Cold-water based activities can feel like strange hobbies sometimes. Those days when you’re outside shivering in the rain instead of being tucked up at home can really make you question your choices. Anything that makes the experience a little warmer and dryer has got to be good: enter the changing robe.
A surprisingly divisive piece of kit, negativity towards changing robes seemed to peak thanks to the recent frenetic growth in popularity that wild swimming has seen. But if you’ve ever experienced the joy of emerging from a cold body of water and enveloping yourself in a fleece-lined robe, then you’ll know they’re an essential piece of kit for anybody from swimmers to surfers to OCR racers to dog walkers. Then there’s the bonus of being able to protect your dignity while changing by a beach, river bank, car park or other glamorous location of your choosing.
And the be-all-and-end-all doesn’t stop with Dryrobe either. There’s no denying the brand is about as synonymous with changing robes as hoover is with vacuum cleaners, but there are loads of other great options on the market, ranging from simple towelling ponchos up to the more robust style of lined waterproof robes, which is what we’re focussing on in this review. Combining the two is perhaps the best approach though, so you can get warm straight away while keeping your robe lining dry to use as an overcoat post-activity. Here are some of our favourites.
Bleubird Nordic Robe
It makes sense that an item designed to help protect you from the elements should protect those elements from you too, and that’s exactly what Bleubird aim to do with their Nordic Robe. Their tagline of ‘changing, sustainably’ is reflected in the fact that all the fabrics in the robe are made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.
And this robe is feel-good in more ways than one with a cosy sherpa lining. The velcro tabs at the wrist open to give you a wide sleeve that’s easy to get in and out of, or put on over other layers, but give the option of tightening for further protection on wet days. And those wet days are no problem given that this robe is 100% waterproof with a heavy duty ripstop exterior.
The Nordic Robe comes in a great range of slightly more unusual shades too, like this coral one which we love, so you can bring some brightness to the beach. A nod goes to the waterproof zipped chest pocket too, handy for keeping your phone dry and ready for those post-swim snaps.
|BUY NOW: BLEUBIRD.COM|
Robie was born on the Cornish coast, when the brand’s surfer founders designed what they describe as ‘the original changing robe’, the towelling Robie. Since then they’ve launched their Dry-Series, available in both short- and long-sleeved versions.
This is another heavy duty robe. It’s probably not one you’ll be taking on a backpacking trip, but perfect for sticking in your car boot, especially as it comes with a handy mesh travel bag. The waterproof outer is made from recycled nylon with an ECO DWR coating, and has taped seams to keep you fully protected.
There are some well-thought out extra touches like the long tactic rubber puller for the zip, which is easy to navigate even with cold, wet hands (which we definitely had while testing this in February!) and a microfiber glasses pocket.
|BUY NOW: ROBIEROBES.COM|
Fourth Element Storm Poncho
The Fourth Element Storm Poncho came out as a surprise frontrunner during testing. On first look it didn’t stand out particularly, with an over-the-head design and lacking the plush fleece lining of some other robes. But the more lightweight construction makes it perfect for days you don’t want to lug a heavy robe around, and it crams a lot of features into a small package.
The waterproof outer of the Storm Poncho offers 10,000mm HH protection, with an adjustable peaked hood that you can toggle to fit. The main difference to other robes on this list is in the fleece lining though, made with S.Café® technology which embeds coffee grounds in the recycled yarn surface, to provide faster drying times, UV protection and odour resistance. It also felt much nicer against wet skin when thrown on immediately after a swim than some of the heavier-duty fleece.
This robe packs down small meaning you can throw it into your rucksack ready for anything the day throws at you. And we really do mean ‘anything’ – the popper-secured side vents meant there was even enough room for cartwheeling, we discovered!
|BUY NOW: FOURTHELEMENT.COM|
Zone3 Heat-Tech Changing Robe
Zone3 might be better known for their swimming and triathlon kit, but we were impressed by their new Heat-Tech Changing Robe. It uses the brand’s signature Heat-Tech technology, which has previously been commonly seen in their wetsuits and neoprene gloves and socks. Combined with Polar Fleece, you get a lining that helps you to control your temperature through heat regulatory properties. We definitely found it kept us warm straight out of the water, and well protected even on one particularly torrential morning thanks to the Water-Block shell and adjustable velcro straps on the sleeves.
But despite the protection it offers, this robe feels a lot less bulky than many others. Along with a breathable outer, this made it really comfortable to go for a post-swim stroll in without feeling weighed down. Zone3 might not offer the same range of colour choices etc as some other brands, but it’s definitely a robe worth considering for its functionality.
Change Robe offers waterproof robes in a range of different colours, with both short- and long-sleeved versions available, meaning there should be something for everyone. The super-soft lining is made from synthetic lamb’s wool pile, which actively aims to draw moisture from both the skin and from other fabric, a feature we definitely appreciated when putting this robe on over a wet swimming costume.
The Change Robe offers a generous fit, with the design specifically intended to be able to fit other equipment like buoyancy aids, climbing equipment and wetsuits, so ideal if you’re using it for more than just a skins swim. We did find the sleeve-opening slightly narrower than some others though (in the long-sleeve version) – not necessarily an issue, just something to be aware of.
Again, the attention to detail was there with the Change Robe, as seems to be a common theme. A free stuff stack, easy pull zipper rings and protective media pocket combined with the cosy inner and robust waterproof outer make this another great choice.
|BUY NOW: CHANGEROBE.COM|
Charlie McLeod Eco Sports Cloak
The use of recycled materials is a common thread through all the robes on this list, and Charlie McLeod’s newer Eco Sports Cloak is no exception. Approximately 110 recycled plastic bottles are used to produce each one, helping to find a use for unwanted materials and reducing the environmental impact of your gear.
The Eco Sports Cloak has the traditional make-up of thick sherpa fleece lining combined with a tough water-proof outing. The lining isn’t quite as soft as some of the other robes we tried, but still plenty cosy enough and provides good insulation to keep you warm. V vented side seems give extra movement for getting changed under, and features include a mesh goggle pocket so you don’t lose anything.
We also have to mention the rather bold print of this robe – you’ll definitely be easily spotted on the beach! There are also several different colour camo prints, as well as more subtle options and block colours. You also get a dry bag included with your purchase, to transport your robe and any other kit, which is a useful addition. Last but not least, Charlie McLeod offers custom embroidery to their robes, making this an ideal gift for your outdoors loving friend.
|BUY NOW: CHARLIEMCLEOD.COM|
Red Original Pro Change
Red started out as one of the UK pioneers in paddleboarding manufacture back in 2008 and, having growing quite considerably over the last few years, they now also specialise in everything from drinkware, backpacks, clothing and, of course, changing robes.
While they have a number of different changing robe styles, this, the Red Original Pro Change is their most technical offering. It features a waterproof but breathable outer fabric and a moisture wicking fleece liner, there’s a cinchable hood and Velcro adjustable sleeves (on the long version) and then loads of pockets too. You’ve got a zipped one on chest, two fleece-lined handwarmers and there’s a zipped valuables pocket and a dump pocket on the inside too.
There’s a nice focus on the catering for the needs of water sports enthusiasts here. For example, there are stretchy sides to allow for wiggle room when changing out of your swimsuit and the zip pulls are all designed to be easy to use even with cold fingers.
All of Red’s robes have a large volume in order to make changing inside them as easy as possible. Bear in mind that they’re also unisex and sized by height.
|BUY NOW: RED-EQUIPMENT.COM|
Northcore Beach Basha Pro
For those not aware of Northcore’s background, it’s the brand that first created those ingenious little key safe’s for securing your car keys while you’re out on the water. Water sports, therefore, has always been Northcore’s thing – but they do dabble in more general outdoor pursuits these days too.
This, the Northcore Beach Bash Pro, is a two layer design with a 100% cotton lining that forms the baselayer and then a water resistant polyester outer that you can zip together with it. If you wear them both together you get a weatherproof and warm robe for four seasons, or, on those warmer days, the lining can be worn by itself – you could even just used it as a towel.
A long zip links the two layers together and there’s further Velcro fastening at the cuffs and on the hood. On the pockets front, you just have two deep fleece-lined handwarmers.
This comes in two unisex sizes.
|BUY NOW: NORTHCORE-EUROPE.COM|