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What To Wear Kayaking? (Things You Cant Forget)

If you love outdoor sports and are looking for an enjoyable experience next time you hit the water, but you’re struggling to figure out what to wear while kayaking, this article will help you determine the perfect apparel for your next outdoor adventure. 

So how do you know what you should wear on a kayaking adventure?

Since you’re likely to get wet and encounter a variety of elements, it’s important to choose light, quick-drying fabrics. You also need to protect your skin from the sun, and wear layers in cold conditions.

We’ll consider the essentials that will help you kayak with confidence, whether you’re cold-weather paddling, or heading out in warm water and temperatures.

What Type Of Shoes Should I Wear Kayaking?

Man wearing footwear designed for wet conditions

Let’s begin our overview of appropriate kayaking clothing and gear by starting at the bottom. When it comes to footwear, thick neoprene boots are best for kayaking. 

This is because your feet will get wet and you’ll need a pair of shoes that is sturdy, keeps them protected, and has soles that offer good grip so you don’t slip while climbing in and out of your kayak.

If you don’t have a pair of boots, then the next best option is a pair of closed-toe shoes that have good grip on the bottom. This way, you’ll be able to avoid slipping as you get in and out of the boat.

Water shoes are another great option to help protect your feet from rocks or other sharp objects. Look for a pair made out of the same material as thicker wetsuits to provide optimal warmth in conditions where air and water temperatures are extremely cold. 

Should I Wear Socks?

Socks are not necessary for kayaking, but they do keep your feet warm if you’re boating in colder weather.

It’s important to get socks that won’t slide down into the bottom of your kayak boots while paddling. 

Waterproof socks are a great option because they are quick to dry and they prevent blisters from forming. 

What Shoes Should I Avoid While Kayaking?

It’s never a good idea to wear sandals while kayaking, especially if you’re going into cold water. 

On a day when both the weather and water temperatures are cool, the last thing you want is for the freezing water to seep through your flimsy footwear and touch your skin.

Flip-flops are the top footwear you should avoid because they are not sturdy enough for kayaking. While they may keep your feet cool, they also slip off easily and offer no protection against the water or dangerous things you might encounter.

Hard-soled shoes are also not great for kayaking because they have no give in them, which increases the risk of slipping.

What Pants Should I Wear While Kayaking?

When it comes to choosing the right pants for kayaking, it’s best to find a pair that you can move comfortably in. Remember that you will be climbing in and out of your kayak all day long, so if your legs are restricted, it will make this more difficult.

Opt for a lightweight fabric, such as polyester or nylon if possible. Not only do these pants breathe and keep you cool, but they will dry out quickly if your legs get wet.

Many kayak outfitters actually make paddling pants, which are specifically designed to keep you dry and comfortable during your kayaking adventure.

Should I Layer My Pants?

If you’re kayaking in cold weather, you may be tempted to layer your pants.

We recommend checking the weather before you choose to put on layers. Otherwise you could end up sweating like crazy.

If you’re whitewater kayaking and getting wet, your quick-drying clothing may not dry as quickly when layered. 

If you choose pants that are made for kayaking, layering may not be necessary, since these pants are designed to keep you warm and dry.

What Top Should I Wear Kayaking?

Woman wearing a black tank top relaxing on a kayak

When it comes to choosing the right top for kayaking, stick with something lightweight so it doesn’t weigh you down.

Avoid cotton, because it absorbs water and takes a long time to dry, which means you’ll end up with damp clothes, even in hot weather. Instead, opt for a thin layer of quick-drying fabric, such as nylon or polyester. 

Polyester is lightweight and somewhat flimsy, so it works great on a warm day. 

You can also try a mesh top in warm weather, but you may want to look for something that offers more protection from UV rays. 

If it’s cold, opt for something made out of fleece or wool as an insulating layer to help you stay warm, especially in the extreme cold.

When it comes to any top, avoid wearing anything that can get caught on your kayak or other gear. This includes things like buttons, fasteners, and zippers.

If you know you’ll be kayaking in cold water temperatures, consider wearing long underwear or even a dry suit for extra warmth. 

Paddling gloves are also very helpful for keeping your hands warm in the water. 

Many kayakers opt for short sleeves regardless of the weather, because they know they will warm up once they start paddling. Others may prefer long sleeve shirts because they offer warmth in cold conditions, and they also protect your arms from sun exposure.

Should I Wear A Jacket While Kayaking?

Many people wonder if they should wear a coat or jacket while they are out kayaking. In this case, make sure that you check the weather before you leave.

If it’s going to be cold outside, choose a waterproof paddling jacket because you will likely get wet at some point, no matter how careful you are. 

There are many lightweight jackets that are ideal for kayaking because they’re not too heavy, and they help to prevent becoming overheated.

If you know you’ll be kayaking in the morning and it’s supposed to warm up throughout the day, a jacket is a good choice. Choose one with fleece lining that offers added warmth and keeps your body heat in. 

If it’s going to rain, look for a lightweight and waterproof rain jacket. Be careful here, because some raincoats are made of fabric that weighs a lot and can become saturated very quickly. 

If you’re looking for something to keep the water off but you don’t need extra warmth, you might also consider wearing a poncho instead of a jacket.

What Kind Of Hat Should I Wear While Kayaking?

Woman wearing a hat paddling on a kayak

Choosing a hat while kayaking should be an easy decision, as long as you choose one that will protect you from the elements. Make sure your hat is either somewhat tight or has a chin strap so it doesn’t fly off your head in the wind.

In warmer weather, look for a wide-brimmed hat that provides sun protection. On a cold day, a warm hat like a beanie is perfect for keeping your body temperature up. 

As with many pieces of clothing, ensure that your hat is made of a quick-drying material and won’t be a distraction while kayaking.

What Is The Right Type Of Kayak For Me?

In addition to deciding what you’re going to wear, you also need to figure out which kind of kayak to use! There are many types of kayaks that cater to specific needs, but most importantly, you need to make sure that the weight capacity is right for you and your gear. 

Do I Need Sunscreen Or Sunglasses?

Yes, you will need both sunscreen and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun. When applying sunscreen, don’t forget about the tops of your feet and the back of your neck, because these areas are often overlooked and can be painful places to get a sunburn. 

Wearing polarized sunglasses will protect your eyes from the sun, and cut down on glare caused by sunlight reflecting off the water.

Should I Wear A Bathing Suit While Kayaking?

In the summer, outdoor water adventures are rarely complete without swimming! If you plan to spend time in the water, it’s a good idea to wear a bathing suit, especially in warm weather.

You can still wear quick-drying shorts or pants over your bathing suit to protect yourself from the sun or bugs while kayaking. 

However, even in warm weather, your kayaking outfit should not consist of just a bathing suit alone. If cloud cover suddenly blows in or temperatures fall, you may be left a bit chilly for the rest of your kayaking trip.

Wearing only your suit while kayaking can also be uncomfortable under your personal flotation device or life jacket. Without a mid-layer in between, the life jacket can chafe your skin and become pretty uncomfortable. 

To avoid this, throw a long sleeved T-shirt over your suit with a comfy pair of quick-dry shorts and you’ll be good to go!

Do I Need To Bring A Backpack Or Bag While Kayaking?

Bow of a kayak with a dry bag tied on top

You don’t need to carry anything too big, but you will want to bring a bag of some sort to store your supplies and snacks. 

Most people opt for a waterproof backpack so nothing gets wet. These are also easy to store on your kayak.

You can also use a bag with a drawstring so the top stays closed to prevent your belongings from falling out. If you’re bringing snacks and drinks, zipper pouches will help to ensure things don’t fall and get lost on the water.

If you go sea kayaking often, consider investing in a spray skirt. This is a piece of waterproof material that fits over the opening in your kayak, with a small hole for your waist, that prevents water from getting into the boat. 

You can also purchase a waterproof dry bag to keep your important items dry. 

What Should I Wear If It’s Raining?

If it rains during your water adventure, then you’re going to want clothes that will keep you warm but also dry off quickly, such as a raincoat and rain pants. 

If you don’t have a full set of rain gear, then opt for a waterproof outer layer over an insulating and moisture-wicking base layer that can pull moisture away from your skin.

Be sure to monitor the weather forecast before heading out on the water. This way, you can be prepared with the right clothes for any weather conditions that pop up unexpectedly. 

Kayak With Confidence

While this list may seem extensive, knowing what to wear kayaking is extremely important. To summarize, here are the key points:

  • Wear light, quick-drying fabrics
  • Layer in cold weather, and find a waterproof, lightweight raincoat for the rain
  • Protect yourself from the sun with sunscreen, sunglasses, a wide-brim hat, and a long-sleeved top when it’s hot out
  • Don’t forget a bathing suit for swimming
  • Use a bag or backpack to carry your items


Your kayaking adventure will be the most enjoyable if you take care of all the minor details ahead of time. Keep these points in mind and you will be prepared for anything!

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