Your Quick Guide to Swim Caps

Swim caps are a necessary evil. While they might be uncomfortable, the benefits they provide a swimmer far outweigh the disadvantages that come with them. When worn correctly, a swim cap helps reduce drag in the water, therefore, increasing hydrodynamics.

In layman’s terms, it helps a swimmer go faster! 

A swim cap also helps protect hair from the chlorine (while keeping the pool clean from unwanted clumps of hair). Nothing is worse than getting someone else’s hair caught in your fingers or on your face.

Related article: 6 Reasons Why You Should Wear a Swim Cap

Not all swim caps are made equally though. And if you’re searching for the best one, you’ve probably already asked: ‘what’s the best swim cap?’

The short answer? It depends on what you like!

Swim caps come in a few different types, so choosing a swim cap depends on what you prefer. Here’s a quick guide to the various types of swim caps that can be used by different swimmers. 

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Guide to Swim Caps

Latex Swim Caps

Latex caps are the cheapest caps you can find. They’re made of, you guessed it, latex, and run very thin. This allows for the material to grip the head better. However, it does result in the latex tearing out some strands of hair at times.

They can be uncomfortable due to their tight fit and how they often pull at the hair. However, for those swimmers who have difficulties keeping a cap from sliding off, latex ones typically stay on the best. They also have the benefit of being lightweight, which makes them more breathable.

Because of how cheap they run (around $2-5), they’re great as a backup cap at practice if another one rips. 

As a note: if you are allergic to latex, you probably shouldn’t choose this as your swim cap 🙂

Lycra Swim Caps

Lycra swim caps are made out of a soft, mesh/cloth-like material. They’re best suited for individuals who need to keep their hair out of their face while doing something water-related. Such as water aerobics or therapy. 

Because it’s not as tight, you might find that it’s more comfortable to wear while still keeping the hair out of your face.

It has an added benefit of keeping you cooler, too.

Most other caps trap in heat, which can make some individuals uncomfortable. Due to the breathable material, those working out in the water can stay cooler longer.

One drawback to the lycra cap is that it will not keep your hair dry at all. The material is mesh-like, which allows water to pass through it. If you’re looking for a cap to keep your hair mostly dry, this cap won’t provide that benefit.

Because they tend to fit on the looser side, they’re not recommended for lap or competitive swimming. In addition to sliding off, they offer no drag reduction.

Younger children, however, might find this type of swim cap a bit easier to use when they first start swimming or taking lessons.

You’ll find that lycra caps run about $4-12 depending on the brand.

Silicone Swim Caps

Silicone caps are made of a thicker, more durable material than latex caps. Due to the material, they usually last longer than latex (although I have seen some latex caps outlast silicone ones!) and fit tighter to the head.

The tighter fit keeps out more water. It’s not 100% waterproof, but it can offer more protection than both the latex and lycra caps. 

Some silicone caps are made especially for individuals with long hair. They’re made with just a bit more stretch and material to allow for excess hair without ripping the cap.

They also tend to be more comfortable. Both in terms of wear and for those who have hair, as it pulls less. And as a bonus, they’re easier and less painful to put on and take off.

However, you’re also more likely to have a silicone cap slip off your head compared to a latex one. To counter this, some competitive swimmers will ‘double cap’ in a swim meet. In that, they’ll wear one swim cap under a silicone one.

Related article: Why Does My Swim Cap Slide Off?

This allows for a better grip between the two caps. And, if a swimmer chooses, they’ll nestle their goggle straps between the caps for a better, more secure fit.

If you find you’re having trouble keeping a silicone cap on, try wetting your hair before putting on your swim cap. Conditioner is a known and notorious culprit when it comes to caps slipping off.  

Most swimmers (both lap and competitive) prefer silicone caps due to:

  • Comfort
  • Tight fit
  • Less drag than latex

Silicone caps also come in a variety of colors and designs, which also makes them popular. You’ll find this especially true for the more fun caps that younger children can wear

Such caps have extra material on the sides and top to mimic fins on a fish or a dorsal fin for a shark. They make for some extra fun in the pool or at practice!

Although I wouldn’t recommend wearing one during a race 😉

Most silicone caps cost about $5-15 based on brand and design of the cap.

Racing or Dome Caps

A dome swim cap is the best swim cap for competitive swimmers at a meet. 

Dome caps are made of a thicker, molded silicone than you would find in a regular silicone cap. You’ll find molded silicone around the bottom edge of the cap and running up over the center of the head.

This design and tight fit decreases drag and improves hydrodynamics for swimmers by providing a smooth surface free of wrinkles.

Like most caps, it can stretch out over time. Because of this, it’s recommended that you only use it for races and not during practice or warm-up at a meet.

Dome caps are the most expensive of the caps listed here. Another reason to only wear them during races! Most dome caps cost about $16-50

Neoprene/Thermal Swim Caps

Open water and cold water swimmers wear neoprene caps. Made from neoprene, the material helps retain body heat in cold lakes or oceans.

Caps can come with either a strap that goes up under the chin for extra hold. Or they can come without a strap. Those with a strap cover the ears for additional protection and added warmth.

Whether you wear a neoprene cap with a strap or without comes down to personal preference. Some swimmers like the extra protection it provides, while others don’t like how tightly it can fit.

One thing to note with neoprene caps. Most of them come in darker colors that make it hard to spot you in open water. If you’re swimming outside, put on another, brighter cap so that boats and other swimmers can see you easier.

Neoprene swim caps run about $15-35

In Recap

As a quick overview, I’ve included a summary of the caps discussed here. 

Swim Cap TypePriceBest For
Latex$Lap swimming, practice, swim meets
Lycra$Water exercise
Silicone$$Lap swimming, practice, swim meets
Race/Dome Cap$$$Races/Competition
Neoprene/Thermal Caps$$Open Water/Cold Water

In Closing

Swim caps offer a variety of benefits and come in various types. The vast amount of choices means that you have several options.

You can pick the cap that works best for you.

Try out different kinds and find the one that feels the best. Everyone is different and there is no right answer when it comes to caps. 

Much like swimsuits and goggles, it’s up to the swimmer. You’re the one who has to wear them for extended periods of time!

As always, to happy swimming 🙂


Bonus Content:

Your Ultimate Swim Cap FAQ: While a swim cap seems simple, it can be confusing. To help, we’ve compiled a list of questions to help you sort through the confusion.

Swimming Basics to Get You Started: If you just started to swim, you might feel that swimming can be overwhelming. Here are some swimming basics to help you feel more comfortable at the pool.

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