What To ear Kayaking

What to Wear Kayaking: Top Tips to Stay Comfortable

Starting a kayaking adventure is an exhilarating experience, but do you know what to wear kayaking to make the most of your time on the water? With many exciting outdoor activities out there, it can be difficult to learn the ins and outs of everything.

Choosing the right clothing for kayaking ensures comfort, safety, and performance. This ultimate guide will walk you through all the essentials, from warm weather to cold weather attire, footwear, and accessories, as well as dressing for special kayaking situations. Get ready to gear up and paddle with confidence!

Key Takeaways

  • This article outlines the essential clothing items for kayaking, covering materials and outfits that will ensure comfort, safety, and performance.

  • Layering with merino wool, synthetic fabrics and waterproof or water-resistant clothing is an effective way to stay warm while paddling.

  • Accessories such as hats, gloves, and eyewear are important for a safe experience. Life jackets/PFDs are essential for safety.

What to Wear Kayaking: Kayaking Clothing Essentials

A person wearing warm-weather kayaking attire, including a paddling jacket and water shoes

Selecting appropriate attire is important for comfort, safety, and performance during your kayaking adventure. The right clothing depends heavily on air and water temperatures.

Have you ever wondered why seasoned kayakers rarely wear cotton? We’ll talk about the best materials for your kayaking attire to ensure you remain comfortable, dry, and stylish on the water.

Selecting Materials for Comfort and Performance

When it comes to kayaking attire, the materials make all the difference. Quick-drying fabrics and sun-protective options are ideal. The colder the weather is, the more warm layers you should use.

You have base layers that consist of quick-dry tops and swimwear. You have mid-layers that can consist of additional wetsuits.

The outer layer, such as drysuits, gloves, and waterproof jackets, provides additional protection from the elements when you’re out on the water.

Importance of Proper Fit

I can’t stress enough the significance of well-fitting kayaking clothes. The right fit guarantees maximum flexibility, efficient insulation, and prevents water absorption. Ill-fitting clothes can lead to discomfort, limited mobility, and even heighten the risk of injury.

Properly fitting clothes not only allows for proper movement but also helps maintain body temperature and shields against cold water and wind.

Before you go on your kayaking journey, make sure to invest in kayaking clothes that fit well and provide the necessary support and protection.

Warm Weather Kayaking Attire

A person wearing a hat, sunglasses, and a long-sleeved shirt for sun protection while kayaking

When the sun is shining, and the water is inviting, it’s time for some warm-weather kayaking. But how do you stay comfortable and protected while enjoying the great outdoors during hot weather? The key is to choose clothing that offers sun protection and breathability.

We will discuss the optimal clothing options for warm-weather kayaking in this section.

Sun Protection Tips

When kayaking in warm weather, it’s important to shield yourself from the harmful UV rays of the sun. The right clothing and accessories can shield you from sunburn and other skin damage. Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rated clothing and plenty of sunscreen are highly recommended for sun protection while kayaking.

But don’t forget about your face! Water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, like Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch SPF 55 or Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen SPF 50+, can provide excellent protection.

Breathable and Lightweight Clothing

An image of a person wearing breathable and lightweight clothing suitable for kayaking, including a what-to-wear kayaking guide.

Keeping cool and comfortable is important while kayaking in warm weather. Lightweight and breathable clothing made from wicking, quick-drying nylon or polyester is your best bet. These fabrics help wick away sweat and moisture, ensuring your comfort and dryness during your kayaking adventure.

Top Outdoor Companies to Consider:

  • Arc’teryx

  • KUHL

  • Black Diamond

  • HOKA

  • La Sportiva

  • Osprey

  • Kokatat

  • Sweet Protection

  • Astral

  • Immersion Research

  • Thule for kayak racks

These companies offer a wide range of breathable and lightweight kayaking/canoeing apparel to choose from. You should be able to find yoga pants, jackets, protective gear, etc.

Between these companies, you should be able to find the right gear that is perfect for enjoying the warm water in style!

Cold Weather Kayaking Attire

A person wearing a dry suit and other cold-weather kayaking attire, including a waterproof jacket and neoprene socks

As temperatures drop, staying warm and dry becomes a priority for kayakers. But how do you ensure you’re prepared for cold weather kayaking? From layering techniques to choosing between wetsuits and drysuits, we’ve got you covered.

In this next section, we will talk about the essentials of cold-weather kayaking attire to prepare you for your next chilly paddling journey.

Layering for Warmth

Maintaining warmth and comfort while kayaking in the cold is best achieved through layering. Wearing multiple layers creates pockets of air that act as insulation, helping to keep your body warm by preventing heat loss and blocking out cold air.

Merino wool and synthetic fabrics, such as fleece, are excellent choices for base layers, offering warmth and moisture-wicking properties.

For the middle layer, consider wearing a quality wool or fleece base layer, and waterproof or water-resistant pants.

Remember, layering allows you to adjust your clothing based on activity level and changing weather conditions. So, when you’re out on the water, you can easily add or remove layers to stay comfortable and warm.

Wetsuits vs. Drysuits

A person wearing multiple layers of clothing for warmth while kayaking

It can be challenging to choose between a wetsuit and a drysuit for cold-weather kayaking. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Wetsuits are designed to keep you warm when submerged in water.

  • Drysuits provide insulation and keep you completely dry.

  • Wetsuits tend to be less expensive and more resistant to rough treatment.

  • Drysuits might not keep you as dry or warm in colder water temperatures.

On the other hand, drysuits are designed for extreme cold conditions and can be used in very low temperatures, but they can be cumbersome and less comfortable in warm weather.

Ultimately, the choice between a wet suit and a drysuit depends on the weather conditions and your personal preferences. Whichever option you choose, make sure to layer appropriately and stay safe on the water.

Footwear and Accessories for Kayaking

Now that we’ve covered clothing, let’s talk about footwear and accessories. Here are some essential items for a comfortable and safe kayaking experience:

  • Shoes

  • Hats

  • Gloves

  • Eyewear

We will guide you through essential footwear and accessories in this section, providing tips to choose the best options for your kayaking journeys.

Choosing the Right Shoes

Water shoes

Having the right shoes can significantly enhance your kayaking experience. They provide protection and stability. They prevent bruising and scratching of the feet and make shore entries less painful.

Neoprene and quick-drying fabrics are the best materials for kayak shoes.

When selecting kayaking shoes, follow these steps:

  1. Measure your feet and compare them with the manufacturer’s size chart. Opt for a size larger for optimal comfort.

  2. Try on the shoes in person to ensure the correct fit.

  3. Remember, the right footwear can significantly enhance your kayaking experience.

Hats, Gloves, and Eyewear

Hats, gloves, and eyewear play an important role in your kayaking experience. A suitable hat made from breathable and wicking materials, such as nylon or polyester, can help maintain a cool and dry environment while protecting you from the sun.

Quality waterproof gloves are essential for protecting your hands while kayaking and ensuring a firm grip on the paddle when wet.

When it comes to eyewear, make sure to invest in a good pair of sunglasses that provide UV protection and reduce glare. With the right accessories, your kayaking adventure will be both enjoyable and safe.

Life Jackets and Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

A life jacket being held by a person

Prioritizing your safety during kayaking is important, which includes wearing a life jacket or Personal Flotation Device (PFD). A PFD not only provides buoyancy and reduces the risk of drowning but also preserves core body temperature by providing insulation.

Make sure that the PFD you choose is comfortable and does not restrict your range of motion. An inflatable PFD that gets triggered when submerged is not recommended for kayaking.

Dressing for Special Kayaking Situations

A person wearing a life jacket while kayaking

Sometimes, kayaking adventures call for unique attire. From nighttime kayaking to navigating difficult environments like whitewater and sea kayaking, you’ll need to adapt your clothing choices to suit the situation.

This section will guide you on how to dress for unique kayaking situations, enhancing your confidence and style while paddling.

Nighttime Kayaking

A person wearing a dry suit and other nighttime kayaking attire, including a waterproof jacket and neoprene socks

Dressing aptly for warmth and safety is important, given the challenges of nighttime kayaking. Here are some recommendations for what to wear:

  • Long-sleeve base layer or rashguard top for warmth and sun protection

  • Waterproof pants or shorts

  • Wetsuit or dry/semi-dry suit for added warmth, depending on the conditions

When kayaking at night, make sure to equip yourself with the following:

  • Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

  • Emergency light

  • Kayak lights

  • Paddling jacket or wetsuit

  • Whistle

  • Backup paddle

And don’t forget to wear a head torch, like the Illumarine H2B, for added visibility and safety.

Whitewater and Sea Kayaking

A man kayaking it whitewaters

When dressing for whitewater kayaking, consider wearing lightweight, quick-drying pants or synthetic leggings, a fitted sun shirt, and a brimmed cap and sunglasses for sun protection.

For sea kayaking, it’s important to dress for the water temperature rather than the air temperature, which may include wearing a wetsuit or dry suit.

Layering is also important for regulating body temperature, and avoiding cotton clothing is a must. By dressing appropriately for these challenging environments, you’ll be well-prepared for an unforgettable kayaking experience.


Dressing appropriately for kayaking is important for comfort, safety, and performance. From warm to cold weather attire, footwear, and accessories, to special kayaking situations like nighttime and whitewater adventures, this guide has given you the knowledge you need to gear up and tackle the water with confidence. So, suit up, paddle on, and make the most of your kayaking experience!

Frequently Asked Questions

What should a beginner wear when kayaking?

When kayaking, you should wear a synthetic shirt and pants, a fleece jacket, a waterproof jacket, a hat, gloves, water shoes, and insect repellent. Opt for wicking, quick-drying fabrics such as nylon or polyester, or wool if available. Layer up with a waterproof jacket and leggings/shorts, depending on the weather.

Should I wear a bathing suit kayaking?

It is up to you what you wear while kayaking in the summer, but if you do choose to go in just your bathing suit, remember to apply sunscreen regularly.

What materials should I choose for kayaking clothes?

For kayaking, opt for quick-drying and sun-protective materials such as nylon or polyester.

How do I layer clothing for cold weather kayaking?

To keep yourself warm while kayaking in cold weather, dress in layers, beginning with a base layer of merino wool or synthetic fabric, adding an insulating middle layer, and finishing with a waterproof outer layer.

What is the difference between a wetsuit and a drysuit?

A wetsuit provides warmth when submerged in water, while a drysuit seals you in to keep you completely dry.

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