wear kayaking

Best Outfits To Wear Kayaking in the summer | Ultimate Dresscode

For starters, always remember that for kayaking, cotton is a no-no. Whatever attire you are using for summer kayaking, you should always avoid cotton because it is very slow when it comes to drying when wet. In addition, it is not as breathable as other materials and can be disadvantageous in the long run.

In this article, we would cover everything concerning what to wear kayaking in summer (including wide-brimmed sun hats, polarized sunglasses, buffs, gloves, PDFs, long sleeve shirts, zip-off leg pants, water sandals, etc), what not to wear, how to prepare for the temperature, some bring-along, and some general guidelines on what to wear kayaking. In truth, this is the one-stop-shop for all you need to know about what to wear kayaking in summer.

Before we dive right into what to wear kayaking in summer, let us look at some words we would come across throughout the article. We would define them and look at what not to wear.

Words to encounter

SPF is an abbreviation for Sun Protection Factor. This rating is usual with most sunscreens and determines if they need spray-on or liquid application. The rating depicts how long it requires before applying another layer.

For instance, an SPF rating of 50 would require a reapplication every 50 minutes. Sometimes, you might need to apply it more frequently if the sunscreen rubs off quickly like in the case of you going swimming.

UV is an abbreviation for ultraviolet and in this situation, it depicts the type of radiation that comes from the sun. When kayaking, UV exposure can bring about sunburn and other issues.

PPE is a short form for Personal Protective Equipment. The healthcare sector comes to mind when we talk about PPE and would become very handy throughout this article.

PFD is an abbreviation for Personal Flotation Device, which is another word for a life jacket. The proper name for it is PFD.

What not to wear kayaking in the summer

During the summer, you should not consider certain clothes for kayaking. We would highlight some of these clothes before heading out for the things to wear for kayaking in summer.

  1. Cotton pants
    Cotton is very terrible when it comes to water. It takes in a lot of water and dries very slowly. You could remain wet for a very long time if you wear a jean material or a cotton material and you get it wet. If it doesn’t have to do with water on a warm day, then there won’t be an issue. But when it involves getting in the water, then you don’t want to get stuck with waterlogged pants.
  2. Bulky tops
    Bulky tops can easily become a problem for you when you have to move your arms. If you can’t move your arms freely, you might not get far with your kayaking. It becomes worse when you wear a bulky coat or sweatshirt that could cause many restrictions. Moreover, when kayaking, wearing a PFD or life jacket is a requirement; this is already bulky enough and you will not want to make it even worse.

Outfits to wear kayaking in the summer

You should have in mind that when going kayaking, you are going to get wet. Even on the best summer days, there is no escaping the wetness. You would splash water on yourself, water would drop off the paddle, or your friends would splash water on you. You sure would get wet, whatever the case. This means that all your clothes should be comfortable and ones that get dry fast.

For many people, kayaking wouldn’t seem like something that requires you to pay attention to the dress code, but the reality is that what you wear kayaking matters a lot. The rule of thumb remains to dress for the water temperature and not the weather. Dressing for the water temperature is different from dressing for the weather. We would get to understand this later on. Keep reading to get more details and explanations on what to wear kayaking in summer. For us to do justice to this, we would take it from top to bottom in terms of what to wear.

Wide Brimmed Sun Hats

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The sun hats come in handy when you really need to keep the sun off your neck and face. They can be very instrumental in making the summer kayaking experience very enjoyable. Even though you make use of sunscreens before your paddling, a wide-brimmed sun hat is one of the best ways to reduce UV ray exposure from the sun while paddling.

Most paddling spots in summer do not have much shade to stop and rest. Therefore, no matter where you go, a wide-brimmed hat is the best way to make and carry your own sun hat.

When going for a sun hat, you should look out for certain features like partial mesh designs at the top of the hat; this is to ensure that the hat has good ventilation in case of very hot days. Also, check if the hat has a drawstring, which allows you to tighten it when the need arises to avoid it from being blown by the winds.

Here is our choice for sun hats:

Tilley Unisex LTM6 Wide-brimmed sun hat:

  1. Air dry
  2. Guaranteed for life
  3. 100% Supplex nylon
  4. UPF certified
  5. Machine wash delicate

Polarized Sunglasses

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Sunglasses are a must-have for kayaking at any time of the year, and if you plan to invest in a good pair of glasses, it’s best to make sure they are polarized.

A good pair of polarized sunglasses will help protect your eyes from sun damage. If you really like your sunglasses, it is a good idea to wear straps with your glasses. Like all other things you can do on a kayak, they can easily fall into the water.

Even when you are wearing a sun hat to help keep the sun rays from hitting your face, the sun can also reflect from the surface of the water and affect your vision if you are not putting on a pair of polarized glasses.

Polarized sunglasses come with a vertical opening that allows for light to pass through. Only vertical light rays can pass through the lenses and polarization helps to reduce the glare. Polarized sunglasses lenses prevent light from reflecting off the surface and moving horizontally. The effect is that less glare and less harmful ultraviolet rays reach the cornea of ​​the eye.

Finally, a good feature of polarized sunglasses is that they come with a feature of floating in case they drop into the water accidentally.

Here is our choice for a good polarized sunglass.

KastKing Polarized sport sunglasses

  1. Comes with a Grilamid frame
  2. Made from top-notch German and Japanese materials
  3. The polarized lens is 1mm thick
  4. Comes with a polarization feature
  5. Has a scratch-resistant coating
  6. Lightweight
  7. Designed with anti-slip nose and temple pads
  8. Blocks 100% of UVA and UVB rays

Neck Gaiter and Buff

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At first glance, you might think that Neck Gaiters or Buffs are more suitable for paddling in cold climates. However, what we are interested in is minimizing sun exposure, and when kayaking in summer, wearing a neck protector/gaiter can keep you cool.

You wear the gaiter on the neck until you want to pull it to the top of the hat to protect your neck and ears from ultraviolet rays. When it is really hot, you can remove the neck gaiter and immerse it in the water. Soak it in the water before putting it back on the neck and head. This is a great way to cool down without having to take a full swim while kayaking. It is worth the mention that if you have to perform any type of emergency, Buff can always come in handy as a quick mask, which requires full PPE emergency first aid care.

Here is our top choice for Gaiters and buffs

Karlin Mardi Multifunctional Badana women/men Buff

  1. Comes with a 4-way stretch
  2. Sun protection of UPF 50+
  3. Recycled polyester microfiber
  4. Uses a moisture management
  5. Easy to use
  6. Durable

Paddle Gloves

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When kayaking in the summer, the hand is arguably the most exposed part of the body to UV rays. The situation gets worse knowing that there is a constant wetting and drying of the hand that can lead to the cracking of the skin or unwanted blisters on your hands.

To avoid this cracking caused by the wetting and drying of the hand in summer, we highly recommend getting a pair of lightweight paddle gloves. These gloves should be thin enough to allow for proper ventilation of the hand and thick enough to protect the hand from the sun.

You cannot talk of a good paddle glove without grippy fabrics at the palms to allow for easy grabbing of the paddle when wet. This fabric feature can also help in reducing hand fatigue when going on long summer kayaking expeditions.

There are two choices of paddling gloves you can go for based on your preference; with fingers or without fingers. Many people prefer fingerless gloves because they can maintain handiness when the need arises to reel in a fish. For beginners, fingerless gloves can be of great benefit since it is easier to carry out all the actions associated with kayaking. Some of the actions are:

  1. Opening and closing your dry bags.
  2. Opening a granola bar.
  3. Handling a water bottle

Every action requires handiness or dexterity.

Here is our choice for paddle gloves.

Palmyth UV fingerless gloves

  1. Partial synthetic leather reinforced palms
  2. Ergonomic leathers
  3. Lightweight and stretchy
  4. Certified SPF with UPF 50+
  5. Comes with wrist pull and fingertip pull
  6. It is machine washable
  7. Breathable material to keep the hand cool

PFD or life jackets

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If kayakers in the past had used a properly fitted and properly rated PFD, they could have avoided most of the bad outcomes associated with kayaking. Never go kayaking without a PFD or a lifejacket.

PFDs are designed to save lives and that is their main function. Some people, especially beginners, always want to avoid using a PFD in the summer because it can generate more heat and become uncomfortable to paddle. This is where it is worth the investment to pick the right PFD. The right PFD is both comfortable and well ventilated.

Good quality PFDs come with a mesh back that helps keep you cool and comfortable when sitting in a kayak.

Other benefits come with using a PFD such as storing your snacks or your fishing tackle within the zippered chest pockets.

Here is our top choice for PFDs.

10 Facts To Know About Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports life vest

  1. Has a mesh back that fits high back seats
  2. Comes with neoprene pads for shoulder adjustment and comfort
  3. Uses a solar-grade reflective material for better visibility
  4. Expandable zippered pockets and mesh drainage alongside
  5. Made of heavy-duty nylon fabric
  6. Soft and comes with a lightweight floatation foam
  7. Has an attached whistle for safety
  8. Zip assist loop
  9. Double crimp funnel entry
  10.  Mesh ventilation both at the front and back for enhanced breathability
  11. Has a lash tab to attach small accessories

Long sleeve shirts

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It is important to keep your skin from the burn, even during the summer seasons. This is where a fishing long sleeve shirt comes in handy for kayaking in summer. Most fishing long sleeve shirts come with polyesters or non-cotton materials for better breathability and quick-drying compared to cotton. Most of these shirts also have mesh panels on the back to help you stay cool especially on hotter days.

Long sleeves are a great choice because you can roll up the sleeves and make them short depending on your preference. This means that it can serve multiple purposes for many people. You can roll up the sleeves if you are not so comfortable with long sleeves but then roll it down when the sun becomes uncomfortable for your skin. Furthermore, most of the long sleeve shirts come with an SPF rating of 30 and above, which means you can minimize your sunscreen usage during the summer.

Here is our top choice for long sleeve shirts for summer kayaking.

Kanu Surf Women’s Keri Long sleeve UPF 50+ rashguard

  1. The long sleeve comes with quick-dry fabrication
  2. Has a UPF rating of 50+
  3. Breathable
  4. Made of 86% polyester and 14% Spandex
  5. Uses a slimmer rashguard fitting
  6. Has a mock neckline
  7. Machine wash
  8. Pull-on closure

Pants/Shorts with zip-off legs

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When it comes to your choice of pants or shorts, the ultimate rule is that it must be comfortable quick-dry, does not restrict movement, and does not cause chafing. The main exception for pants and shorts is jeans – jeans are a no-no for kayaking, especially in the summer. Furthermore, ensure that whatever your choice is, avoid those made of super-thin fabrics because they most likely can’t survive the constant friction and harsh environments.

For beginners, the top choice for kayaking is board shorts. Also guide pants and hiking pants that come with zip-off legs are a preferred choice for summer kayaking due to their flexibility and adaptability. You can choose to start with pants at the start of the day and then switch to shorts when the weather gets hotter. You can also choose to start with the shorts at the start of the day and switch to pants when the sun gets hotter to avoid sunburns.

Here is our top choice for pants for summer kayaking.

Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Convertible pants

  1. 100% nylon
  2. Has button closure
  3. Machine wash
  4. Has a UPF rating of 50+
  5. Very breathable
  6. Wicking fabric to pull moisture away from the skin and keep you dry and cool
  7. Has a partial elastic waist
  8. Comes with zip-off legs for comfortability
  9. Crafted for classic fits
  10. Comes with Omni-shade to block UVA and UVB rays

Water Sandals or Booties

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The kayak will collect water at the bottom where your feet are. Most likely, you always sit in a puddle. You may need to get in and out of the kayak in the water. Any water shoes or sandals are suitable for kayaking. Choose a shoe that suits your activities before and after kayaking.

As a beginner though, never make the mistake of wearing regular sandals or using your barefoot for kayaking. While this can be done, there are reasons why it’s better to invest in quality water sandals and booties. One of the reasons is that most water sandals come with large heels that help cushion your foot from the plastic of the kayak. Using your bare heels on the kayak plastic for long hours can easily become discomforting.

Another reason to invest in quality water sandals is that your feet remain attached to the sandals to help you in case the kayak capsizes and you need to get off through a rocky shoreline. Using your barefoot in this type of situation can be very uncomfortable.

Here is our top choice for water sandals.

Chaco Men’s Mega Z cloud sandal

  1. Made from 100% polyester
  2. Has a rubber sole
  3. The heel measure about 1”
  4. Comes with a 35mm polyester jacquard webbing upper wrap around the foot
  5. Durable high-tensile webbing heel risers
  6. Washable
  7. Quick-dry lining feature
  8. Has multi-directional lugs for superior grip on slippery terrains
  9. Adjustable hook and loop closure


wear kayaking

This should be self-explanatory, but we need to mention it anyway. Even if you follow our other recommendations to cover yourself when kayaking in the summer, you should apply sunscreen to major parts of the body including your nose, ears, hands, and feet.

Although using sunscreens alone is not sufficient for kayaking in the summer, it is an essential part of your UV protection in the summer. When going for sunscreens, lookout for water-resistant sunscreens with an SPF rating of above 30. Ensure you apply it liberally and for every 40 to 60 minutes. Also, look out for sunscreens that have a broad protection spectrum that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

Here is our top choice for sunscreens.

Banana Boat Ultra Sport reef sunscreen spray

  1. Has a broad protection spectrum and SPF of 50+
  2. Water resistance of 80 minutes or more
  3. An easy-grip spray
  4. An invisible clear spray
  5. Comes as a twist and turn spray with no caps
  6. Comes as a twin pack

Bug Spray

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Although bug sprays are not necessary, it becomes necessary when you are going to a buggy location. Nevertheless, if you are going to go with a bug spray, ensure that they are natural and non-DEET solutions.

Here is our top choice for bug sprays.

Murphy’s Natural Lemon Eucalyptus Oil insect repellent spray

  1. All-natural ingredients
  2. 4-ounce pump spray
  3. DEET free
  4. Up to 6 hours of protection
  5. 70% distilled water and corn ethanol
  6. 30% lemon eucalyptus oil

A multitool or pocket knife

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When going on a kayaking trip, you should carry along a pocket knife or a multitool in your life jacket or multitool. You might come across a situation whereby you need to cut something loose or tighten a fitting on your kayak. Having this can make all the difference in such critical situations.

Here is our best pick for a multitool.

Gerber Suspension Multi-pliers Titanium

  1. Lightweight with open-frame stainless steel handle
  2. Comes with a ballistic nylon sheath
  3. Has a Saf.T.Plus component locking system for guaranteed safety
  4. Has 12 integrated components
  5. Has a closed length of about 4 inches


wear kayaking

It is regulatory for every boat, including kayaks to include a sound-producing device in their boats. Yelling is not considered a good option. A great way to help you signal someone in case you are stuck in the waters is to have a whistle within your PFD. A whistle can save your day since the wind and sound of the water can overshadow your voice.

Here is our choice for whistles.

4 Storm Alert Whistles

  1. Very loud
  2. Anyone can be heard 50 feet below water
  3. Has a unique sound chamber that pushes the water away when blowing the whistle
  4. Easy to hold

Kayaking at night

Would your kayaking take you into the night? Then here are some recommendations for additional gears you should carry along with you.

  1. Reflective tape
    One of the main things to consider at night is the lack of visibility and low-light conditions. You apply reflective tape at the front, back, and straps of your life jacket or PFD. It is also applied to the backside of your paddle blades, kayak bow, and stern.
  2. Sound producing devices
    As earlier stated, a sound-producing device is very essential for kayaking. It does not end at saving you underwater, but it becomes handy at night when there is low visibility. You can use a whistle or get an air horn.
  3. Visual distress signals (VDS)
    VDS is another tool that is a requirement of the USCG for boats and kayaks. Examples include handheld or aerial red pyrotechnic flares. This becomes very handy especially when you are out in the sea kayaking.

Other things you should not forget to take along when kayaking in summer

  1. Water
    The fact is that you will get thirsty when you go kayaking in summer. It is safe to always have a bottle of fresh water with you. If you are going to spend a lot of time kayaking, then you should carry along a lot of water. Here is a recommendation for water intake when kayaking in the summer:
    – Before kayaking take 17 to 20 oz of water 2 hours before exercise
    – During kayaking take 7 to 10 oz of water every 10 to 20 minutes
    – After kayaking, take 16 to 24 oz of water for each pound of fluid lost through sweating.
  2. Snacks
    Granola bars, mixed snacks, or other small snacks are good choices when you are going out kayaking for a while. Pay attention to how messy the food you bring is. No one wants to scrape the food dirt off the bottom of the kayak. The people who rent out their kayak don’t want such a scenario either. Some foods are not suitable to go out with on any type of boat. Cheetos or yellow cheese puffs are a no-no to bring on board. They melt into a super slippery mess that can stain plastic or fiberglass.
  3. Towel
    You should carry a towel to get yourself dry when you get back to shore, as there is no escape from getting wet when kayaking.
  4. Change of clothes
    Once you have completed your kayaking for the day, you would need to change into something new. Ensure you carry along some extra clothes so you don’t drive home wet.
  5. Some extra cash
    You cannot tell what you would meet or what will happen during your kayaking. You might want to stop for some little ice waterside dinner and grab a quick bite. Having some extra cash with you can help you grab what you need.

Concluding thoughts

The dangers of UV exposures are real and can be discouraging when wanting to go kayaking in the summer. The trick to passing through this is to get the right materials and tools that will ensure your protection and safety and guarantee 100% fun and enjoyment.

Related question section

  1. Should I wear a swimsuit kayaking?
    You can either make use of a wetsuit or a drysuit for kayaking. Both are a good choice for kayaking and can keep one warm in the water. You should wear a drysuit over a base layer of long sleeves and a middle layer of fleece.
  2. Can I kayak barefoot?
    The fact is that kayaking barefoot is not wrong; in fact, kayaking barefoot is better than getting the wrong shoes. If the weather is nice, the water is favorable, and you are confident you can do without the sandals, then go ahead and kayak using your barefoot.
  3. What shoes should I wear kayaking in summer?
    When it comes to kayaking in the summer, the best option is to go for shoes that are made of quick-dry materials and have back straps to keep the sandals firm.
  4. Can I wear sneakers for kayaking?
    The straight answer is no. The purpose of creating sneakers is not to have direct contact with water and doing this can have a serious effect on the kayak. In addition, sneakers are not particularly great at draining out the water. Once you get the sneakers wet, they can become overly heavy and uncomfortable, which can lead to difficulty in swimming. Not to forget that they can produce a serious stench once wet.

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