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What To Wear Kayaking? Amazing Tips On What To Dress When Kayaking

What To Wear Kayaking

What To Wear Kayaking

Updated on 7/10/2024
Abigail ScottBy Abigail Scott
Hi, I'm Abigail 👋 Since embarking on my kayaking and boarding adventures in 2010, I've navigated rivers and lakes across North America and beyond. With over a decade of experience and countless waterways explored, I'm here to help enthusiasts like you embark on unforgettable water adventures!
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If you are thinking about kayaking as a fun and exciting activity, then you should know what to wear while kayaking or paddling. This ensures your safety and compliance with the recommendations of professionals. Whether you are going on an excursion for your holiday or starting kayaking as a sport, here are some tips I have collected in my 15 years of kayaking. 

The type of clothing you should wear depends on the conditions in which you plan to kayak. The general rule is to dress for the water temperature rather than the weather. If the water is cold, you will need a wetsuit, but you will not need one if the water is warm.

When choosing clothes for kayaking or paddling, what are the general guidelines? Should you wear certain things every time you kayak? Let's find out!

What To Wear For Kayaking?

What To Wear For Kayaking?

What To Wear For Kayaking?

The adventure activity of kayaking is fun and exciting, and you can push yourself as far as you feel comfortable. In addition to getting active, kayaking and paddling will teach you a fun new skill.

Let's assume you are inexperienced in kayaking or have never paddled before. In that case, you may wonder how to dress appropriately to be as safe and comfortable as possible during your adventure.

Kayaking gear is based on the conditions you will kayak in, so it's essential to research the location in advance.

Many professional kayakers will recommend following a few guidelines when kayaking or paddling. Here are some suggestions to make your kayaking experience as enjoyable as possible!


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Clothing That Allows You To Move Freely  

When kayaking, it is essential to remember that you will be exercising in the water, so make sure you have dressed appropriately. Wear loose-fitting and comfortable clothing that you can wear for long periods when you go kayaking.

You don't want to wear clothing that will irritate your skin and limit your movement, as you will be sitting in the kayak for a while, and you don't want to be in pain and unable to paddle correctly due to your clothing.

Always Put On A PFD (Personal Flotation Device)

PFD Kayak

PFD Kayak

Safety is always the most critical aspect of kayaking. Wear your PFD or lifejacket whenever you are kayaking, so you will always be safe. 

A few people find their PFD slightly restrictive when trying to paddle, so it would be worth the investment to choose a kayak-specific PFD instead. That way, you can swim as comfortably as you like.

We should remember that a PFD or lifejacket can be life-saving equipment, and we should put aside our desire to appear cool and instead be safe. It's always a good idea to wear a PFD.


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General Rule: Dress For The Water Temperature, Not The Weather.

To choose what to wear on your kayaking trip, you need to research the average water temperature of the area you will be kayaking in since you need to dress for the water temperature, not the weather.

If you are going kayaking, you should always assume someone will get wet, either by falling out or being splashed by rapids and that someone could be you. It will help if you prepare yourself for the cold water temperatures.

When kayaking, you should dress in clothes appropriate for the water temperature since you don't want to get wet and be uncomfortable.

Layer Your Clothing

Layer Your Clothing

Layer Your Clothing

When you go kayaking, you should dress in layers of clothing. Kayaking is one of many outdoor activities that fall under this general rule. Professionals recommend this for numerous reasons.

If you get wet, layering your clothing will help you stay warm. Due to the thin materials used for your clothing, you can adjust quickly to changing weather conditions during your time on the water. You maintain your movement and constant body temperature by wearing light, layered clothing.

Never Wear Cotton

When kayaking, cotton clothing is one of the most unsuitable things you can wear. While cotton is great for keeping you warm and cozy, it absorbs water rapidly and does not dry quickly.

Never Wear Cotton

Never Wear Cotton

Wearing cotton clothing can be a concern when you are out on the water, as it may lower your body temperature and put you at risk for hypothermia. Furthermore, being constantly wet will make you uncomfortable throughout the kayaking trip, making it an unpleasant experience.

Sun Protection And Sunglasses Are A Must



To protect yourself from the sun while kayaking, you should always wear things to shield yourself. If you want to keep the sun off your arms and shoulders, you should include a long-sleeve T-shirt in your layers.

In addition to wearing sunscreen, you should also cover your face and neck with hats. When participating in outdoor activities like kayaking, we must remember that we can still get sunburned even in cold weather if we don't protect ourselves.

Sunburn, the last thing you need is halfway through your kayaking trip and being in pain for hours or days before you can treat it appropriately. You won't enjoy your kayaking trip.

When kayaking, you should wear sunglasses since the glare from the sun can reduce your visibility. And remember, cloudy days can make the visibility even more dangerous.

Double-Check Your Clothing's Material

You should wear light clothing when kayaking. Your clothes will get wet and muddy, It's important to wear clothing that can handle water, sand, sun, heat, and rough materials found in kayaks.  

Kayak clothes must be made of abrasion-resistant, durable material that can withstand quite a bit of abuse without losing shape. As you will be active and sweating while kayaking, choosing a lightweight fabric to keep you cool and dry quickly is a good idea.

Protect Your Valuables From Water

When people go kayaking, they tend not to think about their valuables. It's easy to overlook them when focused on what you need to wear, but they can be as important.

If you capsize even if the water is calm, your valuables, such as your cell phone, may get splashed. It is recommended that you invest in a waterproof case for your cell phone and other valuables if you plan on taking them with you.  

You should not leave behind your phone, as this is vital if you need medical assistance, so keep it with you, but make sure it is secure.

Chilly Conditions Tips

What to wear kayaking in cold weather?

What to wear kayaking in cold weather?

It's important to prepare yourself for getting wet in cold water if your kayaking location's water and weather are cold. You should prepare yourself for submersion in cold water. Make sure to wear warm clothes even when wet in conditions like this.

Suppose you get submerged in cold water while kayaking; you are more likely to experience heart or lung shock. Prepare yourself accordingly.

If you are kayaking in these conditions, wearing a wetsuit or a dry suit will help you stay warm. After wearing the suit, you will need a few additional layers of clothing to ensure you are fully protected from all the elements you encounter while kayaking.

As for all the other layers, such as your outer layer and footwear, you can follow the guide below to know what is proper to wear.

Hot Weather Tips

The best way to avoid overheating or other problems is to prepare for warm water and weather conditions when you go kayaking.  What should you wear for each layer of clothing during these hotter months?  




A swimsuit can be your first layer of clothing for kayaking in warm weather and water conditions, as long as it is not cotton. If you don't feel comfortable wearing your swimsuit, you can wear some comfortable and non-restrictive activewear as a first layer. Just make sure it's appropriate for outdoor activities.


So, you need to select a material that will dry quickly and be comfortable. Wearing board shorts will keep you comfortable since they dry quickly in these warm conditions.

If you want something for your bottom half, you should avoid wearing fragile material that may rip easily, such as yoga pants.




Tops you wear while kayaking must be suitable for water sports, like rash vests. If you paddle a kayak, you need something flexible and comfortable to allow all the movement.

Activewear and sports clothing made from fast-drying materials and a higher UPF rating will also offer higher UV protection. 


When choosing footwear for your kayaking trip, look for shoes that are water-resistant, lightweight, and provide your feet with some protection from the elements and rough material of the kayak.

To keep your shoes on your feet, you should avoid shoes with backstraps, as they will slip off too quickly. Sandals and similar footwear can collect gravel and sand, making your trip uncomfortable and easy to lose. Consider a pair of sneakers or boots instead.

Middle Layer Of Clothing

Kayaking in warmer temperatures will not require wearing a wetsuit or drysuit, but you should still wear a middle layer of clothing. You should wear clothing made from synthetic materials to help keep you warm if you capsize.

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Outer Layer Of Clothing

Unless the water and weather are hot, you do not need an outer layer of clothing. Still, if the conditions are slightly more relaxed, you should wear a breathable and water-resistant jacket.

You will be wearing your PFD over this layer. Therefore, ensure it's comfortable and something you can wear for the entire trip, as you will not be able to take it off while in the water.

Paddling Gloves

You should purchase a good pair of paddling gloves if you are new to kayaking. If this is your first time, gloves will help prevent blisters from the paddle and the cold if the weather is slightly chilly.

Hats And Other Sun Protection



If the weather is warm, you might want to wear a wide-brimmed hat during your kayaking session. Make sure your hat has some way to attach to your head, such as a ribbon or string, so it does not fall off.

Ensure that you apply sunscreen to your exposed skin, as the last thing you want after your kayaking adventure is a sunburn.



Kayaking is an exciting and fun activity for the whole family, but knowing what to wear while kayaking, AKA 'What To Wear Kayaking' is as crucial as learning where to kayak. To minimize the dangers you could face while kayaking, you must ensure your safety and protection from the elements mentioned above.

As long as you follow the guidelines outlined above and ensure being comfortable, choosing your clothing for your kayaking trip should be no problem. Have fun!


Frequently Asked Questions

What should a beginner kayaker wear?

A beginner kayaker should wear waterproof clothes. A kayaking dry suit is the best choice.

Do you wear a bathing suit while kayaking?

Yes, you can wear a bathing suit for kayaking. They are a great option for warm weather. If the weather is colder, you may need to wear a specialized kayaking suit.

What do girls wear for kayaking?

For kayaking, girls can wear any regular bathing suit. It is essential to cover your legs to protect it from chafing. For tops, any quick dry t-shirt is good.

Can I wear sneakers kayaking?

Yes, you can wear sneakers kayaking. No matter if they are paddling a whitewater trip or touring kayaks, kayakers need to think about seated comfort, how well their shoes will brace against bulk heads and footpegs, and how well their heels will be supported.

Can I wear flip flops to kayak?

No, flip flops are not recommended. Flip flops can come off your feet easily when you are in water. Also, many flip flops become slippery when wet due to their soles.

Is kayaking good for weight loss?

Yes, Kayaking is good for weight loss. To burn one pound of fat, you need to kayak about 9 hours.