Kayak Clothing

A lot of people ask us “what should I wear when kayaking?”

There is a simple and a more complex answer to that question so we’ve compiled some more information and thoughts about kayak clothing below.

But let’s start with the simple answer: Wear quick-dry clothing like wool or synthetic, DO NOT wear cotton.

Now to the more complex answers: It really depends on when you are paddling, where you are paddling, what the conditions are like, etc.


The best advice we have for you is to wear layers. A base layer against your skin wicks away the moisture, an insulation layer keeps you warm or cool, and an outer shell keeps off the wind and rain. Layers are easily added and removed while in your kayak, and can be mixed and matched for the different paddling seasons. In the summer you might only paddle wearing a base layer but bring an insulating layer and a shell in a drybag in case you get cold. In the off-season, you will layer up more.

Base Layers: What base layer you choose is dictated by the weather. If it is hot outside you will choose a very lightweight layer. Rashguards are great option that also protects you against UV. If it is colder a midweight layer is a great option as it wicks away moisture quickly but also provides some insulation. Underwear should also be synthetic if possible.

Insulating Layers: Fleece is the all-time favorite for insulation. It is light, packable, soft against the skin, and very warm. Another option is down and synthetic down. Very lightweight, warm when wet, and unbelievably packable, the down family again has a long list of styles to choose from. And once again, if your favorites are the natural fibers, Wool is warm when wet and a great insulating layer.

Shells: When it comes to shells, breathability is great. It keeps the wind and rain off while letting the moisture released from your body escape from your layers of clothing, keeping you feeling dry. Gore-Tex is a well-known option, but there are other brands out there as well that make quality, breathable shells.

Jackets: When starting out, your rain jacket will work well as a paddling jacket. But as you get into the sport you will find the features offered by paddling specific jackets are quite appealing. Paddling jackets are cut shorter to help you avoid sitting on them or dragging them through the water as you paddle. Many of them have a double tunnel which is two layers of fabric around your torso between which your sprayskirt sits. Paddling jackets will also have different kinds of wrist and neck gaskets that -depending on the type- help keep the water out.

Pants: Pants are often an easier decision than Jackets. You can get breathable or non-breathable, and dry or semi-dry. Breathable will keep you more comfortable on longer daytrips as you do tend to get very sweaty in non-breathable ones, but the non-breathable ones tend to be cheaper. Dry pants are another nice option that either have a gasket at the ankles or “socks” attached. These pants keep you dry as you step into the water. The only issue is that if you capsize they can fill up with water from the waist.

Hats: Headwear is often underestimated. You lose 75% of your body heat from your head, so if you are cold put on a toque or a hood. Make sure it’s not made from cotton, but rather fleece or wool. There are also neoprene toques that are amazing if your head is likely to get wet, either through capsizing/rolling or if it’s a rainy day.

Footwear: While heading out barefoot might feel like it’s really summer we always recommend to wear footwear while kayaking. You never know where you might have to get out of your boat and trust us: walking barefoot on barnacles is not fun! Popular footwear options are water sandals or neoprene booties. Water sandals protect your feet but don’t provide any warmth, whereas neoprene keeps your feet warm, but it also keeps them wet. If you are just starting out and don’t want to invest in new footwear an old pair of sneakers that you are okay to get wet are also a great option.


We have a great selection of paddling clothing at our retail store in North Vancouver
Come visit us and let our experienced staff help you find the right gear for you.



If you are dressing for immersion you need to take a step back and look before you leap. Are you dressing for immersion because you are unsure about your paddling skills in the environment you are about to go out into? If so, should you really be going out there? Are you heading out with people whose rescue skills you feel comfortable with? Are you going out there with the intent of pushing your limits and learning, in other words asking to be capsized? Or are you just putting your wet suit on because you are nervous about the conditions and afraid of going in? If the later is true, maybe you shouldn’t be going out there to begin with. Wet suits and dry suits will keep you warmer in the water, but they should not give you a false sense of security. They do not replace good judgment and the appropriate call to stay warm and safe in your tent on the beach.

If you are comfortable heading out with the intent of getting wet, keen, and excited about pushing your edges and going for a swim, you have two choices. You need to decide between something that keeps you dry or something that keeps you warm when wet

Wetsuits: Wet suits are made of neoprene and should fit fairly tight. When the wetsuit gets wet a slim layer of water gets trapped between your skin and the neoprene. Your body heat then warms up the water, keeping you warmer. The looser the suit is on you, the larger the volume of water between your skin and the suit, and the more body heat it takes to warm the water. For paddling, we suggest just wearing a farmer John/Jane. This means long legs but no arms. More like a tight pair of overalls. This keeps your arms and shoulders free to move, making paddling easier and reducing chafing. But this also means that you need something on your arms to keep them warm. This could be fleece or some other synthetic insulating layer and a shell, or one of the many neoprene alternatives.

Drysuits: Drysuits keep you dry, albeit a little sweaty if it is cut from non-breathable materials. Underneath the drysuit, you can layer according to the weather (see above) as well as the water temperature. If you are in the water with your drysuit the suit will not keep you warm, the warmth will come from the insulating you are wearing underneath. One common saying is to dress for the water not for the weather. It is a lot easier to cool off if you’re too hot than it is to gain body heat back if you are underdressed.


We have a great selection of paddling clothing at our retail store in North Vancouver
Come visit us and let our experienced staff help you find the right gear for you.


When out kayaking you should always wear a PFD. There are a lot of quality PFDs on the market that are very comfortable. The market finally has caught on that also women like to kayak (who would have thought…) and now a variety of women-specific PFDs are available that fit a lot more comfortably than their so-called unisex counterparts. We recommend you visit us in-store so you can try on the PFDs and find a fit that works for you.

Why Not Cotton?

Cotton is a hydrophilic fabric. In other words, it loves water, and when it gets wet, it hangs onto the water with all of its might. If you are wearing wet cotton, your body heat will be pulled from your skin and you will get cold really quickly. If you go for a swim on your kayaking adventure, it is important to take off all cotton layers including the cotton undies! People have become hypothermic while wearing a completely dry set of clothes except for a pair of wet cotton underpants.
Synthetic materials on the other hand are hydrophobic. So they don’t like to hold onto water and dry very quickly using up very little of your body heat. And many of the synthetic fibers used are hollow, trapping air inside the shirt which is a great insulator. If you are keen on natural fibers, Wool is also a hollow fiber. While it is hydrophilic and holds onto a lot of water taking a long time to dry out, the hollow fibers keep you warm while wet.