What to Wear Kayaking – Clothing Guide for Summer and Winter

Out on the sweet water, you can’t make a run down to the store to grab what you need in case you forgot to pack it. Thus, it’s imperative for you to pack wisely for your kayaking adventure. To gain the most out of this water activity, ensure the apparel you choose is comfortable and will keep you safe.

When you have to consider factors like the weather, comfort, safety, and all the various options available, packing for kayaking can seem like quite a challenging and daunting task. But take a deep breath; we’re here to help!

If you’re planning to take your own kayak, we have a list compiled just for you on the best kayaks for beginners!

What to Wear When Kayaking

You don’t want your exciting trip to end in a disaster just because your clothes weren’t compatible with the ever-changing and unpredictable weather conditions. A good rule of thumb is to check both the air and water temperatures of your chosen destination. The weather could be warm, but if you find yourself in cold water without proper clothing, you could end up with hypothermia!

Remember, it’s probably a good idea to check the weather well in advance so you can gather the equipment in time for your trip. Whatever the weather may be, this post will serve as the ultimate all-rounder kayaking clothing guide for both hot and cold weather. 

We’ve also included tips on what type of gear to pick and how to deal with the sun’s flaming hot temperatures or winter’s icy bleak cold.

Cold Weather Kayaking Gear

It’s tempting to choose the cold weather for a thrilling kayaking experience. The frozen lakes and mysterious fog that envelopes the river sounds alluring, but the risk is just as high.

Being immersed in cold water for long periods can be very dangerous because it lowers your body’s core temperature and can lead to hypothermia. Freezing temperatures can even cause frostbite. Thus, it’s vital that your cold weather kayak gear is warm enough and well-equipped to protect you from the low icy temperatures.

winter freezing lake

Kayak Clothing for Cold Weather

Here’s a list of our favourite cold-weather kayak clothing items!

1.    Drysuit

A Drysuit is a type of clothing equipment that offers a full-body waterproof cover. It’s usually made of vulcanised rubber or laminated nylon and is sealed at the wrists, feet, and neck.

Unlike a wetsuit (which is the go-to option for winter water sports), a drysuit can function in water temperatures below 45° Fahrenheit.

You could opt for a wetsuit because the added insulation will keep you warm, but if you landed in waters below 45° Fahrenheit, your wetsuit would prove to be inefficient as it will simply stop functioning. Hence, our recommendation is to go for a drysuit!

But how are you supposed to keep warm with a drysuit? It’s simple – layer your clothing in a way where your drysuit is on top and your underneath layers comprise of thermal clothes to keep you warm.

2.    Thermal clothes

Wearing thermal clothes as a base and mid-layers is the most effective way to keep warm. They’re usually made of polyurethane or any thermal reflective material. Seek out thermal clothes in high-wicking fabric because of the wicking fabrics’ ability to spread moisture and allow it to evaporate, so you don’t get too sweaty when paddling.

Stay clear from wool because it takes longer to dry and is heavy when wet. The same goes for cotton, which also takes longer to dry and additionally draws heat from your body when it’s wet.

3.    Pogies

Similar to gloves, pogies help to keep the hands warm. They are designed to attach to the paddle shaft, enabling a bare-handed grip. The air trapped inside pogies warms up with your body’s heat. They can be worn with gloves and are perfect for extremely low temperatures.

4.    Thermal hat and face mask

Exposure to cold temperatures can cause a brain freezing sensation. It’s essential to keep your face and head warm to avoid getting sick and feeling uncomfortable while kayaking. A thermal hat and face mask is the perfect clothing item to keep you warm.

Winter Kayaking Footwear

Neoprene boots protect against the cold and serve as the best footwear option for cold-weather kayaking. Some drysuits may come with built-in boots to keep the entire suit waterproof. Pair your neoprene boots with neoprene socks to keep your feet warm.

What to Wear When Kayaking in Summer

Kayaking in the warm weather sounds like a safer option. But, there are still measures that you must take to avoid dehydration or sunburn. Extreme heat conditions can also cause a heat stroke or skin reactions if you find yourself sweating profusely.

Summer Kayaking Clothing Guide

Listed below are our favourite warm-weather kayaking apparel items.

1.    Kayak Wetsuit

Since wetsuits stop functioning when temperatures drop below 45° Fahrenheit, they make perfect suits for warm weather. Remember that most water bodies, especially lakes, are still reasonably cold even during winter. Wetsuits trap a thin layer of warm water between your skin and the suit, providing insulation and keeping you warm.

2.    Long sleeves and pants

If you feel that a wetsuit will make you feel too hot (in extreme heat conditions), you can opt for an outfit with long sleeves and pants. We recommend long sleeves to protect from sunburn and overheating.

Don’t just wear any long sleeves and pants, though. There are sports-specific clothing items available that are UV resistant, high wicking to absorb moisture, and fast-drying. Stay away from cotton because it absorbs water faster and doesn’t dry very quickly.

3.    Waterproof cag

Waterproof cags are made for water activities like kayaking, in which a lot of water splashes up and down the body. Cags are sealed or drawn around the waist and have wrist cuffs that reduce or stop the amount of water travelling up your arm and body. For flatwater kayaking, opt for touring cags. For whitewater kayaking, go for kayak-specific jackets or cags.

4.    Sun Mask

A sun mask helps to protect the face from sunburn and salt-irritation in coastal areas. Choose a sun mask that’s breathable and UV resistant.

5.    Hat

An area most people often forget that is exposed and susceptible to sunburn is the scalp. It’s wise to invest in a hat, preferably a wide-brimmed one, to protect the scalp and face from sunburn.

6.    Gloves

Paddling gloves, or kayaking gloves, protect against blisters. In extreme heat conditions, choose UV Protective Gloves to save your hands from sunburn. They’re also lightweight and breathable, so don’t stress, it won’t make you feel hot.

7.    Sunglasses

When sunlight reflects from water, it can be very bright, affecting your sight and irritating the eyes. Invest in polarised sunglasses to reduce bright reflection and prevent UV damage to your eyes.

sunglasses by the warm water

Summer Kayaking Footwear

For the warm weather, buy fast-drying shoes made of hard-wearing material like polyurethane or nylon. These allow your feet to breathe and drain out water swiftly.

Winter and Summer Gear

There are some essentials that are necessary for everyone to take with them on a kayaking trip despite the weather conditions:

  • Safety equipment
  • A rescue knife
  • A helmet

Type of Paddling

Besides the weather, the type of paddling you’ll be doing on your kayaking trip should also be considered when determining what clothing gear to pack. Different types of paddling methods call for different kinds of conditions to adjust to.

Flat Water Kayaking

girl kayaking

This type of kayaking is done over large water bodies. It involves long trips with not much frantic paddling. Since flatwater kayaking is not as physically demanding, you probably won’t be sweating too much.

Hence, invest in a suit or clothes of less-wicking fabric, so its ability to keep you warm is sustained for the cold weather. However, if you will be going for flatwater kayaking in the summer, it’s best to go for high-wicking fabric to avoid becoming sweaty because of the heat.

Whitewater Kayaking

Whitewater kayaking involves frantic intense paddling with short rest periods. Since whitewater kayaking is so physically demanding, your fit and the type of material you choose need to be appropriate for you to partake in this activity with ease and comfort. Consider high-wicking material for your suit, so the sweat stays away from your body.

man whitewater kayaking

Kayak Clothes: All-Weather tip!

To be prepared for both weather conditions, it’s a good idea to combine high wicker material to absorb moisture in warm weather with a drysuit in case it rains. Alternatively, if the chances of rain are low to almost non-existent, combine low-wicking material for cold weather with a drysuit because wetsuits lose their ability to insulate once temperatures drop below 45° Fahrenheit.

Safety first

A PFD or life jacket is essential, regardless of the weather. Life jackets can be restrictive for some when paddling, so invest in a kayak-specific life jacket which allows for more easy movement. Buoyancy aids are a unique form of PFDs used specifically for kayaking. They help you swim, whereas life jackets help you stay afloat without the need to swim.

Tips to remember

  • Stay hydrated! In hot or cold conditions, kayaking involves spending a considerable amount of time on the water. Thus, keep a water bottle on you at all times so you don’t become dehydrated.
  • Don’t forget your sunscreen! Choose a sunscreen with a high SPF to prevent sunburn.
  • It’s always a good idea to carry an extra pack of dry clothes with you in case of a dry suit failure or if you get really cold.
  • Pack your extra pair of clothes in a waterproof bag. You don’t want to end up getting your additional clothes wet before you can even use them!
  • Try to go for footwear with a chunky sole made of rubber. Rubber is a slip-resistant material. Shoes made of rubber will help when stepping on and off the kayak and on wet rocks.


You can easily find most kayak and related activity apparel and gear at your local sports goods store or on an online site like Amazon – which offers the added benefit of ordering from the comfort of your home and having your purchases delivered to your doorstep!

Remember to check for updates on the weather. Factoring in the weather will enable you to be prepared if a downpour graces your kayak or if the expected cold winds suddenly transition into blazing hot sun rays. As long as you stick to these tips, you’ll have a fantastic kayaking trip!

Looking to buy a new craft? Check out our guide to the best inflatable kayaks.