What To Wear When Kayaking


Trying to decide what to wear kayaking is a tough process that has a huge impact on how much fun you’ll have in the water. It’s important to plan what you’re going to wear, and that’s where this guide should help!

This article has different ideas and things to think about before you head out on your next kayaking trip. This is heavily influenced by the kind of weather you are in, so make sure to know what your next kayaking trip will consist of!

What Are Your Conditions Going to Be Like?

The first and most important thing to think about when deciding what to wear kayaking is the conditions you’ll be in. Not just the weather of the area, but the temperature of the water should be your main concern. You have to prepare for the possibility that you capsize, and your clothes are an important part of that.

Before leaving for you kayaking trip, make sure that you know the water statistics for the day(s) you’ll be out there. It’s also important to make sure you constantly keep up with the data in the days leading up to your trip. Water temperature can change quickly, so you should be watching so that you can prepare accordingly.

Lake and Ocean Kayaking

Lakes and oceans vary around the calendar as well as around the globe. Some seasons yield cold temperatures in despite the warm weather. That’s why it’s important to make sure you know the temperature of the water before leaving.

While the most important thing to make sure is that you won’t be too cold, make sure you won’t be too hot either. If you’re kayaking near the equator, you’ll probably get too hot much quicker than you’ll get too cold.

In most cases, you want to prepare for the water being cold. It’s safer for you to prepare for colder temperatures since there’s always the possibility of capsizing. You may not plan on getting wet, but it’s important to understand the possibility that you could. Besides, if you find out that the water is warm, it’s easy to take off the extra layers!

Whitewater Rapids

It’s a smart idea to think that whitewater is always cold, and that cold water will be hitting you. There’s not much that will prevent the rushing water from spilling onto you, so make sure that you wear extra layers to protect yourself!

You’re also very likely to take a dip into the water while you’re whitewater kayaking, so this is a matter of health and enjoyment.

Shallow Bays and Calm Rivers

Just like any other time you kayak, it’s important to realize that you capsize. However, the possibility that you’ll flip over on calm waters is a lot less likely since the water isn’t as violent. Still pay attention to the temperature of the water and dress accordingly!

Study the Conditions

These are some important general rules about what to wear when you kayak. If the total temperature of the water and air is less than 120 degree Fahrenheit, you’re going to need a wetsuit or a drysuit. You’ll also always need one if the water itself is less than 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you’re going to kayak on the ocean, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provide data on the temperature of ocean waters by the coast all around the United States of America, so you can check all of this before heading out.

What to Wear Kayaking in Warm Conditions


If you’re going kayaking in warm weather (the combined total being above 120 degrees Fahrenheit) then you should try finding clothes that are both comfortable and lightweight so that you won’t get sweaty.

Here’s a few things to consider:


If it’s hot enough that a dip in the water sounds like a good idea, swimwear can be a great idea for open kayaks. They’re comfortable and perfect for hot days on hot water.

If you’re concerned about the sun exposure, you can get a lightweight, long sleeve shirt, or a rash guard, that will protect your skin from the sun. They’ll dry quicker than a regular shirt and keep you dry if any stray water ends up on you.

While it’s not the first thing that you think of when you’re choosing what to wear kayaking, swimming shoes are another important thing to look into. You’ll want shoes that are both comfortable and waterproof that can be fastened to your foot to avoid slipping or falling off.

Losing a shoe when you’re kayaking is the worst, so it’s important to make sure that you don’t wear anything that can easily fall off your foot. You can buy paddling shoes and river shoes that are made for tough conditions and dry quickly.

While shoes aren’t the most important thing to think about when you’re trying to decide what to wear kayaking, they’re still important for your comfort. It’ll make your trip more enjoyable and all-around better should anything happen and you need to get out of your kayak.

Sun Protection

Sun screen is always an essential when you’re kayaking, whether you’re in cold or hot water. You need to make sure that you always have some on to protect your skin from burns and cancer.

Sunglasses are another good idea for kayaking out in the sun. The sun will reflect off of the water, and the sun’s ultraviolet rays will damage your eyes after being out in it for too long. Along with grabbing a pair of sunglasses, make sure to grab a retainer strap so that they can’t fall off and get lost in the water.

Similar to sunglasses, some people find hats a great way to block out the sun, If you choose to bring one with you, make sure that it’s secured on your head so that you don’t lose it to the wind or the water.

What to Wear Kayaking in Cold Conditions

Kayaking in cold conditions can get dangerous really quickly, so it’s important to prepare yourself as best as possible for an unexpected dip in the water. Capsizing in cold water can cause breathing problems, hypothermia, and heart shocks, so it’s extremely important that you pick the right clothing to wear kayaking in cold conditions.

Wetsuits and Drysuits

One of the best ways to protect yourself in cold water is by wearing a wetsuit or drysuit. Drysuits keep you completely dry, even should you fall into the water. Wetsuit have a thin layer between your skin and the suit that will allow a small amount of water in should you fall in (or take a dip).

Drysuits are typically better for cold water conditions since you won’t get shocked by any of the cold water if you unexpectedly fall in.

You can buy a spray skirt that works with sin-inside kayaks to prevent any splashing water from coming inside, which is important as you will likely get splashed many times when you kayak.

Thermal Layering

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 addition base layer that will keep you dry, similar to a rash guard.

Don’t use anything cotton as a base coat, it’ll just absorb water and won’t dry quickly; the opposite of what you want when you’re kayaking in cold waters. Even if you’re just worried about the chill, having a base coat is a great way to combat it, especially in a wetsuit versus a drysuit.

Footwear in cold water kayaking is especially important, so a good idea is to get neoprene socks and booties. These synthetic materials will dry quickly should (or when) your feet get wet. Wool socks also work as well, but they will hold water more than any kind of synthetic material will.

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.

Waterproof shoes are also important, especially if you’re using a sit-on-top kayak. You’re more than likely going to get wet, so you need to make sure that you’ll dry off quickly so you don’t get sick. Rubber rain boots or specially made paddling shoes are great ideas.

You’ll also probably want your footwear to have a grip. That way you can maintain your balance if things get rough, and if you need to get out of the kayak for any reason, you’ll be prepared.

Your hands are another thing to think about as well; you’ll want to grab some waterproof paddling gloves. You need your hands protected from the cold as well as the repetitive motion of paddling that can cause blisters.

Kayak Camping Trip: What’s Important?

Layer Up

While you can plan your trip around the weather, keep in mind that Mother Nature is unpredictable, so it’s very important that you prepare for anything. Wearing light layers allows you to easily take clothes off and put them on if the weather around you changes, and they aren’t heavy to carry.

Spare Clothing

Anytime you go camping you should always have a dry bag that’s filled with clothes in case you end up in the water. It’s also a smart idea to pack clothes that are resistant to water, like synthetic fabrics, so that they can dry quickly and can be layered.

Waterproof clothing is ideal for kayaking trips since you’ll spend so much time on the water. You can buy waterproof pants and jackets that can be worn whenever you’re on the ground or in the water. Plus, a waterproof jacket will keep you warm during the night!

Bring another spare bag with you as well so that you can store your dirty clothes away from your clean ones. You don’t want your smelly, wet clothes to mix with your crisp, clean clothes; it’s also a bad idea just since it breeds bacteria as well.


You’ll probably need at least two pairs of shoes: one for on dry land and one for in the kayak. Your dry land shoes should be ready to traverse across rocky terrain, especially if you plan on walking around to find a place to camp. Your kayak shoes should be appropriate for the weather conditions you’re in, and you can see the guidelines for those above.

Extra socks are also important, both for your dry land shoes and your kayaking shoes. You can keep these in your dry bag to make sure that you don’t get all of your socks wet at the same time!

Life Jacket?

Yes! Always bring a life jacket with you anytime you’re going out in the water. You’ll never know if you’ll need one, and a life jacket can save your life. While it sounds like common sense, too many people drown every year by not being cautious, and a life jacket is a very easy solution for capsizing. You could hit your head or be tossed away from your kayak if you’re in rough waters, so always stay safe and prepared instead of being sorry.

With that being said, you can get life jackets with very different styles that match whatever you’re doing. For example, they make kayaking life jackets as well as kayak fishing life jackets!

Different Types of Life Jackets

There’s a few different kinds of life jackets that work well with kayaking. A typical Personal Flotation Device works well and is easy to keep up with since they have a foam that floats automatically.

You can get ones that inflate as well, and those can be worn around the waist too. They come in both manual and automatic. The manual life jackets require you to pull a cord to inflate while the automatic ones inflate as soon as they touch water.

Make Sure Your Life Jacket Fits!

If you’re life jacket doesn’t fit correctly, there’s no point in wearing one. One that’s too loose doesn’t help you should you capsize, and one that’s too tight doesn’t let you move your body correctly in order to kayak.

If you get a life jacket that is made for kayaking, then you’ll notice that it has larger arm openings to try and combat this.

Your life jacket should fit you comfortably and not slip up your shoulders. Make sure to adjust for when you’re sitting in the kayak as your life jacket will probably be pushed up, causing discomfort while you’re on the water.

Test your life jacket before actually leaving the shore; you can sit on the ground and go through the kayaking motions to make sure that you’ll be secure, safe, and comfortable in your life jacket once you leave the shore.

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

Pockets and Zippers

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 as you’re on the water. Chapstick is another great thing to bring, especially if you’ll be in cold waters. Wind can easily cause your lips to get chapped, making for an uncomfortable kayaking trip.

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. Flares and whistles can alert anyone nearby that you need help and can save your life should you need it.

Globo Surf Overview

Now that you’ve gone through this guide, you know a lot more about how to dress appropriately for the weather you’re kayaking in! Make sure to plan your trip and keep in mind of the water temperature. Also remember that lightweight fabric can be your best friend as it lets you move comfortable and breathe easily. Knowing what to wear kayaking is important for both your comfort and safety, so go ahead and start planning your trip today!

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!