What To Wear Kayaking | Kayak Clothing Guide

What to Wear Kayaking

Similar to almost every outdoor activity, kayaking will also require you to dress in layers. You should always know to dress according to the temperature of the water instead of the air, as if things do go awry, you will be floating in water and not in air. Makes sense

what to wear kayaking

In order to keep yourself safe and sound from the teeth chattering cold and freezing temperatures of the water, you need to dress in specific ways. Continue reading this article if you want to know about what to wear kayaking.

1. Short and full sleeve shirt

full sleeve shirt for kayaking

As we mentioned above, you should always dress in layers instead of wearing one simple bulky outfit. This way, you can get rid of the heavy item in case you feel sweaty or like you cannot move around freely.


We suggest you to layer a short sleeve t-shirt with a full sleeved one as it will give you the chance of unbuttoning your shirt if you feel too hot. The t-shirt underneath will also keep your chest covered from the chilling breezes.

2. Shell

kayak helmet with face guard

A shell or helmet is a much required item to have in your wardrobe whenever you go kayaking. Even though the chances of bumping into a rock or boulder is pretty low, you should still be well prepared in case of an emergency and keep your head safe from any kind of impact.

3. Shorts

short for kayaking

If you are kayaking under warm weather conditions, then you can clearly go for shorts instead of full pants. Make sure to always wear tight yet stretchable shorts though as it will keep your sensitive skin safe from debris and small objects floating around in the water.

Make sure to check if the shorts are abrasion resistant, as that will mean they will not tear if scratched with tree branches and rocks. However, do note that the shorts need to be of high quality and will not lead to chafing on your thighs. Refrain from investing in workout shorts or yoga shorts, as those are made of very thin materials which are prone to tearing from excessive rubbing.

4. Pants

For full pants, go for ones which come with quick drying features. Full pants provide more protection to your entire legs than shorts, however they can be quiet uncomfortable to have on during long periods of time if they are not quick drying. Nobody likes having wet pants sticking to their skin, and we are sure you are no exception to that either.

5. Dry suits

If you know you will be traveling through areas where the water is high and violent, make sure to put a dry suit on. A dry suit, also known as a wet suit, repels water off of it to some extent, thus keeping you dry for a long period of time. However, note that a dry suit is mainly worn on during cold seasons, so you might want to refrain from wearing it during summer.

kayaking drysuits

Dry suits come with a thick layer of insulating wool woven inside, therefore quickly absorbing excess water off of your body in a jiffy. This is why you should not wear a dry suit in the summer as it will make you feel too hot within an instance.

Nonetheless, if you still want to wear a wet or dry suit during the summer, we suggest you to invest into short sleeve ones that will allow you mobility and comfort without necessarily increasing the temperature too much.

You should always wear something underneath your dry or wet suit as well. If you want to layer it up with a single water proof base, you can go for a swimsuit underneath.

A swimsuit is a perfect base layer as it works to slide off the water droplets and keeps you from getting wet, whereas the dry suit will absorb the remaining moisture. These two materials work in tandem, thus ensuring you a perfectly dry and clean kayaking session.

If you are wearing a short sleeved wet or dry suit, we recommend you to cover up your arms with a rash guard, in order to keep your skin safe from the harmful UV rays of the sun and other bacteria from the water. You can easily get thick or thin rash guards from your local sports store, so purchase according to the weather preference again.

6. Sandals

It is not forbidden for kayakers to wear sandals while travelling on water, however you should not really do it for a range of reasons. For starters, a sandal or anything similar to flip flops do not really provide much safety to your feet.

You toes and feet will still be pretty exposed to the water, therefore gravels, debris and gunk from under water will latch onto your feet pretty easily. As a result, not only will you feel seriously itchy at all times, but you might also develop serious rashes along the line.

If you still want to invest into sandal or flip flops anyways, we recommend you to get yourself a pair of water and abrasion resistant socks as well. The socks will at least keep your feet safe from debris and gravels.

7. Water shoes

For better protection and comfort, get yourself a good pair of water shoes such paddling booties or water sandals. The latter is not as protective as water booties since they keep your feet exposed to the environment. This is why you should purchase high quality water boots. A lot of people go as far as sealing up the water boots from the top in order to make it completely impenetrable.

You should also get a few waterproof paddling boots in order to protect your feet even further.

8. Wide-brimmed hat

wide-brimmed hat for kayaking

Wide brimmed hats or capes will allow your head and hair to stay dry at all times. In case you cannot find wide brimmed hats, you can also look for durable and water resistant caps that come with a leash or chin strap. That will keep your head warm, while the chin strap keeps the product clinging onto your head.

9. Warm hat

kayaking warm hat

If you cannot find either of the above mentioned head gears in your local sport store, you should try looking for any sort of warm hat. A beanie or tight fitted bucket hat with good insulation and wool will keep your head warm. The plus point of a beanie is that you can find it literally anywhere, thus not constricting you to strictly sport stores.

10. Warm gloves

Warm gloves for kayaking

Similar to keeping your head safe and warm, you should also invest into gloves that will keep your hands and fingers safe from the crippling cold. Your hands will be on the paddles for the majority of the time, thus exposing them to the cold air and cold water splashes every now and then. Do yourself a favor and buy a pair of high quality warm gloves to protect those fragile fingers.

11. UV protective gloves

kayaking UV protective gloves

If you are rowing on a hot day, you might want to get a pair of UV protective gloves. UV protective gloves will keep your hands safe from being exposed to the sun and its harmful rays. The best thing about UV protective gloves is that most of them are large and flexible enough to cover your wrists as well. Therefore you do not have to worry about your arms being exposed in certain areas if you pair up UV protective gloves with rash guards.

12. Changing clothes

Changing your clothes is not exactly a necessity unless you are travelling afar and are completely drenched in cold water. Take a light weight jacket or wet suit with you if you know you might have to change into something warmer later during the day.

Try not to change inside the kayak itself as the slightest tip of balance could in fact capsize the vessel. It is better if you reach a shore and then change accordingly.

In case of not being able to find a shore, make sure to only make slight and light movements inside your kayak while changing. It might be time consuming, but at least you will stay afloat and safe.

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13. Life jacket

A must item to wear at any time of the year, always wear a life jacket when kayaking. It does not matter how hot or cold the weather is, for wearing a life jacket should be compulsory for you. You might think it to be completely safe when traveling up short distances in a kayak, however you never know when an accident might take place.

life jackets for kayaking

It is far better to be in an unfortunate circumstance with a life jacket on instead of trying to put one on in a futile attempt later on.

A life jacket is a much needed gear to have on oneself, as it not only works to keep you afloat in the water but also prevent you from going into sudden shock due to the cold.

Most people do not die in cold and freezing water because of drowning, but due to hypothermia, heart attack and lung shocks. Making it a must to wear a life jacket whenever heading into the water is one of the main safety procedures that a kayaker must abide by.

What to wear while kayaking in the summer ?

Kayaking in every season is more or less the same, however the outfit of choice tends to change depending on the weather condition.

For layering in summer, make sure to wear at least a half sleeved wet or dry suit whenever you go kayaking. A wet or dry suit is very important as it comes completely insulated with thick wool. The thick material will keep your chest (lung and heart) safe from external shock due to the cold water.

For bottoms, you can wear well insulated shorts made out of high quality fabric. For tops, you can wear either a short sleeved t-shirt, shirt or swimsuit underneath the dry or wet suit.

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If the sun is too harsh on the day you are out kayaking, put on a rash guard on your arms to keep them safe from harmful UV ray exposure. You can also invest into “pogies” which are basically slip on gloves that come attached to paddles. These are best for hot days when you need something to protect your hands without necessarily making them sweat.

Another option would be to check out UV protection gloves. These are slightly less thick than warm insulated gloves, yet do a great job in keeping your hands, fingers and wrists safe from external damage.

For hats, forego wide brimmed hats in summer and opt for caps with chin-straps instead. This kind of cap is more comfortable to have on your head when the sun is scorching hot above. It will keep your head from heating up while also allowing a good amount of air circulation.

Final thoughts

Kayaking is a fun sport, so you should also do your best in dressing for it appropriately. Dressing accordingly to the weather condition will keep you safe from freezing or feeling too hot, while also allowing you to enjoy your surroundings properly.

Make sure to wear layers instead of one heavy item, so that you can take the excess outfit off whenever you want to. Layers also allow better mobility than heavy single outfits. Putting on layers over layers also makes it easier for kayakers to change into the last outfit without necessarily having to look for a deserted place for privacy.

Hopefully you enjoyed reading this article that we summed up for you and that it proved to be quite helpful as well. Make sure to always put on a life jacket before you head out into the water. Advice your fellow kayaker to also abide by the rules in case you are not traveling solo.

Stay safe and practice kayaking smartly. Thank you for sticking around with us until the end of this lengthy article regarding what to wear while kayaking!

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