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Unsure What To Wear Kayaking? 4 Items You Need And Outfits For Every Season

Kayaking is such a fun water based activity, it’s a great way to see the coast while on the ocean or going down a river with rapids. However, it’s crucial to ensure your comfort throughout the experience. That’s why we’ve curated this comprehensive guide on what to wear while kayaking, so you can embark on your next adventure fully prepared.

This guide covers essential planning tips, year-round necessities, and tailored recommendations based on daily weather conditions. Be sure to check out our suggestions on what NOT to wear while kayaking at the end!

Get ready to enhance your kayaking experience and stay comfortable every step of the way. Let’s dive in!

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Before You Go

As good practice for any outdoor adventure, make sure to check the weather forecast! That way you can plan ahead for what you’ll actually want to wear while kayaking! Not only think about the air temperature, but also the water temperature for how hot/cold it’s going to be.

You may also be interested in: Best coolers for kayaking, best kayaking dry bags, best kayaks for kids

What To Wear Kayaking: Necessities

There are 4 main necessities of what you have to wear while kayaking. These are above else, the most important and you’ll want to have on you regardless of the weather you’re dealing with while kayaking. Those 4 items include: a life jacket, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.

Life Jacket

Being in or around the water on a boat can be dangerous, especially if you are going through rapids or there might be unexpected waves (even from other boats passing by).

So having a life jacket is extremely important to wear whenever you’re kayaking. If you’re renting a kayak for your adventure, they should have a personal flotation device (pfd) to go with it.

Read best women’s life jackets for women

life jacket


When kayaking, it is crucial to prioritize wearing sunscreen. Even if only your hands and nose are exposed, protecting your skin with sunscreen is a must. It’s especially important because the sun reflects on the water, increasing the risk of sunburn.

Remember, you can still get sunburned on cloudy days. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to any exposed skin and reapply when you’re back on land!

Keep reading for sunscreen suggestions


Sunglasses are another important item to wear while kayaking! Between being out in the sun and the glare off the water, it’s going to be harsh on your eyes. So it’s better to just wear sunglasses and not have to worry about your eyes!

When choosing sunglasses, either pick some cheap ones that you won’t feel terrible about if they accidentally fall and get lost in the water, or get some Croakies (or Chums) to hold your glasses on with! That way, if they fall they’ll just fall down around your neck.

windrider sunglasses


One of the other most important things to wear when kayaking is a hat. Better yet if it’s a brimmed hat that shades your entire head and has a neck strap.

A baseball cap will work for protecting your eyes in that gap at the top of sunglasses, and the rest of your face, but they fail to protect your ears and the back of your neck from sun exposure.

And like the sunglasses, having a strap on your hat will mean it’s less likely to take a dip in the water if a breeze hits suddenly.

brimmed hat from walmart

What To Wear Kayaking: Basics

So now that we’ve talked about what you NEED, let’s talk about the basics of what you’ll probably want to wear. The key points to remember are: layers, things you don’t mind getting wet or are water resistant, and shoes.

Having a waterproof watch can also be beneficial to keep track of the time, especially if you’ve got a rental kayak to return at the end of the day.


Having different clothes you can take off easily or put on is so important while kayaking. It might heat up during the day, so you can easily remove a layer and feel comfortable, or you may get cold from getting splashed and want more layers.

Regardless, think about bringing multiple items of clothing to layer, possibly thermal clothing and a thin layer too!

quick dry shirt

Clothes You Don’t Mind Getting Wet

Normally, when I kayak, I have a swimsuit on underneath all of my layers. This is a good idea because you won’t mind them getting wet, and they’re likely to dry off fairly quickly.

Alternatively, wear quick drying fabrics or water resistant clothing that offers a bit more protection and warmth.


While shoes aren’t as important for while you’re in the kayak, having good water shoes or water sandals for getting your kayak in and out of the water, so you don’t worry about stepping on anything in the water. You can always kick off your shoes inside the kayak once on.

keens solr sandal

Keep reading: Best shoes for kayaking

What To Wear Warm Weather

Wondering what to wear kayaking on a hot day? It’s still a good idea to bring layers even in warm weather, especially since days can start off kind of chilly, or you might cool off after bein splashed in the water.

Wear a bathing suit, and at least to start a shirt that’s lightweight and ideally a sport shirt that dries quickly.

If you’re in an sea kayak with a spray skirt, what you wear on the bottom is less important. Just something to keep you comfortable temperature wise. Since you’re mostly covered, just wearing some shorts should be good!

If you’re using a sit on top kayak, think more about long pants that are quick dry or part of a dry suit. This will keep your legs warmer, and also protect from UV rays.

Example outfit for hot weather: Swimming shorts, Chacos, bikini top, water wicking shirt, hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

water wicking shirt

What To Wear Cold Weather

If it’s cold conditions and cold water expected for your kayaking trip, you’ll definitely want to be bundled more up.

There are two different ways to go about what to wear for this weather, and it really depends on how sprayed with water you expect to be. If you don’t expect to get too sprayed with water: layer up! Have a swimsuit on, then put on lightweight pants that dry quickly, a long sleeved t shirt that’s water wicking, and wear a warm waterproof rain jacket for an outer layer.

A dry suit will also be a good idea, to keep you actually dry and protected. If it’s going to be really cold, start with long underwear, have a mid layer that’s an insulating layer, and cover all of that up with a dry suit.

Read which is better: wet suit vs dry suit!

women's dry suit

If you expect to get sprayed by cold water, it’s a good idea to wear a wet suit. This way, even if you do get wet, at least you’ll be warmer. For whitewater kayaking, wearing a wet suit is probably one of your best options because you’re bound to get sprayed by water, and may fall out of the kayak.

Paddling gloves are also your friend when it comes to kayaking in cold water. This will keep your hands warmer so you can paddle for longer and also offer some more sun protection.

Example Outfit for Colder Weather Conditions: Swimsuit, Wetsuit, Gloves, Waterproof Socks, Sun Hat and maybe Ear warmer, and a personal flotation device

What Not To Wear Kayaking

Above are all great suggestions for ideas on what to wear. But we can’t forget about a few things to avoid wearing for kayaking! These are 2 items you want to avoid bringing with you:

Avoid Denim

Above almost anything else, one of the worst things to wear kayaking, or doing anything water sport based, is denim. Denim jeans, shorts, jackets. Avoid cotton denim (or any other heavy fabrics like denim!)

This is one of the worst things to wear kayaking, because it never dries. And you’re bound to get splashed while kayaking, or even end up in the water and this material will just weigh you down.

So do yourself a favor and choose some lighter weight materials that either are water resistant or dry quickly! Save yourself from being cold and feeling soggy all day long.

pile of jeans

Sentimental Jewelry Or Items You Don’t Want To Lose

The other items to avoid wearing while kayaking are anything that hold sentiment that you would be devastated to lose. It’s probably unlikely that you’ll lose your necklace or a ring, but you never know. And deep water is not a place you’ll be able to go looking for your missing items.

So do yourself a favor and leave them in the car or at home! There’s always the chance the paddle will rub wrong on a ring and cause it to fall off, or a bracelet gets caught and torn off.


Now you should be ready with what to wear kayaking for your next adventure! Make sure to have fun, check the weather and water temperatures before you go, and have fun!