What To Wear Kayaking

Kayaking is a fun and fulfilling outdoor activity, but it's crucial to know what to wear to keep secure and comfortable. Are wetsuits required for boating, in your opinion? Is the recommendation to wear a life jacket at all times? Are there any additional clothes or accessories you absolutely must have when kayaking? When it comes to having a successful and happy boating trip, knowing the answers to these questions can make all the difference. While some of the myths regarding what to wear kayaking are true in some circumstances, it's important to know the facts. So continue reading to find out more about what to wear boating!


Kayaking is a great way to explore the outdoors and have fun, but it's important to wear the right clothing for the activity.

  • Wear quick-drying clothes that won't absorb water.
  • Choose shoes with good grip and traction.
  • Bring a hat or visor to protect from sun exposure.

By wearing the right clothing, you can stay comfortable and safe while boating!

Planning to update your kayaking wardrobe?

Are you a boating beginner and want to know about essential clothing items?

Planning to watercraft in warm or cold temperatures and looking for some clothing guide?

Whatever the weather, the right clothes can keep you safe and add to the fun. In this article, we’re sharing all the clothing details you will need to ensure you are comfortable and safe while you are kayaking, whether in the sea or in the river.

From material to fit to brands to how to wear, we’ve shared it all. What you wear (or don’t while boating) can make or break your kayaking experience. So read on to see how you can feel comfortable boating on a warm day, and stay snug and warm on a cold one.

Things to consider when choosing kayaking clothes

The clothes for sea boating and river kayaking can be quite different. That’s why, it’s important to understand a few basics before you choose your clothing.

What to Wear When Boating: From Head Gear to Footwear

Looking for the right boat clothing? From wetsuits, kayaking pants, helmets, jackets, and footwear, we’ve detailed everything you’ll need in your boating clothes.

Option #1

What Clothes to Wear for River Kayaking

What material to look for

  • When you are going out for boating in warm weather, it is always a good idea to use cotton based clothes.
  • These are light in weight and are very comfortable on the skin, as they will allow air to pass through and keep you feeling cool.
  • Also, these help to reduce the amount of sweating. They absorb the sweat and prevent it from directly staying on your skin.
  • Cotton is usually considered best for summers as it does not pose the risk of causing rashes and is soft and comfortable.  
  • You can also wear a wet suit for kayaking in the river water. These will usually keep you dry and safe from the water and will not make you feel overheated, unless you are planning to paddle in really hot and humid areas.

Proper layering

  • It is always a good idea to go for layering when you are going out for boating.
  • This will help you be in the right clothes even if the weather changes.
  • For instance, you can start by wearing a light cotton vest and add a full-sleeved shirt over it.
  • Make sure to wear a cap/hat as well as sunglasses to protect from the sun’s glare.

What sort of protection you should expect/look for from these clothes

  • The clothes that you choose should make you feel cool, comfortable and dry, without feeling stuffy.
  • During the early morning or evening, when it’s a little chilly, the longer sleeved clothes can keep you feeling warmer. Also, these are great for protecting your arms from the sun.
  • If you feel too hot, you can remove the shirt and feel comfortable in the vest instead.

How to Make Sure your River Kayaking Clothes Fit Well

For warm temperatures, ensure there is breathing space and the clothes (except bodysuit) don’t fit too tight.

Brands that people trust

  1. Vapor Apparel
  2. Columbia Sportswear
  3. Coolibar

Option #2

What Clothes to Wear for Sea Boating

What material to look for

  • Since you may not always be close to shore, it’s important to choose clothes that won’t make you feel too cold, even if you fall in the water.
  • Look for materials that will keep you warm, even when they get wet.
  • For this purpose, you may want to try out different types of synthetic material, such as neoprene, polypropylene and fleece.
  • Unlike kayaking in warm weather, where cotton is hands-down the best material, you need to avoid it during boating in cold weather. In fact, cotton is considered to be one of the worst materials to use while you are kayaking in a cold climate because it will draw out the heat from your body when you are wet and make you feel colder.
  • Wool is also a good choice to go for, but keep in mind that it will take longer to dry and can get heavy when it is wet.  
  • A dry suit could be your ultimate source of protection when you are going out for boating in the sea. These use latex gaskets on the ankle, neck and wrist areas, which will help to keep all the water out and away from your clothes underneath.
  • While dry suits are comparatively more expensive than any other paddling clothes, these could be a great investment if you do spend a lot of time on the water and are a regular kayaker during the cold months.
  • For those who are using a sit-in watercraft, you may also like to try a spray skirt. These can help to keep the cold water out of the boat and will help the hot air to stay inside. The best way to wear these is to start from the rear, move it through the coning and finally close it at the front.

Proper layering

  • Layering the right way is especially important when you are kayaking in the sea, as the risk of hypothermia is greater.
  • You have to look for clothes that will keep you warm and comfortable but will not make you feel too hot or stuffy.
  • Instead of wearing one thick garment in the chosen fabric, it is always a better idea to wear a couple of thin layers, starting from the thinnest and lightest item to the thickest and warmest one. This way, you can take them off as required, without the need to change it all at once.  
  • It is a good idea to wear a waterproof nylon jacket and a pair of pants in the same material as your last piece of clothing, worn on top of everything else.
  • You can easily find them in various local paddling shops where you can choose from a range of paddling tops and bottoms that are specifically made in such a way that will keep you dry and comfortable, as well as warm when the weather is cold.  
  • Don’t forget to wear warm woollen cap and a protective helmet.

What sort of protection you should expect/look for from these clothes

  • The type of clothes you wear during sea boating should be good enough to keep you feeling warm and protected from the cold water or the wind.
  • Also, they should be such that they do not end up making you feel over-heated while you are paddling.

How to Make Sure your Sea Kayaking Clothes Fit Well

For cold temperatures, ensure the clothes fit close to your body so that the body heat doesn’t escape.

Brands that people trust

  1. The North Face
  2. NRS
  3. Gerry
  4. Columbia
  5. Marmot

Top 3 Paddlecraft Clothing Must-Have Items for Beginner Kayakers

1. Base layer – waterproof bottoms and top to keep the water from directly making you wet.

2. For insulation, wear tops and pants in synthetic fabrics such as fleece.

3. Wetsuit or drysuit depending on the temperatures in which you usually paddle.   

In addition, wear a half or full-sleeved shirt underneath. Also use sunscreen, closed-toe floaters and water shoes for warm weather and gloves, water boots and socks for cold temperatures. Of course, always wear the life jacket.

5 Essential Tips for Kayaking Clothing

  1. Wear a wetsuit or drysuit to keep you warm and comfortable while boating. This is especially important if you are kayaking in cold water.
  2. Choose quick-drying clothing that won't get heavy when wet. Synthetic materials like polyester and nylon are best for this.
  3. Wear a life jacket at all times while boating, even if you are an experienced paddler. It is also important to wear the right size life jacket for your body type.
  4. Protect your skin from the sun with a long-sleeved shirt, hat, and sunglasses. Sunscreen is also recommended.
  5. Bring extra layers of clothing in case the weather changes or you get wet while kayaking.

ALSO: Wear shoes with good grip to help prevent slipping on wet surfaces while getting in and out of your watercraft.

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