What to Wear Kayaking

Welcome to the world of kayaking! So you might have a brand new kayak, and all the gear but are left a little confused for what to actually wear when it comes to getting out there and enjoying it.

When kayaking, especially if you are new to the sport, the most important thing to have is a personal flotation device – check out Outdoor Swim for the best ones. After that, what you wear will be dependent on the water and time of year – as a general rule of thumb dress to swim.

We’ve provided a breakdown of the best clothing options and accessories every kayaker should have. Read on for a great breakdown of what to wear!

What to wear Kayaking

Drysuit or Wetsuit

DrysuitSomething else that any kayak enthusiast would know is that a wetsuit or drysuit should be worn if the air temperature and water temperature added together equates to less than 120. A wetsuit, lightweight wool top, and a paddling jacket are good options. In the colder season, a wetsuit or swim trunks and neoprene paddling shorts are a good choice. If you live somewhere where the temperature is relatively cold all year round then you can wear a drysuit.

If it is hot out, then you would want to opt for a wetsuit. A wetsuit would still be uncomfortable to wear in hot temperatures, but it would be easier to bear as opposed to wearing a drysuit. For hot weather, wear a rash guard top and lightweight neoprene bottoms. For women, there are lightweight neoprene paddling capris that would be a great option in hotter temperatures.

Examples of poor clothing choices are cotton and jeans. The reason being is that cotton will pull heat away from you even when you are not in the water. Wearing jeans means that it will be difficult for you to swim, tread water, and to get back into your kayak if you should get tossed out.


neoprene paddling bootiesFor footwear, a good option is neoprene paddling booties. This is something that can be worn year-round.

They are comfortable and if you purchase the kind that are reinforced in the ankle region then this will help to protect from them rubbing against the boat.

If you are planning on kayaking on a river, make sure your footwear has thick soles and that they provide adequate grip and tread.

This is so that you can get out of your kayak without having to worry about slipping. You can test this by walking around a gravel parking lot or on the ground, if you can do this with no discomfort then you are golden. If you have to be aware of where you are stepping to avoid pain and being uncomfortable then that is a big sign that you need a better pair of booties.

The type of bootie can also vary depending on where you are kayaking. For example, white water paddlers might prefer shoes with laces and socks since they can tie the laces twice which keeps them short and reduces the risk of them potentially getting caught on anything. Some might prefer booties because bigger shoes don’t fit well in a kayak.

With lace-up booties, there is a risk for them catching on something when exiting the kayak, but taking precautions (such as a double knot) greatly reduces the chances of this occurring.

Hat & Sunglasses

Hat For KayakingA hat would also depend on the weather but being sun smart is always wise – opt for a lightweight bill cap or bucket hat for extra coverage. If you wear glasses and are concerned about securing them while on the water, you can utilize croakies to make sure they stay put.

Or to make it easier on yourself, you can get clip-on sunglasses that way you do not have to keep track of multiple pairs of glasses.


If it is cold outside then you definitely want to use gloves. If it is cold and windy you want to use pogies. Another benefit of kayaking is that you can utilize the water to thermoregulate. If you are too hot, you can quickly jump into the water for a swim and then get back into the kayak.

UV Tech Clothing

UV Tech ClothingOne thing to be certain of is that you are protecting yourself adequately from the sun.

It might be easy to let time pass because of the views and the serenity of being out on the water, but being out on the water means that you are getting a lot of sun. The best way would be to purchase clothes that have UV protection. This way you don’t have to worry about reapplying sunscreen every two hours or after you get back in the kayak after being in the water.

You would still have to apply sunscreen to areas that are exposed such as the tops of your hands, back of neck, and ears, but setting something such as a timer on a watch should help remind you when it is time to reapply to those small, unprotected areas.

Regardless of what choice you make for footwear, there will be some type of risk involved depending on the type of environment that you will be kayaking in. You have to ask yourself what is important to you and then make a decision based on that.

The more experience a paddler has, the more the risk of a snag reduces, especially in white water kayaks, but it is important to be aware of any and all risks and footwear is no exception. Since the lower half of your body is almost guaranteed to get wet, swimsuit bottoms are recommended in addition to athletic or swim shorts – if you’re not wearing a wetsuit.

A regular athletic shirt should be fine for a top unless there are going to be waves or if you are unsure of whether or not your top half will be splashed repeatedly, if this is the case you might want to opt for something that is a bit more able to handle those conditions.

Life Jacket

Life JacketA life jacket is nonnegotiable because if you tip over it could save your life. Depending on where you are planning to kayak, you might be required by state law to wear a life jacket or at least have one present in the kayak at all times. If you are bringing your phone with you then you should place it in some type of waterproof container. If possible, opt to leave your phone in a safe, hidden place in your car that way you minimize the chances of you dropping it or losing it in the water should you tip over.

Food & Drink

FoodIt’s always a good idea to bring something to drink and snacks too – place them in a container that has a lid you can close.

Good options for snacks are granola bars since they can be eaten quick & easy.

Adequate drinking water is important too, especially if you are kayaking somewhere where the water might be unsafe to consume.

While kayaking ensure that you do not get close to fallen trees or anything that you can not easily pass under. You can potentially get trapped and get pulled underwater if there is a current. If you do tip over, try to get your paddle as soon as possible since a kayak without a paddle is essentially useless.

With that covered, we hope you enjoy your kayaking adventure! Visit the Fitness Equipment Reviews homepage for more detailed information & expert product reviews.


Jason was a former bodybuilder who dedicated a significant part of his life to the sport. Although now retired from the competitive bodybuilding World, he still coaches a select few clients and is a full-time health advocate to the readers here at Fitness Equipment Reviews!

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