What To Wear When Kayaking


Preparing for a kayaking trip does not only involve acquiring the right equipment, taking up lessons, or selecting the ideal spot; you need to know what to wear too. Just like the rest of the gear, your kayaking outfit will have a huge impact on how much fun you’ll have on the water. 

But deciding what to wear kayaking can be an overwhelming task, especially if you are a beginner paddler. The secret? Go for safety and comfort, and do a little research about the weather and water temperature.  

To show you the way, we have put together some tips for choosing the right clothing for kayaking in both warm and cold conditions. Read on!

What To Wear Kayaking In Warm Conditions


If you will be kayaking in hot weather, then your day’s attire should be something both comfortable and lightweight so you won’t get sweaty. Here is what to wear kayaking in summer:

1. Swimsuit

A swimsuit is always a great idea when paddling in warm weather. It is comfortable, lightweight, and doesn’t get too bulky when you take a dip into the water. 

Keep in mind, however, that how comfy your swimwear is will depend on the material it is made of. The best fabric for a swimsuit or any other layer that touches your skin is nylon or polyester. These wick moisture and dry quickly unlike cotton that absorbs moisture and takes ages to dry.  

2. Sun Protective Clothing

If you’re concerned about being exposed to the sun, you can get a lightweight, long sleeve shirt, or a rash guard that will protect your skin from the UV rays. Like swimsuits, go for clothes that dry quickly. 

But before you do any sun-protective clothing, apply a considerable layer of sunscreen on your skin. Whether you’re in cold or hot water, you need to make sure you always have some on to protect your skin from burns.

You will want to top things up with a pair of polarized sunglasses.  The sun will reflect off of the water, and the ultraviolet rays will damage your eyes after being out in it for too long. Just make sure your sunnies have a retainer strap; you don’t want them to fall off and get lost in the water.

Similar to sunglasses, some people find sun hats an important part of kayak clothing.  They too are a great way to block out the sun. If you choose to bring one, make sure it’s secured on your head so you don’t lose it to the wind.

3. Water Shoes

While they are not the first thing you think of when deciding what to wear for kayaking, water shoes are essential. You’ll want a pair that is both comfortable and waterproof, which can be fastened to your foot to avoid slipping or falling off. Losing a shoe when kayaking is not one of the best experiences, so it’s important to make sure you are not wearing anything that can easily fall off your foot. 

What To Wear Kayaking In Cold Conditions

Things can get ugly pretty quickly when kayaking in cold conditions, so it’s important to come prepared. Unexpected situations like capsizing in cold water can cause breathing problems, hypothermia, and heart shocks, so be sure to pick the right clothing to wear kayaking in cold conditions. Here is what to wear kayaking in fall or extremely cold conditions. 

1. Wetsuits and Dry Suits

One of the best ways to protect yourself in cold water is by wearing a wetsuit or drysuit A dry suit will keep you completely dry, should you fall into the water. A kayak wetsuit has a thin layer between your skin and the suit that allows a small amount of water to seep in. Your body heats this water to keep you warm.  Drysuits are a relatively better cold-weather kayaking gear since you don’t get shocked by cold water if you unexpectedly fall in. 

2. Thermal Layers

If your wetsuit is long-sleeved, then it’s not really necessary to add more layers. However, if you have a short-sleeve wetsuit, then you’ll probably need an additional base layer that will keep you dry. Don’t use anything cotton as a base coat; it’ll just absorb water and won’t dry quickly.

A warm pair of socks is also ideal and while at it, go for neoprene socks and booties. These synthetic materials will dry quickly if your feet get wet. Wool socks also work as well, but they will hold water more than any kind of synthetic material will.

3. Waterproof Outerwear

Waterproof jackets are essential in cold water kayaking! If a jacket isn’t enough, you can also wear a layer of fleece underneath for extra warmth.

A pair of waterproof shoes is important too, especially if you’re using a sit-on-top kayak where water is likely to splash in. Rubber rain boots or specially-made paddling shoes would be great ideas.

Don’t forget your hands; you will need them protected from the cold or blisters caused by the repetitive motion of paddling, so bring a nice pair of waterproof kayaking gloves as well. 

Additional Tips For Kayaking Apparel

1. Layer Up

While you can plan your trip around the weather, keep in mind that Mother Nature is unpredictable, so come prepared for anything. Do your kayak clothing in light layers so you can easily take them off or put them on if the weather around you changes.

2. Bring Spare Clothing

Anytime you go kayaking, you should always have a bag of extra clothes just in case the ones you are in getting soggy. This is especially important if you’re going on a multi-day trip. 

If possible, pack waterproof kayaking outfits. These are ideal for kayaking trips since you’ll spend so much time on the water. Plus they will keep you warm at night! Make sure to store all your extra clothes in a dry bag to keep them water-free.

3. Pack A Life Jacket (Always)

A life jacket is yet another important kayaking apparel you don’t want to leave behind when you head out on the water; it will help keep you from drowning. A few different types of life jackets work well with kayaking; you can get one of these that float automatically or those that require inflating. 

If you go for inflated jackets, decide whether you want the type that is manually or automatically inflated. The manual life jackets require you to pull a cord to inflate while the automatic ones inflate as soon as they touch the water.

While at it, make sure your jacket fits snuggly. There’s no point in wearing one if it is not appropriately sized. One that’s too loose won’t help you if you capsize, and one that’s too tight won’t allow you to move your body freely when paddling. Kayaking life jackets have larger arm openings to allow for proper paddle movements.

Your life jacket should fit you comfortably and not slip up your shoulders. Make sure to adjust it when you sit in the kayak, as it will probably be pushed up, causing you discomfort while paddling.  Importantly, test your life jacket before actually leaving the shore.  You can sit on the ground and go through the kayaking motions to make sure you’ll be secure, safe, and comfortable in the jacket once you leave the shore.

Having someone else help you test the fit of your life jacket before you buy one is a great way to make sure it fits right. If the life jacket is fastened as tight as it can go and it’s still rising you need to downsize. Similarly, if you feel like you can’t breathe in your jacket, you’ll need to get a bigger one. 

Apart from finding the perfect size, make sure your jacket has a pocket where you can stash some of your kayaking essentials. Kayak specific life jackets will typically come with pockets and zippers, which are great for storing small items when you’re on the water. 

For example, keeping sunscreen stored with you is a great idea since you’ll need to reapply while on the water. You want your chapstick to stay close too especially if you’ll be in cold waters. Wind can easily cause your lips to get chapped, making your kayaking trip uncomfortable.

Pockets are also handy for emergency items such as flares or whistles. While exploring nature can be beautiful, you have to realize the potential for mishaps to occur and prepare accordingly. Keeping your flares and whistles close will make it easier for you to signal for help if you find yourself in a dangerous situation.

Globo Surf Overview 

Knowing what to wear when kayaking is important for both your comfort and safety. And now that you’ve gone through this guide, we believe you know a lot more about how to pick your attire.  

Make sure to put weather conditions and water temperature into consideration when deciding what to wear kayaking. And remember; lightweight fabric will always be your best friend, as it lets you breathe easily and move comfortably.

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Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!