What to Wear Kayaking- A Complete Guide

Wearing protective clothing is crucial during outdoor activities such as camping and kayaking. You might be thinking “what to wear kayaking,” which protects you from weather conditions, including cold, hot, air-breeze, or rain.

A kayaking drysuit keeps you comfortable and protected while on the water. So wearing your kayak drysuit on the water is similar to hiking and climbing in the mountains. However, one exception does exist, and here you will interact with the water.

As kayaking is a water sport and considered an activity in the water, it requires a kayaking drysuit. So, a kayak drysuit will keep you warm in the cold water.

Moreover, when it is hot and sunny, it is essential to wear clothing that protects you from sunburn and lets you stay cool. During rainstorms, it’s necessary to wear waterproof layers to keep rain and wind at bay.

In the article, we will highlight the details of kayaking drysuits and tips for what to wear kayaking, along with information about sun protection, footwear, and clothing during the cold weather, summers, and mild season.


The sport of kayaking provides an ideal opportunity to learn, improve, and acquire new skills. To enjoy your time on the water, you must dress correctly to experience a great time.

Comfort levels of paddles are highly dependent on both in and out of the water conditions. Generally, kayakers should wear clothes suited for water temperatures, not for the air’s temperature.

Before going into the water, make sure you must wear a wetsuit or drysuit. Coldwater can ruin your enjoyment more severely, and you may even become hypothermic.

Keep Yourself Safe and Move Freely

If you plan on entering the water, you must wear a personal flotation device at all times. The majority of people find that life jackets restrict their movements when they paddle. So, there’s no reason not to invest in a kayak-specific life jacket to provide you with maximum freedom.

Kayaking requires proper clothing to enjoy a safe excursion. It’s also essential to stay comfortable and warm. You should wear comfortable clothing that does not restrict your movement.

Two Basic Categories or Approaches

Clothing for immersion can be divided into two basic categories: the wet and dry system. A wet system is most popular. A variety of layers of insulation—such as wetsuits—are worn to keep one warm. Water is stored in these layers beneath the skin and would be heated by the body. In water, wetsuits will offer you much more comfort than traditional clothing.

In contrast, dry systems use a drysuit to keep water off the body, and the insulation worn underneath remains dry. It means that water would not be able to transfer heat away from your skin.

Moreover, they offer varying degrees of insulation depending on the temperature of the water and air. As a result, you won’t overheat during the summer or freeze during the winter. In particular, drysuits made from breathable fabrics provide a wide range of comfort.

Tips on What to Wear Kayaking

We will help you with everything from kayaking gear to techniques and questions about what to wear kayaking. Paddlers will soon have confidence in the water when they follow these kayaking tips.

Additionally, you might want durability, functionality, and protection against cold and wet weather conditions when you are on the go. You can choose your kayaking clothing by following the following tips:

Wear Personal Flotation Device

No device is more crucial than a personal flotation device or life jacket in terms of outdoor watersports equipment. As a means of protecting you against unforeseen circumstances during kayaking expeditions or adventures in the water, PFDs are crucial to kayakers.

Therefore, you must wear a personal flotation device and be sure not to remove it when you are in the water. Whenever your top layers need to be adjusted, removing them is the most appropriate procedure, so for it, you should locate yourself somewhere and remove them.

Alternatively, it is possible to raft up with a friend’s help who can hold your boat in place until you get change, but it is preferable to change onshore.

F6- what to wear kayaking - Wear flotation clothes

Consider Water Temperature

Although it’s great to paddle during spring and fall, the cool water temperature causes the activity to be more hazardous.

Generally speaking, the body loses heat more rapidly when immersed in cold water than air with the same temperature. As a result, a sudden loss of heat can cause hypothermia, cold shock, and even death.

Coldwater loses heat through convection, which is the movement of water over your skin and transmitting heat. Thus, lowering the perspiration rate across your skin with appropriate clothing decreases your risk of getting an infection.

So, it is significant that you choose a dress for the water temperature and not for the air temperature. Additionally, you might prefer to wear wetsuits or drysuits.

Layer Dressing

You must dress in layers, especially at the top of your body. Conditions such as the warmth of the weather and the water temperature make it challenging to select clothes. Because of this, one must protect themselves from the sun and remain hydrated.

On hot days, it’s also a great idea to cover up. So, wearing lightweight, long sleeve shirts and long pants would be an excellent idea to start with them.

Further, cold water is a more difficult condition to handle.  Always remember you have to “dress for the water, not for the weather.” Despite the heat, getting into cold water can swiftly help to cool you off.

So, layers will accommodate your flexibility and make you feel comfortable. Generally, they are looser to allow you to move more freely and maintain your body temperature constant, and you will feel relaxed.

Remember that you will probably get wet on the lower body if you use a sit-on-top kayak. At the same time, a sit-on-top kayak gives you a greater degree of protection against the water. Consider what kind of kayak you are going to use so that you can dress appropriately.

Protect Yourself Against the Sun

Numerous health problems are involved in overexposure to the sun, some of which are dehydration, skin cancer, and sunburn. Therefore, keep yourself covered from the sun when kayaking.

In sunny weather, when you are kayaking, you should wear UPF-rated clothing that can reflect UV rays to be protected.

These sun-protective dresses are crafted of high-quality polyester fabric, protecting you from UV radiation and keeping you safe from sunburn.

You will probably get wet while kayaking, so you should use sunscreen. It will help if you have a water sport sunscreen because it will not rinse off quickly.

Aside from that, it is also crucial to wear kayak gloves for the protection of your hands.  Moreover, a wide-brimmed cap would shield your face from excessive sunlight.

Sunglasses with polarized lenses can also be beneficial for the safety of your eyes, and they will stop the sun’s rays that might distract you when these rays are bouncing off.

Cotton is Not Water Friendly

Cotton should never be used as a top layer due to its inability to dry quickly; it is always better to look for fabrics that can dry rapidly. If you have clothing that will contact your skin, choose wicking’s, such as nylon, polyester, and other synthetic fabric material that dries faster.

The insulating properties of wool make it an excellent choice as well. Dress in clothing that doesn’t restrict your movement and is convenient to sit in for several hours.

Moreover, the fabrics you choose should be abrasion-resistant so they can withstand the wear and tear caused by sand, water, or anything rough that you can confront throughout your kayaking.

Zippers in Clothes Should be Non-rustable

Similarly, it would be a great idea if you also stayed away from rust-prone zippers, zipper pulls, and other metal parts.

Saltwater, in particular, affects metals negatively; that’s why rugged plastics are another excellent option to be picked for it. There is no doubt that any metal elements found on paddling gear are likely resistant to corrosion.

What to Wear on Cold Season for Kayaking

Staying warm is one of the most profound aspects of kayaking in the winter. Many rivers and lakes are below freezing during winter, and the air might also be colder than that.

Cold air and water cause hands to cool rapidly. Consequently, moisture loss through evaporation and cold winds make the weather conditions more severe.

However, in case you have a plan for the venture in water, protective gear is essential because, in the freezing temperatures, you might face a hard time.

When you return to your kayak or onshore, you will stay warm using proper layers. Due to this, it is vital to be careful to paddle during the winter.

When kayaking in the winter, a drysuit should be your first choice. The right kind of wetsuit is sufficient for providing insulation to the body against cold temperatures. As long as you layer fleece with a tight jacket, you can stay warm, though dry suits are the best option.

The drysuit, made from a waterproof substance, protects you from cold water. There are tightly sealed gaskets that can save you from water, help keep you dry, and ensure your safety. You can regulate your body temperature when you wear long underwear together with an additional layer of insulation.

Warmth is essential to your body, so you must wear headgear that can keep you warm. In addition, you can wear thick neoprene gloves to keep warm; however, pogies are usually more practical and comfortable.

The pogies are suitable for barehanded use, which makes paddling easier. Meanwhile, other paddlers put on thin gloves underneath their pogies to protect their hands.

What to Wear on Summer Season

In summer, as the water temperature rises, kayakers have a more challenging time choosing appropriate attire, which varies with the temperature of the water. If both the weather and water are warm, you must wear clothes giving you complete protection from sun exposure.

On the other hand, there is a need to balance comfort and safety in a cold-water environment when swimming. If the weather is warm and the water is hot, kayakers should wear wicking base layers and long-sleeved clothing to protect themselves from sunscreen.

Various unique base layers are available in the market, including those featuring long sleeves and hoods that provide maximum coverage from the sun.

Generally, shorts are sufficient for most situations, while long, water-repellent nylon pants give you additional safety against sunburn or insect bite. Shirts made of lightweight nylon and hooded sweatshirts are other choices for blocking the sun’s rays.

F6- What to wear in summer season

Plus, when it comes to protecting your neck and face from the sun, hats with broad brims are excellent choices. Hands can be protected from sunburn with special gloves as well.

On the opposite side, when the waters are cold, during summer, then summer attire becomes more complicated to choose appropriately. When you swim in shorts or a t-shirt on the coast of Maine, you will become hypothermic no matter how hot it is outside.

Consequently, wetsuits are sufficient to keep you warm; however, they can be uncomfortable if the air temperature rises. Fortunately, despite these challenges, there are some more things that you can use to get the job done.

What to Wear in Mild Season           

When you are paddling in the Mild Season (spring), you can expect chilly water temperatures and a relatively warm air climate. As a result, it can be confronting to dress for kayaking easily on account of these factors.

During the mild season (spring), paddling calls for clothes that will keep you comfortable and relaxed while kayaking. During the early spring, water temperature is almost as cold as throughout that period, so kayaking precautions are the same as during winter.

It’s dangerous to paddle in the mild season since warm air temperatures may lead you to wear clothing not appropriate for paddling. If you go swimming in shorts and t-shirts, it might be disastrous for you.

In cold water, you will become hypothermic no matter how hot it is outside. It would be commendable if you put appropriate clothes according to the water temperature, not for the outside temperature.

Layers Beneath a Drysuit and Wetsuit in Mild Seasons

Mild season or spring means cold water. If you use a wetsuit to protect against it, wear mid-layers under it when going into the water.

It’s evident that, when it’s chilly out, you would probably want to put on all your layers, such as a waterproof suit, an extra layer of fleece, your kayaking jacket, and trousers. A chilly spring day feels almost as warm as a hot day in the winter. It is thus vital to prepare for this eventuality.

On the other hand, when you wear a dry suit, make sure your layers are the same as those you would wear during autumn. So, wearing a thin, wicking fleece beneath a wicking base layer would be a good idea. If it is warmer outside, it might be great to wear thinner insulating layers. Also, have a look into article on Selection of Kayak, where we discussed some points regarding factors that affect kayak selection.

Water Shoes During the Mild Season

During mild seasons, the water is cold, making it necessary to wear shoes that offer your feet protection and keep them dry. In general, the best waterproof shoes are neoprene shoes, especially with booties that are insulated.

Drysuits with booties will keep your feet warm and dry for a long time. You can also wear thick non-cotton socks within your booties as a layer of insulation.

Miscellaneous Things in Mild Season

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

Whenever you’re close to shore and want to kayak, it’s necessary to wear a personal flotation device for your safety.


Wearing paddling gloves can keep you from getting blisters over your hands and keep you safe from windburn.


Wide-brimmed hats or caps are the best options. It would be healthy for you to have a hat that can keep you warm in mild temperatures.


You can wear anything warm and quick-drying on the lower body; these include board shorts and soft quick-dry bottoms.

Layering with Wetsuit or Drysuit

The warmth of your wetsuit and drysuit should be taken into consideration when determining which layers to wear.

Kayaking is a great thing to do whenever you want, as long as the water is not too cold. So, what should you wear while kayaking in cold water to stay safe and comfortable?

Wicking materials are essential for keeping your skin dry. It is a good idea to use breathable fabrics that allow moisture to escape from your skin directly into the drysuit.

Like Gore-Tex, a drysuit made of breathable stuff is more comfortable than one made of other materials. You will not sweat in them, and your dress will not get wet. So, you will stay comfortable.

Layering With a Long-Sleeve Wetsuit

Base Layer

A wicking base layer is not necessary for your wetsuit because it’s warm inside. However, wearing swimwear under your wetsuit is excellent as it allows you to change your wetsuit without going to a changing room.


Your body gets insulated by the hot water inside the suit and the thick material of the layer. If the water is colder, you should prefer to consider a thicker wetsuit along with a mid-layer.

Outer Layer

When wearing a long-sleeved wetsuit, it should also be watertight and windproof, eliminating the need for any outer layers.

Layering With a Sleeveless or Short-Sleeve

Under your wetsuit, you should wear a quick-drying layer that will protect the opened surfaces on your arms.

A long-sleeved base layer and underneath remain the best option for warmth and sun protection, and they work very well. It is better to wear a heavier garment during cooler weather.

Besides the fleece jacket, you can also use a rain jacket and a paddle jacket to protect your arms in cold and wet weather.

Layering With a Dry Suit

Base Layer

Generally, the Drysuits are raincoats sealed against water that keep water out, which means that you will need undergarments made of materials other than cotton. Liners for drysuits are also a handy option, and fleece linings in a few models are also available in the market.


Meanwhile, the environment gets more frozen in the winter, and it may be a healthy idea to wear long underwear over a fleece layer.

Outer Layer

The ideal drysuit should be windproof, waterproof, and breathable. Thus, a separate outer layer isn’t necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What shoes do you wear when kayaking?

Kayakers should wear water booties or water shoes, which means taking the best footwear is crucial for kayaking. In addition to being comfortable while wearing these shoes, you would not trip over rocks, and you will remain warm throughout your kayaking trip.

Also, during cold weather, you should wear sandals with straps, although cold weather might make your feet uncomfortable and you will feel freezing.

So, you can avoid it with water shoes made of water-resistant stuff. They have drainage systems to ensure the water will drain out of your shoes.

Should you wear a bathing suit while kayaking?

Whenever you are kayaking, we recommend wearing bathing suits because they provide excellent protection when you get wet.

When the day has to be friendly and warm and water not too frosty, then you are good to go. It might be appropriate to wear a quick-drying top and shorts to ensure that you dry quickly.

Adding rashguards makes sense since they’re quick-drying, breathable, and offer you protection from harmful UV rays while kayaking. They will also keep you dry and comfortable and shield you from intense sunlight.

What should I wear to kayak in early spring?

There might be a bit of warmth in the weather during spring; however, the water will remain chilly. Ensure that you stay dry and find excellent clothes for water-resistant that will help keep you safe and relaxed.

Neoprene, fleece, and other such fabrics are all suitable, while you should avoid cotton. Shirts made from this material tend to be troublesome when wet, leading to a loss of body heat. Socks made of neoprene or shoes that are waterproof are ideal for keeping your feet glowing.

What do you wear when kayaking in hot weather?

So you can stay warm and cover yourself from the sun with the use of a long-sleeved shirt or UV protective clothing. Therefore you will also stop skin damage due to ultraviolet radiation.

When it is cool, wear thicker clothing. Be sure to bring a light fleece jacket, a raincoat, and a paddleboard jacket to protect your arms from chilly weather and breeze.

Is kayaking hard for beginners?

Among the kayak types, sit-on-tops are most suitable for beginners. Sit-on-top kayaks are very stable and easy to enter and exit. People who feel nervous about getting in and out of this kind of kayak would not be uncomfortable.

When paddling in warm waters, sit-on-top kayaks are perfect, particularly when swimming in the water.

How dangerous is kayaking?

Regardless of how you look at it, kayaking is not without its risks. Dehydration and exposure to the sun could quickly turn into something precarious, and spending time on the water might prove to be hazardous. Kayaking is indeed a risky sport, but that’s not always the case.


Most importantly, comfort and safety must be your top priorities when shopping for kayak gear.  It would be helpful for you to find out the water temperature when planning your clothes; you will know “what to wear kayaking.”

It is traditional to use wetsuits and drysuits, which are safe choices for kayaking. As a result, you will stay warm in both. They differ in terms of features and functions, and you must do some additional research before making a decision.

The quality and comfort of your chosen garments are highly affected by the materials used in their manufacture. Besides examining their waterproofness, insulation, and mobility, you should also determine whether or how they prevent water from getting into them?

Floatation devices should always be worn, regardless of swimming ability. Choosing what to wear kayaking will no longer be a challenge after reading this article.

Additionally, you’d know what factors are essential, which would allow you to make a better shopping decision for your kayaking drysuit.