What to Wear Kayaking in the Summer?

Last Updated on April 25, 2021 by KayakPro

As the weather gets warmer and you begin to dream of summer adventures, one of the most important things to consider is what you should wear on kayaking trips.

When kayaking, the main goal is to stay as dry and protected from the sun as possible. You will almost always get wet while kayaking and we all know that nothing will ruin a day on the water faster than sitting in wet gear.

Rash Guard

Rash guards serve the dual purpose of drying quickly and providing protection against the sun. They can be purchased with extra UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) which helps block the powerful afternoon sun.

While protecting your skin from exposure, you are also protecting yourself against overheating and dehydration. They are made of soft, flexible material which gives you a great range of motion while paddling.

They are a great idea if you are planning an overnight kayaking trip as they can be washed and dried very quickly.

Quick-Dry Clothing

Quick-dry athletic shirts are another very affordable option. These shirts are usually soft, comfortable and will quickly wick away moisture if you get splashed. They are made from synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon.

These materials are better than cotton, which holds water, sticks to your skin, and is very uncomfortable to wear while wet. Quick-dry athletic shirts are easily found in most sports stores or for very affordable prices on Amazon.


A swimsuit is a popular option while paddling. Swimsuits dry quickly and you can move freely. Getting wet isn’t a concern and you can focus on enjoying the experience.

This is an option that many people already own, so swimsuits are perfect for the casual kayaker. If you do choose to wear a swimsuit, however, it is very important to find other ways to protect yourself against sun exposure.

They often leave a greater area of skin vulnerable to sunburn, and with it, increase your risk of heat sickness.

Another benefit of wearing a swimsuit is that you can go swimming without bringing any extra gear with you. This is an option best left for short adventures.

Quick-Dry Pants

While on the water, it is inevitable that you will get wet at some point. Water pools in the bottom of your kayak and sometimes you end up in the water.

An important consideration is which bottoms you should wear. Anyone who has had to sit in wet shorts will tell you it’s a terrible experience, so choose your materials wisely.

An average, everyday pair of shorts won’t do the trick here. A pair of quick-drying athletic shorts are a great choice. Board shorts are also designed for water sports, so if you end up with water in your kayak you can continue without issue.


A hat is an extremely important consideration while on the water. It is difficult to protect your head, neck, and face against the sun.

A large brimmed hat will help keep you shaded and cool while also shading your eyes against the glare from the water. Keeping cool will prevent you from dehydrating quickly.

Kayaking is a very physical job on a hot day, so keeping your body temperature down always starts with protecting your head. More than one hat has been lost on the water, so it may be a good idea to purchase a hat clip that can attach to your shirt on a windy day.


Anyone who has spent time on the water knows that the glare from the water can be blinding. To protect your eyes from the sun’s reflection, it is important to have a good pair of sunglasses.

A cheap pair of sunglasses will not make the cut here. Reputable brands will have added UV protection to keep your eyes safe. Polarized sunglasses may be a good option as they block reflective light.

If you are distracted by the glare, it may be difficult to see rocks or other issues in the water ahead of you.

Water Shoes

Something that many novice kayakers do not think about is appropriate footwear. A pair of sneakers is not an appropriate choice for kayaking.

Instead, look for a water-specific pair of shoes designed for boating or swimming. You could also choose waterproof sandals. Ensuring that the material is breathable and quick-drying will be essential to keeping your feet comfortable.

Also, when kayaking you often have to step into the water. It is important to make sure the bottoms of your feet are protected against rocks, shells, or anything sharp that may be found in the water. Barefoot kayaking isn’t a good idea.


One thing to consider when planning your trip is the weather and water conditions. Different conditions call for different gear. On a hot day on a freshwater lake, you may be fine wearing only a quick-drying shirt and shorts.

However, if you live in a cooler area, will be paddling in deepwater or saltwater, you should layer your outfit. On open water, the wind is also something to think about.

When choosing outer layers, look for lightweight options. An uninsulated, waterproof jacket or pullover would be a great choice.

Once again, it is important to stay away from materials like cotton. A hoodie won’t keep you warm if it gets wet. Long sleeve, quick-drying shirts are another option for base layers.

Temperatures can vary greatly from morning to afternoon. It is much easier to remove a layer than spend the day feeling cold because you didn’t wear enough. You will appreciate the pullover if your trip ends up taking longer than you thought.


Depending on where you live, a wet suit may be a good idea. Even in summer, if you are sea kayaking on the cold ocean water, assessing the water temperature is important.

Your body temperature can drop very quickly if you end up rolling over or get hit by a wave. In this situation, a wetsuit will help insulate you against cold conditions.

Talk to someone knowledgeable about wetsuits before buying to make sure you are making the most informed choice. A drysuit functions differently but may also be a good idea depending on your circumstances.

Safety Gear

The most important safety purchase is a life jacket. A certified PFD (personal flotation device) can save your life if you end up in the water.

All PFDs are not created equal and there are a lot of things to keep in mind when choosing the right one for you. Some PFDs have a weight limit. This should be checked before you’re ready to take off for the day.

Make sure you are making the proper choice that suits your needs for the day. Ask questions before you buy it. Ensure that your life jacket fits properly to give you a full range of motion while paddling.

If you are borrowing or renting a life jacket, check to make sure it has been maintained properly and is in good condition.

And there you have it, you’re ready to hit the water and enjoy every second of summer. Gather up your friends, go for a paddle and a swim. Just leave your fancy dinner clothes in the car for later.






Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Ryan Stoltz

Ryan Stoltz

Avid kayaker and lover of the outdoors. Having been kayaking for over 7 years, I love sharing my experiences and learnings along the way. Currently kayaking in upstate New York and always open to new adventures!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top