What to Wear Kayaking: The Essential Guide to Paddling Comfort and Style For 2024

what to wear kayaking

As the popularity of kayaking continues to rise, more and more people are wondering what to wear when embarking on this exciting water sport. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned paddler, knowing the appropriate attire is crucial for comfort, safety, and overall enjoyment. In this guide, we’ll discuss the top 11 must-have clothing items and accessories, all derived from the most searched keywords on the topic.

A Layered Approach

When kayaking, it’s important to dress in layers. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat away from your skin, add an insulating mid-layer for warmth, and finish with a waterproof outer layer to protect against water and wind. This approach allows you to easily add or remove layers as the weather and your activity level change throughout the day.

Comfortable Clothing

Choose clothing that allows for freedom of movement and is made from materials that dry quickly. Lightweight synthetic fabrics, such as polyester or nylon, are ideal as they wick moisture away from the skin and dry faster than cotton.

Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

A personal flotation device is a must when kayaking. It provides buoyancy and safety in case of capsizing or falling overboard. Make sure to select a PFD that fits comfortably and is designed specifically for paddling activities. You can view our top picks here.

What to Wear Kayaking In The Summer: Sun Protection & Sunglasses

During summer months, the sun’s rays can be intense. Wear a wide-brimmed hat or a cap with a neck flap to shield your face and neck from the sun. Opt for long-sleeve shirts and pants made of lightweight, breathable fabric with built-in UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.

Sunglasses are essential for protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays and glare on the water. Choose polarized lenses to reduce glare and enhance visibility. Apply waterproof sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection and a minimum SPF of 30 to all exposed skin, including the back of your hands and neck.

What Shoes to Wear Kayaking: Water Shoes or Sandals

Footwear is an essential part of your kayaking attire. Choose water shoes or sandals with good grip, quick-drying materials, and proper drainage. Avoid flip-flops, as they can easily slip off your feet and offer little protection or support.

Neoprene Gloves and Booties

Neoprene gloves and booties provide insulation and protection from cold water and sharp objects. They also offer extra grip when handling wet equipment and can make a big difference in your overall comfort, especially during colder months or in colder waters.

What Should a Beginner Wear Kayaking: Rash Guard

Beginners should wear a rash guard, which is a lightweight, tight-fitting shirt made of moisture-wicking fabric. It protects your skin from chafing caused by the rubbing of your life jacket or the kayak’s seat against your body.

Spray Skirt or Dry Pants

A spray skirt is a waterproof, adjustable garment that seals the cockpit of a sit-inside kayak, keeping water out and your lower body dry. Dry pants, on the other hand, are waterproof trousers with built-in socks that provide full-leg coverage for sit-on-top kayakers.

Dry Bag and Extra Clothing

Pack a dry bag with extra clothing, including a change of dry clothes and additional layers in

case of sudden weather changes or an unexpected swim. A dry bag will keep your belongings safe and dry throughout your kayaking adventure. Having extra clothing on hand is especially important for longer trips or when kayaking in colder environments.

A Whistle and Safety Accessories

While not specifically clothing, a whistle is an essential safety accessory that should be worn around your neck or attached to your life jacket. It can be used to signal for help or alert others to your presence. Other safety accessories to consider include a headlamp or flashlight, a small first aid kit, and a multi-tool or knife.


Knowing what to wear when kayaking is crucial for a comfortable and enjoyable experience. The right attire and accessories can make all the difference, from staying warm and dry to staying safe on the water. Remember to dress in layers, wear clothing that allows for freedom of movement, and prioritize sun protection during the summer months. Finally, always wear a personal flotation device and carry safety accessories to ensure a fun and secure kayaking adventure.

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