What To Wear When Kayaking In Cold Weather

Kayaking is a cool sport to be enjoyed when outdoors with great weather and out of any form of danger. Sometimes, however, you have more solitude to enjoy kayaking in cold weather.

Fewer people around has to be a good thing, right?

Cold weather kayaking is not as simple as kayaking in the summer because of obvious reasons. You need extra protection against things like frostbite and hypothermia.

What To Wear When Kayaking In Cold Weather


Asides from the more obvious fact that people can get seriously injured, there’s also the more frightening scenario, die when exposed to very low temperatures for a long time. So, if you do want to go kayaking during winter, it is best to ensure that you keep yourself warm because you never can tell if the boat would turn over.

Heat loss in cold water is achieved through convection, a mechanism where the water that constantly flows over one’s skin carries the body heat away. Surprisingly, water can cause you to lose body heat a lot quicker than air does.

So preventing the contact that the cold water has with your body, by wearing the appropriate gear, will, in turn, reduce your risk.

Temperatures of 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7° C) and above offer an extreme risk of having hypothermia and dry suits are highly recommended.

If you are in a situation where you have no idea how to keep warm during kayaking, this article is surely for you. You might also want to read this article even if you kayak often in cold weather because, for all you know, you might be missing out on one or two essential clothing items.

Things to note before choosing the gear for kayaking during cold weather

What is the weather forecast where you would be kayaking?

Having the wrong information about what weather conditions to expect can be so disastrous. Imagine gearing up for a warm day and you find out when it’s too late that it’s going to be wet, windy and cold.

Checking the weather forecasts ahead for the whole day is something you should get in the habit of doing. A smart way to go about it is to get yourself a weather station.

They are great for displaying the current time and date. They are also automatically updated via the weather station DCF radio signal.

What type of kayaking will you be doing?

There are often different types of kayaking available to you, and it often depends on the location.

Whitewater kayaking can be more demanding than the other kayaking options available to you. It is best to know the type of kayaking beforehand so that you can plan ahead if there’s a high chance of you dipping into the water on a regular basis.

What type of kayaking would you be doing? The sit-in or sit-on-top

Sit-on-top kayaks are often the best for use during warmer climates. This is mainly due to the greater ventilation that can be experienced but one would definitely get wet during such type of kayaks.

On the flip side, sit-in kayaks are often used in much colder environments.

Are you well protected if you do have an unexpected dip?

Beginners to kayaking often make the mistake of choosing they what they wear based on the air temperature and not the water. Anything could happen during kayaking that would make you end up in the water.

If are you really prepared for that unexpected dip in very cold water? Research has shown that body heat tends to decrease five times faster in cold water than in cold air, at equal temperatures. So, make sure you go for gears that would keep you warm even when you are drenched.

Avoid cotton

Cotton is surely the worst kind of choice you can have for outdoor activity, especially that which involves water. Cotton soaks up water fast and makes one feel heavier. Cotton takes so long to dry thereby taking whatever warmth your body has to offer you.



It is best to know how to combine clothes such that you aren’t too warm too. Body temperature tends to increase when one exerts oneself especially during kayaking but can decrease sharply and fast when one stops or gets wet.


Have a change of clothes handy

You really don’t want to go home drenched so it is best to have a change of clothes with you. Pack these in a waterproof bag. Kayak clothing needed during the cold weather


Wet suits

A wetsuit is not a waterproof suit. When you enter the water wearing this suit, a little amount of water gets in between your body and the suit such that the water is heated by the body. This allows the heat to be maintained and retained thus keeping you warm.

Wet suits are available in different thicknesses. And the more the thickness, the more the insulation the suit provides. This does not tamper with the level of flexibility offered by the suit.

The most popular type of wet suit known for kayakers is Farmer John. It has full legs but no sleeves. It ensures flexibility when kayaking but offers very little protection against cold. This is why wet suits are not worn as outwears but are worn as base layers.

One major disadvantage of wet suits is the limited range of protection offered. Wet suits are only able to protect you against in water with temperatures of 50°F and above.



Rashguards help protect your body from getting rashes due to abrasion and are very essential during kayaking because of movements during kayaking. It is best to wear these under wet suits during cold weather.

Last update on 2022-05-06  / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


These are the ultimate protection for kayakers in terms of outwears. These one-piece suits are made from nylon and other waterproof materials like vulcanised rubber. This is what differentiates a wet suit from a dry suit. Drysuits are always made in a way that they are sealed at the neck, feet, and wrists.

Drysuits offer less protection against cold hence they are usually worn on the outer part of your body. The clothes to be worn under dry suits should, therefore, be thick and long enough to withstand the cold.

People tend not to buy dry suits because of the expensive prices attached but if you have the money, why not go for something that would protect you?


Dry wear

If you feel drysuits are overpriced, you might want to get water-resistant dry wear. These should be long and thick enough to make up for the absence of an additional outwear. Dry tops, jackets and semi-dry tops are available at affordable prices.


Dry pants

You want to protect every part of you from cold so what you need are good water-resistant pants which make up for the absence of a dry suit. There is an extra protection case of an unexpected swim. These are also good for kayakers that paddle in a sit-on-top kayak.


Base Layers and Liners

Base layers are not meant to get wet so it is best to wear them under dry suits or dry wears. They offer more warmth during the cold weather and come in many shapes and sizes.



Water-resistant shoes that don’t get easily worn-out are the best for this event. They help give your feet all the warmth needed. Go for footwear made from neoprene materials.



Kayaking requires the function of your hands and it would be best to ensure they are kept in the right range of temperature at all times. You should find a pair of gloves that perform this function while making sure that they don’t cause any impairment to your kayaking.

Go for water-resistant gloves.



Having socks under your water-resistant shoes is good but what is even better having water-resistant socks too. These socks help to keep your feet dry and warm and also make sure to keep your muscles in order, yet maintaining the elastic nature of the muscles.



Pogies are more effective in keeping the hands warm. Most gloves are designed with the sole aim of protecting the hands from every form of abrasion but pogies are attached to the paddle to serve as thermal sheaths.

Pogies should be used with gloves to protect your hands during, particularly low temperatures.

Last update on 2022-05-06  / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Keeping your face warm during the kayaking is very important and this can be achieved by wearing wool or fleece caps that cover your ears and also, face masks that protect your nose. Make sure to cover your head and face.


Darker shades of clothing

Just as bright colours are the best during sunny weather, dark colours are best worn during the cold weather.

Make sure you care for these gears so that they can last long. After your trips, make sure to hang the gears so that they can get dry. If you did the kayaking where there is salt water, make sure you rinse all the salt from your gears before putting them up to dry.

Never put neoprene in the dryer! And make sure not to expose the gears to direct sunlight. Be very careful with clothes that you wear that have zips, make sure the teeth are devoid of dirt and store dry suits with the zipper open and unkinked.

While choosing the best clothing materials for this activity, you should be mindful of price. Go for durable and efficient clothing items rather than fashionable and easily worn-out ones. You can get affordable gears that still make you look attractive and at the same time, protect you from getting frostbites or in worst-case scenarios, getting hypothermia.

Kayaking is a form of sports where you can get the chance to loosen up and enjoy your time with nature. But this is best achieved when you have the right gear. So remember, a good kayaker is one who has the best gear.