What to Wear While Kayaking- A Complete Guide

Nidhi Guide
20 Min Read
Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels/ Copyright 2019

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Are you gearing up for your first kayaking trip? Worry not, for here are a few tips on what to wear while kayaking. This will ensure a smooth experience since what you wear while kayaking can make all the difference – from keeping you dry to protecting you from the sun’s rays.

So, let us jump into the basics of dressing right to have a blast while paddling in the water.

1. Why is Clothing Important?

What to wear while kayaking
Photo by Kai Pilger from Pexels/ Copyright 2018

You might be wondering why dressing right matters when in the water. Apart from looking cool, the sun, wind, and rain can sneak up on you.

Think about it – when you are out on the water, you will be exposed to all kinds of weather. The sun can give you a sunburn you will not forget, sudden rain can leave you drenched and uncomfortable, and those gusts of wind can send a chill down your spine. The appropriate clothing acts as your guard, shielding you from these surprises and leaving you feeling good.

Imagine trying to enjoy the thrill of kayaking while shivering in wet, uncomfortable clothes. That is when the appropriate clothing comes into play again. It helps provide evident comfort, which can decide the outcome of your kayaking experience.

2. Different Drifts 

Now, picture this- each water type offers a thrilling story, from gentle ripples to lurching waves. As you kayak through these diverse waters, you will be in for exciting experiences. This guide is your key to unravelling the mysteries of different drifts –  the term used to describe the water you shall encounter.

But here comes the twist – it is not just about where you are kayaking. It is also about what you wear. Yes, you heard it right! The appropriate clothing can turn an ordinary kayaking experience into an exceptional one. So, gear up and witness the dress codes for different types of kayaking.

3. Dress Codes for Different Types of Kayaking

3.1. Whitewater Kayaking

What to wear while Kayaking
Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels/ Copyright 2019

Whitewater kayaking is an enthralling take on routine kayaking. Here, you can navigate through wilder river torrents using a particular kayak. This sport is called whitewater because of the foamy, bubbly white appearance of the water caused by its fast movement.

You will encounter different levels of rapids, which will be like the river’s own obstacle courses.

Often, they are categorized into classes. Some rapids are small and bouncy (Class I), while others are intense and splashy (Class IV or V). It is all about picking the apt challenge for your skill level and having a blast.

3.1.1. What to Wear While Whitewater Kayaking?

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When the sport is termed whitewater, you must prepare to get wet. A wetsuit or a moisture-wicking material must form the base layer of your outfit.

You can wear quick-dry inner garments. Since there is a high chance of the kayak capsizing, you can wear elbow and knee protection to avoid getting hurt.

Also, waters in this form of kayaking are pretty unstable, and the air and water temperature are more relaxed than on land. Therefore, experts recommend carrying a splash jacket with another outer layer to keep you warm.

Another tip to remember is to try to attach any equipment you possess to your body. For example, strap your sunglasses to your belt and put water bottles and other items in a bag to secure them. Whitewater kayaking can get rough, and the kayak might accidentally dump your belongings into the rapids.

Furthermore, what your kayak consists of is also essential. Install a spray deck on your kayak to prevent water from flowing in and flooding it.

3.2. Sea Kayaking

What to wear while kayaking
Photo by marko5 from DepositPhotos

Contrary to the previous type, sea kayaking is all about peacefully exploring calm oceans, bays, and seas.

Sea kayaking is an open-water sport and ranges from short, leisurely paddles to longer, more adventurous expeditions. Of course, the type of kayak you choose will be vital in your journey.

3.2.1. What to Wear While Sea Kayaking?

What to Wear While Sea Kayaking

This type of kayaking can get pretty lengthy, which makes it easier for the sun to get to you. For shade, you can bring along your wide-brimmed hats. Since keeping cool is essential, get a hydro flask/canteen to store cold water.

Also, don’t forget that there will be lots of water surrounding you. Although that is not an issue, the water reflects the sun’s glare, blocking your vision while kayaking. Consequently, you can wear sunglasses to overcome this problem.

You can also cover as much of your hair as possible since the seawater will leave it damp and salty.

For your outfit, firstly, opt for those made from quick-dry material.

Moreover, keep the sun at bay with a trusty rash guard or a sun shirt. Beneath it, throw on a swimsuit or bathing suit. They dry quickly, letting you move freely on the water without feeling soggy.

Lastly, paddling for long hours without hand gear can leave you with blisters. For this, you can wear paddling gloves. These will give you a better grip on the oars.

3.3. Kayak Fishing

What to wear while kayaking
Photo by forestpath from DepositPhotos

Do you love fishing as a kayaker? This is right up your alley. Kayak fishing is a stealthier alternative to routine kayaking. Its speciality is that it can be done on any body of water – lakes, seas, or big ponds.

3.3.1. What to Wear While Kayak Fishing? 

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Since fishing can cause a lot of splish splash around your face (when reeling the fish), prevent foreign objects from entering your eyes with kayaking goggles.

Ensure your gear is appropriately sized for kayak fishing, as space on a kayak can be limited.

Fishing also requires a ton of patience. Essentially, this can expose you to the sun or the cold for a long time. Furthermore, you can wear a wide-brimmed hat/beanie and layer up if it is cold. As for areas where it can rain anytime, you can carry along your rain jacket.

Neoprene gear is essential while kayak fishing. As for the length, depending on the air and water temperatures, you can opt for full or half-splash pants.

An anchor system, too, helps keep your kayak in one spot while you fish, preventing drift. It is very much helpful in windy conditions.

3.4. Tour Kayaking

What to wear while kayaking
Photo by vetal1983 from DepositPhotos

As the name suggests, tour kayaking focuses on more leisurely and recreational paddling experiences. It is suitable for a relaxed yet enriching experience on the water.

Also, this form of kayaking will welcome any skill level with open arms. Several places offer guided tours where trained instructors will guide you in the water. So, don’t hesitate to try this out.

3.4.1. What to Wear While Tour Kayaking?

This varies according to the type of tour you choose.

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However, you can typically keep the classic quick-dry swimsuit as your innermost layer with a spray jacket and skirt.

Furthermore, paddling gloves, neoprene socks, and scarves are recommended accessories. Essentially, these vary according to your tour.

Since tours are often in unfamiliar areas, ensure you know where you are going. You can get a map, compass, or a GPS navigation device for better assistance.

If you are in forested areas, wear bug and mosquito-repellent creams to prevent bites. Also, never leave without taking safety measures against the sun’s rays.

4. Are These the Only Types?

No way. There are various other forms of kayaking. However, as you can probably see, the basic outfit breakdown stays the same.

5. What Should You Wear While Kayaking in Different Weather Conditions?

You can always go through the weather forecast before embarking on kayaking. Also, check for high and low tides since they can immensely influence your experience. High tides provide harsher waves, while low tides unknowingly can lead you deeper into the ocean.

Subsequently, air and water temperatures fluctuate quite a few times, leading to some vague ideas of what you should dress for.

So, how do you dress precisely according to the weather? Let us examine this without any further ado.

5.1. Warm Weather

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In warm weather kayaking, outfits are the simplest. You can opt for quick dry fabrics like your swimsuits. However, do not neglect the sun’s power and slosh a ton of sunscreen for sun protection before you go.

For kayaking in summer, the warmer weather means higher water and air temperatures. If you opt for any extra layers, try breathable and lightweight jackets. Likewise, pick clothes that you feel will be convenient.

Dark colours attract more heat, so wear light-coloured clothes that reflect the sun and help you stay cooler. Also, do remember to carry your water bottle to stay hydrated in the scorching heat. Keeping your insides cool is also essential.

You can pair your outfit with some water sandals and sunglasses for reflected UV radiation and sun protection.

You can protect your head from heating up too much in the warm water with the help of a hat and sunscreen.

5.2. Cold Weather/Winter Kayaking

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Staying cosy while paddling in cold weather is the utmost priority. Let us divide this outfit into three layers to ensure comfort and thrill.

The first layer should contain snugly fitting, moisture-wicking base layers. Essentially, this will keep the body warm while eradicating sweat.

For the mid layer, your best bet is to wear anything thick and insulating – thermals, fleece, merino wool, or even a fur coat. This is essential in cold conditions and will make the most in keeping you warm.

To battle wind and water, top it off with a waterproof jacket or raincoat shell as your last of the outer layers.

And don’t forget the accessories for the cold water shock. All these layers will keep your body warm, but everything else is still exposed to the biting cold air temperature – hands, feet, and neck. Grab your mittens and beanies, and wrap your neck with a thick scarf to prevent wind from slithering in. Cold feet are often the trigger for a common cold. Slip into waterproof, high-top neoprene boots that keep your feet warm and dry. You can also wear woollen/waterproof socks underneath.

Contrary to the warm weather suggestion, opt for warm drinks and have heat packs on you for the occasional chill.

5.3. Rainy Weather

Rain equals wet, which means you must waterproof everything you have. Get a rain jacket and some waterproof pants. Alternatively, you can opt for cargo pants.

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Always don’t forget your hands and feet since water can seep through the openings here. Wear lightweight water shoes/kayak shoes and paddling gloves. Neoprene gloves are always a good idea in the rain since they offer excellent grip on slippery paddles.

Rain or not, protecting your eyes is necessary. Sunglasses act as a barrier against raindrops and add a touch of style to your rainy-day look. If you want to take some extra effort, you can also buy a pair of kayaking goggles.

The cloud cover is often quite intimidating for kayakers, but don’t let them deter your kayaking plans. With the right gear and a little preparation, you can have a fascinating time on the water, even when the clouds roll in.

If you find the weather chilly or uncertain, consider sporting an airy waterproof jacket or a windbreaker.

5.4. Windy Weather

Wind and How It Effects Our Kayak

In windy weather, kayakers recommend following the same outfit as in cold weather.

If you are using a sit-in kayak, a high-quality spray skirt becomes crucial in windy weather. It keeps water from entering the cockpit and keeps you warm.

You can dress in adjustable layers. In windy conditions, it is better to have more layers and remove them if you ever get too warm.

Ideally, a windproof hat, gloves, and a windproof neck gaiter or balaclava can help you stay warm and protected.

Wind can be cruel and blow you off course very quickly. Hence, it is advised to carry various communication devices, for example, a whistle or a marine VFH radio, in case you lose your path.

6. Safety While Kayaking

Undoubtedly, what to wear while kayaking is incomplete without the bare necessities, safety is of prime importance in any kayaking adventure.

What to wear while kayaking
Photo by Miguel A Amutio on Unsplash / 2018

Sporting a personal flotation device (PFD) is a must. Throughout your kayaking adventure, never remove these under any circumstances. Helmets, too, are essential aspects. Likewise, pair this up with a life jacket. PFDs are made for comfort/constant wear, but lifejackets are better at protecting you in harsh water and air temperatures.

Secondly, lather up with sunscreens to prevent sun damage. Regardless of cloud cover, you will perpetually be exposed to UV rays while kayaking. Hence, try to wear UPF-rated fabrics if possible.

Suppose you stray from your path or are in danger; carrying a whistle or a marine VFH radio will help.

Finally, eat healthily before and after your trip. The adrenaline will dampen any exhaustion, which will catch up later in the day.

7. Frequently Asked Questions

Why can’t one wear regular clothing while kayaking?

Regular clothing is often made up of cotton, which retains moisture. Consequently, it will not dry fast and will only make your body heavy. This will leave you shivering instead of enjoying your time. Because of this reason, avoid cotton in any layer.

Is it necessary to wear anything under the swimsuit while kayaking?

Dry suits must be paired with a quick-dry base layer to prevent moisture retention.

Further, try to wear anti-chafing clothes as your innermost layer.

Is a swimsuit alone not sufficient for kayaking?

A swimsuit might be okay for easy kayaking in the summer – calm waters. Special gear like wetsuits or drysuits is safer and comfier if it is cold or you are tackling challenging rivers or open seas.

So, it is recommended always to carry additional layers.

Is it necessary to bring an extra pair of clothes for kayaking?

Of course. While your time on the drifts will be thrilling, it will leave you drenched.

Get a pair of clothes in your dry bag, or leave some on shore to wear when you return. Don’t forget your towels.

Should one invest in a rain-proof jacket or sport a handy poncho?

While ponchos do block the rain, this could make paddling difficult. If rain-proof/paddle jackets are too expensive, opt for a regular wind-cheater.

What should you wear while kayaking if you have skin allergies?

Before your kayaking trip, try on your clothing to ensure it does not cause skin irritation. Wash new clothing items to remove residual chemicals or colours that could trigger your allergies.

Start with a moisture-wicking base layer made of hypoallergenic materials like merino wool or synthetic fabrics such as polyester. These materials help manage sweat and reduce skin irritation.

After your kayaking trip, use hypoallergenic soaps or cleansers to wash off any potential irritants from your skin.

Consider sporting a rash guard, especially in saltwater.

If these allergies are severe, you must seek your dermatologist before you embark.

8. Conclusion

These are the tips on what to wear while kayaking. Kayaking is all about the experience – the wind in your hair and the tiny splashes of water in your face. It is truly one of the best watersports and has various options to explore.

Equipping yourself with the appropriate clothing and gear ensures you are ready to embrace all these elements while staying safe and comfortable. Good luck with your kayaking experience.

Last Updated on by Arnab

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