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Testing Times.... Kit test for Zone 3

I’m not one for entering online competitions to be fair… mostly because historically I haven’t ever won very much. There were some InterRail tickets about 30 years ago which was a bit of a blast but no houses or cars to speak of!

So with an expectation that nothing would come of it, I entered a competition through my favourite magazine – Outdooor Swimmer – to do some kit testing for Zone 3…. If chosen, the deal was that they send you the kit, you test it and write a review and get to keep the kit…. Well, who doesn’t love new swim kit? So I figured there was no harm in putting my name into the proverbial hat!

And to my surprise, my name was pulled from that hat and before I knew it, I was excitedly opening a parcel from Zone 3! Inside it their very lovely Thermal hat, gloves and boots, all new and free of lake week and sea salt! Don’t you just love the smell of new swim kit?

Shortly thereafter, in a moment of what I now consider to have been sheer madness, I decided it would be an idea to record my kit test experience and turn it into a little video. I say madness because I hate talking to camera. Loathe it with a passion and have to force myself to do it for things like Social Media and, it seems for this. I do think it’s good to venture outside of my comfort zone regularly so I soon found myself standing in front of a video camera in my swimsuit and dry robe, on the side of a lake trying to figure out what to put on first and what to say about it!

Brain into gear I started to think about what I look for in a review? Ordering, delivery and customer service along the way (not really relevant in this case as it was all done via the competition organisers) and then quality, function and does it do what it says on the tin? With swim kit I also usually want to know how it was tested and how long for, will it last beyond a season? Multiple swims weren’t going to be possible as the guys back at Zone3 and OS magazine needed the review pretty sharpish and the ‘winter’ season was drawing to a close as the water was starting to warm up already. It was going to have to be based on a one off… not ideal but life is a bit like that quite a lot of the time!

Most of my video appearances have been shot in one take. For those of you who followed my 50 weeks of fundraising last year, you’ll understand why and the inevitable pitfalls of this practice! But The more I think about it and the more takes I try the more anxious I get and then it all starts to go rapidly downhill, forgetting what I’ve said in which take and which one was better/worse/undecipherable! So.. it was a one take plan.

That worked well enough pre-test!

Post test review took a couple of attempts but, as it was always going to be true that I wouldn’t be 100% happy with whatever it came out like, I figured good enough was going to have to be just that, good enough!

The written reviews were done and sent off to Zone3 whilst the video was duly edited and posted to YouTube. As a little aside, I shared the link with the guys at Zone3…. You never know after all! I heard nothing back and thought no more of it.

Until one day an email landed in my inbox from OS magazine asking for some photos for their next email which was going to feature the Zone3 Kit. The folk at Z3 had mentioned my little video to the folk at OS but I figured there was no harm in sending them the link too, along with a not very good shot of me (a screen shot from the video because of course I hadn’t thought to take any actual photos on the day… too busy having kittens about the video!) standing on one leg trying to show hat, gloves and boots all in one go!

I’m already on the mailing list for OS and sure enough a few days later into my inbox popped their latest news and reviews…. With that same screenshot of me on one leg as well as a link to my little video…. Hurrah!

If you haven’t seen it yet, you can view it here:

And the reviews…. Well I can safely say that I really liked the Z3 kit, especially (and surprisingly) the hat. Would I buy them? Probably, except that of course I didn’t have to as they were part of the deal. Would I recommend them? Yes, if you’re thinking of swimming in colder water or if you don’t tolerate the cold very well.

Would I enter another competition in OS magazine…. Absolutely, I’ve entered another 3 since then but perhaps not terribly surprisingly haven’t won anything else at all. Maybe I should up my game and look at new cars and houses instead!

Read on for the full reviews:


The socks arrived in good time and in recyclable packaging - always a good start!

I chose a medium size although I'm probably in between sizes with a size 6.5 shoe. The foot part of the sock was possibly a bit on the large side but they fit well around the calf - and I'm not sure that I'd have been able to get a smaller size up my calf!

They're well put together and seams all look well covered and secure. The sole isn't very thick so I wouldn't want to walk around in them on stony ground

Not the easiest things to put on but super comfortable and warm from the word go.

The Velcro around the top really helps with ensuring they feel snug although there could be a longer area of Velcro to attach to - thinking of anyone with slimmer calf than me who might want to pull the fastening round a bit further, there wouldn't be a lot to attach it to.

Once in the water they felt comfy and warm, not letting in too much water and not feeling too big and floppy on my feet

They kept my feet warm in 9 degree water (swimming in the UK late March)

I cannot comment on durability and how they perform over time as only worn once but so far very impressed and definitely did the job of keeping my feet warm without impeding my swim


The gloves arrived promptly and in recyclable packaging - always a good start!

They're well put together and all the seams look really secure

I ordered a medium based on the comprehensive size guide and they fit well around the hand and wrist, although a tiny bit short in the fingers

I love the longer wrist and Velcro strap although I would have liked to tighten it a bit more - a slightly longer bit of Velcro to attach to might be useful, particularly for anyone with really slim wrists

The gloves were really comfortable and warm from the word go - I always get cold hands in the water, even in the summer, so I really appreciated the warmth (worn in 9 degree water in the UK in late March).

Thick neoprene gloves always feel a little bulky and clumsy in the water when swimming crawl but they didn't let huge amounts of water in or get too heavy and didn't impact too much on my stroke. They still allow a good feel for the water as you swim.

Not easy to get on or off but that's pretty standard for thicker winter gloves

I cannot comment on durability as only worn once so far but overall really happy with these gloves and would certainly recommend them for colder swims


The cap arrived promptly and in recyclable packaging - always a good start!

I had ordered a medium size based on the size guide and this was just right - a snug fit without being too tight anywhere

The cap is well put together and the adjustable Velcro on the chin strap is a great idea, love the soft interior lining which feels really snuggly around the head

I was worried that the chin strap would be annoying in the water but it's so soft that I barely noticed it whilst swimming which was a pleasant surprise

The cap kept my had warm and snug through a Front Crawl swim in 9 degree water (in the UK in late March) and I look forward to trying it in much colder water next winter to see if it helps me stick with FC longer through the season before I have to revert to heads up Breast Stroke to avoid the jaw freeze

I cannot comment on durability as I've only worn it once so far but looking forward to another test of it later this week. Overall I'm really pleased with it and it's certainly changed my view of caps with chin straps which I've always avoided in the past!

Would definitely recommend

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