Every sport has its unique clothing requirement, and so has kayaking. You have to consider the weather condition and water temperature to make the right decision.

Many people, due to their wrong clothing choices, end up having a bad kayaking day. It’s really sad!!

If the weather is hot, your biggest challenge will be to stay cool. On the other hand, during a freezing day, your main concern should be keeping yourself warm. That’s why “what to wear kayaking” is our today’s topic so that you can make the best of your kayaking experience with all the right gears.

Table Of Contents

What To Wear Kayaking

What to Wear When You do Kayaking

There is a misconception that you can’t have “Fun” wearing too much safety gear. But there is a huge difference between wearing too much and wearing the right clothes. The right clothes help you focus more on paddling and saves you from undesirable mishaps.

But before we talk about all the clothing options, you must consider some important factors that will help you choose what to wear in different weather conditions. Take a look:

Dress according to the weather:

If the water temperature is between 60 F to 120 F, go for your spring kayaking clothing. If the temperature is below 60 F choose your winter clothing, and in case of above 120 F temperature, summer clothing will suffice.

Your kayaking clothes should be able to block the sun, rain, and sea spray. Visibility should be high so that you can be easily seen by others.

Listen to the weather forecast before leaving. And if the weather is really bad, postpone your trip. 

Now check out your clothing options for different weather:

  1. kayaking in summer:

Even though you love sunny days, protecting ourselves from the hot sun rays in the middle of a river is crucial. 

Wearing a wet suit will be great if you want to be dry. But if you don’t want, then wear shirts or tops made of synthetic blends. Look for clothes made with fabrics that dry quickly.

It’s very important to have sun protection. Apply sunscreen with high SPF and wear sunglasses. You don’t need designer ones, just good enough to give your eyes shades. 

Protect your head from sun-tan by wearing a hat. 

2. kayaking in winter

Well, life jackets come first. Because even if you are a good swimmer, cold water can numb your senses even before you start swimming. Hypothermia is a common condition in such situations.

Wear a wet suit or a dry suit to keep yourself warm. As a final layer, choose a waterproof jacket that can also act as a wind-breaker. Wool gloves and neoprene socks are going to ensure the blood circulation of your hands and feet. And to prevent your head from losing heat, wear a helmet(and skullcap underneath it!!).

3. Kayaking in spring:

Choosing the right dress for spring is tricky. You have to know the place where you kayak very well. Because the temperature keeps going up and down throughout the day.

Wear many thin layers of waterproof clothing. It is more effective than wearing one thick dress. Because the air gets trapped between your body and the clothes, this way you stay warm.

If the water is too cold, consider a wet suit. Then follow up with sun protection(sunglasses, sun mask, hat, sunscreen) 

Where you plan to go for kayaking:

Knowing where you are planning to kayak is not only important for buying a boat, but also for choosing the appropriate clothing. If you only plan to kayak in a lake or calm river, you don’t need gloves or drysuit. But if you have a passion for white water kayaking, you can’t avoid high waves and splashing water. It is indispensable to wear a dry suit and layers of high-quality clothing. The layers you choose must be abrasion-resistant to handle rough weather, sand, water, etc.

Is it a sit-in or a sit-on-top kayak:

What type of kayak it is, is also another factor to look at. If it is a sit-on-top kayak, it provides advantages like better ventilation, more space, more legroom, etc. But it’s not safe for winter kayaking. Because you won’t be able to keep water out of the kayak. As a result, you will need more gear to protect yourself.

But in case of a sit-inside kayak, you are safer in cold water. Attach a spray skirt to it, and you will get a drier and warmer ride.

Choose the best shoes for kayaking:

The best shoes for kayaking are neoprene ones. These are made from polyurethane material or nylon which helps against water. As a result, these are light in weight and waterproof. Also, keep your feet warm and dry, provide support to your arch and heel, protect from sharp stones, dirt, and water. A perfect partner for your winter trip.

Now let’s dig a little deeper and find out what wetsuits and drysuits do to our body.

Wet Suits:

Wetsuits work pretty much like normal clothes. The fabric(neoprene) lets a thin layer of water in and traps the water inside. Because of your body heat, the water becomes warm and keeps you warm as well for a long time.

Wetsuits are tight-fitted, and you can’t wear thick inner garments. Wetsuits are mostly used by scuba divers.

 It’s great for your summer and spring kayaking.


Drysuits are more loose-fitted than wetsuits. So you can wear some thin layers inside it too.

Drysuits don’t let any water come inside.”Air locking “technique is used for keeping you warm. The thing is, when you wear it, a thin layer of air gets trapped in between your body and the suit. With that air, your natural body heat also gets trapped inside the suit. 

When we “insulate” our home and roof, we do the same thing too.

Drysuits are best for a winter kayaking trip.

What-not-to-do list for you:

  • Don’t wear cotton: Cotton absorbs moistures and doesn’t dry quickly. 
  • Don’t wear jewelry: There’s a high chance that you will lose your accessories in the water. 

Besides, salt water can cause rusting.

  • Don’t wear clothes with metal zippers: for the same “rusting” reason, you should avoid metal zippers.
  • Never forget your life jacket.
  • Avoid thin fabrics such as yoga pants. They won’t last long on the water.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothes that hinder paddling.

What to wear when you are kayaking in the spring?

Probably you are thinking about what to wear kayaking in the spring, yes it’s important to know what to wear. Selecting clothing for kayaking in spring can be confusing. Thin layers of synthetic clothes, proper sun protection, neoprene socks, and attaching a spray skirt are enough preparations for you to enjoy spring kayaking. In short, choose something that can help you against the hot sun and the cold water. 

  • Life jackets are the first priority for any kayaking trip.
  • Use proper sun protection with sunglasses, sun mask, or a big hat.
  • Attach a spray skirt, if you have a sit-inside kayak. It will keep you away from splashing water, Because water can be very cold in spring.
  • Instead of wearing a thick layer, opt for multiple thin layers. So, you will be able to reduce layers once it’s too hot. Remember, in spring the temperature can be very unstable.

So, yeah… that is all you need to follow for spring kayaking. 

What clothing should you wear when kayaking in summer? 

Sunglasses, big hats, dry tops with a waterproof bottom and neoprene shoes are indispensable for summer kayaking. Surprised??

After all, Summer kayaking is not like how we imagine it. So let’s come to the point what to wear when kayaking in summer, your clothing plays a big role if you want to do kayaking for a longer time. There are some prescribed clothing you should follow for a better kayaking experience.

  • First comes the life jacket as usual. DON’T FORGET IT. 
  • Summer kayaking is all about safety from the sun and water. Your head is the last thing you want to sunburn. You can use a wide hat, to give you shade in the middle of the water.
  • Since we are talking about sunburn, don’t forget to apply some sunscreen with SPF 15 to 50. Overexposure to UVA and UVB can damage your DNA of the skin that may lead to skin cancer.
  • Sunglasses are a must for summer kayaking. Sun Rays reflected off the water can be very irritating to your eyes. 
  • If you don’t want to wear wet or dry-suit, opt for shirts with long sleeves. Look for materials that dry quickly.
  • Your old waterproof kayaking shoes will be sufficient. But according to us, neoprene shoes are the best. 

What to wear kayaking in cold weather?

Just because it is freezing outside, doesn’t mean you have to stop kayaking. With gearing up for the weather, you can have a great time paddling. Check out What to wear when kayaking in cold weather, to keep yourself warm:

  • Wear a dry or wet suit. These will keep you warm and comfy. Some dry-suits come with fleece lining, so no need for a base layer. And the same goes for wet-suits too. If you don’t have those, a dry top and dry pants will still do the job.
  • Consider bringing hand gloves. Preventing your hands from freezing is crucial for taking good strokes. It will also protect you against blisters and rubbed up areas in the palms.
  • Our head loses heat faster than other body parts. It can lead to hypothermia, which happens due to losing heat faster than our body produces heat. If your body temperature drops to 95 F, you will start showing symptoms of hypothermia. That’s why we suggest you use a helmet( and a skullcap too!!) in cold weather.
  • And don’t forget about your feet. Wear a pair of neoprene shoes for a drier ride. For a comfy feel, try some wool socks underneath.

Winter kayaking is also fun when you are all geared up!!

Can I wear flip flops while kayaking?

No, you shouldn’t wear flip flops kayaking. Flip flops don’t provide much support to your feet. It just comes with a strap and a sole. For kayaking, you have to travel across rocky mountains. Your flip flops due to their flimsy structure may end up broken. 

We get it! You think that flip flops will enable your feet to breathe and be dry. But that’s not the case. It is impossible to keep your feet dry wearing flip flops.

If you have done kayaking before, you must know how difficult it can be to get in and out of a sit-inside kayak. With a flip flop on your feet, you have a higher chance of ending up in your kayak barefooted.

Besides, for traveling across mountains with sharp stones, it is crucial to have footwear that keeps your foot in a place. Flip flops are not that good at providing traction. And slipping off the rocks is the last thing you want, trust me. 

Well, we think it’s pretty clear to you that flip flops are not the best shoes for kayaking. Try to wear shoes designed for kayaking.

What to wear canoeing?

The temperature of the water and air is an essential consideration before deciding what to wear for canoeing. Look for comfort, weather friendliness, and waterproof materials in your clothing.

  • You don’t need to wear wetsuits for canoeing in a calm lake. You can use some freedom!! But leaving your life jacket is a Big NO!! When you are in the water try your best to wear the like jacket.
  • Choose clothes made of synthetic blends or any other fiber that dry quickly. It should be comfy too. So that you can move your body parts smoothly, avoid tight-fitting shirts that don’t allow you to take powerful strokes.
  • Sunglasses are quite helpful for summer canoeing. Bright rays of the sun may prevent you from seeing clearly. And it is very irritating to sit under the hot sun for a long time. Sunglasses protect your eyes by giving them shade.
  • Don’t forget your skin too. Apply some sunscreen with SPF 15 to 50. It will protect your skin from the harshness of UV rays.
  • Next is waterproof shoes. You can’t just get out of your home and sit in a canoe. You have to travel through not-so-smooth valleys to reach the river. That’s why we need shoes that will be waterproof, comfortable, dry quickly, and support your arch and heel.

So that was it, follow these what-to-wear rules along with our what-not-to-wear rules discussed in the article. And you are good to go.


Kayaking is fun, only when you are safe.

We understand that it is not fun to wear life jackets and long-sleeves shirts and helmets and all the stuff we suggested above. 

But you should be ready for the worst scenario possible. There is a saying that before stepping on the water, prepare yourself like you are going to drown. Well, maybe it’s just a saying, and you are sure that you are not going to drown (thanks to your pro paddling skills!!!). Still, nobody knows what is awaiting them.

Besides, it is easier to reduce the layers once you feel hot than to find more layers while shivering in the middle of nowhere. Right?

We hope we were able to answer all your questions regarding “what to wear when you do kayaking.”

Be safe and keep paddling!!

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