Do You Wear a Bathing Suit to Kayak?

Woman sitting on the deck with kayak


Are you planning a kayaking adventure and wondering what to wear? One of the most common questions people have is whether they should wear a bathing suit while kayaking. In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of wearing a bathing suit, factors to consider when choosing your kayaking attire, alternative clothing options, and safety considerations. Let’s dive in!

Kayaking: A Brief Overview

Types of Kayaking

Kayaking is a versatile water sport that can be enjoyed in various ways, such as recreational kayaking, sea kayaking, whitewater kayaking, and fishing kayaking. Each type offers a unique experience and may require different clothing choices.

Popular Kayaking Locations

You can find kayaking spots in various environments, from calm lakes and rivers to challenging ocean waves and whitewater rapids. The location and conditions will significantly impact your choice of attire.

Wearing a Bathing Suit: Pros and Cons

Advantages of Wearing a Bathing Suit

  1. Comfort: Bathing suits are lightweight and allow for unrestricted movement, which is essential when paddling.
  2. Quick-drying: Most bathing suits are made from fast-drying materials, so you’ll be more comfortable if you get wet.
  3. Ease of use: Bathing suits are simple to put on and take off, making them a convenient choice for many kayakers.

Disadvantages of Wearing a Bathing Suit

  1. Limited protection: Bathing suits provide minimal protection from sun, wind, and water temperature, which can be problematic in certain conditions.
  2. Lack of insulation: Bathing suits don’t offer much insulation, making them less suitable for cold water or weather.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Kayaking Attire

Weather and Water Conditions

The weather and water temperature are crucial factors in deciding what to wear. If you’re kayaking in warm conditions, a bathing suit may be sufficient. However, in colder temperatures or rough waters, you may need additional protection.

Type of Kayaking Activity

The type of kayaking you’ll be doing can also influence your clothing choice. For example, sea kayaking or whitewater kayaking may require more protective gear than recreational kayaking in calm waters.

Personal Comfort and Preferences

Ultimately, your comfort and personal preferences play a significant role in deciding what to wear. Some people may feel comfortable in a bathing suit, while others may prefer more coverage or insulation.

Alternative Kayaking Attire Options

Wetsuits and Drysuits

Wetsuits and drysuits provide better insulation and protection against cold water and weather conditions. Wetsuits are made from neoprene, which traps a thin layer of water against your skin to keep you warm. Drysuits, on the other hand, are completely waterproof and can be worn with insulating layers underneath.

Rash Guards and Board Shorts

Rash guards and board shorts are popular alternatives to bathing suits. Rash guards provide UV protection and can prevent chafing, while board shorts offer more coverage and are quick-drying.

Layering for Cold Weather

In cold weather, it’s essential to layer your clothing to retain warmth. You can wear moisture-wicking base layers, insulating mid-layers, and waterproof outer layers to keep you warm and dry.

Safety Considerations

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

Regardless of your attire, always wear a properly fitting PFD while kayaking. PFDs come in various styles and sizes, so choose one that is comfortable and appropriate for your activity.


Protective footwear, such as water shoes or sandals, is essential to protect your feet from sharp rocks, slippery surfaces, and cold temperatures.

Additional Kayaking Accessories

Beyond clothing and safety gear, there are several accessories that can enhance your kayaking experience. Here are a few items to consider:

Sunglasses and Hat

Protect your eyes from the sun and glare of the water with polarized sunglasses. A wide-brimmed hat can also shield your face from the sun and help you stay cool.

Sunscreen and Lip Balm

Sunburn can quickly turn a fun day of kayaking into a painful experience. Always apply waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and a lip balm with sun protection before hitting the water.

Dry Bags

Dry bags are essential for keeping your belongings, like your phone, wallet, and spare clothes, safe and dry while kayaking. They come in various sizes and materials, so choose one that suits your needs.


Paddling gloves can protect your hands from blisters and calluses while offering additional grip on the paddle. They also provide insulation in colder conditions.

Hydration and Snacks

Staying hydrated is crucial, especially during long paddling trips. Bring a water bottle or hydration pack and remember to drink regularly. Pack snacks like energy bars or trail mix to keep your energy levels up.

Proper Paddling Techniques

To make the most of your kayaking experience, it’s essential to learn proper paddling techniques. Here are some tips to help you paddle efficiently and safely:

Hold the Paddle Correctly

Hold the paddle with your hands shoulder-width apart, and your knuckles aligned with the paddle blades. This grip will give you better control and reduce fatigue.

Maintain a Good Posture

Sit up straight with your back supported by the kayak’s backrest. This position will help you engage your core muscles and allow for more efficient paddling.

Use Your Core Muscles

When paddling, engage your core muscles and rotate your torso rather than relying solely on your arms. This technique will give you more power and help prevent injuries.

Paddle in a Smooth, Rhythmic Motion

Find a comfortable paddling rhythm and maintain a consistent pace. Smooth, steady strokes are more efficient than short, frantic ones.

Learn Basic Paddling Strokes

Familiarize yourself with essential paddling strokes, like the forward stroke, reverse stroke, and sweep stroke. These skills will help you maneuver your kayak effectively and safely.

Final Thoughts

Whether you decide to wear a bathing suit or opt for alternative kayaking attire, the key is to prioritize comfort, safety, and suitability for the conditions and activities you’ll be undertaking. Equipped with the right gear and knowledge, you’re sure to have a fantastic time on the water. Happy paddling!


When deciding whether to wear a bathing suit for kayaking, consider factors like weather and water conditions, the type of kayaking activity, and your personal comfort and preferences. Bathing suits can be a comfortable and convenient option, but there are alternatives like wetsuits, drysuits, rash guards, and board shorts that may provide better protection and insulation. Always prioritize safety by wearing a PFD and appropriate footwear.


Can I wear a bathing suit for all types of kayaking?

While you can wear a bathing suit for many types of kayaking, it might not be the best choice for certain activities or conditions, such as cold water or rough seas. In these cases, consider wearing more protective gear like wetsuits or dry suits.

What should I wear under my wetsuit or dry suit?

For wetsuits, you can wear a swimsuit or nothing at all. For drysuits, wear moisture-wicking base layers and insulating mid-layers for added warmth.

Is it necessary to wear shoes while kayaking?

Wearing protective footwear, like water shoes or sandals, is highly recommended to protect your feet from sharp objects, slippery surfaces, and cold temperatures.

How do I choose the right PFD for kayaking?

Choose a PFD that fits snugly but comfortably and is appropriate for your specific kayaking activity. Always ensure it’s approved by the appropriate regulatory agency in your country.

Can I wear regular clothes while kayaking?

Although it’s possible to wear regular clothes, they might not provide the same level of comfort, protection, or insulation as specialized kayaking attire.