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The Safer Swimmer In-Depth Review

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Back last month when I posted my ‘Saint Malo Fort Swimaround’ post, a number of folks asked about the swim buoy I was using to increase my visibility.

It confused me at first, because I thought I had posted a review on it.  Because in my brain, I had gone to the lake and taken photos of both the Safer Swimmer  and the Swim It device at the same time on the same day.  Yet somehow, I never actually posted the review of the Safer Swimmer.  I had even edited the photos and outlined it.  Go figure.  So, here’s said review.

The Safer Swimmer is designed to increase your visibility in openwater.  Essentially, it’s keeping you from getting hit by a boat.  Or at least, reducing your chances.  I had bought the device way back in July of last year before heading to Eurobike.  It seemed like an interesting idea, especially when paired with the My Swim It device.  Two vaguely similar devices to check out.

So with that, let’s get into things!

Unboxing:

This is officially the first unboxing I’ve done from a dock.  But hey, it made for pretty pictures.  It comes in a thick plastic resealable bag.  Though, after I opened it I just stash it in my wetsuit bag.

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Looking at the back of the bag you can see the waist strap hanging out inside:

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Taking everything out we have a grand total of three parts:  The buoy itself, some instructions you’ll probably ignore, and the strap that connects you to said buoy.

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Looking at the bag, if you unroll it, it’s actually fairly long.  Keep in mind you’ll end up rolling a portion of it back up again to make it watertight.

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And just like that, the unboxing unbagging is complete.  Officially the shortest unwrapping section I’ve ever written.

Setup and Configuration:

Ok, now that you’ve got your stuff all laid out on the dock, you’ll probably be looking at the instruction sheet:

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No, you’re not allowed to use it.  21 seconds from now you’ll see how silly simple this is.

First, take the bag, and stick anything you want in it.  Keys, cell phone, money, sandals, clothes, a small duck (it will float of course).  Anything.  It’ll stay dry.

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Next, close the bag and lay the two clips flat out to their side.  Simply start to roll the end pieces in a couple of times.

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Then fold in on itself and snap it tight.

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Ok, you’re done with the bag.

Now, the strap.

This one’s tough:  It involves taking the little clip thing, and clipping it on the strap.

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Again, you’re now done with that section.

Finally, we get to blow the bag up.  No, not MythBusters style.  We don’t want to destroy the thing.

Instead, with your hot air.

You’ll see the red nozzle on top.  Simply blow into it.

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It’ll only take a few seconds – less than you think really, to get it all filled up.  The tube is designed to be one-way, so it just fills up the sack.  There’s a small cap if you’d like though.

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With that, you’re ready to swim!

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Swimming with it:

The strap is designed to go around your waist, and then let the bag drag behind you on the surface of the water.  So go ahead and tighten it up.  Not too tight that it’s restrictive, but enough so that it doesn’t slide off your body.  Because of the slight angle that it will be behind you pushing slightly up, it actually takes less tightness than it would if you were standing on dry land.

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With that, go jump in the water:

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You’ll notice it’ll float up behind you, which is ideal.  If it’s under the surface, than adjust the strap a bit so it’s not underwater somehow while you’re treading water.

As you swim you’ll see it drags behind you, roughly above your thighs:

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It pretty much stays completely out of the way.  I never hit it with my arms/hands:

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You can see it actually hangs out in a bit of a wake behind you.  If you look at the below picture you can see it’s not breaking the water, rather, riding my wake.

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Once you’re done swimming, come on back to dry land:

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From there you can go ahead and remove the clips and take out your stuff inside.

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Visibility:

I’ve used the buoy on a number of swims now, for the sole reason of increasing visibility.  That’s what this unit is for, it’s not a lifesaving device – it’s purely designed to keep you from being run over by a boat.  And a secondary reason of making you visible to others watching.

To demonstrate this, I’ll give two examples.  The first is taken from a dock last summer by The Girl.  It shows me swimming out.  Remember that I’m wearing a red swim cap.  In all these photos I’m actively swimming from left to right (or right to left) – thus from this angle making me as big as possible (6+ feet of potential visibility).

Note in these photos how difficult it is to actually see me.  I’m not actually that far away, especially in terms of a high-speed boat.  And The Girl is standing on a dock that’s also elevated 3+ feet off of the water.

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As you can see, the ONLY thing visible here is the buoy.  Beyond that, I pretty much disappear.  Further note the water is near perfectly still.  Toss in a bit of light chop and I’m completely invisible.

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Now, let’s look at another situation.  This swim from last month.  This photo was taken from a still camera on a balcony far away – a couple hundred yards perhaps.

In this case, I’m clearly visible.  Partly because of my wake, and partly because of the buoy + me.

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But, here’s the real question.  Did you notice there’s actually a second swimmer out there at the same time?  Look at the slightly cropped shot below:

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Yup, he was going the opposite way.  Kinda crazy.

Safer Swimmer vs The Swim It

You may remember last fall I reviewed The Swim It (also called MySwimIt).  The goal of that product is more as a life-saving device.  It’s a small pouch that you wear on your thigh and can pull a red handle in the event of some sort if personal emergency.

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You can read my full review on it here.

But here’s the really important thing to understand: These are totally different products, for different purposes.  The ONLY thing they have in common is that there’s water involved.  The two products are no more similar to each other than comparing either to a bathtub rubber duck.

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Here’s the goals of all three:

Safer Swimmer: Increase visibility of you in the water, both to boaters as well as those spotting on shore.  Ancillary benefit is a dry place to store stuff.

The Swim It: Provide a safety blanket in the event of some sort of personal emergency – i.e. cardiac event, panic attack, etc…

Giant Rubber Duck: Ok, I’ll be honest, nobody’s sure why that was there all winter.  But he was – dutifully protecting the giant bathtub behind him (pool).

Which one would I choose?  Well, obviously the duck.  But if he wasn’t available, then it’s definitely for me the Safer Swimmer.  The reason being that if I’m openwater swimming I really want to be seen.  That’s my primary concern.  It’s not that drowning isn’t a concern, but that’s far less of a concern than getting hit by an errant boat (or windsurfer, kite-boarder, whatever).

In the case of my swim in Saint Malo, the buoy served a secondary benefit of allowing The Girl to watch me from shore.  She could easily spot where I was and keep an eye on me.

Summary:

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Ultimately, the Safer Swimmer is about keeping you from getting killed by a boat.  It doesn’t have anything to do with making you faster, or getting more data out of your training efforts (though, I have heard of people successfully putting GPS watches inside to get cleaner GPS tracks).  While it can indeed support the weight of a person in the water, I wouldn’t focus on that as a benefit.

For me, the whole thing fits so easily inside my wetsuit bag, that it’s now become a standard part of it.  If I’m swimming openwater and not in a race, it’s simply there.  There’s just no reason not to use it unless I’m in a restricted area where no boats are coming in and the ‘territory’ is relatively small.

From a feel standpoint, I just don’t notice the bag dragging behind me.  I thought I would, but I simply don’t.  Perhaps if I was a ‘world class’ swimmer, I would notice it.  But even as an age-group triathlete who tends to be at the pointy end of the pack, I’m simply not feeling it.

Overall I can’t really think of any cons to the unit.  It’s durable and does what it says it does.  Simple and straightforward to use, nothing unnecessary.

As always, feel free to ask any questions below – I’m happy to help answer them!

Found this review useful? Here’s the super easy no-pain way you can help support future reviews! Read on…

Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the buoy. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love).

Safer Swimmer ($45)

As you probably noticed by looking below in the comments, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s usually quite a bit of detail in there as well. Thus, if you use Clever Training (at left) to pickup the device, you’ll save 10% on your entire order, and if the order ends up more than $75US, you’ll get free shipping within the US.  Oh – and you’ll really help support the site!  Just add coupon code DCR10JKW to the checkout page. Thanks for reading!

And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!

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52 Comments

  1. oldSAP

    i already got mine after reading your Saint Malo Fort Swimaround post but i haven't tried it out yet. is it able to "temporarily" keep you afloat while regaining your composure?

    Reply
  2. Thok

    Don't get me wrong, I find it is a clever product, however, I have never heard of a swimmer being run over by a boat. Does this happen a lot? The true beauty of this product imho is the possibility to carry your belongings in a water tight bag when swimming.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      In the US, it happens somewhat regularly. A quick Google search seems to show it happening pretty regularly. The most recent I see was one a few weeks ago in the UK.

      Having swam in the US, I've had plenty of cases of boats getting fairly close - albeit be it on accident or on purpose.

      Reply
    • Damien Berest replied

      Thok, it does happen. One of the most famous incident of this kind was a few years back, when the singer Kirsty McColl was killed in this way.
      link to en.wikipedia.org

      There has also been a number of such incidents, over the years, on the french mediterranean coast

      Reply
    • Bill replied

      It happens far too often out here in Hawaii. Usually from outrigger canoes paddling where they don't belong and just not seeing you. A product like this can make a swim a little bit safer. Going o give it a try!

      Reply
  3. Mike N

    Have you ever done a test with a GPS inside the Safer Swimmer?
    I've got an older FR301 that I wouldn't trust in water unless it was in the bag (I have done 310xt under swimcap or wrist). It might be interesting to see a GPS track from inside the bag, just have to figure out a way to keep the GPS facing up.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I have not, but I have a few co-workers who actually do. They too have older GPS units and wouldn't trust them in water. Creative solution, and no doubt a cleaner track than even the swimcap method.

      Reply
  4. Roger

    What, we get a review of this before the GTU 10? There's no technology in this. The GTU has been kicked to the corner for a long time. Maybe if it had a strap big enough to fit around that rubber duck it could get a full review too. Oh well, I guess we'll just have to keep waiting.

    Reply
  5. Coach Liz

    Great review. I may be asking my coached athletes to use these when we do open water swim practices. It makes everyone much easier to see.

    Reply
  6. Karl Trout

    Do you think this would hold a light pair or running shoes? we have a point to point race in NY that requires a bike -> run -> swim -> run -> swim -> run -> climb... The swim requires you to carry your shoes. its the SOS race in New Paltz, NY. thought this might be useful.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I think it probably could, assuming they weren't too heavy. Given it can hold up a person, it should be able to handle some shoes. It's just the drag aspect really, but I just can't imagine a pair of shoes would cause much issue there.

      Reply
  7. oldSAP

    tried out the safer swimmer yesterday (medium size) i had my flipflops, garmin 110 watch, an 8oz Salomon Hydrapak Soft Flask Hydration filled with water, eyeglasses with hard casing, keys, shirt, and a towel. blew it up with air. and went into the water. it was able to keep me afloat (i weigh 143lbs) easily. the garmin fit data was also able to record my swim nicely.
    Ray, how do i edit the garmin fit data to remove the part where i was still out of the water?

    Reply
  8. Maxime

    If anyone can find a place where you can buy it with a reasonable price for shipping in Canada, i'm in..
    For now it's 20$ from cleverTraining and 37$ from Adolph Kiefer and that is way too much.

    Reply
  9. Tosin

    How much do you weigh? I notice you are using the Large version, and I'm trying to decide whether to get the L or M size?

    Thanks

    Reply
  10. Having a very colorful swimcap goes a long way when it comes to visibility, if you don't have a really bad position in water.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Absolutely. In fact, it's my red swim cap that helps make me more visible in some of the shots.

      Reply
  11. Alex

    I was intrigued when you posted about your swim-around-the-fort. Your review and coupon code (thanks!) sealed the deal - my family purchased one last week. We took it out for its maiden voyage a few days ago. The Garmin FR210 we tucked inside produced an excellent track. This should provide the extra assurance we need to do more solo open-water swimming

    Reply
  12. Tosin

    Took the maiden voyage with mine today. I forgot to bring my wetsuit, so I was wearing a Speedo. There was no chafing, and I never felt a tugging, nor did I feel it while kicking. Definitely worth it. I also bought the Kiefer version, but mine did not come with the carabiner style hook that yours has. No big deal. Thanks again.

    Reply
  13. Very good review. I use it myself quite a lot, so nobody steals my stuff on the beach while I swim. Tip: If you are in EU, you can get it directly from http://swimsafetydevice.com

    Reply
  14. Brian E

    Hi,
    Great review.
    I tried to order one with your code but there was no place to enter the code.
    So, I did not order one from the link you included.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hi Brian-

      Sorry for the troubles. The code is on the checkout screen - just when you have your order summary. It says below the shopping cart "Coupon or Gift Card".

      Thanks!

      Reply
  15. Stovey

    Looks a great device I often feel a bit exposed on lone open water swims when boats are around. I wonder if some kind of flag on a thin pole would work on the back? The float looks good but i'm not sure you're much more visible than when just wearing a cap, it seems to work well as a store for your stuff though.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It'd probably be difficult to add a pole/flag because the definition of 'up' might vary a bit. It's pretty visible as-is though.

      Reply
    • Kenn replied

      You might be talking about something like this: link to blog.swimator.com

      Reply
    • joel replied

      i know this is old, but i keep thinking about adding a flag myself. where i swim has lots of kite boarders and wind surfers. and before i had this i got ran over by a couple in a kayak. we have buoys set up for 500, 100 and 1500m swims they are supposed to avoid. but people don't always know.

      Reply
    • Stovey replied

      I bought the device and it's been great. I can swim somewhere and get out and run/walk as my runners are inside, I can keep my phone in it. People on the shore have told me it definitely makes swimmers more visible.

      Reply
    • Stuart T replied

      I used one of these for the first time over the past holiday weekend in a bay with 5 or so kite surfers.

      I met a few of them after my swim and they also commented how visible the unit made me.

      I also stick a phone inside it - just in case things go very, very wrong.

      Reply
    • Matthew replied

      Not as portable but if you're swimming in the same area all the time, a helium balloon can be highly visible, even with a lot of chop or wave action. Used to see an octogenarian go out every morning with one in an area with high boat traffic and could easily follow him for almost half a mile.

      Reply
  16. Wawan Setiawan

    I just ordered it. I needed as I just lost my glasses, extra goggles, and my swim cap during a swim 2 days ago.

    Reply
  17. Steph004

    Hi Ray!

    Once again, what a good reference when you need something sport related...
    I've ordered 2 of them yesterday. I'm sure that someone else near me will just appreciate that "security" as well!
    And the fact is that if it can help you with $$$ referal, that's good for all of us who are reading you continiously.

    Sorry for my poor english.
    Thx,
    Stephane, from Quebec, Canada.
    Still waiting for my brand new Fenix 2 and V800 to arrived!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Thanks for the support Stephane!

      I suspect you'll have the F2 and V800 shortly, likely about the same time.

      Reply
  18. Paul Burger

    Thanks for the review - just ordered mine through clever training.

    Reply
  19. pollo

    hello, great review, thanks! Do you know of a similar product that could be used for say a week long self supported swim? ie something big enough to carry clothes, towel, even a sleeping bag? Thanks

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Eek, I'm not aware of anything. I know some folks though have taken tiny little child boats though (inflatable) to do longer swims.

      Reply
    • pollo replied

      ah, didn't think of that, interesting solution, I'll look into it. Thanks!

      Reply
  20. David

    Have you ever used this in heavy surf? I'm just wondering what it's like to get through 3-6 foot breakers that I normally have to deal with.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I've done a bit of heavy surf twice with it. It didn't really seem to impact me in any way there since it mostly just floated along behind me and is light enough it doesn't create any noticeable drag. Of course, with those sorta of waves it's a bit hard to differentiate sometimes.

      Reply
  21. Moris

    First of all, thank you for the review, it is a very interesting device.
    Do you think it could contain a water bag, and let the straw out without compromising its watertightness?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No, probably not to be honest. You'd be better finding a way to simply attach a CamelBak bladder to the outside of the unit.

      Reply
    • Moris replied

      I will. Thank you!

      Reply
  22. Excellent, thank you.
    kc

    Reply
  23. Adam

    Excellent review - thank you for writing this!

    I'm considering buying this, and I see it comes in two materials: the standard (at the link you posted), and the TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). The TPU version is available here:
    link to ishof.org

    The description says the TPU version is more durable. It sounds like you had the standard material. How did you feel the durability was?

    Reply
    • Ray Maker replied

      Hmm, not sure there. To be honest, it's a pretty tough material. Short of driving a pair of scissors through it (or a boat hitting you), I can't imagine too many normal use cases that it'd break.

      Reply
  24. Charly

    Nice review!
    With the time, is the strap breaking the wetsuit around the waist?
    Many thanks!

    Reply

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