Updated: April 7, 2021
Kayaking is a fantastic water sport that can be enjoyed in any weather, as long as you choose the right kayaking outfit. Knowing how to dress for kayaking can present a bit of a challenge though, mainly because you need to consider both water and air temperature.
Your attire also needs to accommodate your kayaking life jacket comfortably and allow for good mobility. Here are our top recommendations for what to wear when kayaking in any weather.
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How to Dress for Kayaking
In Warm Weather (and Warm Water)
Choosing an outfit for kayaking in summer is pretty straightforward. You’ll want something that’s lightweight and breathable. Staying hydrated, cool, and avoiding sunburn will be your top priorities.
Your outfit should include a hat and sunglasses, each with a retainer strap to keep them from getting lost while you’re on the water. You might also want to consider wearing a thin, long-sleeve shirt or a rash guard shirt for additional sun protection.
On your bottom half, wear board shorts or swim bottoms since they will be cool and dry quickly. For your feet, go for water shoes or sandals that strap on securely. And of course, be sure to apply sunscreen or sunblock before you hit the water and reapply regularly throughout the day.
In Warm Weather (and Cold Water)
As you can imagine, dressing for cold water is much more challenging, especially if the air temperature is warm. Even on a hot summer day, taking a dunk in ice-cold water can suck the heat out of your body fast, leaving you shivering until your clothes dry.
And, if you’re floating on a sit-on-top kayak, the lower half of your body is probably going to be wet the entire time. A sit-in kayak, whether hard or inflatable, will offer a bit more protection from the water and wind, but you could still end up swimming if you flip.
Obviously, the best thing to do is to avoid flipping altogether by sticking to protected areas without high wind and waves. Of course, no matter what type of kayak you’ll be on, it’s important that you know the best capsize recovery techniques for your personal watercraft.
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When it comes to the best outfit for these kayaking conditions, you’ll want to wear something that will help you retain body heat if you get wet, but make sure it’s lightweight enough that you won’t become overheated as you paddle.
A neoprene wetsuit makes a great choice because it allows for excellent mobility, but also offers insulation if it gets wet. When it comes to what shoes to wear, your best bet is a good pair of water shoes that will dry quickly if they get wet.
Related: Top 11 Benefits of Kayaking
In Cold Weather
When the air and water are both cold, it’s time to break out your cold-weather gear. Hypothermia is a serious threat and kayaking in winter isn’t for everyone. But, if you’re a die-hard kayaker, choosing the right outfit will keep you warm, even if you get wet.
Here’s what you need to consider when choosing your cold-weather gear for kayaking:
Polypropylene, neoprene, fleece and other synthetic fabrics a great choice in cold, wet conditions. You should opt for a few thin layers instead of one thick layer.
Stay away from cotton because it can actually pull the heat away from your body when it gets wet. Although wool is warm, it takes forever to dry, and it becomes very heavy if it gets wet, so it’s not ideal for kayaking.
Related: How to Survive Hypothermia
2. Tops and Bottoms
It’s essential that your outer shell keeps the wind off your body to help you retain your body heat. You could simply wear a nylon jacket and pants that are waterproof and wind-resistant.
However, if you do a lot of cold season kayaking, it’s worth investing in a set of paddling tops and bottoms or a wetsuit that is designed specifically for cold, wet weather and mobility.
You should also consider a set of neoprene socks and booties to keep your feet warm.
3. Dry Suits
Dry suits provide the ultimate protection against the cold and wet and they’re worth the investment if you’re into year-round water sports.
Dry suits have gaskets at the neck, wrists, and ankles to keep the water and wind out.
4. Spray Skirts
Those who use a sit-inside kayak might also want to think about investing in a spray skirt. They are specially designed to hold in warm air while keeping cold water out.
The best way to attach a spray skirt is to work from the back, up the coaming, and then pull the spray skirt over the coaming in front. Be sure to leave the ripcord exposed so you can get free of your kayak if you end up turning over.
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Just like any other sport, your kayaking adventure will be much more enjoyable if you wear the right clothing. Always select fabrics that will dry quickly if they become wet and remember to consider both the water temperature and the air temperature when choosing your outfit. Having some type of dry bag on board with extra clothes is good insurance.
In addition, no matter what the temperature is, as long as the sun is out, don’t forget to use a good water-resistant sunscreen or you’ll be regretting it later. By following these tips, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy your time on the water!