Water Sports

What to Wear Kayaking: Complete Guide to the Basics

We share some important tips for when you’re picking your kayaking attire & some great items that you might want to invest in for your next kayak trip.

Kayaking is a wonderful activity. It’s a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the beauty of nature. If you’re a novice kayaker, it’s important that you make sure you’re properly prepared, and that means dressing appropriately; something that a lot of beginners may not think about. Like any other sport, the clothing you wear will have a big impact on your success – and your enjoyment.

So, what should you wear kayaking? Your attire should be durable, versatile, protective, and comfortable. When trying to figure out what you should wear kayaking, it’s important to adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Consider the water temperature. Most people would assume that they should select clothing that coordinates with the air temperature, but when you’re kayaking, it’s more important to consider the temperature of the water. If it’s blazing hot out and you’re paddling on frigid water, you’re going to regret only having a shorts and a tank-top as soon as you get splashed.
  • Layers are important. Dressing in layers is highly recommended; particularly on your top half. If you get hot, you could always take off a layer.
  • Keep the sun in mind. Even if it’s cloudy, you need to take sun protection in mind, as it’s definitely possible to get sunburned. Wearing clothing that’s made with fabrics that are UPF-rated is definitely a good idea. Make sure you apply sunscreen to any exposed skin, too.
  • Stay away from cotton. Cotton might be lightweight and breathable, but when it comes to water sports, it isn’t the best material to wear. That’s because it absorbs water and it takes a long time to dry out. Instead, you should opt for fabrics that dry quickly; moisture-wicking polyester or nylon, for example.
  • Comfort is important. You’re going to be sitting for a prolonged period of time. You’ll also be moving your upper body a lot. Comfortable, non-restrictive clothing is the best choice.
  • A floatation device is an absolute must. Even if you’re a strong swimmer, a personal flotation device is essential, and make sure you keep it on the entire time you’re on the water. If you hit choppy water and capsize when you’re far away from land, you’ll be properly protected. Remember, safety is always the first priority.

With those guidelines in mind, let’s take a closer look at the clothing you should wear according to the conditions you may be kayaking in.

Kayak Beginner Guide
Read: Kayaking for Beginners: Complete Guide on How to Kayak

How to Dress for Warm Weather

If you’re going to be kayaking when it’s warm out, consider the following suggestions.

First layer

For underwear, a lot of people opt to wear a swimsuit. If you’re thinking about doing the same, just make sure that your bathing suit will be comfortable to wear for the duration of your outing. Alternatively, comfortable underwear that you’d wear for any other outdoor activity is recommended, and for ladies, a supportive, comfortable sports bra.

Top half

Wearing a rash guard (the kind surfers wear) is a good idea to wear as a shirt for kayaking in warm weather. These shirts are made of lightweight nylon or polyester and spandex, so they’re easy to move in, comfortable, and dry really fast.

Additionally, the materials are UPF-rated, so they’ll keep your top half protected from the sun’s harsh UV rays. Rash guards are available in both long and short sleeves. If you opt for short sleeves, make sure you slather up your arms with sunscreen.

Best Selling Rashguards

SaleBestseller No. 1
O'Neill Wetsuits Men's Basic Skins UPF 50+ Long Sleeve Rash Guard, Black, L
  • Skin Cancer Foundation Recommended Product; UPF 50+ Ultraviolet Protection
  • Perfect For Surfing, Swimming, Paddle Sports, Boating, And Beach Days
  • Comfortable yet durable construction. Flatloc stitched and 6 ounce polyester, spandex four way stretch
  • Minimal Seam Placement For Maximum Rash Protection; Reduces Fatigue From Sun Exposure
  • Performance Fit: Form-Fitting Tight Layer Fits Like A Second Skin
SaleBestseller No. 2
Body Glove Women's Standard Sleek Solid Long Sleeve Rashguard with UPF 50+, Smoothies Black, Small
  • UPF 50+ ultraviolent protection factor
  • Long sleeves
  • Flatlock seams
  • Click the logo above to shop our store
  • Part of our smoothies collection, search Body Glove smoothies on amazon for entire collection
Bestseller No. 3
Quiksilver Men's Standard All TIME Long Sleeve Rashguard UPF 50 Sun Protection SURF Shirt, Black, M
  • 50+ UPF sun protection
  • Constructed using reprieve recycled materials
  • Moisture wicking
  • Snug fit
  • Chlorine resistant

Bottom half

On your bottom half, wear whatever you think is comfortable, whether it’s shorts or a pair of pants. Just make sure that whatever you choose, it’s comfortable and the material is quick drying. Swimming trunks are a good choice, just make sure to choose something that’s made of UPF-rated material. For pants, choose something that’s relatively loose fitting over something tight, as tight-fitted pants can lead to chafing as you’re paddling, which can be pretty uncomfortable.

It's important to choose the right kayaking gear
It’s important to choose the right kayaking gear

Middle layer

If the water temperature is really cold, wearing a wet or dry suit is strongly recommended. If you capsize and you get stranded in the water for a long period of time, you’ll be glad you’re wearing one. If the water temperature is pleasant, back something warm that’s made out of synthetic material in a dry storage bag and put it on if you get chilly.

Exterior layer

If the forecast calls for high winds or rain, you’ll want to wear a jacket and pants that are made of waterproof, yet breathable material. Specially made paddling jackets are a great choice, as they feature gaskets around the neck and wrists that will keep the water at bay.

Shoes

On the feet, opt for lightweight waterproof shoes. Paddling booties are a great choice, as they’re made of neoprene, they’re lightweight, and they dry quickly. Alternatively, a pair of water shoes (the type you’d wear while swimming) will work well, too. They’ll keep your feet protected from water and abrasive surfaces, such as sand or rocks. Steer clear of slip-on shoes, such as sandals or flip flops. They offer little to no protection and can easily slip off of your feet while you’re paddling.

If the water temperature is cold, you might want to consider wearing a pair of waterproof socks, too. Or at least a pair of thick socks that are made out of quick-drying synthetic materials. Either option will keep your feet protected from any cold water that may splash into your kayak.

Best Selling Kayak Shoes

Bestseller No. 1
Mishansha Mens Womens Water Shoes Quick Dry Barefoot for Swim Diving Surf Aqua Sports Pool Beach Walking Yoga Black 11
  • PERFECT MATERIAL:Upper with salt resistance wear resistance stretch breathable ultra light weight Lycra material for fast draining and cross ventilation, give excellent flexible and comfortable.
  • QUICK DRY WITH DRAINAGE HOLES:Unique and top-quality anti slip camo rubber sole, with several holes on each bottom to ensure proper water flow out of them which creates a cooler and healthier shoe environment
  • Easy On and Off:The pull tap at the heel allows for quick and easy entry, protecting your feet from dripping off.
  • ELASTIC STRAPS:According to the width of the foot quickly adjust the shoes elastic and avoid the annoyance of tying your shoes.
  • IDEAL FOR ANY ACTIVITY:Women and men perfect for beach, swimming, surf, pool, sailing, boating, kayaking, windsurfing, beach volleyball, long airline flight, yoga, performing pilates exercises aerobics etc. The shoe is necessary equipment for vacations.
Bestseller No. 2
Water Shoes for Men and Women Barefoot Quick-Dry Aqua Sock Outdoor Athletic Sport Shoes for Kayaking, Boating, Hiking, Surfing, Walking (M-Gray, 45)
  • DURABLE AND UNIQUE SOLE: Professional anti slip rubber outsole with a unique pattern, increase the friction and track adhesion to prevent slipping beside the pool and in the wild.unique and durable sole with seven holes on each bottom to ensure proper water flow out of them which creates a cooler and healthier shoe environment, quick-dry, super comfortable during water sports.
  • FOOT SAFETY AND COMFORTABLE: The rubber soles, with a really comfortable and thick foam arch-support insert inside of them, are flexible yet thick enough to protect your feet from stepping on rock and stone. At the same time, the insole perfectly matches the shoes and prevents the insole gets detached when you are hiking or playing water sports.
  • FASHION AND PRACTICAL LOOK OF TOES: Fashion shoes tip, with a toe appearance, give you a more fashion and unique wearing experience. Although there are not separate slots, but thicker toe caps give more cushioning that you needed to provide support when hiking and climbing. Please do not worry they rub your big toe when walking, we provide enough space to ensure comfort.
  • GOOD ELASTICITY AND CONVENIENT: Breathable and smooth fabrics with fine stretch on uppers. Non-mesh, don't let the sand into the shoes. The shoe is ultra-thin, flexible and comfortable. An ideal shoe for rowers, surfers, kayakers and SUP fanatics, the shoe provides grip and comfort out on the water and packs easily into a dry bag at the end of the day.
  • MULTIFUNCTIONAL SHOES IN DIFFERENT CONDITIONS: The shoes are amphibious shoes which can make sure you can enjoy your life in land or in water. You can use the aqua shoes in surfing, canyoning, kayaking, camping, zip-lining, swimming, jumping, river trekking, paddle rafting, snorkeling, raining, beach visiting, shopping, traveling, water aerobics, jogging, walking,any water playing or land playing.
Bestseller No. 3
Mens Womens Water Shoes Outdoor Kayak Hiking Swim Grey-White 11.5 M US Women / 10 M US Men (44)
  • Breathable Lycra mesh upper, quick dry and lightweight, can be as aqua shoes.
  • Ultra light materials, foldable, easy carry out for athletic training.
  • Elastic drawstring, flexible shoe mouth, speedly ajust shoes width.
  • Rubber sole with seven quick drainage hole, non slip and durable for water sports.
  • Suitable for beach, water park, beach volleyball, ocean, lake, creek, cruise, sailing, paddle boarding, rafting, fishing, waterfall, diving, boating, car-washing, driving car, vacation.

Headwear

Wearing a hat is highly recommended. Choose something that features a wide brim to keep the sun off of your face. You might also want to consider a hat that features a cape to protect your neck from the sun. Secure your hat using a chin strap to prevent it from flying off when you’re paddling.

Hand protection

Even on short trips, wearing a pair of paddling gloves is a wise idea. They’ll protect your hands from blisters. Pogies are another option; especially on days where the temperature cold drop. They attach right onto the paddle and then you place your hands inside to grip onto the shaft.

Personal flotation device

Of course, you’re going to want to wear a personal flotation device, too. Never get in a kayak without one; even if you’re only planning on paddling close to the shore.

Best Selling Life Vests for Kayaking

SaleBestseller No. 1
ONYX MoveVent Curve Paddle Sports Life Vest, Medium/Large, Blue
  • Crafted from the highest quality material
  • Perfect for outdoor and even indoor use
  • Made in China
SaleBestseller No. 2
Onyx 121900-100-004-17 Universal Paddle Vest - Red
  • Low profile, lightweight, compact design
  • High foam back accommodates high back seats; Breathable mesh lower back
  • Six adjustment straps to cinch vest up to fit snug; Comfortable neoprene shoulder pads
  • Large front pocket
  • U. S. Coast Guard Approved Type III Life Jacket / Personal Flotation Device (PFD).included components: Onyx 121900-100-004-17 Universal Paddle Vest - Red.material type: Nylon
Bestseller No. 3
O'Neill Men's Reactor USCG Life Vest,Black/Black/Black,Large
  • USCG Approved Personal Flotation Device; Perfect for Wake Sports, Waterskiing, Tubing, and Swimming
  • Segmented Foam Core And Anatomical Flex Points Allow Unrestricted Movement
  • Quick Release Safety Buckles And Heavy Duty Front Zipper Create an Unparalleled Sense of Security
  • Minimal Bulk Design Allows Full Mobility, While Expansion Panels Enable a Comfortable Fit
  • Relaxed Fit For The Water Sports Enthusiast Who Wants Some Room To Move

How to Dress for Cold Weather

If you’re going to be kayaking in cold conditions, the following guidelines will help you dress appropriately.

First layer

Like kayaking in warm weather, you can wear a swimsuit as your underwear in cold weather, or opt for a pair of comfortable, yet supportive underpants, and for women, a sports bra. If it’s really cold, you might also want to consider wearing thermal underwear. If you do, make sure it’s made of synthetic material, not cotton.

Top half

If you aren’t wearing a thermal underwear shirt, opt for a long-sleeved T-shirt that’s lightweight and made of synthetic material. As always, make sure you avoid cotton, as it easily absorbs water and takes what seems like an eternity to dry.

Bottom half

For pants, choose something that’s relatively loose-fitting and is made of moisture-wicking fabric that will keep you well-insulated.

A wet or dry suit

You’re definitely going to want to wear a wet or dry suit when you’re kayaking in cold conditions. It’s recommended that you wear one whenever the water temperature is 60 degrees or lower, even if it’s warm out.

Wetsuits are usually made of neoprene, a material that has insulating qualities and keeps a thin layer of water that your body will naturally heat on top of your skin. Dry suits are ideal for really cold water. They’re made of waterproof fabric and feature gaskets that prevent water from getting inside. Your warmth can be adjusted by wearing an insulating layer underneath the dry suit; a pair of long underwear, for example.

Best Selling Wet Suits for Kayaking

Bestseller No. 1
Lemorecn Wetsuits Jumpsuit Neoprene 3/2mm Full Body Diving Suit(3031,M)
  • MULTI SPORT WETSUIT: Wetsuit designed for all water sports like diving, scuba, paddle boarding, surfing, or kayaking.
  • DURABILITY: Spot taped at stress points and flatlock seams provide a smooth interior and exterior surface to ensure maximum comfort and durability.
  • NEOPRENE: Constructed with premium neoprene for a comfortable and athletic fit.
  • 3/2mm neoprene for warmth without sacrificing flexibility.3mm chest panel for added warmth and 2mm sleeves for greater flexibility
  • FEATURES: Easy-reach, extra-long leash and easy on with heavy-duty YKK back zipper ; Order the product according to your body measurements.
Bestseller No. 2
Dark Lightning Full Wetsuit Men and Women 5/4mm Wetsuit Women for Diving Surfing Snorkeling Kayaking (Man - Black, XXL)
  • 5/4mm thermal Full suit Design | Suitable for suggested water temperature at 43-52℉.
  • Neoprene men and woman wetsuit | 90% Neoprene +10% Stretch Nylon, for multi water sports.
  • Adjustable & Fit | Combine YKK zipper & premium Velcro that great block water from entering.
  • Fashion and Functional | Keep warm and keep free in multi water sport in not so cold condition
  • Dark Lightning 100% Satisfaction | 30 days unconditional return/refund, 24 hours service. Any quality issue ,contact us, and we will immediately send you a replacement unit for free.
Bestseller No. 3
Greatever Wetsuit for Men Women,3mm Neoprene Full Body Keep Warm Long Sleeve Back Zip Full Scuba Diving Suit UV Protection,for Surfing Snorkeling Kayaking Water Sports
  • 🌊[AFTER SALES SERVICE] As long as you are our customers,since the day you buy Greatever wetsuit. We will provide 24-hour uninterrupted service. We sincerelly believe we will bring the customers the most satisfied buying experience.
  • 🌊[WARM TIPS] When choosing a size, please refer to weight as the first factor, followed by height. Choose a size according to our tips. When you get the diving wetsuit for the first time, you will smell some pungent smell, please do not worry, this smell is not harmful to you.We use environmental protection and harmless glue.
  • 🌊[KEEP WARM] Greatever 3mm neoprene wetsuit will help keep you warm in cold water and prevent your body temperature from dropping too fast.The main material of the diving suit is neoprene rubber, which is an environment-friendly material and harmless.3mm wetsuit is suitable for the 70℉-87℉ water temperature.
  • 🌊[UPF50+ UV PROTECTION] Greatever full wetsuit cover the whole body and made of UPF50+ grade material, which can effectively isolate 95% of the ultraviolet light.The 3-layer nylon neoprene suit also protects the body from reef cuts and jellyfish and sea anemones while underwater.
  • 🌊[HIGH ELASTIC WETSUIT] Greatever three-dimensional ergonomic tailoring wetsuit, fast drying breathable super elastic nylon fabric wetsuit, suitable for different body shape, let you move freely in the water. Wetsuit is suitable for all kinds of water sports, such as diving, fishing, surfing, paddling, kayaking, water skiing, windsurfing, etc.

Exterior layer

If you’re wearing a long-sleeved wet or dry suit, you won’t need to wear an exterior layer, such as a jacket, because the suit itself will provide you with the protection you need from cold air and water temperatures.

Foot wear

When you’re kayaking in the cold weather, a pair of paddling booties or water shoes is highly recommended; the same as you would wear during warmer weather. Either option is waterproof and will keep your feet protected from any rough surfaces you may be walking on. You should also wear a pair of waterproof socks; or at the very least, a pair of thick socks that are made of synthetic fabric to keep your feet protected from cold conditions.

Head wear

A beanie is highly recommended, as it fits snuggly  on the head and will prevent you from losing body heat through your head. Choose something that’s made of quick-drying fabric so in case it gets wet, you won’t have to worry about it taking forever to dry. It’s also a good idea to wear a brimmed hat on top of a beanie, as it will keep the sun off of your face. You might want to consider a brimmed hat that features a cape, too, to protect your neck from the sun.

Gloves

You’re definitely going to want to wear gloves to protect your hands from both chaffing and from the cold conditions. Paddling gloves are a great option, as they’re made of waterproof materials and feature protective fabric that will protect your palms from the paddle. Pogies are another option; they attach onto the paddle and you slip your hands in. Like paddling gloves, they also protect your hands from the cold, as well as chafing.

Best Selling Kayak Gloves

Bestseller No. 1
XUKER Water Gloves, 3mm & 5mm Neoprene Five Finger Warm Wetsuit Winter Gloves for Scuba Diving Snorkeling Paddling Surfing Kayaking Canoeing Spearfishing Skiing (3mm-Black, 2XL)
  • Perfect Hands Protection - These neoprene gloves are glued blind stitched, strong but flexible, provide perfect protection for your hands in multiple water sports, keep your hands safe against any dangerous objects or creatures.
  • Keep Hands Warm - The diving gloves are made from premium neoprene which is thermal and covered with soft elastic fabric, continuously keep your hands warm in water and winter sports.
  • Great Palm Grip - With the anti-slip rubber printed palms neoprene gloves, you can be confident that you will never lose your grip while snorkeling, surfing, swimming, sailing, diving, kayaking, rafting, canoeing, boating or other aquatic activities.
  • Adjustable Wrist Closure - There are Velcro Straps on wetsuit gloves wrist parts, ensure minimal water entry and close fit to prevent neoprene gloves from coming off, let your hands move freely and offer high thermal insulation against cold water.
  • Widely Unisex Fit - Pre-shaped ergonomic design with reliable five-finger provides extreme fitting, from size XS to 2XL, widely fit for most people, would be great gifts for water and winter sports lovers.
Bestseller No. 2
FitsT4 Unisex 3/4 Finger Gloves for Water Ski, Canoeing, Windsurfing, Kiteboarding, Sailing, Jet Skiing and Stand-UP Paddle Boarding Adjustable Wrist Cinch, Comfortable Fit Blue L
  • Excellent Protection: The 3/4 finger gloves featuring vented and padded premium synthetic leather palms. Helps protect your hands from abrasion meanwhile ensuring a secure grip no matter wet or dry.
  • Designed for Comfort: Soft high stretch spandex back for snug fit, not too tight. Extremely comfortable fit that does not promote hand fatigue. You’ll enjoy superior comfort and enhanced performance.
  • Allows Full Dexterity: These canoeing gloves design with 3/4 fingers, leaves your fingers free for high-dexterity tasks. While the exposed fingers make it easy to move and pick up equipment.
  • Super Quality Wrist Support: Paired with adjustable hook and loop wrist fastener for a secure and dependable fit, easy to take on and off. Lightweight and quick drying, great for hot weather use.
  • Multisport Gloves: Design for all water sports, dries fast. Great for canoeing, windsurfing, water skiing, jet ski, paddling, kitesurfing, wakeboarding, SUP and other action sports. Unisex sizing for men, women or youth.
Bestseller No. 3
Extremus Antero Cycling Glove Fingerless Padded Workout Glove Bike Glove Anti-Slip Palm Biking Glove Breathable Bicycle Glove Exercise Glove,Ideal Glove for Biking, Kayaking, Weightlifting,ST,L
  • KEY FEATURES – Durable padded microfiber palm – Anti-slip palm printing - Sweat absorbing material – Integrated pull tabs – Fashionable Prym1 colors – Ideal for mountain or road biking, weightlifting, canoeing, kayaking, motorcycle riding, and other outdoor activities.
  • Padded Non-Slip Palm – Extremus Antero cycling gloves feature a padded palm, no-slip palm printing, and tough microfiber material. High density padding is sewn into our biking gloves to protect you from the jarring impact of rugged mountain bike trails or heavy weights in the gym. Non-slip material printed on the palm ensures your hands will not slip and the tough microfiber material will provide excellent long-term performance.
  • Wipe away sweat – Moisture absorbing material makes it easy to quickly remove sweat from your brow. We have designed the Antero with soft moisture absorbing terrycloth fabric on the back of the thumb allowing you to quickly wipe sweat away from your face or forehead.
  • Easy Off Pull loops – Integrated pull tabs on the ring and middle fingers make it easy to remove your bike gloves with just one hand, place your fingers under both loops and pull to remove your bicycle gloves. We use breathable fabric to keep you cool and comfortable all day long, and our 4-way stretch fabric offers a snug fit that will not hinder your dexterity.
  • PRYM1 CAMO & MACHINE WASHABLE– “BE THE PREDATOR” with American born Prym1 Camo, Extremus is proud to partner with Stacie Walker a wildlife artist and founder of Prym1 Camo. The Antero kayaking gloves are also easy to clean, simply machine wash in warm water after a hard day of use. Maximize your performance with Extremus Antero workout gloves.

Extra Clothing

Whether you’re kayaking in cold or warm conditions, or on a short or long journey, you’ll definitely want to bring along some extra clothing. It’s a good idea to pack an extra piece of each of the items that you’re wearing (with the exception of a wet or dry suit, personal flotation device, paddling  water shoes). For example, if you’re wearing a swimsuit, a rash guard, board shorts, a fleece, and socks, you’ll want to bring an extra of each item in your kayak.

Make sure that you pack your extra garments in a dry storage bag to prevent them from getting wet. It’s also a good idea to put a towel in your dry storage bag. If you end up getting wet – either because you capsize or because the water gets choppy and splashed into your vessel – you’ll be able to pull to shore and change so you can remain comfortable and properly protected for the remainder of your journey.

Summing It Up

Kayaking promises to be an incredible experience; however, to ensure that you have the most enjoyment possible, you definitely want to wear the right attire. Use the recommendations provided above and you should be well prepared for your excursion.

Jake is an explorer, he loves all types of outdoor pursuits such as hunting, fishing & hiking. Jake has been a full-time writer & blogger for many years now and he's here to share his passions with the BeActiveOutdoors readers. Contact Jake@beactiveoutdoors.com

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