It’s a wonderful summer day and you’re headed out to kayak for the first time. What should you wear? You want to stay comfortable and be not too hot, not too cold, and not feeling like a soggy sponge all day. You don’t want to get sunburn so sun protection is important too. Your clothing choice can make or break your day kayaking. You want to know what to wear kayaking in the summer.
What to wear kayaking in the summer.
If you are going out on kayak you should plan to get wet. Even on the nicest of summer weather days you will get wet while kayaking. Water will drop off the paddle on to you. You will inevitably splash yourself or get splashed by one of your friends. Water will find it’s way into your kayak and under your seat so you’ll probably have a wet butt too. All your clothes should be items that are comfortable when wet and also quick drying. See the below video for a quick guide on what to wear kayaking in the summer.
Now we’ll get to the specifics of what items you should wear and bring with you when you head out kayaking the first time.
Bathing suits are great to wear kayaking. They are perfect for getting wet. If it’s a nice warm day and the water temperature isn’t too cold that’s all you really need. Maybe a quick drying shirt and shorts to go with it.
Technical Shirt, Quick Drying Shirt or Rashguard
Rashguards are made of lycra/spandex and are quick drying, comfortable when wet and most are also protect you from UV. They make great shirts to wear while kayaking. They will protect you from the bright summer sun and stay dry and comfortable. Any other synthetic quick drying shirt will work great too. Cotton isn’t great because once it gets wet it doesn’t dry that quick. It loses all insulating value once it’s wet also. Cotton is a great material to wear if you want to feel soggy cold and wet.
Board Shorts, Quick Drying shorts
Whatever you wear on your bottom is going to get wet. Something that is quick drying and not soggy is good. For guys bathing suits are excellent. For woman you may want to wear board shorts, running shorts or something else synthetic and quick drying on top of your bathing suit. Tights are popular these days as well.
Water shoes or sandals
Kayaks will collect water in the bottom where your feet go. You will more than likely always be sitting in a puddle. You may have to step in and out of the kayak in the water. Any water shoe or sandal will work well for kayaking. Pick a shoe that works well for what you’ll be doing before and after kayaking too.
The foot braces in the kayak may have metal tracks or other fittings you can cut your feet on. You never know what you’ll be stepping on in the water if you have to get out of your kayak. You should never go barefoot kayaking unless you look down in the kayak and there really is nothing sharp and metal in there. To learn more see our guide to water shoes for kayaking.
- Water-resistant upper: Washable polyester webbing featuring quick-dry lining for active use in and out of the water; Hydrophobic mesh lining helps shed water and prolong the life of the material for these water-resistant women’s sandal
- Traction & protection: Multi-directional lugs help provide superior grip on slippery wet terrain; Non-marking rubber outsole leaves no imprint when walking indoors; Iconic toe bumper offers additional safety to help prevent injury
- Support & Comfort: Adjustable hook and loop closure provides secure fit while offering a quick and easy way to get them on and off; Compression-molded EVA midsole for enhanced cushioning; PFC Free
Life jacket (no inflatables)
The next most important thing is a comfortable PFD or life jacket. When kayaking chances are good that sooner or later you’ll end up in the water. Even if you don’t flip the kayak, you may fall out or fall in the water loading or unloading.
Inflatable life jackets should only be worn if your kayaking on a really calm hot summer day with smooth water and when there is really no chance you’ll need a PFD. In that instance Suspender or Belt inflatable PFD’s make sense since they are low profile and comfortable to wear. You’ll be covered for any having a PFD with you. You should never wear an auto-inflating PFD kayaking. There are too many easy ways to forget and inflate it making it useless for the rest of the day until you re-arm with a new CO2 cartridge. To learn more see my guide to kayak PFD’s.
- Mesh in lower back fits high back seats
- Shoulder adjustments with neoprene comfort pads
- SOLAS grade reflective material for visibility
- Expandable zippered pockets with mesh drainage
- Heavy duty nylon fabric; soft, lightweight flotation foam
- Double crimp, funnel entry
- Expandable zippered pocket with mesh drainage
It’s nice to have a little protection from the sun out on a kayak. Any hat that will provide a bit of shade will be great.
The water is pretty good at stealing hats off of peoples heads. I’ve lost more then a few to the lake over the years. You should get a hat leash or strap to attach your hat to the rest of your clothes.
If it’s a cooler summer day with a bit of wind and waves you might want to consider wearing a spray top. Spray tops are non-insulated shell jackets with a tight seal around your neck, wrists and waist. They are great for blocking the wind and spray. A generic rain jacket will work okay as long as it isn’t so sloppy fitting that water can easily go up your back.
- WATERPROOF – Nothing is worse than being cold and wet, which is why this paddling jacket is 100% waterproof. Made from PVC coated nylon with fully taped seams, this pullover will keep you warm and dry all day on the water.
- ZIPPER POCKET – When we are out on the water there is always something that needs to be carried and stored. We put a convenient shoulder pocket on this jacket so that you can keep your car keys, multitool, credit card or any other small item you need.
- EASY ENTRY – With a 1/4 zip pullover style, you will be able to easily get in and out of the jacket. If you get hot, you can simply unzip a little ways and get some air flow.
If it’s a cooler day and shorts won’t be warm enough then spray pants are a good option. Waterproof pants that will block the wind and spray from your legs. Waterproof is essential. Breathable material is really good so that you don’t get spongy underneath from moisture build up.
- Zipper closure
- Material: The hiking pants are made of 92% polyester and 8% spandex, which are waterproof, windproof, warm,abrasion resistant and no pilling.
- Included:The adjustable elastic waistband features buttons and belts allows pant to fit comfortably.
- Features:Lined with fleece to provide you with extra warmth, softness and comfort. Waterproof&windproof,to keep you warm and dry,enough for skiing.
- Detail:Practical womens hiking pants,multi zipper pockets – front and back security zipper pockets with elastic pull tab,wear-resistant knee cloth.
If it’s cooler out and the water temperature isn’t warm you may want to consider a wetsuit. A wetsuit is made of neoprene and insulate you while you are in the water.
When is it too cold to kayak without a wetsuit? A good rule of thumb is the 120 degree rule. If the water temperature plus the air temperature is below 120 degrees F you need to wear a wetsuit.
For example. If the air temperature is 75F degrees and the water temperature is 65 degrees, the combined temperature is 140F and you do not need to wear a wetsuit.
If the air temperature is 65F degrees and the water temperature is 50F degrees, the combined temperature is 115F degrees. 115F is less than 120F so you need to wear a wetsuit.
- SUITABLE FOR ALL LEVELS – Ironman & USAT approved. Athlete endorsed. Comes in wide range of sizes to ensure a perfect fit.
- PROVEN TECHNOLOGY EQUALS SUPERIOR PERFORMANCE – Hydrodynamic neoprene made from Yamamoto #39 with SCS silicone coated SyPrene. 5mm thick core buoyancy panel / 3mm lower legs and back.
- EXCEPTIONAL FUNCTIONALITY – Full range of motion. Unsurpassed 680 percent flexibility. Highest grade anti corrode internal wetsuit zipper from YKK which greatly reduces drag as you move through the water. Super soft low neck with smoothskin on both sides and because it is so soft, it feels like you hardly have anything around your neck.
What to bring with you kayaking
A small gear bag (drybag)
A small bag to put your other what to bring with you items. Space is at a premium on a kayak. Depending on how long you are going to be on the water you may leave this in your car or somewhere else on the shore. A waterproof dry bag is good for carrying anything that can’t get wet.
- RELIABLE PROTECTION: We believe our earth pak dry bags are the best out there–bar none. These dry bags are meant to last for years and provide waterproof protection for even the most rugged users.
- SHOULDER STRAP: 10L & 20L dry bags come with a 24-42 Inch single shoulder strap. 30L, 40L, and 55L waterproof backpacks are equipped with backpack style shoulder straps that also come with a sternum strap for added stability.
- IDEAL FOR TRAVEL: Our water bag is very lightweight and compact making it an essential dry bag for all your travel plans. Easy to fold and pack tight in any sized luggage!
Even if it’s cloudy you can still get sunburnt out on a kayak. The water reflects the sunlight back at you giving you another opportunity to get burnt. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the following:
- Broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays)
- SPF 30 or higher
- Water resistance
For more information on sunscreen click here.
Sunglasses (with a strap if you want to keep them)
A good set of polarized sunglasses will help protect your eyes from being damaged by the sun. If you really like your sunglasses a strap is a good idea to keep them attached to you. Like everything else that goes out on a kayak, they are easily knocked off your head into the water. The more expensive the sunglasses, the easier it seems to they to end up at the bottom of the lake.
- Grilamid® frame
- Made from superior German and Japanese raw materials 1.00mm thick polarized lens
- Scratch Resistant Coating coating
- Lens width: 2.5 inches
- KEY FEATURES – Polarized lenses reduce glare – Impact resistant TAC lenses protect your eyes from flying objects – Lightweight, durable, and comfortable Grilamid frames – Anti-slip nose and temple pads – Block 100% of the harmful UVA and UVB rays
You’ll get thirsty paddling on a hot summer day. A water bottle with fresh water is a good idea. If your going out for several hours make sure you bring enough water.
How much water do you need kayaking on a hot summer day.
Some guidelines published by the University of Michigan state that you should drink the following amounts when exercising. You can see the report here.
- Before kayaking: 17-20 oz. of water at least 2 hours prior to exercise
- While kayaking: 7-10 oz. of water for every 10-20 minutes of exercise
- After kayaking: 16-24 oz. of water for each pound lost due to sweating.
If were going on a 2 hour paddle which is pretty common we need 7-10oz every 10-20 minutes. That is a range of 21 oz to 60 oz of water per hour. For a 2 hour paddle you could need anywhere from 42 oz to 120 oz of water during the paddle. If you go for a longer 4 hour paddle the amount increase to 84 oz to 240 oz.
A granola bar or trail mix or other small snack is good if you’re going to be out a while. Keep in mind how messy the food you are bringing is. No one wants to scrape food gunk out of the bottom of their kayak. The people you rent them from don’t want to either. Some food items are more or less prohibited from ever being out on any form of boat. Cheetos or yellow cheesy puffs are the biggest offense you can possibly bring on a boat. They melt and turn into a super slippery slimy mess and they also stain the plastic or fiberglass.
A pocket knife or multitool
It’s a good idea to have a knife or multitool attached to your PFD or life jacket. You just never really know when you’ll have to cut something loose or need to tighten a fitting on your kayak. Having the right tool can mean the difference between a day cut short and a full day on the water.
The Coast Guard requires every boat, including kayaks, operating in US waters to have a sound producing device on board. Yelling loudly isn’t considered an acceptable method. Having a whistle attached to your PFD is a good idea for being able to signal someone if you fall in the water. It can be difficult to hear on a windy day with the wind and water noise overpowering everything. A whistle might save your day sometime. For more information on Coast Guard required equipment click here.
Your probably going to get wet while your out kayaking so drying off can be nice when you get back to shore.
Change of clothes
When your day of kayaking is over, it’s nice to change into something dry. Bring an extra set of clothes so you can change and don’t need to drive home wet.
You just never know what will come up. Maybe you’ll paddle by some cute little ice waterside diner and you’ll want to stop for a quick bite. Having a little cash on hand is never a bad idea.
Go Have Fun Kayaking This Summer
I hope you have a great day kayaking. I find it a lot of fun and I hope you will too.
You might also like:
- The Best Sandals For Kayaking Helpful Guide
- The Best Life Jackets For Kayaking Helpful Guide
- The Best Inflatable Tandem Kayaks Helpful Guide
- Wetsuit Vs Drysuit For Kayaking. Which One Is Better?
About the author
My name is Doug Ryan. I am an adventure sports fan and an avid skier, sailor, mountain biker who also enjoys paddle boarding, kayaking, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and travel. I take any chance I can get to get out in the snow or water. I actively run an adventure sports meetup where I get asked many questions. I decided to start Endless Rush Outdoors as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for adventure sports their gear.