What Makes Open-Water Swimming Goggles Different

Swim Tech
Written by: Thomas Board at 24 January '22 0
You are reading: What Makes Open-Water Swimming Goggles Different

Outdoor swimming offers swimmers a connection with nature that pool swimming just cannot provide. Are you a competitive swimmer or perhaps somebody that enjoys the improved mental health that open-water swimmers often report? Or are you simply curious about the swimming experience that the great outdoors offers? Whatever your answer is to these questions, it’s imperative that you protect your eyes so you can keep on swimming. 

In this article, we will explain the basics of open-water swimming goggles and what makes them different from the pair of goggles you use in the pool. We’ll offer some tips on choosing your own along the way. Lastly, we’ll take a deep dive into the selection of open-water swimming goggles that you can find in the arena store.

What Are Open-Water Swimming Goggles?

Close-up of a swimmer in the water wearing Open water swimming goggles

Open-water swimming is more unpredictable than indoor swimming, with swimmers facing more hazards. The best open-water swimming goggles will offer a higher level of protection and, therefore, have features that you won’t usually see with indoor pool goggles

Greater Field of Vision

When swimming indoors, we tend to follow the lines beneath us as we swim in lanes, rendering our peripheral vision useless. When swimming outdoors, in events such as triathlons, we need to be constantly aware and vigilant about fellow triathletes and other hazards. The best swim goggles for open-water swimming will have curved lenses, meaning you’ll never lose sight of the space around you and other competitive swimmers

Some open-water swimming goggles can be a similar size to snorkelling swim masks and are the perfect fit for those wanting to swim casually and take it all in. However, if you are a competitive swimmer where every second counts, you may opt for smaller goggles designed with hydrodynamics in mind.

Protection From the Sun

Sunny days are a pleasure to swim in when your eyes aren’t affected. Many open-water swimming goggles offer UV protection which can prevent your eyes from becoming damaged over time. Bright light conditions can cause accidents as well, especially during Ironman-style events where you may find yourself surrounded by hundreds of other swimmers.

There are a number of different types of lenses available that offer varying levels of protection from the sun. If you decide to get your goggles from arena, all the goggles in the range offer UV protection, regardless of the lens color. 

When it comes to the tint or color of lenses, you may want to choose based on the brightness of the light conditions. Tinted lenses will help you see in brighter light conditions. A smoke lens tint will help to reduce brighter lights and glare, whereas an amber lens will reduce glare and improve your visibility. Violet or pink lenses can reduce glare in moderate light conditions. They are a good choice for swimmers that want one pair of goggles for both pool and outdoor swimming.

Mirrored lenses are commonly seen on triathlon swim goggles. They look quite intimidating and can give you an edge over your opponents. Mirror goggles also offer a reduction in brightness and glare similar to tinted lenses.

For the most high-quality image when swimming, polarized lenses are the top-tier lens choice. Polarized lenses filter light so that only vertical light waves can travel through to your eyes. This gets rid of the horizontal light waves that bounce off the surface of the water. It results in a darker yet clearer image where details are easier to see.

Anti-Fog Coating

Almost all swimming goggles these days will have some form of anti-fog coating already built in (the entire arena range includes this feature). It’s good to check online or with other swimmers to check the effectiveness of the coating. A tinted lens that’s fogged up can render you temporarily blind during a race, which could put you in all sorts of trouble.

Protection From Water

When swimming outdoors, you may not have to contend with chlorine, and there may be a temptation to follow the purists and use as little equipment as possible. But having post-swim raccoon eyes will be the least of your worries, as natural water can be full of hundreds of species of bacteria, viruses, and fungal pathogens.

Which Open-Water Swimming Goggles Are Right for You?

Man swimming wearing open water swimming goggles

Researching a product you don’t know much about can quickly lead you down an internet rabbit hole, leaving you with more questions than answers. Let’s save some time and answer those questions now.

Most open-water swimming goggles are larger than pool goggles, so you shouldn’t have to worry about your field of vision

Always go for an anti-fog lens — this is an industry standard these days — with a lens type that suits your swimming conditions. If most of your swimming happens on overcast days in murky water, a clear lens will be the best choice despite how cool mirrored lenses look. 

A comfortable fit is also a very important factor in choosing your open-water swimming goggles. If you can, try a friend’s goggles before purchasing your own. You want to make sure that the lenses are comfortable and that they won’t let any water in.

Now that you understand what to look out for, let’s take a look at the open-water swimming goggles you can get now at the arena store. Please note that what you see below is just a small selection of the open-water goggles arena has, check out the goggles section of their online store for the full range.

Cobra Core Swipe Mirror Goggle

The Cobra Core Swipe Mirror Goggles turn an age-old frustrating anti-fog problem on its head. With most anti-fog goggles, when they eventually become fogged up swimmers will swipe them with a finger to get clear lenses and keep on swimming (which we don’t recommend doing with non-swipe goggles). It may actually remove some of the thin anti-fog film from the lens, damaging them in the long term. 

But the anti-fog technology on the Cobra Core Swipe Mirror Goggles lasts 10 times longer than standard anti-fog lenses. The amazing thing is that swiping the goggles while underwater with your finger actually activates the technology.

These lenses also come with UV protection and feature interchangeable nose bridges, which provides a highly customized and more comfortable fit

The Cobra Core Swipe Mirror Goggles are a great choice for competitive swimmers that split their time between the pool and open water, as they are highly hydrodynamic and built for speed.

Cobra Tri Swipe Mirror Goggle

The Cobra Tri Swipe Mirror Goggle is the best triathlon option, as it’s been specifically developed with triathletes in mind. The unique design stops the flow of water over the lenses, allowing for optimal vision over long distances. 

These goggles also feature larger lenses, meaning your peripheral vision is improved. That’s an important addition when swimming alongside hundreds of other hungry triathletes or if you’re an open-water swimmer who prefers larger lenses.

The Cobra Tri Swipe Mirror Goggles come with an adjustable split strap and interchangeable nose bridges for the perfect fit so that you feel confident in your choice before you enter the water.

The One Mask

The One Mask is a great alternative option for the outdoor fitness swimmer. The mask offers a huge field of vision and features ergonomically designed gaskets that have been engineered to create a strong watertight seal around the eyes.

Their wide fit means you won’t find yourself with unwanted pressure on your eye sockets, giving you a more comfortable swim. This allows for a more enjoyable experience during prolonged pool and outdoor swimming sessions. These goggles will be a great companion to outdoor swimmers who frequent murkier waters, as the clear lenses allow for ample use of peripheral vision.

This mask is also great for indoor training, giving you flexibility if you aren’t solely an outdoor swimmer. 

Get Outside

Two swimmers standing on a shore

There’s a reason outdoor swimming is all the rage at the moment. It’s an experience that cannot be matched by indoor swimming, a freedom that outdoor aficionados are sure to tell you about. All you need is a swimsuit, a pair of open-water swimming goggles, and a body of water. Please make sure that you stay safe while in open water though, as there are many more risks to be aware of.

If you decide to take the plunge, do your research and talk to other swimmers. A good pair of open-water swimming goggles will last for years and should make the experience even more enjoyable. Take a look at the arena store for an impressive lineup of goggles for just about every niche — with the accessories to look after them too, such as anti-fog spray and carry cases.


Written by:

Thomas Board

Tom is an outdoor and adventure travel writer and full-time firefighter based in Leeds, UK. He spends his free time summiting the mountains of Wales and wild swimming in the lakes of Snowdonia all year round.