Which Tow Float Should I Choose for Swimming in Open Water?

Which Tow Float Should I Choose for Swimming in Open Water?

With the wide range of tow floats on the market, it can be difficult to know what to look for when choosing the right float for you. This blog will take you through all the features you need to consider to make an informed choice and get your perfect tow float.

What Should I Look for in a Tow Float?


One of the main things to think about when it comes to choosing a tow float is its colour. The whole point of having a tow float is to make you more visible in the water, so it’s important for it to be brightly coloured. Avoiding dark colours like blue or black will stop the float from blending into the colour of the water, ultimately defeating the purpose of the float. Instead choose a bright or high vis colour like orange, pink, lime green, or yellow. 

The most common tow float colour is orange. This is a great choice because it really makes you stand out in the water, meaning watercraft and rescue teams are more likely to see you. However, if you’re swimming in an open water swimming group and have someone spotting you from land or want a friend in the water to be able to quickly spot you, it might be better to go for pink, lime green or yellow. This is because orange is so popular that choosing a different colour is likely to make you more identifiable within a group.


Tow floats have different levels of buoyancy and durability, suitable for different tow float uses. To get the best durability in a tow float we recommend choosing one with two air chambers instead of a single air chamber. This means that if your float suffers a puncture, it will stay buoyant and continue to keep you visible in the water. Whereas a single chamber float would fully deflate, leaving you to struggle to swim back to land while carrying your deflated float.

Unlike tow floats, dry bag floats always have two air chambers as these chambers surround the internal dry compartment. Depending on the float size, storage capacity, and weight of the items you put in the dry compartment, a dry bag float will float lower in the water than a tow float. Due to this, dry bag floats will also have slightly more drag when swimming compared to tow floats (which usually have little to no drag).

Deciding between a tow float or a dry bag float depends on what type of open water swimming you’re going to use it for. If you’re going to be partaking in open water swimming competitions, races, or triathlons, speed is going to be important to you. Tow floats are best for speed as they have less drag. However, if you’re a recreational swimmer and bringing some stuff with you is more important to you than speed, a dry bag float would be better for you.


As well as buoyancy, you also need to think about whether you want to be able to bring some of your possessions on your swim with you. Tow floats and dry bag floats come in different sizes with different storage capacities and methods of storage.

Some tow floats come with pockets and dry compartments that are accessible while in the water. For example, a clear pocket (for your phone), mesh pocket (to put a water bottle or energy snack), or a dry compartment (for car keys, medication, or a safety light). It’s useful to have the option of a pocket on your tow float so you don’t have to leave important items (like your car keys) on land at risk of being stolen.

If you want to take larger or more items with you or you don’t need to access your items while in the water, a dry bag float might be best for you. A range of dry bag floats are available with a range of storage capacities which would fit items like a towel and light clothing. It’s important to remember that you must leave enough space in your dry bag to adequately inflate the air chambers and it must not be too heavy to float in the water.


Most tow floats and dry bags have a leash and waist belt attachment which places your float above your legs without affecting your swimming stroke. Leashes can be adjustable or non-adjustable. Whereas waist belts are usually adjustable to keep your float securely attached to you. We recommend non-adjustable leash attachments as this will avoid any issues with the adjustment buckle loosening, resulting in you constantly needing to retighten your leash.

How to attach the leash, waist belt, and float together also varies between float brands. Your float should come with paper or online instructions for your float. For example, the instructions for attaching Swim Secure’s floats can be found here

In water, the leash and waist belt attachment is very common. However, when moving around with the float on land, there are different attachments. As well as carry handles, some floats come with detachable backpack straps to make it easier to carry on land (like on a swim hike). 

Some tow floats also attach as a backpack while in the water instead of the usual leash and waist strap. However, these floats are deflated in the backpack and are only meant to be inflated when needed in an emergency. This means when you are on your swim (and not in an emergency situation) you don’t have a float making you more visible in the water which makes your swim more dangerous.

Safety Features

The final thing to consider when choosing your float is whether it has integrated extra safety features or if these features can be added to your float. This includes safety lights, a whistle, and handles.

Although floats are available with integrated whistles and lights, as long as these features can be added, you don’t need to worry about finding a float with these integrated features. Lights and whistles can be added to the leash, or any handles, loops, or pockets on your float. For example, a safety light can be put inside the clear dry compartment of the Tow Donut.

Another safety feature which is useful to have is handles. Not only do handles make the float easier to transport, but they can provide vital support in an emergency. Tow float brands don’t recommend relying on tow floats to keep you afloat. However, in an emergency, tow floats are able to support an adult in the water. Having handles (whether plastic or rope) on your float makes this easier.


Choosing your tow float doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Thinking about the main 5 things outlined above, you should be able to make an informed decision about what you need in a float. 

Next, check out Swim Secure’s wide range of tow floats, dry bag floats, and accessories and buy the perfect float for you.

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