Ultimate Guide to Kayak Clothing

The clothes you wear on a kayak are a vital part of your gear. All types of weather conditions can affect the clothes you wear. If the air temperature is low, you may prefer to wear an undershirt with a thick fleece layer and a paddling jacket over the top. In cold conditions, your comfort is essential for enjoying long sessions in the water.

If you're paddling in areas of high sun exposure, such as the open sea or lakes, then you can wear clothes suited for hot air conditions. As you're usually unprotected in a kayak, you should wear clothes that offer complete coverage (i.e., full-length pants and a long-sleeved top), even on days of cloud cover.

Your kayaking clothing should be comfortable and ideally fast drying or made from waterproof material. Try your best to avoid cotton clothing as these tend to absorb water, making paddling uncomfortable when you get wet. If you're yet to buy kayak specific clothing, you can use regular sportswear designed to be quick drying.

Keeping dry on a kayak

On most kayaking trips, you're going to get wet, either be from paddle runoff, saltwater spray, river rapids, or when it rains. Having a few dry suits is the best way to keep yourself from getting wet and uncomfortable. A dry suit works by trapping a thin layer of air between your body and the suit. While you're wearing a dry suit, you'll be completely dry.

The main downside to a dry suit is it can be expensive and are out of reach for most beginners. However, if you're looking at extensive trips on your kayak, a dry suit is an excellent choice.

The best clothes to wear on a kayak

The best outfit to wear when your kayaking is comfortable, especially when it gets wet. Many beginners will wear swimwear or running gear, but you're exposed to the sun and any other harsh conditions with these. A wetsuit is often a good choice, as it'll provide protection from the weather and keep you warm during your entire trip.

Thicker wetsuits are ideal in colder conditions, and in warm weather, you can find more suitable summer wetsuits. Most wetsuits will have room for you to have on swimwear underneath, or you can go commando. A quality wetsuit is ideal if you kayak in colder water as it provides good protection from the water if you fall overboard.

Swimming from a kayak

If you're planning to swim from your kayak, you may prefer to wear loose-fitting clothes with your swimwear underneath. After getting your kayak into position, you can drop anchor and swim in the water. Swimming, snorkelling, or spearfishing from a kayak is popular for many people and a great way to get out to where the fish are located (particularly saltwater fish).

If you are swimming or diving from a kayak, you may need additional accessories. You'll need a diving flag, anchor, and a dry place to store your towel or any spare clothes.

Protecting your gear when you're on a kayak

Although what you wear on a kayak is important, having a dry bag or spray skirt can help keep any accessories (or your cockpit) dry from saltwater spray, rain, and water splashes. Your phone is an essential piece of equipment, but the metal components may not be corrosion resistant. These are best placed in a suitable protective pouch.

Additional clothing accessories for kayaking

When you're getting a kayaking outfit organised, don't forget your feet and hands. Some kayakers prefer going barefoot, but wearing neoprene booties will protect your feet from the sun and give your a good grip when you need it. A good set of paddle gloves will provide exceptional grip in wet weather conditions.

FAQ for kayak clothing

Kayaks and life jackets

Is it compulsory to wear a lifejacket in a kayak?

Almost all states in Australia have compulsory life jacket rules for kayaking. Regardless of any local laws, wearing a life jacket is highly recommended.

What life jackets are suitable for kayaking?

Life vests are often better for kayaking as they have wide armholes for paddling, and some may include a wicking base layer. A 50N rated life vest is the minimum protection for kayakers in open waters.

What to wear when kayaking

Can you wear jeans while kayaking?

Jeans are not suited for water sports, and you may overheat in hot weather. Jeans will absorb water and make kayaking quite uncomfortable. You may find it better to wear dry paddling pants instead of the rough materials you get with jeans.

Can you wear thongs kayaking?

Thongs are not ideal for wearing in a kayak. If you want some lightweight footwear, use a pair of water sandals or paddling booties (and waterproof socks in colder conditions). Thongs can quickly come off and be lost overboard, and water sandals are usually made from thick neoprene with excellent grip if you need to stand up.

Do I need a wetsuit for kayaking?

A wet suit is excellent when you're starting in a kayak. When you're learning, you'll end up in the water at some point. Wearing a wet suit will keep you warm, particularly in saltwater conditions where low water temperature. 

Do you wear a bathing suit when kayaking?

Swimwear offers almost no sun protection and is only suitable during mild to warm conditions. While swimwear is often made from quick-drying fabrics, it won't help maintain your core body warmth in cold water.

What do you wear kayaking in Australia?

The best clothes to wear kayaking are anything made from abrasion-resistant fabrics. You should wear items that offer protection during cold and wet conditions. Your paddling specific gear should be suited for coastal water temperatures and provide the minimum protection needed. 

What is a splash jacket?

A splash jacket is also known as a paddle jacket, and they are designed to keep you warm and dry when kayaking. These jackets are lightweight and provide an additional layer for protection, and they're usually made from quick-drying nylon or water-resistant materials.

Splash jackets are ideal for covering exposed areas during water sports and other outdoor activities. A splash jacket can be worn as an outer layer over other clothes, and it'll keep you dry during your entire kayaking session.

Where to buy the best kayak clothing

At Kayaks2Fish, we have an excellent range of life jackets and vests designed for use on kayaks and other watercraft. For a cold water range of premium life jackets and vests, you can look through all we offer and find one that suits your particular paddling style.

The clothes you wear while kayaking is your choice, and our recommendation is to find something you are comfortable wearing. A wetsuit is ideal for most situations, but if you are happy wearing shorts and a t-shirt under your life jacket, that'll be perfect for you.

In addition to our range of life jackets, you can find gloves and booties to give you additional grip in wet conditions. If you need assistance choosing the perfect kayak clothing, you can call our team, and we'll offer our expert advice.