What to Wear Kayaking: 3 Different Weather Scenarios

What to Wear Kayaking makes a huge difference! The right outfit can turn miserable conditions into an epic adventure. Being cold and wet isn’t just unpleasant – it can ruin your trip and risk hypothermia. A wetsuit transforms cold water from uncomfortable to enjoyable.

Warm weather clothing matters just as much. A sun hat and sunscreen have saved me from heat stroke in scorching temperatures (trust me, you want to avoid that lobster look!)

The bottom line is, the proper kayaking clothes for the conditions keep you safe and comfortable. 

Cold weather and hot weather require different gear. Read on for tips to dress well in any situation. Don’t underestimate how important your outfit is – it can make or break your paddling experience.

Related Article: What to Wear Kayaking? All Seasons & Weather Conditions

What to Wear Kayaking in All Seasons & Weather Conditions?

Picking the right clothes for kayaking tips can be tricky. What you wear depends mostly on how warm or cold the water is. Your clothes should always be made of material that dries quickly if it gets wet. If the water is between 45-60 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll want to wear a wetsuit. For colder water, a dry suit is best. 

kayak weather & season

The weather outside matters too – you’ll need to layer and prepare for sun, rain, wind, etc. There’s a lot to think about! The key is dressing for the temperature so you stay comfortable and safe while paddling. I’ve explained more below about choosing kayaking clothes based on different conditions.

Dress for the Water Temperature Not the Air

The water temperature is the most important factor in choosing kayaking clothes. Float Plan for getting wet – even experts fall out sometimes! Before your trip, check the water temperature where you’ll kayak. Also consider the weather, air temp, your paddling speed, and type of kayak.

Avoid cotton since it absorbs water.

 Instead wear synthetic fabrics like neoprene, nylon, polyester, and fleece that wick moisture away. These work in warm and cold weather. In heat, wear one thin layer. In cold, layer up to stay warm but dry quickly.

What to Wear Kayaking, especially in the winter!

Wear shoes with rubber soles like river shoes or neoprene boots. They grip wet surfaces and protect your feet when getting in and out.

Always wear a personal flotation device or life jacket. It could save you if you fall in.

The right kayaking clothes based on water temp will keep you comfy and safe. Synthetic moisture-wicking layers and shoes with grip work for any conditions. Don’t forget your PFD! Follow this advice and you’ll have the best experience out on the water.

Kayak Design: Sit-On-Top vs. Sit-Inside

Kayaks are made to either sit on top of the water or inside the kayak. Your decision between the two will shape how you set up your kayak.

Sit-On-Top Kayak

  • Sit-on-top kayaks are good for hot days. They let air in and water out. You will get wet, but you will not be hot.
  • Sit-on-top kayaks are also good if you fall in the water. You can get back on them fast and easy. This is good for cold places because you will not get too cold.

Sit-Inside Kayak

A sit-inside kayak has a hole for you to sit in. It is hard to climb back in if you fall out. But it keeps your legs warm and dry. You can also put a cover over the hole to stop water from getting in.

A sit-on-top kayak has no hole. You sit on top of it. If you fall out, it is easy to get back on. But it does not keep your legs warm and dry. You may need to wear more clothes to stay warm. You should also wear clothes that can get wet.

What to Wear Kayaking in Summer (Hot Air – Warm Water)

If the water is over 60°F, dress for the hot sun – not for the warm water.

The sun beats down from above and reflects off the water, so you can easily overheat or get burned.

Wear Kayaking in Summer

Wear thin, lightweight long sleeves and pants in materials like neoprene, nylon, or polyester to protect from the sun. Rash guards and board shorts work too. Apply lots of sunscreen in exposed areas.

Bring a wide-brimmed hat with a chin strap so it doesn’t blow away. Polarized sunglasses also help but could fall off, so attach a strap. Wear synthetic underwear and sports bras, not cotton. Though open shoes seem tempting, neoprene boots or river shoes still give the best grip.

Focus on sun protection, not warmth, by covering up in lightweight synthetics. Don’t forget sunscreen and secure eye/head protection. Staying cool and avoiding burns makes warm-weather kayaking much more comfortable.

Summary: What to Wear in Summer

  • Non-cotton underwear or swimsuit
  • Top (long or short sleeve)
  • Bottoms (pants or shorts)
  • Wide-brimmed hat
  • Polarized sunglasses
  • Neoprene boots or river shoes
  • Life jacket

What to Wear Kayaking in Warm Weather (Warm Air – Cold Water)

Kayaking when it’s hot outside but the water is cold can be tricky to dress for. Follow this rule: always dress for the water temperature, not the air. If the air + water is less than 120°F, wear a wetsuit. That insulates you if you fall in. Wear layers like synthetics over it based on the air temperature.

Wear Kayaking in Warm Weather

Also wear a hat, sunglasses, and river shoes or boots. Waterproof socks and gloves help keep hands and feet warm when wet. For very cold water below 45°F, wear a dry suit since wetsuits won’t work. Layer thermals, tops, pants, and fleece jackets underneath to stay warm.

Also wear a face cover, gloves, and waterproof boots and socks. Bring extra dry clothes in case you get splashed.

The key is insulation from cold water. In warm air, focus on lightweight layers over your wetsuit. In freezing air, wear thick layers under a dry suit. Follow this guide and you’ll stay comfortable in any kayaking conditions.

Summary: What to Wear in Warm Weather

  • Wear a light top and pants if not wearing a wetsuit.
  • Put on a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Use polarized sunglasses.
  • Wear neoprene boots or river shoes with waterproof socks unless your wetsuit covers your feet.
  • Use neoprene gloves.
  • Always wear a life jacket.

What to Wear Kayaking in Cold Weather (Cold Air – Cold Water)

If the water is below 45°F, there’s a high risk of hypothermia if you fall in. That’s dangerous – your body can’t function to get you out. Wetsuits don’t work in such cold water. You need a dry suit, which is waterproof. It won’t keep you warm, so layer up under it.

Wear long thermal underwear, a long-sleeved shirt and pants, and a fleece jacket to maintain body heat. Also wear a thermal hat, face mask, neoprene boots with waterproof socks, and neoprene gloves. Attach paddle pogies for extra hand warmth.

Bring spare dry clothes in a waterproof bag in case you get wet. The drysuit and lots of insulation layers are crucial for kayaking in very cold water. Follow this guide to stay warm and safe if you tip over into frigid conditions.

What to Wear Kayaking, especially in the winter

Summary: What to Wear Kayaking in Cold Weather

  • Wear long thermal underwear.
  • Put on a long-sleeved top and pants.
  • Add a fleece jacket for warmth.
  • Use a thermal hat, buff, or facemask.
  • Wear neoprene boots with waterproof socks.
  • Put on neoprene gloves and pogies.
  • Always wear a life jacket.
  • Keep extra clothes in a waterproof bag.


Water shirts provide UPF protection and have a looser fit compared to rashguards. They’re a good choice if you won’t be swimming. For your lower half, go for comfortable and quick-drying options like board shorts or pants.

Wet shoes are shoes for water. You can kayak with no shoes or sandals when it is hot. But when the water is cold, you need wetshoes. They keep your feet warm and dry. They are like a dry suit for your feet. They are made of neoprene. Neoprene is a material that does not let water in.

Wear layers for your kayaking trip to stay comfortable outdoors.

  • Put on a jacket and pants to shield yourself from rain or wind.
  • Consider that your shoes might get wet during the trip.
  • Use toques and hats for added warmth.
  • Don’t forget sunglasses and sunscreen for sun protection.

Avoid wearing jeans for water sports as they can make you overheat in hot weather. Jeans absorb water, making kayaking uncomfortable. Opt for dry paddling pants for a better and more comfortable experience.

Final Thoughts

I hope this info helps with what to wear for your kayaking trip. Enjoy without stressing about feeling too hot or cold. Best of luck on your next adventure!

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