What to Wear When Kayaking: A Complete Guide

Kayaking has grown in popularity hugely over the past decade and people of all ages and skill levels can get involved in it, whether it be paddling down a calm river or navigating whitewater rapids. That being said, knowing what to wear when kayaking is more important than you initially might think. Kayak clothing is essential for making sure you’ve dressed appropriately for the conditions you could be facing when on the water. 

In this complete guide, we’ll take a look at all of the options for what to wear when you take to the water, including clothing and gear.

Base Layers

The base layer is the first thing to consider when putting together your kayaking outfit. As the foundation of your outfit, the base layer should provide a moisture-wicking and insulating layer next to your skin. Pick a lightweight and breathable thermal base layer that will keep you warm in cold temperatures and cool in hot. Merino wool is a popular option, offering excellent moisture management and insulation.

Wetsuit or drysuit

A popular option for kayakers is a wetsuit or a drysuit, depending on the temperature of the water. Wetsuits are ideal for warmer conditions, providing insulation while allowing some water to enter. Drysuits, on the other hand, are designed to keep you completely dry, making them a better option for all-year-round kayakers. If you’re looking to invest more into your kayaking outfit, a drysuit might be the way to go. 

Outer layers

If a full-body suit isn’t for you, paddling jackets are an essential piece of gear for kayakers. They should offer protection against wind, rain, and any splashes, keeping you dry and comfortable. Look for a jacket with features such as sealed seams and adjustable cuffs and hood, it’s the little things that matter when it comes to picking kayaking clothing. Depending on the weather, opt for either paddling shorts or trousers, just make sure they’re made of high-quality water-resistant materials.


Prioritise comfort, grip, and protection for your kayaking footwear. Water shoes or neoprene boots are popular options, as they offer a secure fit and protect your feet from sharp objects if needed. Avoid wearing flip-flops; they seem like the easiest option, but if they slip off, your feet may not be as secure in the kayak.


A lifejacket is a must-have safety item for any kayaker. Many lifejacket options are specifically designed for paddling, giving you the necessary buoyancy without hindering movement.


Apart from the essentials, little accessories are great for enhancing your kayaking experience. Sunglasses with polarised lenses will help reduce glare from the water, and a waterproof bag or case is the best way to keep your valuables safe and dry. In the hotter months, suncream is your best friend. You’re likely to spend long hours exposed to the sun, so protect your skin from the sun’s rays.