What To Wear Kayaking | Dressing Properly So You’re Comforable Kayaking


If you know what to wear kayaking, then kayaking is arguably the most enjoyable outdoor activity there is. There is something about being out on the water in your kayak that is just different. It’s no surprise the popularity of kayaking continues to grow at an incredible rate.

With that said, your kayaking experience may not be as enjoyable if you aren’t prepared with the proper equipment and clothing.

One of the most common mistakes people make when kayaking is wearing clothes that aren’t suitable to the conditions they are kayaking in. Choosing the wrong kayaking outfit can make your experience rather uncomfortable.

However, if you know what to wear kayaking, then you will be ready for one of the most satisfying outdoor experiences ever.

For your benefit, let’s go over what exactly you should wear kayaking so you can avoid being too hot, too cold or just simply uncomfortable while on your trip.

What Do You Wear Kayaking? Importance of Dressing Properly When Kayaking

Before going on a kayaking trip, most people make sure they have their kayaks strapped to their cars properly, they have a plan for being picked up, etc. But, it’s common to forget to check the weather conditions to ensure one has the proper clothing for kayaking.what to wear kayaking

While it seems like a small mistake, wearing the wrong clothing when kayaking can dampen your entire experience.

Related: What is a Kayak

When kayaking with the wrong attire in warm weather, you risk sweating too much, getting sunburned and being swarmed by unwanted bugs and insects. In cold weather, improper clothing can lead to you being extremely cold if flipped out of your kayak, having numb hands and fingers, and an overall unpleasant experience out on the water.

If you are well informed of the weather conditions and water temperature, however, you will set yourself up for an amazing time out on the water.

Things to Consider Before Deciding What to Wear Kayaking

In order to choose the right attire for your kayaking trip, it’s important to have an understanding of the factors that will affect whether. First, is it more likely to be cold or warm during the trip?

If you have a good understanding what the conditions will be like, you can then choose the clothing that will be most appropriate. As well as most comfortable for you when determining what to wear when kayaking.

Here are the four most important considerations to make before deciding what to wear while kayaking:

1. Determine the Weather Conditions

The most obvious consideration to make when deciding what to wear kayaking is to determine the weather conditions. Quite simply, if the weather says it’s going to be 100 degrees, humid with no chance of rain, you should prepare for a warm climate. On the other hand, if it is going to be under 60 degrees, windy and with a chance of rain, you likely want to dress for a colder climate.

With that said, it’s not exactly that simple.

There are a few main things to consider regarding the weather. Here are the most important considerations:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Chance of Precipitation
  • Wind
  • Clouds
  • Time of Day

While temperature is the most important factor to how it will feel outside, it goes far beyond just the temperature. The higher the humidity the warmer it will be. If the weather forecast suggests that it will be cloudy with a high chance of rain, then you can plan on it feeling much cooler. Plus, expect the water to be cooler as a result.

Also, the time that you plan on going will not only affect the temperature, but it will affect the way it feels outside and the temperature of the water. If you plan to start your trip very early in the morning, then you need to prepare for it to be slightly cooler at that time. If you plan on going in the heat of the day, however, you will need to prepare for it to be warmer.

2. Consider the Water Temperature

It’s also important to understand what the water temperature will be and feel like. This will help you decide what to wear kayaking. Remember, water temperature varies from the air temperature.

While the air temperature is more incline to fluctuate, the temperature in the water remains much steadier. Due to this, if you are kayaking in an area that is known for being cold, you should prepare for cold water even if the air temperature will be warm.

While no one plans on capsizing in a kayak, it can happen to anyone at any time. Therefore, not considering the water temperature before choosing the way you dress is not a legitimate excuse. If you were to fall out of the kayak into super cold water, you put yourself at major risk of getting sick. With that said, if you wear the proper clothing you should be able to comfortably kayak in cold water without having to fear the consequences of falling out.

3. Where Are You Kayaking?

It is important to understand where you are kayaking to determine the temperature of the water. It is also useful for knowing how strong the rapids are.

If you plan to kayak in more strenuous whitewater rapids, then you should prepare in advance for the possibility of falling out of your kayak. On the other hand, if you are kayaking in water that is certain to be more still, such as calm rivers or lakes, then you have little reason to worry about falling out of your kayak. As a result, you can focus more on making sure you are comfortable.

what to wear when kayaking

Determining the rapids when kayaking is crucial to ensuring you have the right attire. Proper clothing helps your body adjust to the temperature of the water if exposed to the water. Plus, it will help prepare you for unforeseen circumstances that may come up outside of the weather. For instance, wearing a helmet in rocky areas and being prepared to carry your kayak if the water becomes too shallow at a certain point.

4. What Type of Kayak Are You Using?

Last but not least, you will need to take the type of kayak you plan to use into consideration when determining what to wear kayaking.

If you are using a sit on top kayak, then you will naturally be exposed to the water more so than if you use a sit in kayak. Since you will get wet more often in a sit on top kayak, you need to make sure you have the proper bottoms on to prevent your legs from being extremely cold the entire trip.

Related: Difference Between a Canoe vs a Kayak

With a sit in kayak, you are more at risk of having your kayak flooded with water, which can leave your feet immersed in water for an extended period of time. Due to this, it is crucial to have the proper footwear if you plan to use a sit in kayak.

What to Wear Kayaking: The Ultimate Warm Weather Outfit for Kayakers

After determining the overall weather conditions of both the air and the water, you should have a general understanding if the weather is warm or cold.

When the weather is warm, it is important to dress in a manner that keeps you cool, prevents sunburn and keeps you from sweating. (Sweating attracts insects and insects are annoying).

While it is ultimately up to you to find the perfect outfit for kayaking in warm weather, here is a guide to the type of clothing you should wear when kayaking in warm weather.

What to Wear Kayaking: Tops

Assuming the water is warm-ish, falling in shouldn’t cause you to become cold. Therefore, wearing a shirt that is loose, breathable and comfortable is your best bet to stay cool while out in the hot sun.

While short sleeve shirts are okay, it is a good idea – even in extremely warm weather – to wear a long sleeve shirt while kayaking. By doing so, you can prevent sunburn and annoying bugs.

The main thing, however, is that you stay comfortable. If you prefer to wear a tank top or tee shirt while kayaking in warm weather, then do so. Just use sunscreen and insect repellent.

What to Wear Kayaking: Bottoms

Pants are a bad idea when the weather is warm. Instead, make sure to wear a pair of shorts that are comfortable for you.

It’s also important for your shorts to be water resistant. There is nothing worse when kayaking than having completely soaked, heavy shorts. If you’ve ever worn the wrong shorts while kayaking, then you probably know exactly what I am talking about. With water resistant shorts, however, you can keep your shorts lightweight and, for the most part, dry. This allows you to focus more on the kayaking and avoid the horrible feeling of being uncomfortable.

What to Wear Kayaking: Shoes

While there are specific reasons why you may need to wear socks, in general it is always a good idea to avoid socks altogether when kayaking in warm weather. Otherwise you risk dealing with sweaty, uncomfortable feet the entire trip. Not to mention, no one likes wet socks.

As for shoes, you should look for a lightweight and water resistant pair. If your shoes are comfortable, lightweight and don’t absorb water, you should be able to keep your feet comfortable while kayaking.

Accessories for Kayaking in Warm Weather

The right or wrong accessories can make or break your kayaking experience.

There are a few specific accessories that you should try and utilize when kayaking in warm weather. The most important is a hat. A good, wide-brimmed hat can offer protection from sunburn and help keep you cool while kayaking.

A few other accessories to consider are sunglasses and a small cooler.

Sunglasses can protect your eyes from the strong glare of sunlight reflecting off the water. While an ordinary, inexpensive pair of sunglasses can help, polarized glasses should work much better. Also, be sure to attach a float to your sunglasses just in case they decide to go overboard.

A cooler is always a good idea as well, especially on super hot days. While many kayaks have built in coolers, we recommend bringing your own small one filled with ice and cool drinks. This can be very convenient. With that said, if you plan to go kayaking in strong rapids, then you should probably leave the cooler at home.

what to wear for kayaking

What to Wear Kayaking: The Ultimate Cold Weather Outfit for Kayakers

The consequences of wearing the wrong thing while kayaking in cold weather is completely different. Therefore, what you should wear when kayaking in cold weather is completely different as well.

Here’s a guide to what you should wear kayaking in cold weather:

What to Wear Kayaking: Top

There are a few options you have on what to wear on your upper body when kayaking in cold weather.

One of the most popular things to wear, and rightfully so, is a wetsuit. A wetsuit is designed to help keep you warm by trapping a thin layer of water next to your skin where it is warmed by your body. While they come in a variety of styles, I would recommend a full body wetsuit while kayaking in wet climates.

Wetsuits may be the best option if you don’t intend to get wet. But, if there is a higher chance of capsizing on your kayaking trip, then you may want a drysuit instead. A drysuit is very similar to a wetsuit, except it is designed to keep you dry. Therefore, if you were to fall out of your boat, you will be, for the most part, protected from the freezing cold when you get out.

Related: Best Kayak Cooler Options

Regardless of whether you choose to wear a wetsuit or a drysuit, it is important to layer up with both wetsuits and drysuits. The best layer of clothing to wear underneath your wetsuit is a base layer and liner. Like wetsuits, base layers are designed to keep you warm, and they can be worn under a wetsuit.

If the weather is extremely frigid, you can also wear a warm, water-friendly jacket over your wetsuit/drysuit and dry top.

What to Wear Kayaking: Bottom

Most wetsuits and drysuits are full body, so your main layer when kayaking in cold weather should be either a drysuit or wetsuit. Under your drysuit or wetsuit, however, you should wear a base layer and liner to help ensure you stay warm.

If you prefer to wear a dry top, which doesn’t cover your full body, instead of a drysuit or wetsuit while kayaking, then you can wear dry pants along with it. While not quite as supportive as a drysuit, dry pants can be far more comfortable and work well when using a sit on top kayak.

What to Wear Kayaking: Shoes

It can be extremely annoying to have cold feet while kayaking. Because of this, having the right footwear while kayaking in cold weather is crucial.

Similar to kayaking in warm weather, you want water-resistant shoes. However, your footwear should be much more supportive and far more boot-like in cold weather than in warm weather. By having heftier footwear when kayaking in cold water, you will be able to better prevent your shoes from falling off. This also prevents water hitting your feet directly.

Accessories for Kayaking in Cold Weather

While having the right accessories when kayaking in warm weather is only slightly more than optional, missing key accessories in cold weather kayaking can be disastrous.

Gloves are arguably the most important accessory to have when kayaking in cold weather. If your hands become numb while kayaking, everything will immediately become much more difficult. Having the right water resistant gloves, however, can make the weather seem like a non-factor.

Waterproof socks are another great accessory to have along with you while kayaking in cold weather. If your sit in kayak gets water in the floorboard, which is very common, your feet can suffer the consequences if the water is cold and you don’t have the proper thermal protection on your feet.

The last necessary accessory for cold weather is headwear. It’s important to keep your face warm while kayaking in cold weather. It can become very uncomfortable to have a numb face while out on the water. The best way to keep your face warm is to wear a fleece cap or a full-face mask.

The Best Way to Stay Safe is to Stay Comfortable

If you are comfortable, then you are probably safe. Therefore, you should make staying comfortable your main priority when deciding what to wear kayaking.

To stay comfortable, be sure to know the weather forecast, water temperature, wind, chance of precipitation and the strength of the rapids. If you know what type of weather you are going into, you should be able to pick an outfit that is both comfortable and protective.

Kayaking is fun, so don’t ruin your experience by choosing an uncomfortable outfit. If the weather is warm, be sure to wear lighter clothing, use hats, sunscreen and bug spray and you should be able to stay comfortable. If the weather is cold, make sure to layer up with gloves, thermal socks and a facemask.

Lastly, dress with style! If you look good, you will feel good. Make sure to wear clothing that is fun and stands out so that other people on the water can see you.