What to Wear Kayaking

What To Wear Kayaking

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Kayaking is one of the most enjoyable and exhilarating sports anyone can experience, and there’s almost nothing like it.

The mixture of adventure, exertion, and fun makes it a superb way to spend a weekend or as a way to celebrate a special occasion, but going in poorly prepared can turn your fun-filled adventure into a nightmare of discomfort and even danger.

What to Wear Kayaking

Many people totally underestimate the dangers of kayaking and how important it is to take the sport seriously and prepare properly.

One of the most important aspects of this preparation is what you wear when kayaking, especially in challenging weather or conditions, where accidents are more likely to happen.

It can be difficult to understand what to wear, especially as a beginner due to the sheer number of different factors that can affect your clothing choices.

Everything from temperature to the type of kayaking you’re doing and the duration of your experience can all play a part in what you should wear, as well as your experience level and even your budget.

In this guide, we’re going to take an in-depth look at what you should wear if you’re planning a kayaking trip to keep yourself as safe and comfortable as possible, which will help you get the most of your experience and ensure you have a truly memorable experience on the water.

Table of Contents

Safety First

The first and most important thing when kayaking is safety, and this trumps everything else, including comfort and whether or not you look cool.

Kayaking is an extreme sport, and there are a lot of risks involved in participating, even at a beginner level. Most of these risks can be mitigated effectively by wearing the correct equipment and safety gear and ensuring its being used correctly. 

Failing to take this equipment seriously and ignoring the potential dangers of kayaking can lead to very serious injuries and even death, so it’s crucial to prioritize the correct usage of safety equipment and proper kayaking apparel before worrying about how you look while wearing it.

If it’s any comfort to you, kayaking is quite physically demanding, and most people will be too worried about ensuring they don’t topple or taking in the beautiful sights to worry about whether your helmet looks silly or not.

In relation to choosing the correct clothing and footwear, there are several key things to take into account including;

  • Water conditions and planned route
  • Air and Water Temperature
  • Weather conditions
  • Route plan and time frame
  • Tides
  • Equipment
  • Experience levels and confidence

All of these factors will affect how enjoyable and safe your kayaking experience is, so ensure that you check and double-check these safety points before you set off to ensure that there are no changes or adjustments that need to be made to your clothing and equipment before you set off.

Not doing so could lead you to a disaster, or at worse a deeply uncomfortable experience, so don’t get overconfident as the water can be a capricious and cruel mistress to the unprepared!

What to Wear Kayaking

What To Wear

Now that we’ve emphasized the importance of proper planning and preparation, we can discuss the actual clothing you should consider wearing when kayaking.

Prevailing weather and water conditions play a huge role in how you plan your outfit, so we’ve broken up this checklist into separate sections for cold weather and warm weather kayaking to simplify things.

Cold Weather Kayaking Clothes


For cold weather kayaking, a wetsuit or drysuit are pretty much essential, and should ideally have a suitable insulation factor capable of withstanding the cold water you’re potentially going to enter.

It’s also important to note that swimming wetsuits aren’t suitable for kayaking and can cause chafing, and will feel awkward for kayaking due to the special design made specifically for swimming in open water.

Whether or not you wear underwear beneath your wetsuit is really up to you but most people avoid wearing anything underneath wetsuits as it can be uncomfortable.

Tops And Bottoms

In very cold weather it is fine to wear a light fleece as long as it is lightweight and can be taken off quickly.

Most people don’t wear bottoms with a wetsuit as they provide little benefit and only get in the way.

Outer Layers

A lightweight waterproof layer such as a light rain jacket or macintosh can work well as a protection from rain or cold in very bad conditions.


A hat to keep your ears warm in cold weather can be a good call, while a decent pair of gloves are also a good idea to keep fingers warm and prevent blistering or pain from the cold and cold water. A neck buff can also help keep your chest and neck warm.

Hot Weather Kayaking Clothes


In hot weather, try to wear non-cotton underwear, as cotton gets wet easily and doesn’t dry easily. A swimsuit or swim shorts are a better choice, and for women, sports bras can be a good choice for extra comfort and support, but this is really a matter of personal preference.


A rash guard is an ideal choice for a top as they are specially designed for kayaking and help avoid friction and discomfort, however, any t-shirt works fine as long as it’s not made of cotton for the above reasons.


A pair of board shorts are a great choice for bottoms as they are often quick drying and comfortable. Avoid anything that could be restrictive and uncomfortable, and also try to avoid leggings or yoga pants as these will tend to tear when kayaking.

Outer Layers

In warm weather outer layers may not be necessary, but it’s still a good idea to bring a small breathable coat or light jacket to provide some protection should bad weather come in. The weather can change quickly on the water, so being prepared for this is a good idea.


A small peaked hat and sunglasses can protect you from the sun, and don’t forget to wear a good covering of sunscreen as it’s very easy to get sunburnt when on the water.

Flotation Devices

Flotation devices are pretty much non-negotiable for kayaking, and you shouldn’t kayak without one ever. They are life-saving and even highly confident kayakers should use them, as well as helmets to protect from overhanging branches or getting hit by debris should you fall from the kayak.


While sandals work well in warmer weather, neoprene paddling boots are the best choice especially in cold weather conditions. Avoid flip flops at all costs, as well as trainers which are heavy or prone to hold a lot of water.

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