What to Wear to Kayaking -- The 7 Kayak Clothing Suggestion

by Irene Liu on March 30, 2022
There are different approaches to kayak clothing, and different people have different preferences. What you wear really affects the fun you experience on the water, so try to make sure it's comfortable and fits. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced kayaker, below we've made a  kayak clothing listing you will need to take with you while paddling.
Although we check the weather, river and tide conditions and prepare our clothing accordingly, the most important thing to consider when it comes to kayaking is "dress for the water, not the weather".
Paddling need a lot of energy and make body heats up easily, so dressing appropriately and putting extra clothing in a dry bag is a smart choice no matter the season.
Dry bag for Kayak Clothing

1.Wetsuit or Drysuit

It may be warm outside though, if you fall into in the water by accident, your happiness will be ruined by the discomfort of the cold water—and in more extreme cases, you can even develop hypothermia. So wearing a wetsuit or drysuit is quite necessary, and make sure to check the water temperature before heading out.
So how to choose between wetsuit and drysuit as kayak clothing?
People usually thinks that wetsuit can keep body warm for their waterproof sake. Actually, wetsuit is not waterproof, contrary to what most of people and some beginners think. You will still get wet, but you will stay warm. That is because they are made of neoprene and are thermally insulating to keep your body heat inside. They fit perfectly and allow for big movement than other types of cold water clothing. So it is better choice to choose wetsuit if you have possible chances to get into the water. 
On the other hand, drysuit is completely waterproof. But it's initial design is not to keep you warm. You'll need to wear several layers under the drysuit to keep warm. One thing is for sure, no matter how many layers you wear - you'll stay dry.
If you're paddling for a day in extremely cold conditions - but you won't necessarily be in any water - a drysuit is the way to go. You can use the drysuit as an intermediate layer and put a bunch of warm clothes under the drysuit:

2.Kayak Clothing under Drysuit for Cold Conditions

2.1 Non-cotton Long Underwear and Wool Clothing
You'll need some non-cotton long undersuit, and you can add wool to the top of your underwear in particularly cold conditions. 
2.2 kayak Jacket
You can add a good quality waterproof breathable kayak jacket and rain waterproof pants to the outer layer of the drysuit if the weather is extremely cold. Remember to choose a kayak-specific jacket with neck and wrist restraints to keep water out. When choosing a waterproof jacket, pay attention to its waterproof layer. Generally, there are 2, 2.5, 3 or 4 layers. The higher the number of layers is, the better the waterproof level will be. For easy using, choose some waterproof jackets with cap and pockets basing on your needs.
Kayak Clothing - Waterproof Jacket

3.Spray Skirt

If you are a sea kayaker, remember to bring a spray skirt. Suitable for both winter and summer, it is a kayak clothing used to keep water out of the kayak, is usually very effective, as well as retaining heat well. But if you encounter extreme weather and special situations, such as the waves crash the kayak, the kayak capsizes, etc., the spray skirt can not be waterproof. A good quality spray skirt should fit waist perfectly and against the edge of the kayak's cockpit.
Other Kayak Clothing - Spray Skirt

4.Waterproof and Warm Paddle Boots and socks, Hat and Gloves

In addition to the clothing listed above in winter, we also recommend that you bring warm paddle boots and waterproof socks, hat, and gloves.

5.Kayak Clothing for the Summer

The kayak clothing required for summer and mild weather is much simpler than for winter.
In the summer, you can choose a swimsuit or thin, comfortable clothing, plus a rash vest, according to your preference. The rash vest is elastic, quick-drying, and provides effective sun protection. Remember that no matter the season, life jackets are always necessary. Choose a life jacket that's the right size that won't limit the body action when paddling. A lot of people choose not to wear their life jackets because they don't fit, which is very dangerous behavior.
Kayak Clothing Essentials - Life Vest

6.Kayak Clothing for the Mild Weather

6.1 Top
In mild autumn, if it is a short kayak trip, you can choose the same clothes as in the summer; for a longer kayak trip, if you do not need a wetsuit or drysuit, you can choose a warm synthetic or cardigan as a middle layer and underwear underneath. But remember whether it's underwear, mid-layer clothing, or sock choices, cotton materials should be avoided. When it gets wet, it doesn't dry out and stays cold and heavy.
Kayak Clothing - Comfortable and thin Tops
6.2 Bottom
For bottoms, choose kayak clothing that are comfortable and quick-drying, they must be durable materials. Because your body is always in motion when you paddle. Very thin pants such as yoga pants are not recommended for kayaking, whether it is a long or short kayak trip, because these thin shorts do not have any cushioning and are easy to cause rubbing and friction, and it may even be worn over time.
7. Outer Layer
Regarding the outer layer, a jacket that is breathable and waterproof will be surely enough. If the weather is warmer, you can temporarily put it into a dry bag for backup. Choose thin gloves, paddle boots and waterproof socks accordingly to get the best care for your body.
Sunscream, hat, and sunglasses are all must-haves in hot summer; you may also need parts of them in cold condition, and that depends on personal demands.
Sun protection gear
The above is the brief introduction of the kayak clothing. We may have different combination when it comes to the details, but for the basic dressing principle, they are the same. What is your favorite dressing style? Tell us and let more people to know it!