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

Bestseller No. 1
Kanu Surf Men's CB Rashguard UPF 50+ Swim Shirts (Regular & Extended Sizes), Charcoal, 4X
  • Short-sleeve Rashguard featuring crew neckline and contrast panels at sides
  • UPF 50+ rating
Bestseller No. 2
Quiksilver Men's Standard Solid Streak Long Sleeve Rashguard UPF 50 Sun Protection Surf Shirt, White, M
  • 50+ UPF sun protection
  • Constructed using reprieve recycled materials
  • Moisture wicking
  • Loose fit
  • Chlorine resistant
Bestseller No. 3
Body Glove Women's Sleek Solid Long Sleeve Rashguard with UPF 50+, Smoothies Black, Medium
  • 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

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
Men Athletic Water Shoes for Men Quick Dry Swim Shoes Pool Shoe Beach Shoe Diving Surf Kayak Boating Rivers Sports Aqua Shoes Barefoot Athletic Water Shoes for Men Non Slip, Black 11 Women/9.5 Men
  • Perfect Fit Design: Low top with elastic drawstring and lock buckle closure system, speedly adjust shoe width and prevents the aqua shoe drip off when doing water sports
  • Foot Safety: The newly all inclusive rubber cap design, anti collision, reduce hurt from hard objects outdoors. Soft and ventilated honeycomb holes foam insole reduce friction when stepping on rock or stone. Notice: Detachable insole if you want a “more barefoot” feeling
  • Unique Rubber Sole with Drainage Holes: Upgrade fishbone pattern rubber outsole with 7 drainage holes, ensure good drainage, creates a cooler and healthier shoe environment, enhance ability of slip resistant and wear resistant, giving strong trction when walking
  • Suitable Occasion: SAGUARO barefoot water shoes is a multifunction shoes, perfect for beach, diving, swimming, pool, snorkeling, surfing, sailing, kayaking, boating, paddle, parasailing, windsurfing, rafting, canyoning, river trekking, cross waterfalls, yoga, water aerobics,traveling

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 122200-505-020-15 MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest, X-Small/Small, Aqua
  • Mesh in lower back fits high back seats
  • Shoulder adjustments with neoprene comfort pads
  • SOLAS grade reflective material for visibility
  • Expandable zippered pockets with mesh drainage
  • Heavy duty nylon fabric; soft, lightweight flotation foam
SaleBestseller No. 2
Onyx Movevent Dynamic Vest-Orange-M/L (122200-200-040-14)
  • 200 denier nylon ripstop and nylon oxford
  • Mesh in lower back fits high back seats;
  • Shoulder adjustments with neoprene comfort pads
  • SOLAS grade reflective material for visibility
  • Expandable zippered pockets with mesh drainage
SaleBestseller No. 3
Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest, X-Large/XX-Large, Aqua, 122200-505-060-15
  • Mesh in lower back fits high back seats
  • Shoulder adjustments with neoprene comfort pads
  • SOLAS grade reflective material for visibility
  • Expandable zippered pockets with mesh drainage
  • Heavy duty nylon fabric; soft, lightweight flotation foam

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

SaleBestseller No. 1
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. 2
Full Body Dive Wetsuit Sports Skins Rash Guard for Men Women, UV Protection Long Sleeve One Piece Swimwear for Snorkeling Surfing Scuba Diving Swimming Kayaking Sailing Canoeing (XXL)
  • ★COMFORTABLE FIT: Skyone Long Sleeve Dive Skins made with spandex to give you a extremely soft, breathable and lightweight fit, it is supper comfortable with close skins and smooth, naturally form fitting to reduce drag in the water, offer you a comfortable snorkeling and surfing experience
  • ★PERFECT PROTECTION: With full body and long sleeve design, this one piece wetsuit is UV protection and a defense against cold temperatures, jellyfish, sea lice...ect, also tidy line stitching avoid the painful friction to skin, you can enjoy water sports freely
  • ★WIDE APPLICATION: Slip-on design with back zipper is durable for easy entry and exit, fit tight and snug with fast drying, wonderful for beach, snorkeling, swimming, scuba diving, surfing, sailing, kayaking, canoeing, perfect gift idea for mother, father, family, friends, lover...ect
  • ★DURABLE: 150% high stretch and excellent recovery, don’t worry about ripped, it will be a long term partner for you, however, for this full body rash guard slim design, please do not scratch or rub on sharp and rough objects
  • ★FULL COVERAGE: This Full Body Rash Guard can be fitted all size available for men and women in S, M, L, XL, XXL,XXXL, due to our size is different from the US standard size, please carefully review the size chart and select the size that is closest to your measurements, if you are in-between sizes, select the larger size, however, if you feel not fit it, simply contact with us freely and we will offer you a replacement or a refund, Click the 'Add to Cart' now!
Bestseller No. 3
CtriLady Wetsuit Women 1.5mm Neoprene Shorty Wetsuit Sleeveless Vest Diving Suits with Front Zipper UV Protection Full Body Swimwear for Swimming Surfing Kayaking Snorkeling (Black, 3X-Large)
  • 【Sleeveless & Shorts Design】 This unique women wetsuit is designed as sleeveless and shorts, which reduces the resistance encountered when swimming in the water, making you closer to the underwater world and feeling the wonder of the bottom.
  • 【Elegant Classical Black Color】Adopting to the elegant black color makes this wetsuit more fashionable. Also, there is stylish white color logo on the front and leg side giving you the fresh feeling breaking the dull of the darkness. Moreover, the front zipper design make it easy to put on and undress.
  • 【High Quality 1.5mm Neoprene Fabric】 This shorty wetsuit is made of high stretch and high quality neoprene fabric making it waterproof and warm.Due to this kind of fabric, this women full wetsuit is closer to the body so that can prevent water from entering adding the heat and delaying the loss of the body temperature. Let you stay in the water for a longer time.
  • 【Perfect for Water Sports】This sleeveless wetsuit is suitable for swimming, diving, surfing and snorkeling. But this wetsuit does is not suitable for deep sea diving. Wear this wetsuit, you can swim like a fish under the water world.
  • 【Fabric Composition & Warm Tips】 Inner layer: 100% nylon; Outer layer: 100% neoprene. The wetsuit is not recommended to ironing, machine washing and bleaching for keeping its shape and elasticity.

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
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. 2
KastKing Sol Armis Sun Gloves UPF50+ Fishing Gloves UV Protection Gloves Sun Protection Gloves Men Women for Outdoor, Kayaking, Rowing, Shoreline Prym1,Large - X-Large
  • KEY FEATURES – UPF 50 UV protection for your hands – Breathable poly-spandex material – Re-enforced wear points – Integrated pull tabs – Fashionable Prym1 colors
  • UPF 50 PROTECTION – The KastKing Sol Armis Sun Protection Gloves is designed by our team of elite anglers for a comfortable snug fit and rated UPF 50 to ensure you have sun protection for your hands from harmful UV rays.
  • BREATHABLE MATERIAL – We use breathable poly-spandex fabric to keep you cool and comfortable all day long without getting sun burned. Our 4-way stretch fabric offers a snug fit that won’t affect your dexterity to change hooks, baits or land fish.
  • MICROFIBER PALM& PULL TABS– Microfiber re-enforced primary wear points on the palms help to extend the life of your gloves and offers extra padding. Integrated pull tabs on the cuff and middle finger make it easy to pull on or take off your gloves.
  • PRYM1 CAMO & MACHINE WASHABLE– “BE THE PREDATOR” with American born Prym1 Camo, KastKing is proud to partner with Stacie Walker a wildlife artist and founder of Prym1 Camo. The Sol Armis gloves are also easy to clean, simply machine wash in warm water after a hard day of fishing. Stay protected from the sun in style with the KastKing Sol Armis Gloves.
Bestseller No. 3
Palmyth Stubby UV Fishing Gloves Sun Protection Fingerless Glove Men Women UPF 50+ SPF for Kayaking, Paddling, Canoeing, Rowing, Driving (Blue Camo, Medium)
  • Palmyth stubby gloves are half finger guide gloves with shortened fingers and shortened wrist. The Stubby is a natural on the water especially for those who want the protection but not the bulk. Use them for poling the boat, casting, releasing fish and more. Certified UPF 50+ and SPF UV Protection is woven into the fabric
  • Full synthetic leather palm and non-slip silicone fishes pattern reinforced palm for a better grip and durability: Ergonomic leather in palm to gain the better grip on the fishing rods, paddles or trekking poles, and also protect your hands from blisters, calluses and insect bites
  • Features stretchy, lightweight, breathable quick drying fabric that actually keeps your hands cooler and drier than wearing no gloves at all. Short (stubby) cut and half finger length increase flexibility, you can keep these gloves on all day long and you hardly notice wearing them
  • Finger-tip pull tabs make it easy to wear or remove even when the gloves are wet. Fingerless design means you retain manoeuvrability and dexterity so these gloves are suitable for fishing, kayaking, hiking, paddling, rowing, driving, canoeing, paddle board, cycling, and outdoor sporting activities, particularly water sports
  • Machine washable so after strenuous activity and throw them in the wash. Pair gloves with other UV clothing like Palmyth sunhats, Palmyth sun sleeves and Palmyth sun gaiters for total block. The breathable fabric will always retain its sun protectiveness and making it 100% suitable for fishermen, anglers, sailors, hunters, kayakers, hikers, outdoor athletes and people with possible skin cancer issues

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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