How to Choose Swimsuits

Swimming is fun and offers great low-impact health benefits. REI now offers a good swimwear selection online and in stores, especially for anyone who is interested in triathlons. This article provides a basic look at your choices.

For triathlon-specific swimwear advice, see the REI Expert Advice article, Triathlon Gear: How to Choose.

Shopping links:

Men's Swimsuits

Baggy swim trunks are fine for water exercise or the beach, but they inhibit effective lap swimming. All the extra fabric is heavy and creates drag, slowing and pulling you down in the water.

Suits should fit snugly but not too tightly, especially around the legs. Here are the basic options:

  • Briefs: Form-fitting, brief-cut suits designed for lap swimming, racing and water polo.
  • Boxer briefs: Snug suits with a slightly longer, square cut for a little more coverage.
  • Trunks: Loose-fitting board shorts cut long enough to cover the thighs.
  • Legsuits: Full-body suits cover the torso and thighs for less resistance in the water.

Shop REI's selection of men's swimsuits.

Women's Swimsuits

For casual wear or water exercise, 2-piece suits and 1-piece, scoop-back suits are fine. For lap swimming or racing, 1-piece racer-back suits are best.

Suits should fit snugly but not too tightly. If the straps dig into your shoulders, try a larger size. If you see extra folds or wrinkles of fabric on the torso, try a size smaller. Here are the basic options:

  • One-piece suits: Racer-back suits will allow your shoulders optimal freedom of movement and will ensure the straps won't slip or fall down while you're swimming. Some suits offer a more modest leg cut.
  • Two-piece suits: These work well for casual wear, water exercise and beach sports. Some feature a cropped top, while others have a longer tank to cover the torso. Because they're not as streamlined as one-piece suits, they're not best for lap swimming.
  • Legsuits: These full-body suits have a high neck and cover the thighs for less resistance and drag in the water.

Shop REI's selection of women's swimsuits.