Open water swim caps keep swimmers visible to boaters and lifeguards and they conserve body heat. With a good swim cap lots of swimmers can swim in fairly cold water with no wetsuit! Swimmers from the South End Rowing Club and the Dolphin Club do it all year round in San Francisco bay where the year round water temperature is 50's to low 60's F ! Swimming across the Golden Gate and to and from Alcatraz is routine with these groups !
A popular cap with these swimmers is the "Barracuda Hothead". Its a fabric cap with inner neoprene lining. They come in black, orange and blue, the orange model is the one you want for open water swims. Open water swim caps should be visible!
Neoprene caps are worn by lots of open water swimmers. Made by Blue Seventy, De Soto and others these caps are some what loose fitting. Neither the Barracuda Hothead or the other neoprene caps will keep water out, most swimmers wear a standard cap inside them with ear plugs. Most neoprene caps are in basic black so a standard cap in a bright color should be worn over them for safety.
Pbear makes custom neoprene swim caps to your head size and offer many different color choices, The yellow - orange cap is from them.
Another inexpensive swim cap option worn by the "Alcatraz Swim Team" is the bubble crepe cap. When worn over a inner silicon or latex cap thats pulled low over the ears these actually can keep hair dry and the head warm. The chin strap is narrow and does not chafe. They can also be worn over or under a neoprene cap as they are more comfortable then the tighter thin latex caps which have to really streach to fit over neoprene caps. They are available in head sizes and lots of bright colors. Caps supplied by a tri swim event or race can also be worn outside these caps.
All these above caps have a chin strap. The bubble crepe, Pbear and Hothead straps are adjustable. The other neoprene caps have a fixed strap. Don't be tempted to cut or remove the strap. They help keep the caps in place. At any tri swim event or open water swim you will see plenty of these strap style caps worn.
English Channel and Catalina Channel swim rules for record don't allow the Hothead or any of the neoprene caps. Only a "single standard type of swim cap" may be used. The bubble crepe caps qualify if worn as a single cap and have been worn by many swimmers in both channel swims. The bubble caps have been around since the late 1930's and were first made in Germany.