What To Wear Kayaking and Canoeing: All The Essentials Listed

what to wear kayaking and Canoeing

Is the boat the only thing that matters when it comes to kayaking or canoeing?

I was asked this question last summer while I was kayaking last summer in the Gauley River, West Virginia. There was a group of amateurs kayakers that asked me such query. Of course, I answered them cordially that as unbelievable as it may seem, learning how to ride and paddle is not all that the only thing that matters in kayaking and canoeing.


I emphasized that the right attire is crucial as well. Being able to move comfortably is a crucial factor that ensures your comfort and fun while you are on the water. Furthermore, there are inevitable instances where the boat gets flip over. Wearing the wrong gears will prevent you from getting back to your vessel as quickly as possible.

What to wear when kayaking and canoeing? If this is the thing that is running in your head already, this guide of mine will help you narrow your list. I will not recommend anything that is not necessary. Investing in the essential amenities will already be enough to keep you safe and comfortable. Let's get started.

Consider the Water Temperature and Weather

The external temperature is one of the crucial factors that determine the appropriate kayak and canoe clothing. Take this one as an example. Kayakers are always asked to be prepared for situations where they will found themselves being capsized. The water can remain cold, even if the air temperature is not. If you are not wearing the right gears, risks of hypothermia and drowning can take place. In this situation, wearing a wetsuit is already difficult to do.

  • Both wetsuits and drysuits are good when the water temperature is around 60 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. You should still do so even if the water temperature goes above 60 degrees Fahrenheit as long as the air temperature is still relatively cold.

    Wetsuits can be considered as the standard form of protection for kayakers who are journeying in such conditions. A generic wetsuit is tailored from thick and durable neoprene. It keeps you insulated and warm all the time.
  • Dry suits are better used if both the water and air temperatures are considerably cold. They are usually crafted from waterproof materials and features watertight gaskets to keep the water out. It can keep you dry and comfortable in icy and snowy regions. Furthermore, you can adjust the warmth that you can feel by having long insulating garments under the suit.

If the air is hot, but the water is chilling cold, the best option is a sleeveless wetsuit. Alternatively, you can opt for wetsuits that have short sleeves and coupled with a pair of shorts.

How to Identify Water Temperature?

Most boating enthusiasts don't bring thermometers whenever they are heading out in the water. Even a prepper like me doesn't do this. I go to adventures with full gears, but as much as possible, I only travel light. If you intend to fish while you are kayaking, I do suggest that you look for a fish finder that has a water temperature gauge function. This one eliminates the need for you to do some guessing.

If you don't have this, I do suggest that you check out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They have a water temperature map for all the water regions under their jurisdiction. For rivers and lakes, information regarding their temperature is usually made available online. You can also ask some local guides or a paddling club nearby--if they are present.

Clothing Ergonomics

What To Wear Kayaking and Canoeing: All The Essentials Listed

The requirements and standards for kayaking and canoeing are pretty similar to hiking and other outdoor applications. In any of these pursuits, you will really need versatile and durable clothing that can protect you from various elements. Furthermore, they should possess qualities that optimize your comfort while you are on the move.

The material is one of the crucial factors in selecting the appropriate outdoor gear. For activities that involve getting you wet, here are some of the options that I can recommend.

Fabrics with Quick-Drying Capabilities - Both quick-drying polyester or nylon are great for kayaking and canoeing. Although they are not really water repellent, they can wick off the water immediately before it touches your skin. Furthermore, they can dry quickly, which is a hefty feature already. I do believe that wool is a decent choice. Even if it doesn't dry fast, the insulation that it provides is still great. Of course, I do prohibit you from getting clothes that have cotton in all of their layers. Not only they are water absorbent, they don’t wick them off.

Fabrics That Are Abrasion-Resistant - Depending on the location of your watercourse, kayaking and canoeing can get tough and challenging. It is not a surprising thing if you can see kayaks that are full of scratches after they thrust their way to white waters and rivers with jagged substrates. Therefore, it is only prim and proper that you provide protection to yourself. Fortunately, clothing that features rugged fabrics is widely available in the market. If you deem that the terrain you are heading is challenging, make yourself foolproof!

Fabrics With Sun Protection - There are days where the sun is up and days where it is hidden in the clouds. Any of these conditions are great for some water adventures. However, don't ever believe that you don't need sun protection if the skies are dim. Ultraviolet rays can still penetrate on thick clouds. As a result, it would be wise if the clothing your choose has layers of fabrics with UPF rating. Wear some sunscreen as well to prevent the heat from penetrating.

Essential Accessories

  • Footwear - For both kayaking and canoeing, I do recommend that you choose paddling booties made from neoprene. Aside from lightweight, they are also made for the water and can provide enough cover to your entire feet. However, any type of footwear that can give such kind of service should work for these applications already. Take into account that water sandals are not that great because they don't offer comprehensive protection. They are also prone to taking mud, gravel, and sand.

    If the temperature is undeniably cold, you should wear waterproof socks. To provide extra insulation, a pair of thick non-cotton socks should be coupled with your booties.
  • Gloves - You can always paddle with your bare hands. However, I don't recommend doing so at all--especially if you are a beginner. It is easy to get blisters from them due to the force you put every time you row. Wearing paddling gloves is great to protect your hands from physical damages. The gloves also insulate your hands to ensure that it won't get chilly upon water contact. Furthermore, the gear provide insulation as well.


Being all prepared in every kayaking and canoeing journey is a necessary skill for every boating lovers. You must not engage on the water if you don't have the right gears and amenities. The proper clothing also matters here because they are the ones who are going to make you feel comfortable and safe.

Learning what to wear kayaking and canoeing is truly essential. You shouldn't ignore this knowledge at all. Otherwise, you might encounter some problems with the water.

That's it for now. If you have questions or suggestions, drop them in the comment section below.

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