Kayak Fashion 101: What To Wear When Kayaking?

what to wear when kayaking

Last updated on September 10, 2022

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

So your kayak is sitting in the car roof rack already. It’s telling you to get your game on and get yourself prepared. You got your paddles, fishing rods ( in you want to go kayak fishing, and the latest GoPro for recording your kayaking escapade. You have all the necessary materials in the bag. Now that you’re all set, you start to head out with the best kayaking experience in mind.

But wait, are you really ready? If what you decided to bring is only normal clothing, I suggest that you head back and learn what to wear when kayaking.

What is Light and Heavy Clothing?

Light clothing prefers the casual attire that you’re wearing every day. This pertains to your t-shirts, outdoor shorts, and many others. Light clothing feels airy when worn. It won’t make you feel restricted or hot. Light clothing is perfect for recreational kayaking. It won’t be a problem if you wear this for kayaking on calm waters such as lakes and class I rivers.

Heavy clothing on the other hand refers to protective clothing. This refers to PFDs, helmets, paddings, etc. Heavy clothing feels a bit uncomfortable because it makes movement a bit hard. Also, it might make you feel hot. However, heavy clothing helps a lot in preventing mild to serious bodily injuries. When kayaking on rapid waters, I strongly recommend that you wear heavy clothing.

So When To Wear Bright Colored Clothing?

Kayaks are usually painted with bright colors. However, some kayaks in the market are finished with dark color tones like the Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS. Dark-colored kayaks are prone to get run over by color boats and other larger watercraft. You can opt to repaint. However, repainting will destroy the look of your kayak. Furthermore, it will cost a lot. This is why it might be better for you to adjust and opt for a smarter alternative.

This is where wearing bright-colored clothing comes in. You should opt to wear bright clothing if your kayak’s color is dark. Of course, you should choose clothing with a color that has good contrast with your kayak. Here are some of my recommendations in wearing bright-colored clothing for kayaking:

  • go for yellow clothing if your kayak has a dark green or dark brown color
  • go for red clothing if your kayak has a dark yellow color
  • go for yellow-green, light orange, or cyan clothing if your kayak has a dark brown color
  • go for a bright pink color if your kayak has a dark orange color

Still, there are some bright colors that you should avoid when choosing your attire for kayaking. Examples of this, are light brown and light blue. I don’t recommend you wear these colors because they get masked by the color of the river where you’re kayaking

What To Wear For Whitewater Kayaking?

Whitewater kayaking exposes you to a lot of danger. Thus, you can consider it as the most dangerous type of kayaking. Kayakers get injured or die from whitewater kayaking if not from being sucked into low head dams. This is why you should consider wearing protective pieces of equipment if you’re planning to ride your kayak on whitewater.

PFDs (Personal Floating Devices) are very essential for whitewater kayaking. PFDs ensure that you don’t get carried away by the water’s currents. Furthermore, they help you stay on top of the water just in case you faint from getting slammed into rocks. I recommend that you use Class 1- Class 3 PFDs for whitewater kayaking. They help you stay afloat but don’t restrict movement.

Next are helmets. Helmets protect your head from any possible injuries. PFDs only protect your body against rocks. However, they don’t protect your head. There are lots of helmets that you can choose from. Nevertheless, the best ones are the half-cut or full-cut helmet.

Of course, you shouldn’t forget about your knees and elbows. Injuries on the knees and elbows, even light, are very painful. This is because they’re very sensitive to pain. A strong shock on these parts of your body will give pain that’s enough to immobilize you for a minute. This is why you should consider wearing elbow and knee pads.

Lastly, you shouldn’t forget to have a whistle. You should put it in a cord and wear it on your neck. A whistle is handy because it will help you call for help. Blowing a whistle when you’re in trouble will allow rescuers to pinpoint your location with ease even if they’re distant.

How To Wear A Wetsuit?

A wetsuit is also handy for kayaking. You can wear it underneath your PFD. A wetsuit helps to keep you warm. It’s ideal for long kayaking trips. Furthermore, it protects you against sunburn. Thus, I recommend you to wear it if you don’t like putting sunblock cream before kayaking.

The best way to wear a wetsuit is to put secondary clothing under or over it. Putting secondary clothing over a wet suit ensures that you won’t get wet and cold. On the other hand, putting secondary clothing over it ensures that it will feel cool and comfortable.

If you decide to wear a wet suit, I suggest that you avoid wearing bulky PFD. The combination of bulky PFD and wetsuit might make paddling or swimming hard. Pairing a wetsuit with light PFD is great. It gives you maximum buoyancy and mobility which is useful if your kayak capsizes.

What To Wear For Personal Comfort?

Aside from protection, you should also consider comfort in choosing what to wear when kayaking. Comfortable kayaking is important for you to avoid experiencing minor injuries such as rashes, sunburns, bodily aches, etc.

You should try to wear a wide-brimmed hat or cap if you don’t want to wear a helmet. A wide-brimmed hat cap or cap protects your head from excessive exposure to sunlight. Heatstroke happens without a warning. Putting a cover over your head helps a lot in preventing heatstroke. This is why a wide-brimmed hat or cap is useful.

Gloves are also great. But I think you should only wear gloves that are made out of thin fabric. Furthermore, you should only get gloves if your kayak paddles aren’t comfortable on the hands. Gloves are best worn for kayaking on cold months. They ensure that the coldness of the water won’t affect your strokes.

Also, anti-sunlight glasses are a must for kayaking in summer. Anti-sunlight glasses allow you to see everything clearly while kayaking. I recommend that you wear this for kayaking in highly popular locations. On the other hand, you’ll do fine without glasses if you’re kayaking in remote areas.


Knowing what to wear when kayaking will maximize your safety. This is why you shouldn’t opt to kayak if you’re not wearing the things that I mentioned here. Some of the things that you need to wear before riding the kayak might destroy your fashion. However, you should know that they safeguard your life and help you get back home unscathed.

Kayaks Report

kayaksreport.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.

Copyright 2024 Kayaks Report -All Rights Reserved.