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What to wear Kayaking?

What to Wear Kayaking: Your Ultimate Guide

What to wear Kayaking – Kayaking is an exhilarating water sport that offers a unique blend of adventure and tranquility. However, dressing appropriately for kayaking is crucial to ensure safety, comfort, and an overall enjoyable experience. This comprehensive guide will provide you with all the information you need on what to wear kayaking, regardless of the season or weather conditions.

Understanding Kayaking and Its Demands

Kayaking is a physically demanding activity that requires specific attire to handle the challenges it presents. From battling the waves to maneuvering your kayak, the right clothing can make a significant difference in your performance and comfort.

Dressing for the Weather vs. Dressing for the Water

When preparing for a kayaking trip, it’s important to consider both the weather and water conditions. While the weather might be warm and sunny, the water could still be quite cold. Therefore, always dress according to the water temperature rather than the air temperature to prevent hypothermia or overheating.

Seasonal Kayaking Attire

Depending on the season, your kayaking attire will vary. Here’s a breakdown of what to wear kayaking in different seasons:


  • Swimwear: A swimsuit or board shorts are ideal for hot summer days.
  • Rash Guard: Protects your skin from the sun and chafing.
  • Water Shoes: Protect your feet from sharp rocks and provide grip on wet surfaces.
  • Hat and Sunglasses: Protect your eyes and face from the sun.
  • Life Jacket: A must-have for safety.


  • Drysuit: Keeps you dry and warm in cold water.
  • Thermal Layers: Wear underneath your drysuit for added warmth.
  • Gloves and Neoprene Boots: Protect your hands and feet from the cold.
  • Life Jacket: An essential safety item that also provides extra warmth.

Spring and Fall

  • Wetsuit: Provides insulation in cooler water.
  • Waterproof Jacket: Protects against wind and rain.
  • Water Shoes or Neoprene Boots: Choose based on the temperature and your comfort.
  • Life Jacket: Always necessary for safety.

Essential Kayaking Clothing Items

Here are some essential clothing items you should consider for your kayaking adventures:

  • Rashguards: Great for sun protection and preventing chafing.
  • Waterproof Pants: Useful for colder days or rough waters.
  • Waterproof Jackets: Protects against wind and rain.
  • Kayak Shoes: Choose between neoprene for warmth or ventilated for hot days.
  • Hat or Helmet: Depending on the type of kayaking you’re doing.
  • Gloves: Provides better grip and protects your hands.
  • Life Jacket: Crucial for safety and can also provide warmth.

Importance of Layering While Kayaking

Layering is key to staying warm and comfortable while kayaking. Start with a base layer that wicks away sweat, add an insulating mid-layer, and finish with a waterproof outer layer. Remember to avoid cotton as it absorbs water and takes a long time to dry.

Wetsuit or Drysuit: Which One to Choose?

The choice between a wetsuit and a drysuit depends on the water temperature. Wetsuits are made of neoprene and work by trapping a thin layer of water between the suit and your skin, which your body heats to keep you warm. Drysuits, on the other hand, are waterproof and keep you dry, relying on layers worn underneath for insulation.

Nighttime Kayaking: Dressing for the Dark

Nighttime kayaking presents its own set of challenges. In addition to the usual kayaking attire, consider adding anextra layer for the cooler temperatures. Also, don’t forget to bring a headlamp or some form of light for safety.

The Role of Life Jackets in Kayaking

Life jackets, or personal flotation devices (PFDs), are a crucial part of kayaking attire. They provide buoyancy to keep you afloat in the water, and can also add an extra layer of warmth in colder weather. When choosing a life jacket for kayaking, look for one that allows full range of motion in the shoulders for paddling, is made of breathable materials, is lightweight, and, of course, is buoyant.

Avoiding Common Clothing Mistakes in Kayaking

When dressing for kayaking, avoid cotton as it absorbs water and is slow to dry. Instead, opt for quick-drying materials like nylon or polyester. Also, avoid clothing with hardware that can rust, and footwear without a secure backstrap.

FAQs on Kayaking Attire

Here are some common questions about what to wear kayaking:

What should women wear when kayaking?

Women’s kayaking clothing is similar to men’s. Depending on the weather and water temperature, it may be necessary to wear a drysuit or a wetsuit. For cold weather kayaking, women can wear multiple layers of clothing under a drysuit to maintain a comfortable temperature.

What should I wear the first time kayaking?

First-time kayakers should wear whatever waterproof clothing they have available. If renting a kayak or joining a tour, the outfitter should provide any necessary drysuits or wetsuits. The main thing beginners need to remember is to dress for the water temperatures and be prepared to get wet.

What footwear do you wear for kayaking?

Neoprene booties or water shoes are always a good option of footwear for kayaking. They provide warmth and protection from colder climates which will allow you to stay out for longer.

Do you get wet kayaking?

Yes, expect to get wet while kayaking. You are sitting low to the water, and some kayaks even sit below water level. Unlike stand-up paddle boarding, there is no way of escaping getting wet while kayaking.


Dressing appropriately for kayaking can make the difference between an enjoyable adventure and an uncomfortable experience. By considering the weather, water temperature, and the type of kayaking you’ll be doing, you can ensure that you’re properly equipped for your next kayaking trip.

Remember, safety should always be your top priority when kayaking. Always wear a life jacket, dress for the water temperature, and be prepared for changing conditions. Happy paddling!

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