kayaking outfit recommendation on what cloth to wear

What To Wear While Kayaking – Outfit Recommendation For All Season

Kayaking is full of adventure and fun until you wear the wrong outfit and face a real-life challenge in the water. 

So, we appreciate the concern that led you to read this post.

And, luckily, here you will get to know everything about what to wear while kayaking. Since the answer varies from season to season and weather conditions, read along to get your desired information.   

Basic Understanding About Layering System Of Clothing

Before we delve deep into the kayaking outfit topic, you should have a clear idea about layering. It’s because layering is directly connected to managing your body temperature while kayaking. 

what to wear while kayaking 3 layers

Here are three layers that are crucial for kayaking:

  • Baselayer
  • Insulation
  • Shell

Base Layers

Base layer is what you will wear right next to your skin. It manages sweat and moisture to keep you dry, eventually more comfortable. 

Over baselayer, you have to wear insulation. And, finally, here it comes to the shell layer that is worn over insulation/ Shell protects your body from rain and wind. 

The common materials for base layers are:

  • Polyester: It doesn’t absorb much water as well as dries quite fast.
  • Merino wool: It doesn’t dry so fast as polyester. It works great for wicking moisture and it also is odor-resistant. 
  • Nylon: It takes a lot of time to dry which is unpleasant for cold weather but great for hot weather. 

Insulating Layers

Speaking of the insulation for kayaking, they come in two different types- wet and dry. 

Wet insulation works like a champ to protect you from cold water. They are usually made of materials like neoprene. There is a warm water layer between your skin and the wetsuit. And, this is how the suit provides you with insulation.

However, wetsuits stop working when the temperature is below 45℉. For this, a wetsuit will not protect you from evaporating cold weather. So, when the wind blows, chances are you’ll be chilling if there’s no shell layer over your wetsuit. 

Therefore, we are trying to say that you should bring a paddling jacket and paddling pants in case you want to count on a wetsuit for cold-weather insulation.    

Dry insulation is nothing new than polyester fleece layers that you generally wear for other outdoor activities. However, there are two key differences- fabric and cut. 

Fleece fabrics that are used in kayaking should wick moisture effectively and stretch for comfortable movements. Dry insulation like fleece fabrics are worn under a dry suit and they help your body heat so that you can be warmer and drier on the water.   

Shell Layers

Shell layers work to keep you dry plus protected from the wind. No matter if you are wearing a wet or dry clothing system, you’ll need a shell layer. A kayaking shell layer must be waterproof and contains seams that can prevent leaks. 

Breathable materials are the most versatile options when it comes to the material of a kayaking shell layer. To keep water totally out, kayaking shell layers come with specialized wrist, ankle, and neck closures. 

However, if you ask ‘what is the ultimate shell layer for kayaking?’, the answer would be a drysuit. A drysuit is made from breathable fabrics and you can pair it with the base and insulating layers. It will provide you maximum comfort range and great protection from cold water.   

Read More: Best Heavy Duty Kayak Paddle

What to Wear While Kayaking?- Seasonal Choice

You may guess that the answer is not so short that we can write in one sentence. Since the season and weather have a great impact on kayaking outfits, be aware of which season you are going kayaking. 

Then, simply head over to the specific one of the seasons we covered below or read the whole of it to gather a clear knowledge. 

What to Wear During Kayaking In Summer

Dressing to kayak in summer largely depends on the water temperature. If the temperature is high and the water is warm, you’ll want to think about sun protection. On the other hand, when the water is cold in hot weather, you need to balance comfort and safety in the cockpit.

So, for the first case, meaning if the water is warm:

  • Pick wicking base layers having long sleeves. They will ensure great coverage plus sun protection. 
  • Bring short or long (long is preferable) nylon pants that will keep your legs from sunlight and attack from insects. 
  • Lightweight hooded tops or shirts made of nylon will work great as a sun protector. 
  • Taking a broad-brimmed hat with you is also recommended. It will keep the direct sunlight off your face. 
  • Also, it’s important to protect your hands from sunburn, right? Bring specialized gloves to solve this!  

Or, if the water is cold, dressing can be a bit more challenging in this circumstance. 

At this time, if you even swim in t-shirts or shorts, chances are you get hypothermic. So, you’ll need a wetsuit or a drysuit then. 

But the problem is, wetsuits are uncomfortable and hot when the air temperature is high. Therefore, you have to know what to wear under a wetsuit and drysuit in summer. 

So, about a wetsuit, skipping the shell layer to let the breeze cool your body is a good idea. In contrast, if you wear a drysuit, wear a thin base layer underneath. 

Read More: Do You Need To Know How To Swim To Kayak?

What to Wear When Kayaking In Fall

If we start with early fall, water temperatures tend to be warm whereas the air temperature is cool. This type of circumstance makes things easy to ensure maximum comfort. 

When the water is warm, you can simply layer while staying in the cockpit. Still, you have the necessary insulation for protecting yourself. So, it’s not mandatory to wear a drysuit or wetsuit in this case. 

What you can do is to layer with base layers, paddling jackets & pants, and fleece tops and bottoms. 

Read More: Best Sit On Top Kayak For Beginners In 2021 | Affordable & Durable

Later in the fall, when the water is cold, you’ll want to wear a drysuit or wetsuit. But make sure you wear shell layers under the wetsuit in the fall. About the drysuit, a wicking fleece is okay to wear under it.

Also, take a warm hat with you. About hand gloves, use insulated neoprene gloves as they work great to keep hands warm and comfortable. 

Lastly, bring a paddling jacket having a hood, it will be a big help for conserving body heat. 

What to Wear While Kayaking In Winter

In winter, both air and water temperatures are cold. Even air temperature can be incredibly colder. For this, kayakers find it a bit difficult to stay warm. However, if you dress properly, you can beat the chilling wind. 

The first thing that springs straight to the mind while talking about winter kayaking is drysuits. Yes, wetsuits work great as well. They provide you necessary insulation and protect you from cold water but drysuits work way more to protect you from both cold water and air.

However, if you go for a wetsuit, then let’s get to know what you should wear under it. Pick a long-sleeved wetsuit top and waterproof shell layers having tight closures. 

For a dry suit, wear thicker fleece layers under it. 

You need to work on ‘body heat’ in winter more than anything. This is why you should take a hooded paddling jacket with you that will protect you from freezing wind. To protect your hands, consider neoprene gloves, they’ll keep your hands warm enough. 

Read More: Top Kayak Paddle Holder of 2021

What to Wear During Kayaking In Spring

Get ready to feel the warm air and cold water since you are going to kayak in spring. It’s kind of similar to the ‘summer kayaking in cold water’ that we talked about earlier. 

In this season, if you are willing to wear a wetsuit while kayaking and it’s a cold spring day, make sure you have layers- a paddling jacket, extra fleece, and pants. 

Or, if you wear a drysuit, thin wicking fleece over a wicking base layer will work great. 

What Shoes to Wear While Kayaking

Well, it also depends on which season you are going for the kayak. However, two certain types of footwear are used for kayaking. One is neoprene boots and the other is fast-drying shoes.

The second type of shoe is usually made of nylon or polyurethane.  

For kayaking on a normal summer day, water shoes will work well. They are comfortable and protect your feet from unwanted objects in the water. But if the weather is too hot, wear neoprene footwear. 

In fall, go for neoprene boots that are waterproof. This will help you stay as comfortable as possible.  

When it’s about winter, you should pick waterproof, insulated footwear. You can use wool socks for layering purposes. 

For the most possible protection in spring, waterproof neoprene boots are the best option. 

What Should You Wear While Sea Kayaking?

Sorry to put this section so far in this post. Proper dressing for sea kayaking is a serious concern because you have to spend a lot of time in the kayaks as well as encounter various conditions compared to lake or river kayaking. 

Nevertheless, since we’ve talked about all the basics of kayaking outfits, there is not much unknown for you about sea kayaking

Go with a drysuit instead of a wetsuit because the first one is less restrictive. Drysuits will provide comfort for an extended period by reducing chafing. Otherwise, you can go kayaking with paddling jackets having adjustable necks, they ensure improved ventilation.   

What to Wear Whitewater Kayaking

Picture a whitewater kayaking where you are rolling your kayak, turning upside down, and then coming back up again. You can imagine how wave trains throw literally a lot of water at you, right? 

So, how can you protect yourself in such a circumstance? 

If you are going to kayak in cold weather, choose dry tops that come with a neck gasket. They are pretty common as drysuits are. The tops appear in a design that can prevent water from entering your kayak while rolling.

And, if we talk about summer kayaking, you can wear either drysuits or paddling jackets (short-sleeves) over wetsuits. 

About footwear, pick sturdy water shoes that come with sticky rubber bottoms. They are enough to provide the necessary support during carrying the kayak over a rock or other rough portages. 

What Should You Wear For Sun Protection?

Well, when you’re fully prepared to go kayaking, you need to know what to wear for kayaking sun protection?

Take sunglasses, a hat or helmet, and gloves to protect your eyes, forehead, and head from excessive sunlight –be it warm or cold weather. If you ever think you don’t need to carry or wear sunglasses, a hat, and gloves during winter or cold weather kayaking you are completely wrong. Sun gives its light on the open water even in the winter season that can cause sunburn and reduces the likelihood of seeing distant objects.

What Not to Wear While Kayaking

You may not like the answer but hey, it’s important to avoid wearing cotton. Sounds weird? Well, let me explain. When cotton gets wet, it feels remarkably heavy that can make swimming hard for you.  

Also, avoid sweatpants or jeans while kayaking. What’s wrong with them is the same as cotton clothes, they absorb a huge amount of water which may weigh you down. Thick coats and sweatshirts should also be avoided for the same reason. 

So, the summary is, kayakers should stay away from any outfit that weighs them down. 


Thanks for still being with us. Hopefully, this well-crafted article helped you to know what to wear while kayaking. 

We tried our best to give you a convenient kayaking outfit idea for the individual season, weather, and different circumstances. Make sure you bring the right outfit to avoid any hassle in the water.

Happy kayaking!  

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