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(The Gear Loop) - Do you feel the cold when you exit the water? Or do you simply need a handy item of clothing to protect your modesty when changing at the pool or down at the beach? Enter the changing robe. A truly versatile piece of kit that can simultaneously keep you warm, help you get dry and protect you from impromptu moments of public nudity.

What was once a makeshift piece of towelling with an elasticated neck (allowing the user privacy to get changed in a public place in relative "private") has now morphed into something a lot more sophisticated.

VoitedThe best changing robes for men and women: lifestyle photo 5

While the relatively basic towelling versions are still available - and much loved, not least by The Gear Loop team - the top-end changing robes now work well as a dry bag, storm shelter, towel, beanie and 3/4-length waterproof and insulated jacket… all rolled in to one. It's no wonder you're starting to see them being worn on the morning dog walk, as well as at your local water sports hotspot.

Helped by Britain’s recent collective urge to get outside, explore coasts and waterways and generally jump on a board, this new must-have piece of outdoor kit is really coming into its own and we thought it was high time we took a look at the best changing robes on the market.

The best changing robes for men and women

DryRobeThe best changing robes for men and women: product photo 1

DryRobe Advance Longsleeve

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For

  • Year-round use
  • Extra long
  • Multiple deep fleece-lined pockets
  • Great colour options

Against

  • Top of the price range
  • Comes up big

Big enough to get out of your wetsuit beneath, it’s easy to see that DryRobe was founded by a surfer in Devon, for surfers, and this latest incarnation is devised for multiple uses throughout the day over wet kit.

The synthetic lambswool inner lining draws water away from the skin. There’s a handy two-way waterproof zip chest pocket as well as fleece-lined external zip pockets and a massive A4-sized internal pocket.

The DryRobe guys have taken care to use recycled materials, and used an eco-friendly Bionic-Finish Eco water-repellent technology for the outer, so the robe is waterproof, windproof, breathable, wicking and damned warm. This piece of kit is epic, unless you’re short, where it does feel large. So best give it a try first.

Passenger ClothingThe best changing robes for men and women: product photo 2

Passenger Escapism recycled towel-lined changing robe

For

  • Light, thin and easy to carry
  • Well priced
  • Stash bag included

Against

  • Summer/shoulder season use
  • Size up for extra changing room
  • Too much logo?

This is a cross between a towelling changing robe the kind of the all-weather robes we’ve featured above. Passenger is a small company specialising in sustainable manufacturing (they plant a tree with every purchase, too) from the south coast. 

The Escapism works well as a halfway house - more protection than towelling, less hefty to lug around if you need to walk or cycle far to the beach. It’s not going to keep you super warm during the winter, but it’s not designed for that. 

It comes in five sizes, and two colours, with a very large Passenger logo on the back and a smaller one on the chest,  although it’s not a widely known name, some of us don’t like such conspicuous branding. 

The liner is fashioned from micro-fibre towelling, with the hood and sleeves lined with fleece. It’s made out of recycled single-use plastic bottles, recycling polyester lining and they’ve used a PFC-free DWR (water-repellent coating). Top marks from us.

£110 | Buy direct from Passenger Clothing

Red Paddle Co.The best changing robes for men and women: product photo 3

Red Evo Robe

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For

  • Really roomy, with stretchy side panels
  • Waterproof, windproof and breathable
  • Men’s and women’s available, in three sizes each
  • Super warm 

Against

  • Hand wash only
  • Too much for hot days?

It’s hard to fault this robe and that’s good job too, considering its lofty pricing. But if you’re after a storm shelter-cum-changing robe, this is the one. 

Red claims the robe is the lightest on the market in its class and we’re not going to argue, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it doesn’t pack down particularly small.

That said, the little details are great: large zip toggles for ease of use with cold hands, a panel over the zip poppers up to keep the wind out, the length (to the knee) is perfect, the hood slips easily on and off even when front zip is done right up, and there are a couple of inner pockets (one with a zip for valuables) as well as three good outer pockets. 

The brushed fleece lining is moisture-wicking and works well when you get out of the sea dripping wet - we were warm in no time without the need for a separate towel - but the hand wash only care instruction is annoying, because sea water and sunscreen are degrading and we like to wash our stuff off to improve longevity. Unfortunately, this is way too large for the kitchen sink.

VoitedThe best changing robes for men and women: product photo 4

Voited Changewear DryCoat

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For

  • Big and roomy
  • Available in five different sizes 
  • Great pockets
  • Sustainably made

Against   

  • Dull colour options

Voited has paid real attention to making this as sustainably as possible, using 94 recycled bottles, Teflon EcoElite (the first renewably sourced, plant-based, non-fluorinated fabric treatment for durable water repellence) and the insulation is 100 per cent recycled polyester yarn. We like all this, a lot.

If you like brights, this isn’t the robe for you. It comes in black, navy or a dull grey pattern, but it’s no biggie considering the upsides. 

There are hand-warming pockets on the front - with zips for valuables - as well oversized stash pockets, and a zipped number inside. The zips all have big toggles on them for easy use with cold hands. 

It’s super warm, as there’s an insulation panel that runs along the the back, while the lining is made from a mix of microfleece and polar fleece, with a padded hood, too. Machine washable on a low temperature setting also gets a big tick from us.

RapanuiThe best changing robes for men and women: product photo 5

Rapanui Organic Cotton Surf Towel

For

  • Simple, lightweight
  • Bung it in the washing machine
  • Available in loads of great colours
  • Doubles as a beach towel

Against

  • Neither water nor windproof
  • Not the robe for cold days
  • Short on pockets

If you’re looking for a simple, towelling robe that doubles as a beach towel - and one that you can happily wear pottering along the sand to the ice cream shop - this is the one. 

Rapanui is a small company from the Isle of Wight and its organic cotton products are all made and printed in the UK in a factory powered with renewable energy. 

Its surf towels/changing robes (there are men’s versions available, too) are made from thick, absorbent towelling that is oh-so soft and comes in myriad colourways. It’s not a technical piece of kit - there’s only one front pocket - but it’s not designed to be. 

There’s plenty of room for changing into your swimming costume (with arm holes that are easy to get in and out of) and it is long enough for decency however much wriggling you’re doing beneath. 

The snuggly hood pulls on post-swim/surf, helping to keep you warm enough on summer days, but unlike the bigger more techie changing robes, this is not the one for cold weather. It’s also cheap as beach-based chips.

£50 | Buy from Rapanui

RapanuiThe best changing robes for men and women: lifestyle photo 4

What to look for in a changing robe

Material and build

It hardly seems fair comparing towelling robes to ultra-technical changing robes in a buyer’s guide like this, but they’re worth putting together for the simple reason that they fulfil different roles - and there’s a place for both. 

The all-season, waterproof, windproof robes will probably live in your car and they’re not just for water sports,  as we’ve used them on the sidelines waiting for a match to start, watching said match and getting in the car wet, muddy and tired after mountain biking. 

They are just the ticket and once you’ve got one in your kit stash, you won’t look back. But the smaller towelling robes definitely have a place, as they pack down into a much neater package and are brilliant for summer beach trips, so don’t overlook simplicity.

Pack size and weight

As discussed above, some change/dry robes are enormous, and won’t be going in your weekend away bag. You need space for the big boys, though they all compress down. 

On that note, while some brands ask you to buy an extra stash bag, we’d suggest holding off on that — they might fit in a camping stash bag you already have, or they might never get put away. We reckon they’re more likely to live in your car or van or hang in your hallway rather than under the bed with your summer clothes. 

Sizing

The one problem with these over-sized robes is that if you’re below average height, you’ll be swamped even in the smaller models. Our (female) tester for this piece is 5ft 6in and a UK size 10 and found the DryRobe to be quite large. Great when you need a tent on the beach and for changing in, but not so great when walking around. Plus, it’s extra fabric to wash and store. So opt for a size down if you do want to wear one out regularly, or stick tru to size if you like the added material for modesty.

It's also worth pointing out that the different brands opt for different jacket lengths and styles. A Voited poncho is going to be much shorter than a full length DryRobe, for example. So check the dimensions.

Writing by Abigail Butcher. Editing by Leon Poultney.