One universal truth of being a lifeguard is that the job has its rewards! Guards can spend their summers watching their water under the warm sun. However, once the summer is over parks can get a bit chilly making it harder for guards to stay alert. That’s why it is up to management to make sure that guards are dressed in attire suitable for cooler weather.
Here at Water Safety Products we have over 25 years of experience selling lifeguard uniforms, apparel, swimsuits and equipment, and get questions every winter about how to keep lifeguards from losing their heat. We’ve combined our knowledge with that of a handful of waterparks from around the world to help you learn more about What lifeguards wear in the winter.
Appropriate headwear is an essential key to staying warm for winter guards. Indoor water parks don’t require hats as frequently, as their temperatures are more consistent (generally in the mid-80s). However, guards can become chilled from lack of activity while on station, and sometimes need to venture out into the cold, making something warmer necessary. We’ve heard from some of our indoor customers that this case makes headwear an excellent incentive/ gift for the guards. Even if your climate is outdoors and usually warmer in the winter, your facility can use winter lifeguard headwear in darker, cooler areas of the park. Heavier lifeguard headwear such as knit caps and headbands provide an excellent solution for cold outdoor conditions.
We have heard some other interesting alternatives to winter headwear, most coming from central Florida parks and beaches. For example, some guards prefer to layer up using a Moisture Wicking Head Band under their standard uniform hat. This can be an effective way to add flexible and adjustable warmth to your already existing lifeguard hat or visor. One suggestion that impressed us was a knit beanie with a brim, which provides the perfect combination of warmth and sun protection for the lifeguard. In fact, we liked the idea so much that we have added it to our online lifeguard store!
Lifeguard uniform tops such as shirts and jackets are the most fundamental piece of the winter uniform. This is traditionally the part of the uniform in which parks invest the most. When the lifeguard is working in a wet and cold environment, it is vital that the chest be kept warm. All winter operational waterparks, facilities, and beaches use varying combinations of lifeguard uniform apparel such as moisture-wicking shirts, rash guards, lifeguard hoodies, sweat pants, nylon track jackets, or rain jackets. There really isn’t one simple answer for which is best, but the general rule of thumb is to give your guards options for layering. Combine these options with your summer uniform for the ultimate success in keeping your guards warm.
One of the most universal tops for a lifeguard is a cotton staff tee shirt. This classic style is a great choice at a great price, but there is a more effective modern alternative: moisture-wicking “tech” shirts made of 100% polyester. Investing in this type of splash-resistant clothing with SPF protection allows water to bead off the lifeguard’s shirt. In the summer it provides the benefits of moisture wicking and sun protection; and dry warmth in the winter. It is also suggested as an alternative for swim instructors, as opposed to Lycra based rashguards, which can lose their elasticity with frequent use in chemically treated water.
If you are looking for something more form fitting, rash guards provide warmth as well as sun protection. Thicker vs. thinner versions will keep body temperatures up, and like wet suits, there is a measurable difference. The thicker the rash guard fabric, the more warmth it will provide. On another note, pool chemicals eat away at the Lycra material that gives rash guards their stretch. Staff members who spend much of their time in the water, such as shallow water pool guards, swim instructors, and photographers, will experience a shorter life span of their rash guards due to the greater frequency of exposure to chemically-treated water. Plain and simple – machine wash and dry your rash guard frequently to give it longer life.
A long-time favorite throughout the industry during the winter months is hooded sweatshirts and pants. Excellent for added warmth, they are easy on and off, and they meet a lower price point for winter wear. However, once they get wet, they stay wet. If you have a little more to spend, nylon jackets will be more effective in keeping the guard dry and warm. Heavier duty Jackets with fleece liners, waterproof membranes, or down or synthetic fill are also used by lifeguards, but will come at a higher cost than sweatshirts or windbreakers.
There has been much discussion as to what lifeguards wear on their upper torsos, but what about the bottom? If you have an answer let us know, because there isn’t much other than board shorts, sweatpants, and windbreaker pants out there. Some parks in Dubai allow their lifeguards to wear longer leggings as a solution for sun protection and added warmth during the winter. In a similar fashion, some beach guards wear fitted spandex athletic pants to stay warm rather than swim trunks and swim suits, and they find that swimming in them is much easier and warmer than the alternatives. One of the indoor water parks we spoke to mentioned that their lifeguards like to wear athletic Under Armor-like compression shorts under their board shorts/bathing suits. This could be an excellent solution to keeping your lifeguards warm if the longer version doesn’t meet your uniform guidelines.
In general, lifeguard uniform buyers struggle to find the appropriate footwear for their guards for a number of reasons. It’s difficult to find something that is waterproof, swim-friendly, slide-friendly, comfortable, and durable. Winter only makes this more difficult because cold and wet shoes can be a real bummer. Guards in indoor parks in the Midwest USA end up bringing luggage to work to store their heavy winter wear because they have to walk through actual snow to get to work! Talk about cold toes!
A unique footwear solution we have heard of came from a facility in central Florida – Rain boots! The winters in Florida can be very unpredictable; one day it’s 80 degrees and sunny, the next it’s 40 and windy. Guards working in shaded slide dispatch points were getting cold feet in the water, so they began to wear rain boots to stay dry. This proved to be an effective solution, and as guards encouraged each other to go out and buy a pair, more guards started wearing them in other locations.
As that rain boots are not the most agile footwear on the market, we asked management if they were concerned with guards having the ability to make a rescue while wearing such bulky shoes. They explained that guards primarily wear them during rotations, and in small water pools, but must remove them when on stand. We suggest providing guards with a thin amphibious lifeguard shoe that can easily move in and out of the boot with ease such as the Water Shoe.
Other Winter Items
Other ways to keep lifeguards warm in the winter range from ponchos/ rain coats in children’s play areas to 2mm wet suit tops in lazy rivers and catch pools. A unique product we love here at Water Safety Products is the Pack ‘n Go Pullover Jacket, a 100% nylon shell pullover that can be quickly rolled up into a small self-containing pack. A park at one of the hottest places in the world, Dubai, even allows their lifeguards to wear wetsuits while working cleaning pools in the morning, or at FlowRider surfing attractions. A very interesting product we have to share is a wetsuit/rash guard hybrid, such as the Victory Kill the Chill Short Sleeve Neo Jacket with a wetsuit chest and back, and rash guard arms!
Unique (warm) Services
Keeping your lifeguards warm in the winter isn’t always about buying the best uniform. Sometimes going the extra mile to make your staff smile will help. For example, some water parks that are attached to hotels have easy access to clothes dryers and will dry a lifeguard’s clothing for them if they get wet. Who wouldn’t love to get back a toasty jacket fresh out of the dryer? However, not all parks have access to a dryer, so managers give their guards a chance to change, either by bringing them something warmer or covering for them on stand while they freshen up in the locker rooms. Giving your lifeguards a chance to grab a delicious warm drink such as hot chocolate, tea, or coffee would be the icing on the cake!
As you can see, there are various ways to combat the cold in wet environments. Although there is no perfect one size fits all solution to keeping your lifeguards warm, we hope this article and our industry friends have some solutions you can utilize in your own facility. Feel free to browse through our online store for lifeguards to check out our equipment, uniforms, and accessories. Also feel free to call us at 1-800-987-7238 (ext. 4) or email us at email@example.com to give us feedback with regard to winter uniforms, or with any product inquiries you may have.
Thanks for reading, and keep your eye out for more lifeguard uniform articles. Happy, safe holidays! Keeping you warm, from Water Safety Product!
Fun fact: Did you know there are many winter operational water parks all over the world? You can find them in places like Central Florida, Indoor parks in the USA, United Arab Emirates, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Brazil, and more!