What to Wear Kayaking - A Head to Toe Guide
Sports and Activities

What to Wear Kayaking - A Head to Toe Guide

Thinking about going on a kayaking adventure? You’ve made a great choice. Kayaking is one of the best ways to experience the outdoors, get out on the water and marvel at the natural wonders around you.

Oh yeah, and did we mention that it’s also a killer workout? Trust us, your arms will feel it the next day. 

No matter what your reason for getting out on the water, we heartily support it. That’s why we’ve put together a quick-and-dirty guide for what to wear kayaking. Read on, take the advice to heart and, most importantly, have fun!

Southern Tide Kayaking Hawaii

What to Wear Kayaking in Warm Weather

When it comes to kayaking in warm weather, it’s all about quick-drying, UPF fabrics. Here are a few ideas on what to wear kayaking during the summer and early fall:

  • Shoes and Socks

  • For your feet, you should wear water shoes. Skip the socks entirely and just embrace your pruney feet. 

    In case you don’t know what water shoes are, they’re shoes that are designed to move between water and land by providing additional protection when you’re climbing onto wet rocks or other slippery surfaces. Unless you want to be on a first-name basis with your orthodontist, we highly suggest you pick up a pair.

  • UPF Top

  • For warm weather kayaking, your top priorities will be protecting yourself from the sun and staying cool. You can easily take care of both by wearing a cooling shirt or rashguard made with UPF-rated sun protection, quick-drying fabrics, and cooling technology. You’ll also look good and feel comfortable while wearing it, which you’ll be grateful for when you’re taking that waterfall selfie.

  • On the Bottom

  • After a couple of hours working up a sweat paddling, you’ll be itching to dive into the water. If the water is warm enough for swimming, guys can wear their swim trunks or a pair of quick-dry shorts, while the ladies can wear active shorts over their bikini bathing suits. 

    A pair of quick-dry pants are also a good choice, especially if you’re paddling in a swampy area - no one wants to be bug bait!

  • Personal Flotation Device

  • According to the American Kayaking Association, there were 509 paddling-related drownings in 2016. Of these, only 82 had some type of flotation device. 

    Needless to say, a personal flotation device (PFD) is a must. At the very least, it will give you peace of mind.  If you’re paddling with family, make sure that they are all equipped with PFDs—and, of course, that includes the furry members of your family, too.

  • Hat and Sunglasses

  • The glare from the water can be blinding, so make sure you bring your polarized sunglasses and a sunglass strap so you don’t lose them in the water. Have you ever watched a pair of expensive sunnies slowly sink, just out of reach, into the murky depths? A total buzzkill. But totally preventable.

    To complete your outfit, top of your look with a Southern Tide Performance or Trucker hat. In addition to protecting your scalp and face from the sun, you’ll earn a few style points.

    Southern Tide Models Kayaking Hawaii

    What to Wear Kayaking in Cold Weather

    When the weather turns brisk, knowing what to wear kayaking can become a little more difficult. Even in comfortably cool fall months, the water can be bitterly cold. And in the winter, forget about putting even a single toe in the water.

    As you prepare for a cold-weather kayaking trip, here are a few clothing items you may need: 

  • Splash Skirt

  • Nope, we’re not talking about women’s skirts. A splash skirt (also called a spray skirt) prevents water from getting into the cockpit of your kayak and keeps you dry. Though it’s technically something that your kayak wears and not you, we’re adding it to this list because it really is that important for cold weather paddling.

  • Socks and Shoes

  • If you have a splash skirt, your feet stand a better chance of staying dry and warm. Even so, you’ll still want to choose smart footwear that has hydrophobic (water-repelling) features and moisture-wicking socks (merino wool socks are a good option).

  • Drysuit

  • Paddling in extreme cold? Be smart and suit up in a kayaking drysuit. Unlike the wetsuit, this type of suit is designed to keep you dry and is meant to be worn with several layers of clothing. It could potentially save your life if you find yourself accidentally taking a plunge into ice-cold water.

  • Layers

  • Layering is the name of the game for cold weather kayaking adventures. Wear moisture-wicking base layers similar to the ones we described for warm weather kayaking. 

    For an amazing moisture-wicking base layer, check out our women’s cable knit athletic quarter zip pullover. Made with performance fabrics and quick-dry technology; you’ll stay warm and dry while you kayak in the cold. 

    Then, complete your outfit by adding an insulating layer with water-repellent features (for the guys, our hooded Anorak jacket is definitely up for the task). Once you learn how to layer like a pro, you’ll be officially set to outsmart Old Man Winter

    .Southern Tide Sunset Kayaking Tahiti

    Additional Kayaking Tips and Considerations

    You’re almost ready to get out on the water! Before you do, here are a few additional clothing tips to make your next kayaking experience safe and enjoyable:

    - Use a dry bag to store your phone, valuables and a spare set of dry clothes.

    - Whatever you do, avoid cotton at all costs. Cotton will absorb water and make you miserably cold and wet.

    - Choose clothing items with corrosion-resistant zippers and fasteners.

    - Paddling gloves are worth bringing along on windy days.

    - Use lip balm to protect your lips from the wind.


      Ready to Launch

      It doesn’t matter whether you’re paddling through calm creeks or choppy ocean waters, knowing what to wear kayaking is key to making your trip a safe and fun experience. 

      Before you head to your kayaking launch site, remember to check the weather forecast and think about the water temperature. Dress for the water, pile on the sunscreen and you’ll be ready for your next paddling adventure.


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