What To Wear Kayaking and What To Avoid

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Feeling adventurous? Want to get out on the water without having to worry about getting wet? You might want to try kayaking for a change! But what do you wear kayaking, and what should you bring with you? Well, that’s just what we’re going to be talking about today.

First off, don’t forget your swimsuit! It might not seem like an important thing at the time, but it will be if you end up having a little water come over the boat and get in your clothes. Not only will you get wet, but you won’t want to get out of the kayak and have to stand up in wet clothes.

On top of your swimsuit, you should also bring a towel. In case you fall in or if you get sick, having a towel around can be very handy. Especially if it’s hot and humid out, a towel can be very helpful to wipe off your face and neck to stay cool and not feel gross when you end up getting back in the kayak.

When deciding what to wear kayaking, follow these general guidelines:

Always wear a personal flotation device (PFD): It’s there to help you stay afloat if you fall in the water or it turns into a rescue situation. Not only is it convenient, but most PFDs also come with a whistle and/or strobe light if you need to signal for help. So if you end up getting stuck on an offshore wreck, these will definitely come in handy.

Wear minimal clothing: The more clothes you wear, the heavier it will be when it gets soaked in the water. So stick to light, breathable fabrics like cotton that allow your skin to cool down and doesn’t weigh too much.

Make sure your clothing is fit for purpose: Don’t just wear whatever you like. Make sure that everything you’re wearing is functional and you won’t have any issues with it. For example, if you’re wearing shorts and you get stuck on a rock in the middle of a river, it will be easy to work with.

Wear footwear that’s compatible with the kayak: This is just for safety reasons. It will allow you to have more control over your movements and help prevent an accident from happening. Just make sure that your footwear isn’t too loose and will turn. Also, try to avoid heels or high-heeled shoes because it might get caught on something or slip off in the water.

Look for abrasion-resistant fabrics: Since you will be moving around a lot in the kayak, and it will be filled with water, you need to make sure that the fabrics are abrasion-resistant so they can withstand a few scrapes.

Be prepared for any weather condition: No matter what, keep your eyes on the sky and know that it might start raining at any time. Be prepared to stuff all of your clothes, as well as your towel in a waterproof bag at all times.

How to Dress for Kayaking in Mild Conditions
For mild conditions, a short-sleeved shirt with an open top and short shorts is a great option. Just make sure to cover up in case it rains. You’ll probably even want to bring something on the go, like a rain poncho that can be hung from your kayak.

Underwear: Your best choice for underwear is cotton underwear. Avoid synthetic fabrics, as they’re usually very hot and can sweat a lot, which will be uncomfortable.
Tops: When the weather is too hot, you can simply wear a short-sleeved shirt. If it rains, you can also bring a waterproof jacket along with you.
Bottoms: A pair of swim trunks are a great choice. Make sure they’re not too tight and suit your body like a second skin. Also, if you go out in the water, make sure they have an inside pocket where you can put some cash on you and your phone.
Footwear: You need something that won’t slip when you step out of the boat. Make sure to wear minimalist shoes that aren’t too big so they won’t get stuck while paddling or getting in and out of the boat.
Mid-layer: A fleece jacket is a good idea since it’s very warm and will keep you warm if it starts getting cold. A vest can also be worn as well. If you have backpacking gear, a thin foam pad will be sufficient as a mid-layer.
Outer layer: A waterproof rain jacket is a great outer layer to have because it works as an outer and mid-layer. It’s like having two jackets for the price of one! A windbreaker can also be worn, but only in case, it gets cold. On top of that, if you’re wearing shorts, bring a pair of long johns and keep them tucked in your kayak so you can put them on quickly when it starts getting cold.
Hats: To keep your ears warm and to prevent them from getting cold and numb, you can wear a hat. As long as it’s not too big, a stocking cap works great. A knitted cap is another good option so you can stuff it into your pocket when it gets cold. The last thing you want is to get hypothermia!
Sunglasses: For protection against the sun, make sure to bring along a pair of sunglasses that you can slip on quickly when it starts getting hot out.
Gloves: In case it starts getting cold, makes sure to bring along some gloves to keep your hands warm. You can also wear them on top of your sleeves if they’re long enough.
Personal hygiene: If you’re going out in the water, it’s a good idea to wear a hat and sunscreen. Most beach-goers tend not to wear hats and sunscreen so you might as well be prepared. Also, when it gets hot out and you’re working hard in the water, a hat can help keep your head cool and prevent sunburn.
Glasses retainers: If you wear glasses, it’s a good idea to bring along some form of retainers. Otherwise, your glasses might get lost in the water.
Another thing to consider when kayaking is what food to take along with you. Depending on where you’re going and how long you’re going to be out there, it’s best to bring a snack or two with you.
PFDs: A PFD is a very important safety requirement for kayakers. According to the US Coast Guard, “In 2016, there were 10 fatal drownings in the United States involving kayakers and canoeists who were not wearing life jackets. Additionally, 92 percent of all drowning victims who were not wearing life jackets were not in a boat. They had fallen into the water from rocks, bridges, or docks.

How to Dress for Kayaking in Cool or Cold Water

For cool weather, you’ll want to put on some more layers. Underwear, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and fleece should be good enough. On top of that, you can also bring a rain poncho or cover up with a trash bag if it starts raining. To protect your neck, wear a hat or put on a beanie, and to protect your face and hands, wear gloves.

How to Dress for Kayaking in Hot and Humid Conditions

This is more of a guideline than an actual rule, but you should dress light and breathable. To stay cool, wear cotton shirts that are short-sleeved or a long shirt with a short-sleeve shirt. Also, wear a hat to keep your head protected from the sun. When it comes to bottoms, wear shorts or athletic pants instead of boxers or any type of bottoms that won’t allow air through.

How to Layer With a Wetsuit or Dry Suit
To layering, you should wear a long-sleeved shirt that has an open neck and long-sleeved gloves. You can also wear a long-sleeved shirt with an open neck if you don’t have gloves or if it’s too warm to wear. On the pants, you can put either a wetsuit or drysuit on. If your wetsuit is tight-fitting, you might have to roll up the cuffs of your pants. If you have a dry suit that goes all the way down to your feet, you can wear regular pants and roll them up if they’re too long.

Kayaking is one of the best ways to go around the water without having to get wet. It’s a great sport for both children and adults, and it’s also a ton of fun! But if you end up falling in or getting stuck somewhere, it’s always best to be prepared.

Layering With a Long-Sleeve Wetsuit
Base layer: You can wear a long-sleeved wetsuit on top of your regular clothes as a base layer.
A middle layer: You don’t need anything extra to wear while you’re in the water.
Outer layer: A short-sleeve or short pants wetsuit out of the water.
Booties: On top of your booties, you can either wear a short-sleeved or short pants wetsuit, depending on which one you prefer.

Layering With a Sleeveless or Short-Sleeve/Shorts Wetsuit

Base layer: You can wear the same wetsuit you wore while in the water with a long-sleeved shirt on top of it.
Middle layer: You can get away without wearing anything extra if you’re not having trouble keeping warm.
Outer layer: A short-sleeve or short pants wetsuit if your boots have some sort of protection for your feet. If not, wear a pair of sandals.

Layering With a Dry Suit
Base layer: You can wear a long-sleeved shirt on top of your wetsuit without having to change clothes.
Middle layer: The same as a base layer, you can keep it simple and just wear the same clothes you wore when you were in the water.
Outer layer: A short-sleeve or short pants wetsuit. This is if you have boots that come with a built-in bootie. If not, wear regular sandals or flip flops if there are none around.

Kayaking Gear You Will Need
Depending on the type of kayak you get, there are certain equipment that you’ll need to bring with you. The most important ones are the following:

Waterproof, Windproof Jacket: If you’re going out kayaking in addition to snorkeling, you need to make sure that your jacket is waterproof and windproof. Otherwise, you will get cold in the water and it will be hard to swim and stay warm.
Headgear: To protect your head from the sun, it’s a good idea to wear a hat or put on sunscreen.
Gloves and Mittens: To prevent yourself from getting cold in the water, it’s important to bring along a pair of gloves or mittens. This is also for protection against the sun if you decide to take them off.
Sunscreen: For your face and neck, it’s a good idea to rub some sunscreen on. You might as well do this while you’re wearing your clothes in case they get wet.
Footwear: If you want to kayak and snorkel at the same time, wearing some waterproof, water-resistant shoes is a good idea.
A life jacket: These are very important to bring along if you’re going out on an excursion in the water.
Thermal Clothing: You can bring along thermal underwear, long-sleeve shirts, long pants or fleece if you want to stay warm in the water.
Kayak Paddle: You need a paddle for your kayak and it is highly suggested to bring one along with you. With a paddle, you can maneuver your kayak where you want it to go without having to hold on to the handles. So if you don’t have paddles, don’t hesitate in buying some as they are cheap and they will make things much easier for yourself.

Dry Bag: A dry bag is a very important part of your kayaking gear. It will keep your phone, wallet and money dry and it’s also waterproof so don’t forget to bring one along.

Paddling Gloves: These gloves are very useful in giving you better grip while paddling and they will prevent blisters from forming on your hands. If you’re just going out on a short trip, you can go without them, but if it takes a long time to get back to shore, then you’ll be glad you brought some.

Drysuit/Wetsuit: For anyone who enjoys kayaking, it’s very important to take the proper safety measures. This is why when you buy a drysuit or wetsuit, you should make sure that it fits your body well and that it allows very little water in.

Wetsuits: Wetsuits are used to keep your body comfortable when you’re out in the water. If you get cold easily, then it’s a good idea to bring a wetsuit. They also protect your skin from the sun so this is another good reason to have one.

Dry Suits: These suits will keep you warm and dry and they’re also much more expensive than wetsuits, although they both serve the same purpose. Dry suits are better for longer trips because they’ll keep you warmer and drier.
Warm water/summer paddles: If you’re going out in the summer, it’s a good idea to bring a pair of paddles. They are made with polypropylene materials, which makes them lighter and better for warmer weather.
Cold water/winter paddles: If you’re going out in colder conditions, it’s a good idea to bring along your winter paddles. They are heavier than the warm water/summers ones but they will help keep you warm in the water.

Type of Kayak
Sit-in kayaks are more popular because there is nowhere to sit. What you have to do is sit on the edge of the kayak with your legs dangling over the side.

Sit-on-top kayaks also known as “sunfish” are boats that you literally sit on top of, and stay atop of until you get out.

Sit-in kayaks are usually used for fishing and touring while sit-on-top models are used for recreational purposes like fun, touring, and racing. The choice of a kayak depends on your purpose.


Kayaking is not only for fun, it can also be a great way to go down the river and explore on your own. You can take your kayak with you in your car to places like state parks and lakes. As long as you have all the necessary kayaking gear, you can go anywhere. As you can see above, there is not much you have to do to go kayaking. All you have to do is make sure that you have a good kayak, and then practice so that it will be easy for you when the time comes.

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