When it comes to kayaking, you ultimately want your clothes to be durable and comfortable. It needs to keep you warm and safe.
Just like any outdoor activity, kayaking clothes will need to protect you from wet conditions. Only the conditions in kayaking will be much wetter than if you go backpacking. You won’t just be dealing with rain, there is the possibility of being completely submerged.
This is why you need clothes that are specifically designed for wetter conditions, and this doesn’t mean just wearing a swimsuit. We have compiled a list of what clothing you should wear in different conditions when kayaking.
The most important thing to wear is a flotation device. Even if you properly stabilize your kayak it is always good to be prepared for the worst. If you ever need to adjust your flotation device then do so on dry land, not in the middle of open water. We also recommend wearing a helmet.
Avoid cotton, it can rapidly absorb water causing discomfort and difficulty moving. Your best option is to use synthetic fabric like nylon and polyester as it is quick-drying. Make sure your fabric is abrasion resistant and allows for ease of movement.
As you will be kayaking on salt water, you want to avoid any metal that can rust. Salt water causes metal to rust faster so you’ll need to be aware of what your zippers and hardware are made of. Hard-wearing plastic is a better option.
Overall when choosing what to wear, make sure you dress for the water temperature rather than the air temperature. Typically the water is much colder so you need to make sure you’re prepared for it.
- Swimsuit – This will make a suitable first layer, or you can substitute it for underwear that works for the outdoors such as a sports bra.
- Wetsuit – If it is a hot day but the water is cold it may be better to wear a wetsuit instead of a swimsuit.
- Rashguard – These are typically made from polyester or spandex. They are stretchy and quick-drying so are ideal for kayaking. They can also help to protect against UV rays.
- Board shorts or quick-drying pants – For the bottom, your main priority should be that it doesn’t chafe. They also need to be comfortable. We recommend avoiding super thin fabric like leggings and yoga pants, as they can tear with the constant movement in the kayak.
- Neoprene paddling boots – These water shoes are great because they are waterproof. You can also use sandals but make sure you avoid any shoes that can fall off easily like flip-flops.
- Paddling gloves – Waterproof gloves can help to protect your hands against blisters and strong winds. You are also able to get ‘pogies’, they fasten to your paddle and allow you to slip your hand into them. They give you a better grip on the paddles but will still shield your hands.
- Wide brim hat – You want a hat that can protect you from the sun. Ideally, it will have a chin strap so that it doesn’t fall off your head.
- Sunglasses – Any sunglasses need to be non-slip and are able to float in the water if they do fall off.
- Sunscreen – Get a waterproof sunscreen because the water reflects any sun rays, so you can get burned without even knowing it.
- Waterproof jacket – If it rains then you need to make sure you’re wearing a waterproof layer. You can also wear rain pants and waterproof socks if the weather is particularly bad.
- Layering – When it comes to winter clothes, layering is the most important. Make sure they are breathable and waterproof.
- Waterproof beanie – You can put it under your other hat for warmth.
- Balaclava – This can cover your whole face in extreme cold.
- Dry suit – This is waterproof, unlike a wetsuit.
When falling into cold water you can go into shock or get hypothermia. It is imperative that you are kept warm.
- Reflective tape – Allow for high visibility to others.
- Lights – So you can see in the dark.
- Visual distress signals – Such as flares.
Before going out make sure you check the weather beforehand, that way you know exactly what to wear. Make sure you also pack a spare set of clothes, a bottle of water, and your favorite snacks.
The general rule of thumb is to ‘dress for submersion, not success’. This will make sure you are always prepared when you’re out on the water.