Do You Wear Clothes Kayaking?

Resting Kayaker on the Shore

If you’re planning on going kayaking, one of the key questions you may have is, “What should I wear?” Choosing the right clothing and gear for kayaking not only ensures your safety but also enhances your comfort and enjoyment of the experience.

Why Dressing Appropriately Matters

Safety Concerns

Wearing the right clothes while kayaking is crucial for your safety. Proper attire can help prevent hypothermia and other weather-related hazards. Additionally, it can protect you from sunburn, insect bites, and abrasions.

Comfort and Enjoyment

When you’re comfortable in your clothing, you can focus more on the fun aspects of kayaking. The right clothing will allow you to move freely and stay dry, making your overall experience more enjoyable.

What to Wear for Kayaking

When selecting clothes for kayaking, it’s essential to consider the layering system, footwear, headwear, and accessories.

Layering System

A layering system is key to dressing for kayaking. It allows you to adapt to changing weather conditions and maintain your body temperature. The three layers include:

Base Layer

The base layer should be made of moisture-wicking material, such as synthetic fabrics or merino wool. This layer keeps you dry by wicking sweat away from your skin.

Insulation Layer

The insulation layer, usually a fleece or lightweight synthetic jacket, retains body heat and provides warmth. In colder conditions, you might want to add an additional insulation layer.

Outer Layer

The outer layer, such as a waterproof and breathable paddle jacket, protects you from wind, rain, and splashes. It should be made of breathable material to allow moisture to escape.


When kayaking, choose footwear that provides a good grip, protects your feet, and dries quickly. Neoprene booties or water shoes are popular choices. In colder conditions, you might want to wear waterproof socks or even paddling boots.


A hat or cap is essential for sun protection and warmth. In colder weather, consider a beanie or fleece-lined hat. For sun protection, choose a wide-brimmed hat or cap with a neck flap.


Don’t forget to accessorize with items such as gloves, sunglasses, and a personal flotation device (PFD). Paddling gloves provide grip and protect your hands, while sunglasses protect your eyes from glare. A PFD is essential for safety.

Dressing for Different Weather Conditions

Warm Weather

In warm weather, opt for lightweight, breathable, and quick-drying materials. A short-sleeved shirt or tank top, shorts or swim trunks, and a lightweight hat should suffice. Don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses for sun protection. You may also want to bring a lightweight long-sleeve shirt or rash guard for added sun protection.

Cold Weather

When kayaking in cold weather, layering is crucial. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, followed by one or more insulation layers, and finish with a waterproof outer layer. Opt for fleece or wool materials for added warmth. Wear waterproof socks or paddling boots to keep your feet warm, and don’t forget a warm hat and gloves.

Additional Kayaking Tips

Beyond clothing choices, there are other factors to consider when preparing for a kayaking trip. These include selecting the right kayak and equipment, practicing essential kayaking skills, and planning your trip effectively.

Choosing the Right Kayak

There are various types of kayaks available, each designed for specific purposes and conditions. Some common types include recreational kayaks, touring kayaks, and whitewater kayaks. Consider factors such as the type of water you’ll be paddling in, your skill level, and personal preferences when selecting a kayak.

Selecting the Right Paddle

Choosing the right paddle is equally important. Factors to consider include the paddle length, blade shape, and materials. A paddle that suits your body size, strength, and kayaking style will enhance your overall experience.

Practicing Essential Kayaking Skills

Before heading out on the water, it’s crucial to have a good understanding of essential kayaking skills. These include paddling techniques, self-rescue methods, and navigation. Consider taking a kayaking course or joining a local paddling group to improve your skills.

Planning Your Trip

Proper trip planning can help ensure a safe and enjoyable kayaking experience. Research the area where you’ll be paddling, check the weather forecast, and familiarize yourself with potential hazards. It’s also essential to inform someone of your planned route and expected return time.


Preparing for a kayaking trip involves not only dressing appropriately but also selecting the right equipment, practicing essential skills, and planning your adventure. By paying attention to these factors and wearing suitable clothing, you can maximize your safety, comfort, and enjoyment on the water.

Wearing appropriate clothing while kayaking is essential for both safety and enjoyment. Always consider the weather conditions and opt for a layering system to adapt to changes in temperature. Don’t forget the importance of proper footwear, headwear, and accessories. By dressing appropriately, you can make the most of your kayaking adventure.


Is it okay to wear jeans while kayaking?

Jeans are not recommended for kayaking because they are heavy, restrict movement, and take a long time to dry. Instead, opt for lightweight, quick-drying, and stretchy materials.

Can I wear my regular sneakers for kayaking?

Regular sneakers may not provide the necessary grip and support needed for kayaking. Instead, choose footwear specifically designed for water sports, such as neoprene booties or water shoes.

How important is it to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) while kayaking?

Wearing a PFD is crucial for safety while kayaking. It can prevent drowning in the event of an accident or capsize. Always wear a properly fitted PFD when out on the water.

Should I wear a wetsuit for kayaking?

Wetsuits can be helpful in colder water conditions, as they help retain body heat. However, they may not be necessary for warmer weather or if you’re wearing a proper layering system.

Do I need to wear a helmet when kayaking?

Helmets are generally not required for recreational flatwater kayaking. However, they are highly recommended for whitewater kayaking or any situation where there’s a risk of head injury.

Can I kayak alone, or should I always have a partner?

While it’s possible to kayak alone, it’s generally safer and more enjoyable to paddle with a partner or group. Having others around can provide assistance in case of an emergency and make the overall experience more fun.

What is the best way to store my kayak when not in use?

Store your kayak in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. It’s best to keep it off the ground and supported evenly along its length to prevent damage or deformation.

How do I maintain my kayak and equipment?

Regularly inspect your kayak and equipment for signs of wear or damage. Rinse everything with fresh water after each use, and allow it to dry before storage. Periodically check and tighten any screws, bolts, or fittings.

What should I do if I capsize while kayaking?

If you capsize, try to stay calm and hold on to your paddle and kayak. If you’re wearing a properly fitted PFD, you should float easily. Depending on the situation, you may be able to perform a self-rescue or receive assistance from others in your group.

Can I bring my dog kayaking with me?

Many people enjoy kayaking with their dogs. If you decide to bring your furry friend along, make sure they are comfortable around water, have a well-fitting doggie PFD, and are secured safely in the kayak.