Getting ready to go kayaking is a little different from what you do to prepare for a typical day at the lake or river. During your time on a kayak, you’ll be exposed to water sprays and direct sunlight that you can’t always quickly escape from. You also need to take into consideration the high level of movement that your arms will be doing as you paddle. The last thing you want to do is end up with a rash or discover that you have a limited range of motion as you try to battle through some rapids.
Before you pick out your clothing, give the weather and water conditions a quick check. This will play a role in the fabric that you select as well as how you layer each piece.
Dress for the Water Temperature
When you head out on a kayak, you should always assume that you might get wet. As a general rule, you should wear a wetsuit or dry suit any time that the water is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water is above this level, but the air temperature is cold, then do some quick math. You should also suit up if the combined air and water temperature is less than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Use Layers for the Ultimate Level of Comfort
You’ll typically find that avid kayakers like to wear several layers of clothing. Your base layer serves as the last bit of protection that you have to keep your skin away from frigid water or air. Wetsuits are designed to be worn against your skin, but you might prefer to wear a swimsuit underneath if you plan to do any shoreside activities after you kayak to your destination.
A dry suit is a little more like a raincoat for your body. With this type of clothing, you need to wear something underneath it. Some kayakers prefer to wear long underwear beneath their suit to stay extra warm. You can also find dry suits with fleece linings to increase warmth.
In warm conditions, your base layer can be just your swimsuit. Make sure that the suit you choose is comfortable for kayaking. Ideally, it shouldn’t have any zippers or other fasteners that could cut into your skin as you paddle.
Know What to Wear on the Outer Layer
Your outer layer of clothing should be water resistant and suited for the air temperature. Most kayakers prefer to wear paddling jackets that have special features at the wrist and neck that stop drips. However, you can also get by just fine with a rain jacket and pants.
Avoid Cotton Fabrics
Your favorite pair of jeans or yoga pants needs to stay home or carefully packed away in your day bag for the kayak trip. Cotton fabrics simply soak up too much water too fast, and they take forever to dry. Instead, look for clothing made from synthetic fabrics such as nylon that stay relatively lightweight when they are wet and are known to dry fast.
In addition to avoiding cotton fabrics, you’ll also want to look for clothing that has flat seams that are less likely to rub your skin as you move. Rash guards designed for waterspouts are great option for making sure that your day is as seamless as possible.
Pick Sun Protective Clothing
You already know to slather on the sunscreen. However, you can also use your clothing to add further sun protection that prevents painful burns. Look for swimsuits, tops and bottoms that are UPF-rated. You should wear these even on cloudy days since the UV rays can still reach your skin, and they are extra harsh when they are reflected up from the water.
Hats and sunglasses are also a must for sun protection. You’ll appreciate being able to see your route through the water better without dealing with a glare. If you’re worried about losing your accessories, then use a cap leash and glasses retainer. Be sure to double check your glasses retainer at home to make sure that it floats. For cold conditions, try putting a beanie on underneath a wide brimmed hat. You’ll feel warmer and still be able to enjoy the benefit of keeping the sun out of your eyes.
Find the Right Pair of Shoes
Your feet need to be protected from rocks and other debris that you might step on in shallow parts of the water. The best footwear for kayaking should sit securely on your feet, which means that trusty pair of flip flops is out. Instead, look for footwear such as neoprene paddling booties that is designed specifically for kayaking. These have rubberized, gripping soles that prevent slips and nasty cuts from sharp glass or rock lying on the lake or river bed. You can also wear water shoes. Just remember to look for something that can help keep your feet safe.
Personal Flotation Device
Last but not least, you don’t want to forget your PFD. Always make sure that you are wearing one anytime that you are in the water. If you need to remove it to fix something with your other layers, then find somewhere along the shore to park your kayak while you handle the adjustments.
As you pick out your outfit, remember to think about each piece with comfort and safety in mind. After all, the best kayaking adventures can go on for hours, and you want to have everything you need to enjoy your day on the water. From remembering a hat to putting on those awesome paddling booties, you’ll look and feel like a pro from head to toe.