What to Wear Kayaking: What to Know Before You Head Out
You’re going out. Sure, dressing to impress is on the top of your priorities. As is your comfort and safety. The outfit for a sunny day is miles away from clothing during rainy hours. Your attire for window shopping should be different from the clothes fit for your next outdoor adventure.
Wherever you go, it’s best to be dressed according to location and activity. That also goes for kayaking. And there’s one big consideration when you plan on kayaking: the water factor.
With that in mind, you have to wear clothing that works well for sitting for long hours on a kayak and getting wet when you suddenly tip over. The nature of the sport demands you to dress for immersion—but what is it exactly?
This article will cover just that, along with the general guidelines, how to dress for kayaking under all weather conditions, and helpful tips once you start paddling.
Dressing for Immersion and How It Connects to Kayaking
Simply put, dressing for immersion means wearing clothing as if you’re going for a swim. This is a must as your safety is the top priority!
Now, there are two basic approaches to this. The first one is the wet system, which involves wearing specialized insulating layers. Like wetsuits, these layers keep water close to the skin as those are warmed up by body heat.
It’s affordable, but it doesn’t do well in extreme temperatures. Kayakers are chilled if temperatures are very cold, while you have to jump into the water to stay cool when it’s too hot.
This is where dry systems come to the rescue. This system relies on a drysuit that prevents water from touching your skin and conducting heat away from your body. You can vary your insulating layers depending on the air temperature. With the flexibility and protection the dry system offers, this one is the more expensive option.
As layering is connected to these systems, more about its importance will be discussed later. But, let’s get to the general guidelines first.
The General Guidelines For What to Wear Kayaking
When you’re browsing through what to wear on your kayaking trip, there are several things you must always have on you. Regardless of weather and paddling destination, take note of these general guidelines. When deciding what to wear kayaking, follow these general guidelines.
Always Wear Your PFD
This is a must for any kind of sport involving water, as it is a safety precaution. Should you ever need to change your clothes or adjust the top layers, it’s better to do so on-shore. If that’s not possible, then have a companion to hold your boat firmly.
Another non-negotiable is to wear clothing that offers sun protection. Any day on the water means a few long hours under the sun. Ensure that you search for UPF-rated
This goes for all layers of clothing for kayaking. Cotton absorbs a lot of water, stays wet for a long time, and could weigh you down when paddling or swimming. Quick-drying fabrics, such as nylon or polyester, are the better option. There’s also wool to consider for its capacity to insulate.
This goes without saying, as many kinds of hardware easily corrode to water. Especially saltwater. Sturdy, rugged plastics are a good alternative.
Comfort Is Key
You’ll be sitting on one bench and paddling for long periods of time. With that in mind, wear clothing that accommodates your large, repetitive movements with ease and breathe well when you’re resting.
And just how can you incorporate these general guidelines with all of those layers? The next section finally answers all of your questions.
The Essential Layers of Kayaking Wear
Sunny days, colder climates, and torrents of rain. Before you fuss over what to wear under such conditions, you should be oriented with the concepts of layering. Layering involves wearing various layers of clothing, adding, or removing garments to manage your body temperature. Usually, a base layer, insulation layer, and a shell are worn in that order.
But with kayaking, just how do you dress up for both comfort and safety? What follows is an in-depth discussion of each layer needed for the sport.
Essential Layer Number One: Base Layers
Base layers are worn next to your skin as it manages perspiration or sweat. It does this by wicking moisture, which involves spreading the sweat across the garment and moving it from the inside to the outside of the fabric.
That means that base layers do not absorb water, but dry quickly. Polyester and merino wool are common fabrics used as such. Nylon may also be used, but it absorbs water and dries slowly. While not suited for an insulated layering system, its slow drying is ideal for sun and heat protection.
Clothes meant for the base layers of kayaking wear are sewn differently compared to those for other sports. For example, seams aren’t placed at the underarm, waistbands are cut higher, and the tops have longer hems. This is done to reduce chafing and to prevent gapping.
Essential Layer Number Two: Insulating Layers
Similar to the concept of immersion, insulating layers also come in two types: wet and dry. Keeping the kayaker warm while wet and cold is the job of the former. The latter is more versatile, as it can be used for many other outdoor activities.
Just how different are these two types? Let’s start with the wetsuits.
Essential Layer Number Two in Wetsuits
The thicker the neoprene, the better the insulation. Think of that concept as wetsuits are mostly made of neoprene and other similar materials.
Neoprene can be thinner or thicker in construction. Thinner neoprene offers more flexibility and less restriction as you paddle across the water. While thicker wetsuits provide more restriction. That being said, thinner wetsuits usually come with sleeves to provide more warmth to the wearer and thicker ones do not.
Similar to the base layers, neoprene insulation designed for kayaking are cut to reduce chafing and to provide more comfort. But, keep in mind that essential layer number two in wetsuits does not protect you from evaporative cooling. Harsh winds can chill you to the bone if you aren’t covered with a shell layer, like pants and a jacket.
Essential Layer Number Two in Drysuits
The most common kind of fabric used for kayaking is fleece. Similar to base layers, fleece wicks moisture and stretches easily. It drives sweat away from your skin and towards the other layers.
When dry, fleece insulation is at its warmest. In the water, it doesn’t perform as well. This is why the material is best worn inside a dry system or with neoprene layers for cold water insulation.
Again, fleece kayak clothing is cut for comfy movement. That means reduced chafing and less gapping at the top and bottoms.
Whether wet or dry clothing systems, shell layers are important to keep you protected from the harsh winds. This is because of the limitations of both systems: wetsuits are not wind-resistant and fleece is warmest under a drysuit.
Shell layers are meant for two things: waterproofness and sun protection. Regardless, the best ones are made from breathable materials. This material then allows perspiration to escape from the fabric’s inside. All for maximum comfort when kayaking.
How do shell layers offer comfort while waterproof? These kayaking shell layers have specialized neck, wrist, ankle closures, and latex gaskets. These sleeves fit tightly around your limbs and neck, keeping water out. If it feels too constricting, you can opt for adjustable ones.
Moving on to the sun protection aspect of shell layers. You can expect the same amount of comfort, but less waterproofness. Lightweight and breathable, these are ideal for paddling on warm waters and under sunny skies.
With all these piling up on top of your mind, how about dressing for the weather?
Sweating, Shivering, and Drenched: Kayaking Wear in All Kinds of Weather
May it be the high sun, or freezing cold, or the pouring rain, kayaking demands a certain set of clothes. Maximum comfort and your safety should be provided.
Now, just how do you suit up?
Kayaking While Sunny: A Guide on What to Wear
Kayaking in mild conditions sounds like it would make for the best paddling experience. But, you actually have a lot to prep for the journey. That includes the proper clothing to wear! Most of what you’ll find here are also applicable to other weather conditions. Except for a few pieces that require further discussion.
First and foremost is your personal floatation device or PFD. Safety is always your top priority. Securing one for yourself keeps you floating and warm while you capsize, regardless of your swimming skills.
Don’t forget about this one! Knowing the right underwear to wear is essential for your comfort. For shorter outings, a swimsuit would do well as the first layer. For longer journeys, choose non-cotton garments suitable for outdoor activities.
With tops, you can choose between rashguards and water shirts. Rashguards are made of polyester or nylon with spandex. Quick-drying and stretchy, this attire is the best for paddling and other watersports. Rashguards are comfy yet hug the form, so water shirts are suitable for those who prefer a looser fit. Either way, both tops offer UPF protection whenever you’re out paddling.
Bottoms are a more simple affair. You can wear whatever feels comfy to you. Make sure that it dries quickly and can accommodate the constant shifting you have to do. Avoid super thin material due to chafing.
Of course, layering is up next. Consider these if’s. If conditions aren’t too cold, opt for a fleece jacket. If not too hot, a synthetic mid-layer offers sufficient comfort and protection.
Every inch of you should be ready for the splashing water. Naturally, footwear is also a consideration. A pair that is lightweight, water-ready, and protects your toes is ideal. Neoprene paddling booties and water sandals are good. Avoid anything without a backstrap, like flip-flops. They lose their hold easily.
Lastly are the accessories. Wide-brimmed hats or hats with capes are what you should look for. Your face needs ample protection from the UV rays. Gloves are also good to have! Find ones that fasten to your paddle well. Paddling gloves offer protection against blisters and strong winds.
Kayaking in the Cold: A Guide on What to Wear
Here’s what you have to know. The risks in capsizing into the water include immediate lung and heart shocks, drowning, and eventual hypothermia. Better be well-protected before you even consider paddling in the cold.
As discussed earlier, wetsuits or drysuits are the major components of kayaking wear. When cold, that is. The important thing is to remember to wear it (plus your PFD) before setting out. Always wear either of two whenever the water temperature drops to 70 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
What should you look for, then? Thick neoprene in wetsuits for good insulation, and watertight gaskets at clothing openings for drysuits. The mechanism of their insulation capabilities have been discussed earlier.
Other than that, invest in waterproof jackets meant for outdoor use to keep you warm, paddling gloves for ample protection and grip, a snug beanie for your head, and waterproof socks and paddling booties for added warmth.
Kayaking in the Rain: A Guide on What to Wear
In the rain, you could have either the most serene experience or a downright miserable time. There are several factors to consider in the success of your kayaking in the rain. One of those is proper clothing and it depends on the type of kayak you have.
Sit-inside kayaks can keep you remarkably dry with the additional sprayskirt. Sit-on-top models, on the other hand, means you are more exposed to the elements. Naturally, there is a difference in the attire required for each.
Hooded paddling jackets that fit securely over the sprayskirt? That’s a warm and cozy set-up for your whole body. Definitely suitable for sit-inside ‘yaks.
For sit-on-tops, you require extra. Waterproof paddling pants and a long waterproof jacket that reaches your thighs is recommended. Waders are also sufficient in providing a good cover-up from the trickling water. As for shoes, neoprene boots are still the way to go.
When out at sea, the drysuit, hooded waterproof jacket, PFD combo is the way to go. While whitewater kayaking demands for the same sety,. Consider whitewater helmets for an added layer of protection.
Last-Minute Kayaking Wear Tips!
At the end of the day, you still have to bring a lot with you on your trip. Aside from an extra set of clothes, what else is essential for a memorable and safe experience? Here are a few pointers:
A dry bag is good for storing your phone, valuables, and the extra set of clothes.
Use lip balm to protect your lips from the elements!
No cotton at all costs!
And that’s pretty much all you need to know!
All Clothed and Ready to Go!
Before paddling out there, remember that it all boils down to your comfort and safety. Dressing for kayaking is less about style and more on function. Protection and practicality are your goals. Insulation is the key to all your layering, especially when the weather’s cold.
The proper clothing is one of the keys to a fun kayaking experience. Return to this article should you need a reference on what you need to wear for this sport.
Now, have fun and stay safe out there!
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