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Kajak Clothing: What to Wear when Kayaking

The choice of the right kayak clothes has a big influence on your experience. The choice of what to wear is therefore important for kayakers. In this guide we discuss different approaches to clothing for kayaking. After reading this book you will know what kind of clothing you should wear when kayaking. Don’t let your kayak trip be ruined by the wrong equipment and instead put your money on the right clothes.

Kayak clothing – A question of external circumstances

The weather, wind, air and water temperatures all have an influence on what equipment is appropriate for your next kayak trip. The water temperature must always be considered. Even for experienced paddlers, there may be an unplanned watercourse if you are unhappy.

In this case it is important to be prepared. Nobody wants to get back into the boat shivering from the cold and then go back home soaking wet in a kayak. Before you set off on a tour, take a look at the weather forecast. Apps or websites that offer up-to-date satellite images are the best choice. In this way you can get an idea of exactly the area where you are going to paddle. With the numbers and the weather forecast in your head, you can decide how to dress.

Properly dressed for different areas of use

Kayaking is a very varied sport. Hobby paddlers might want to go out to the neighbouring lake every few weekends and go on a hiking tour through small canals. In fact, water sports offer much more than most kayakers experience.

Experienced paddlers can go on tours lasting several days with overnight stays in tents, plunge into white water, set off on a fishing trip or aim for top speeds with the right kayaks.

When buying a kayak, the area of use is important. Beginners, for example, like to rely on all-rounders, as these boats can be used for many different purposes.

For whitewater guides, different equipment is needed than for leisurely tours across the lake. In addition to the kayak, however, the clothing must also be suitable for the area of use.

Lake, canals and calm rivers

If you are travelling in quiet waters, you hardly have to pay any additional attention to anything. The kayak clothing for calm lakes only has to be adapted to the wind and the outside temperature. However, the danger of capsizing must always be taken into account. Even in calm water, an unsuccessful manoeuvre can quickly land in the cool wet.

If you are kayaking on a nearby lake in winter, you will need the appropriate clothing. At this time of year, a wetsuit or a dry suit would be appropriate for kayaking.


The conditions on seas and large lakes vary from day to day and month to month. Some waters are restless at all times and impassable for kayaks, while others are always calm but can become really uncomfortable at certain moments.

Before kayaking on the sea or in coastal waters, it is mandatory to check the weather forecast. It is important to know the water temperature before you set off. When kayaking in the sea, you are quickly tempted to wear too much clothing.

However, adjusting your clothing to the temperature of the air and water does not mean wearing enough clothes not to freeze. In fact, this means that water sports enthusiasts should wear just enough clothes to avoid freezing or sweating.

When kayaking, there is always the danger of getting wet. Nobody sets off with the intention to fall into the water during the tour. Nevertheless, the chance is always there. Therefore prepare yourself for the water temperature. In addition, it is always easier to take off some layers of clothing instead of conjuring up more shirts out of nowhere once you are sitting freezing in the middle of the lake.


Daring people who plunge into rapids and white water have to be prepared for splashing water. Every kayaker gets wet on whitewater trips. In addition to the splash water, which can hardly be avoided, there is also a high chance of falling into the water and having to perform an Eskimo roll.

Even if you are in whitewater, you have to consider the water temperature. The white foaming water is not always cold. Carrying too many layers is not a good idea during the physical exertion required to manoeuvre in white water.

The correct kayak clothes: What to wear when Kayaking

At water temperatures below 15°C it is recommended to wear a neoprene suit or a dry suit. Under a neoprene suit only short underwear is worn, while under a dry suit the clothing works according to the onion principle.

Several layers are drawn on top of each other to enclose air in the gaps. Similar to neoprene suits, the enclosed water is warmed by the body and becomes a protective shield against the cold. The top layer – the dry suit itself – forms a waterproof layer that does not allow moisture in.

At low temperatures, you can put a fleece jacket under the dry suit. Fleece clothing is good because it keeps you warm and dries quickly.

Feet should not be neglected when dressing according to the onion principle. Neoprene socks or shoes are a good choice. If you like, you can also use other synthetic materials.

Some kayakers swear by wool socks, which are undoubtedly comfortable and keep you warm, but absorb a lot of water and do not dry quickly.

If the water is warmer, you can choose comfortable kayak clothing that ideally doesn’t weigh too much and isn’t too hot or too cold.

Swimsuit in summer

In good summer weather swimsuits are a good choice. A swim shorts or a bikini are certainly comfortable and do not restrict movement.

The sun’s rays should not be underestimated, especially in summer. Either put on a thick sunscreen or put on a long shirt. Special Active Shirts are especially suitable because they are very light and dry faster.

The right footwear

Shoes are not necessarily one of the first things to be thought of when kayaking clothes. However, the right footwear is very important. Barefoot should not be used for kayaking. Rocks, sharp stones under water and animals can quickly lead to injuries to bare feet.

Normal street and sports shoes are reasonably suitable. If you get into the kayak directly from a jetty, you could also go on tour with sports shoes. The big disadvantage of these shoes, however, is that if they get wet, they do not dry as quickly.

Neoprene shoes or so-called water shoes are best. These shoes dry quickly, offer grip even on slippery surfaces and protect against injuries.

Sun protection

Sun protection plays an important role in water sports at any time of the year. In cold and warm water, sun protection is indispensable to avoid getting sunburned and safely exposing yourself to the risk of skin cancer.

A shirt with long sleeves is a good start, but sunscreen with a high sun protection factor is also mandatory. A headgear is also handy to prevent sunstroke.

We also recommend wearing sunglasses. The sun’s rays are reflected by the water and dazzle quickly. For water sports, you should wear sunglasses with a cord, as these will not be lost if there is an unintentional waterfall.

Dry and wetsuits in winter

Kayaking in winter is a real experience. To make sure that the adventure doesn’t turn into a dangerous trip, the right kayak clothes are indispensable. Capsizing in icy waters can quickly become a danger to life and limb for poorly prepared paddlers. If you want to set off in the freezing cold with a kayak, you have to be suitably dressed.

Dry suits and neoprene suits are the best choice. Dry suits will keep you completely dry, even if you fall into the water. In wetsuits, however, you will get wet. The suits warm up by letting a thin layer of water get through the fine meshes into the inside of the suit. The body heat then ensures that the water is warmed up, shielding the body from the external circumstances.

There’s a rule of thumb for choosing between the two types of suit: If you’re okay getting wet, you should go for a wetsuit. If you plan to return dry from the next tour, it is best to choose a dry suit.


Gloves are simply part of water sports. If you don’t want blisters or rubbed areas on the palms of your hands, you should put on gloves.

In winter, the hands are also neuralgic points where many people freeze quickly. During winter tours or trips in cold water we recommend neoprene gloves, which keep your fingers warm and protect you from injuries.

In warm weather, simple water sports gloves are a good choice. If you like, you can choose finger-free models.

Changing clothes

On kayak trips lasting several days, a bag with a change of clothes is a must. Instead of cotton, you should use synthetic fabrics that dry quickly. Modern sportswear is ideal because it weighs very little, is comfortable and dries quickly. Also take a further closable and waterproof bag with you, in which the dirty laundry can be stowed.

Life jacket

A life jacket is mandatory for most kayakers. In an emergency situation, the vests are real lifesavers. Who wants to risk anything while kayaking?

A kayak can capsize at any time. Especially on whitewater tours or in waves the chance is high. Beginners are less experienced in the use of sports equipment and should therefore always wear a life jacket. In winter, the vests are also practical because they provide additional warmth.

When choosing a lifejacket, freedom of movement plays an important role. You won’t often wear a vest that doesn’t fit comfortably. And if one lifejacket is just lying around in the corner, it won’t help.

A generous gap in the arm and shoulder area of life jackets is extremely important for kayakers. A good vest feels comfortable and is adjustable. Before you set off on your next trip with the new lifejacket, you should wear it on land for a few minutes. Do the paddle stroke on land a few times to see if the lifejacket does pinch at any point.

Life jackets come with various closable pockets. Small objects, like the mobile phone (in a waterproof mobile phone case), the keys or the sun cream can be stowed in it.


And done. Now you’re well informed. For every weather and every application you now know which is the right kayak clothing. Lightweight clothes that are comfortable and don’t restrict your movement are optimal. The preparation is the starting point for a safe kayak trip.






5] Unterkuehlung.pdf


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