A kayaking trip can quickly become an uncomfortable and disappointing venture if you are not properly dressed. For instance, when paddling in oceans or lakes, the water sometimes can be so cold that you would think you were boating on an ice block. At other times, the surrounding air can be unbearably warm or you may need to change clothes after taking an unexpected swim. So before going out on your kayaking trip, you should carefully select your outfit by considering the paddling environment and the challenges you may encounter.
Pay attention to the weather forecast.
While wearing a windbreaker and a thermal shirt may be appropriate for a cool, breezy day, such an outfit may be uncomfortable on a hot day. It is important to check the weather forecast. For example, if a rainy or wet day is predicted, you should consider wearing a wetsuit. Similarly, if a hot or sunny day is forecast, you should wear an outfit that will keep you cool and protect you from the sun.
Precaution against hypothermia.
When you plan to paddle in a placid stream, you must dress for the air. Likewise, if there is a possibility of taking a dip, you must dress for the water. In cold air or cold water conditions, there is a serious threat of hypothermia. You need to have a dry suit or wet suit during such an outing. Lightweight gloves made of polypropylene, neoprene or wool are ideal protection against abrasion and exposure, while mittens and pogies that fit snugly over your hands and paddle shaft are advisable for keeping you drier and warmer.
Dress in layers.
Layering means wearing several thin and versatile garments capable of keeping you as warm as a single thicker one. When kayaking, it is important to think about staying warm just as much as staying cool. So you need a base-layer (innermost garment) that will insulate you and pick up and remove perspiration. The inner insulating layer should be made of fleece, Gore-Tex, polyester or other material that can remove moisture while allowing complete freedom of movement. The outer layer should protect you and keep you warm and dry. Make sure it is waterproof, windproof, breathable and fits comfortably. A few synthetic layers in between should help you remove the outer clothing if the weather is warm.
Avoid wearing cotton.
Cotton absorbs water and remains wet, which can make for a very cold and uncomfortable outing. In fact, even if you do not flip your kayak, cotton will absorb water through splashes, drips and sprays. And if you use a sit-on-top kayak, you will most likely sit in some water and cotton pants will quickly absorb water and get cold. Avoid cotton and instead wear synthetic materials like fleece, Gore-Tex, and polyester. An important reminder is never to show up for a kayak trip in a cotton T-shirt and jeans.
Wear shoes that will remain on your feet.
The perfect shoes for kayaking are water shoes or water booties. They will stick on your feet, protect you from rocks and keep your feet warm. You also may use old sneakers with wool socks, neoprene wetsuit booties, river sandals with proper straps, “willies” or dedicated paddling shoes. Avoid flip flops as they can easily come off in the water and the soles are quite slippery.
Wear head protection gear.
If you are kayaking in a rocky area or in whitewater, wear a helmet to protect your brain. Otherwise, you should wear a beanie or hat to protect your head from cold or sun.
Carry a change of clothes.
You will need to change clothes either during or at the end of your trip if you get wet. Carry a towel to dry yourself and bring a comfortable change of clothes to wear on your journey home.
Wearing the right clothes will keep you dry and warm, ensuring that your kayaking trip is safe and enjoyable. Make sure to know your paddling environment well and to plan for both the air and water temperatures. Also, remember to wear the biggest smile! For more information, visit the site Captain Mike’s Kayak Academy.
- REI Expert Advice. (2017). What to Wear Kayaking: Layering Tips. Retrieved from https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/kayaking-what-to-wear.html