shorter length than others

Expect to pay

RRP: £99 Buy direct from the manufacturer for a great price and after sales
  • Outer: Waterproofed polyester
  • Lining: Bamboo towelling
  • Sleeve: Long sleeve
  • Colour: Seven combinations
  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL
  • Storage bag: Yes

The robe has a big hood, chunky zips with tabs to make them easy to use, a zipped internal pocket for valuables and a second big pocket for undies or other small clothing.

Smoc Smoc is a small business with an emphasis on sustainability. The robes are produced in the UK and use natural bamboo fabric next to the skin.

We tried a size medium, which weighed just over 1.6kg (3lb 8oz).

All our testers loved the bright pink colour of the Smoc Smoc. The quality and feel of the robe was good and the natural fibres dried well.

A woman in a pink changing robe in front of a riverCredit: Exceptional.com

What our tester thought

Bluetits Chill Swimmers instructor Kate O’Brien says: “The robe feels lightweight but is warm and the lining is soft and also soaks up water well. It means it’s easier to dry off post swim. The pockets are fab: good positioning on the outside, and nice and deep; the ones on the inside are great too – I love that there’s a zip pocket to pop keys and phone into.

“The colour is just beautiful, I don’t think I’ve ever seen another brand do a block pink colour robe. The hood is perfect. I like a hood that can go over my head when I’m wearing a bobble hat – this one does that.

“If I’m being super fussy, I’d say the length could be an inch longer; I’m 5ft 5in (165cm), so on a taller person it would definitely be too short. But overall, the robe is wonderful, it beats other high end brand robes that I’ve tried and I would definitely purchase and recommend it.”


Passenger Roaming Changing Robe Overview

Best lightweight summer robe

Passenger Roaming Changing Robe

A man wearing a changing robe
Recommended
Competitive

A cool and eco-friendly changing robe, but too lightweight for cold weather use

Warmth

Design

Features

Sustainability

Value for money


Who’s this for?

Summer swimmers, beach trips and van life.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Lightweight
  • Great eco-credentials
  • Not warm enough for year round
  • External pockets not lined

Expect to pay

RRP: £119.95 Buy direct from Passenger for the best price. You’ll find regular offers throughout the year.
  • Outer: Recycled polyester with water-resistant coating
  • Lining: Recycled sherpa fleece
  • Sleeve length: Long sleeve
  • Colour: Six combinations
  • Sizes: XS-XL
  • Storage bag: Free ‘stuff sack’

This robe was the lightest of all those we tested, with a size medium weighing just 1.2kg (2lb 10oz). It’s designed for summer swimming, camping and van life.

The robe has a hood, an internal pocket and two external hand pockets that aren’t fleece lined. The two-way zip isn’t as chunky as others and lacks a tab to make it easier to use with cold hands. The sleeves feature Velcro fastenings at the wrist to make them adjustable. It’s roomy, well made and comes in some great retro colour combinations.

Passenger makes a point about its sustainability. It plants a tree for every order and the robes are made from recycled single-use plastic bottles.

Our team loved how lightweight and soft this robe was compared to its heavyweight rivals.

A person wearing a Passenger changing robeCredit: Exceptional.com

What our tester thought

Tester Eli Bishop says: “Lightweight, packable and eco-conscious, this robe on the face of it has a lot going for it. It’s cosy and roomy with space to change, the colours are a love-hate thing, but I can see them appealing to a younger demographic.

“As a cold-water swimmer, it doesn’t really cut it. There is only one internal pocket, which doesn’t have a zip, so your contents can fall out; the zips are fiddly with cold hands and if you use it to dry yourself, it remains wet.

“As a cold-water changing robe, I would say 3/10, but as a cool beach cover-up for being seen in from an on-trend brand, it’s a 8/10 for eco-credentials and cosy lining.”


Dryrobe Advance Long Sleeve Overview

The original changing robe and a great buy

Dryrobe Advance Long Sleeve

A changing robe
Recommended
Competitive

A lovely changing robe and deserving of its reputation.

Warmth

Design

Features

Sustainability

Value for money


Who’s this for?

Year round swimmers and anyone wanting reliable warm and waterproofing

Our likes and dislikes

  • spacious
  • warm
  • lots of pockets
  • Fleece isn’t as soft as others

Expect to pay

RRP: £160 We recommend buying direct from Dryrobe for the follow up customer care. However you could save up to £20 by shopping around.
  • Outer: Waterproof and windproof 100% recycled nylon shell
  • Lining: Synthetic lambswool made from 100% recycled polyester
  • Sleeve length: Long, but there is also a short sleeve version
  • Colours: 15 colour combinations
  • Sizes: S-XL
  • Storage bag: Available at extra cost

The first Dryrobe was sold in 2010 and was based on a homemade garment its founder used after surfing. It’s still one of the most popular and recognised of all the changing robes.

The robe is waterproof and windproof with a fleece lining and hood. The fit is generous, you get loads of pockets, a two-way chunky zip and there are fasteners around the wrists to keep drafts out.

The eco-credentials are good. The company is carbon-neutral and the robe is made from 100% recycled fabrics. The DWR (durably water repellent) waterproof coating is free from PFCs (per- and poly-fluorinated chemicals, which can be harmful to the environment).

We tested the Dryrobe in the striking Camo/Pink combination, which many of our testers loved.

The test robe was a size medium, which weighed 1.7kg (3lb 12oz) – heavier than the 1.3kg (2lb 14oz) the firm indicates they weigh, depending on size. It felt sturdy to the touch and very well made, but the fleece lining wasn’t as soft as some of the other robes.

A woman wearing a Dryrobe changing robeCredit: Exceptional.com

What our tester thought

Tester Sarah Croft says: “It has the space to change with wide arms yet is still cosy. There are plenty of pockets and the zips are good and have handy pulls.

“My problem with the Dryrobe is that it is extremely expensive. There are other robes out there with the same features which are significantly cheaper. I own the cheaper Two Bare Feet and have been happy with it all winter.”


Red Original Long Sleeve Pro Change Robe Evo Overview

A slimline and soft changing robe

Red Original Long Sleeve Pro Change Robe Evo

Woman in a purple changing robe
Competitive

Lightweight and soft to the touch. A more streamlined robe, but may not be warm enough for some.

Warmth

Design

Features

Sustainability

Value for money


Who’s this for?

Anyone looking for a soft lighter-weight robe which can multi task as a coat.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Soft and cosy to the touch
  • Lightweight
  • Streamlined design
  • May not be warm enough for some

Expect to pay

RRP: £159.95 We haven’t found this cheaper by shopping around, so keep an eye on the manufacturer’s website for offers.
  • Outer: 100% recycled waterproof polyester
  • Inner lining: Recycled breathable fleece polyester lining
  • Sleeve length: Long, but short sleeves are also available
  • Colours: Ten colour choices
  • Sizes: S-XL; the same sizes exist in a men’s version
  • Storage bag: Ten litre (two gallon) ‘dry bag’ sold separately

The Red Original robe looks more like a casual coat than a changing robe, and has a more streamlined look.

There are lots of pockets, including a zipped external waterproof pocket. The fleece-lined hand pockets aren’t as roomy as some of the other robes. There are toggles on the hood for windy days, a chunky, easy-to-use reversible zip and Velcro at the wrists to help prevent drafts.

The eco features are good. The company has great sustainability credentials and the robe is 100% recycled.

The robe we tested was purple with a navy lining and a size medium. It weighed 1.5kg (3lb 5oz) and was one of the lightest in the test.

It was very well made, like the other robes. All the testers loved how soft it was to the touch both inside and out. Some commented on how the fleece lining was especially snuggly.

A woman wearing a Red changing robe by a riverCredit: Exceptional.com

What our tester thought

Tester Hilary Swallow says: “This was lightweight and the lining was super soft, but I like to snuggle into my robe when I get out of the water and this didn’t do it for me – maybe because of the lightness of the robe. There was plenty of room in the body, but the arms were really narrow, which made it difficult to get changed in.

“l wouldn’t buy this as a changing robe, but it would be great for dog walking.”


Two Bare Feet Adults Weatherproof Changing Robe Overview

Great budget buy

Two Bare Feet Adults Weatherproof Changing Robe

A black changing robe
Budget

A sturdy, warm all rounder for those watching their budget

Warmth

Design

Features

Sustainability

Value for money


Who’s this for?

New dippers looking for a budget buy for year round use

Our likes and dislikes

  • Good value
  • Lightweight but warm
  • Robust
  • Not as eco-friendly as other robes

Expect to pay

RRP: £69.99 Best to buy direct from Two Barefeet, but also available for the same price from Amazon
  • Outer: Water-resistant nylon
  • Lining: Sherpa fleece
  • Sleeve length: Long sleeve
  • Colour: Seven combinations with additional choice of lining colours
  • Sizes: S-XL
  • Storage bag: No, but free changing mat

Two Bare Feet (TBF) is a budget option. The nylon outer is windproof and water resistant and the fleece lining wicks away moisture and provides warmth.

The robe has a good-sized hood, zipped inner pocket and poacher’s pocket, and two zipped external fleece-lined handwarmer pockets. The robe also has Velcro adjustments at the wrists to keep out drafts.

We had a size small to test, which weighed 1.2kg (2lb 10oz). The medium would be heavier, but even then, we would expect it to still be one of the lighter robes in the test.

The TBF robe doesn’t have as many eco-features as other robes, but it has got a special eco-friendly permanent water-repellent coating – so no nasty PFA chemicals.  It also doesn’t have the soft feel of more expensive robes.

However, our testers all agreed that the robe was well made, warm and felt durable.

A person wearing a Two Barefeet changing robe by a riverCredit: Exceptional.com

What our tester thought

Instructor Kate O’Brien also tested this one. She says: “This robe is very popular among the Bluetits for a reason. It’s a good budget buy for someone getting into cold-water swimming. It’s got all the features you need and it’s sturdy.

“It isn’t recycled, which could put some off, but it’s warm and protective and looks good.”


Red Revolution 3-in-1 Change Parka Overview

A luxury versatile robe

Red Revolution 3-in-1 Change Parka

A woman wearing a bright blue changing robe
Luxury

Eye-wateringly expensive but a gorgeous robe for year-round dedicated outdoor swimmers

Warmth

Design

Features

Sustainability

Value for money


Who’s this for?

Year round swimmers and outdoor lovers

Our likes and dislikes

  • Versatile, three in one combination
  • Loads of pockets
  • Very warm
  • Expensive

Expect to pay

RRP: £349.95 Best to buy direct from Red for follow up customer care
  • Outer: Recycled polyester with PFC-free DWR waterproofing
  • Lining: Made from 3M Thinsulate recycled insulation in outer coat; recycled polyester fleece in inner coat
  • Sleeve length: Long
  • Colour: Two combinations
  • Sizes: S-XL
  • Storage bag: No

The Revolution is a hybrid three-in-one coat. The outer coat is a waterproof, Thinsulate-lined parka, which can be used alone as a practical winter coat. The inner fleece jacket can be worn on its own in mild weather as a change robe or beach cover-up; or combined with the parka to create a winter changing robe that can handle sub-zero temperatures.

As you’d expect for the price, the Revolution has a huge amount of features. The quilted outer jacket has a more streamlined feel than its rivals and a warm Thinsulate lining. The inner fleece jacket is windproof with a drawcord at the waist. This combination has a wealth of pockets, including four two-way hand warmer pockets, a concealed security pocket for valuables and big external pockets with poppers.

Both outer and inner jackets have hoods, and the outer jacket also features zips at the wrists for adjustability.

Now we come to weight, and this one is a beast. When both jackets are worn together, the weight is 2.15kg (4lb 11oz). The inner fleece jacket weighs 1.45kg (3lb 1oz) alone.

Once again, this is a robe with great eco-credentials. The Revolution is made from recycled materials and Red is committed to sustainability.

A woman wearing a Red 3-in-1 parka changing robe in front of a lakeCredit: Exceptional.com

What our tester thought

Our testers loved this robe and how it provided three very useful products, but everyone choked at the price.

Saga Exceptional’s Phillipa Cherryson tested this one. She says: “I used this when I took an ice bath every day for two weeks. This was an absolute joy to put on, it was so warm, so snuggly. I didn’t want to take it off. It’s got pockets everywhere and I loved the handwarmer pockets, as I suffer from Raynauds. I’m not sure whether I would use the outer coat alone, but the inner fleece coat would be great in summer.

“It’s very bulky, so you need to consider whether you have space to store it. I loved testing this robe, but for me the cost was too high to justify buying one.”

Phillipa Cherryson

Written by Phillipa Cherryson she/her

Updated:

Phillipa Cherryson is a senior digital editor for Saga Exceptional. Phillipa has been a journalist for 30 years, writing for local and national newspapers, UK magazines and reporting onscreen for ITV. In her spare time she loves the outdoors and is a trainee mountain leader and Ordnance Survey Champion.

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