What do you need to think about when buying a swimming cap? Firstly, consider about what you’ll be using it for. Is it to protect your hair from chlorine, while keeping it as dry as possible?

Or are you looking for something super-tight and streamlined to help you swim faster in the pool? Or does the pool you take your kids to insist they wear a swim hat, so you just want something that’s comfy and good value.

There are different swimming cap styles to cater to all these needs; there are even thermal, neoprene hats to keep your head warm if you’re cold-water swimming in the sea or lakes in winter.

Most performance swim hats are made with silicone, making them stretchy enough to work for all head sizes, though if you have long hair with lots of volume, you should look for a specifically designed extra large cap, so it won’t slip back or fall off when you push off from the wall.

It’s also worth thinking about how vigorously you plan to swim, as gentle breaststroke will require a less fitted hat than fast front crawl or butterfly, especially if you’re doing racing dives or forceful tumble turns. We’ve included a mix of brands and some children’s options too. The hats were tested in a leisure centre swimming pool.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Speedo plain moulded silicone cap: £7.20, Speedo

We were impressed with this cap from Speedo. It was stretchy enough to get on and off easily, and when on it held in place really well during fast swimming, including tumble turns and racing dives. It felt really comfortable to wear, didn’t snag our hair and held up in repeated sessions without remotely losing its original shape. The fabric felt thick and durable, as if the hat would last a long time. And we liked the bright colour, which would provide extra visibility during summer sea swimming. It’s also available in a range of other colours.

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Vorgee super flex silicone cap for adults: £6, Simply Swim

The super flex cap from Aussie swim brand Vorgee is especially designed for swimmers with longer hair, and it promises to keep your hair dry and protected from chlorine. Our tester with long hair did find it kept some of their hair dry on top, though the sides and back still got wet, perhaps that was due to faster front crawl swimming and maybe if you stuck to breaststroke, your hair would stay dry. The cap was comfy and felt like it was good value for money. It’s also available in blue, black, pink and red.

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Zoggs DC super heroes junior Batman 3D silicone swim cap for kids: £9, Zoggs

Our six-year-old tester got very excited over this Batman swimming cap from Zoggs. It was a tight fit and not that easy to get on or off, especially compared to the softer fabric style that young kids are usually used to, but once it was on they were super happy with it. Especially the pointy bat ears, which they kept proudly touching. The cap held in place really well during swimming, both lessons and playtime, and was compatible with goggles. It felt like a hat that would motivate even the most reluctant young swimmers into the water. The range includes Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Superman caps.

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Soul Cap extra-large swimming cap: £16.99, Amazon

If you have dreadlocks, extensions, an afro or just really long hair, wearing a regular swimming hat can be a pain – even if you do manage to stretch it to fit, it will probably rise up the first time you push off the wall. Soul Cap has been designed with extra fabric to avoid that happening. And we found it did a really good job, holding in place well even with diving, faster swimming and strong pushing off from the side.

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Michael Phelps Race Cap: £9.99, Swiminn

As you might expect from a cap that name checks the world’s greatest ever swimming Olympian, the Michael Phelps cap is designed for racing, keeping your head as streamlined and therefore speedy as possible in the pool. Consequently, it was tighter than the other caps on test and slighter harder to get on and off, though we didn’t find it a massive problem; it stayed in place perfectly while we swam and dived in. This is best suited to swimmers with shorter hair.

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Orca thermal neoprene swimcap for adults: £35, Orca

One of the worst things about cold water swimming, even in a wetsuit, is the brain freeze you get when you dive under the water. But this swim hat from triathlon brand Orca puts paid to that as it’s made from neoprene, the material used for wetsuits, to a thickness of 3mm. We found it kept our head really warm, and it was comfy to wear, though we did need to mess around with the chin strap to get the tightness right initially. Orca does a version without a chin strap if you’re worried about that, though the strap would do a good job of keeping the cap in place if you were swimming in choppy seas. Available in sizes S/M and L/XL.

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Nabaiji mesh plain swim cap for adults: £1.99, Decathlon

This is a great value hat from Nabaiji, Decathlon’s swimwear brand. It’s comfortable to wear and doesn’t stick to your hair, but it is a smallish fit, so it wouldn’t be a great choice for those with larger heads or lots of hair. It stayed in place relatively well and would be good for keeping hair out of your eyes, but as it's made of fabric your hair does get wet, so we wouldn’t recommend it for those who want to keep their hair as dry as possible. Fabric caps will lose their stretch over time, too. This is also available in pink, black and navy.

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Aqua Sphere classic silicone swim cap: £6.29, Amazon

We liked this cap from Aqua Sphere, finding it stretchy and comfortable to swim in, even for longer sessions, when some hats can start to push a little on your head. It was easy to get on and off, didn’t snag our hair and it felt like a decent quality product for the price.

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Beco petal camp for adults: £18, Simply Swim

“That looks like something the Queen would wear,” one of our young testers noted when we put this on at the pool, and it definitely has more of a vintage fashion style than the usual sporty, streamlined caps on sale. We thought this would be more suited to sedate breaststroke lengths than hammering up and down the pool, yet it did stay put surprisingly well for faster swimming, and only moved a little with more vigorous dives. It’s available in different colourways.

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Nabaiji silicon form unicorn swim cap for kids: £3.49, Decathalon

Like many children at the moment, our young tester is mad for unicorns, and they greeted this hat from Nabaiji with glee. It wasn’t as tight as some silicone caps, but it was a lot harder to put on than a fabric cap would be, though our tester found it comfy to wear once it was on. It kept their hair drier than a fabric cap, but water did get in around the ears and hairline. It’s also available in blue.

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The verdict: Swimming caps

We rated the Speedo plain moulded silicone cap most highly for adults, as it was really stretchy and comfy to wear, and it felt durable. For kids, we would recommend the Zoggs superhero series.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.