What to Wear Kayaking in Summer Guide

Canoes and Kayaks

Summer calls for some outdoor fun, and what’s a better way to have fun than kayaking? You get out in the warm, open fresh air, can take a quick swim in the water, or go paddling just for the fun of it.
But kayaking in summer needs a bit of pre-thought and planning. You should be particularly careful about what to wear kayaking in summer and what to bring along that you may need. Wearing the wrong fabric or forgetting to bring along sunscreen can ruin all of your plans.
Please keep reading for our recommendations for kayaking in summer.

What to Wear When Kayaking in Summer?

What you decide to wear when kayaking in summer is super important. Wearing too thick clothes or made of water-absorbing materials means all the water that gets splashed on you will be there to stay. 

Also, wearing something too thick in high temperatures will make you sweat a lot and even cause rashes.
Without further ado, let’s get into what to and not wear kayaking in summer.

Avoid Cotton at all Costs

When going kayaking in summer, please remember to avoid wearing cotton. We have a good reason for this suggestion. Cotton is a material that is not quick-dry. Instead, it absorbs and retains water. So if your clothes get wet, which they are bound to, it will be long before they dry out. Avoiding anything made from cotton will save you the predictable uncomfortableness of being in wet clothes.

A Bathing Suit

The cool, calm waters are enticing in the warm weather, so you need to be prepared for when the temptation to go swimming presents itself. A bathing suit is made of light, quick-drying materials. They are perfect for kayaking in summer!

Wearing your bathing suit under your clothes is great because you can quickly slip off your outerwear and go for a quick dip in the water. After swimming, bathing suits dry up in no time so that you can put on your outerwear back on.

Sandals or Water Shoes

While many prefer going kayaking in their everyday sandals or barefoot, we advise against that. Going barefoot would not just be uncomfortable but can be dangerous too. You never know; you could injure your foot on a piece of metal, wood, or plastic jutting out. Also, your feet will often get wet from water found in the foot rest area of sit-in kayaks. You certainly do not want your skin pruning and making you feel uncomfortable.

We would recommend wearing specially designed water shoes or sandals. These shoes will protect your feet and give them a much more comfortable place to rest than the hard kayak shell. Additionally, the straps of sandals will keep them firmly attached to your feet. Therefore, there is no need to worry about them floating away if you fall out of the kayak.

Check our top picks for water shoes below:

Long-Sleeved Shirts

Wearing long sleeves in summer just doesn’t feel right, does it? Summer is all about t-shirts and singlets, am I right?
Not when kayaking! Long-sleeved shirts are pretty important when you go kayaking in summer because they give you a layer of protection from the hot sun. 

Kayaking generally is a minimum of a 2-4 hour activity. With this long in the sun, you’ll want something to cover yourself up to prevent sunburn. Protection from sunburn is essential if kayaking around midday. 

We suggest getting a long-sleeved polyester shirt (and not cotton!). Make sure the material is light and breathable to have a comfortable kayaking experience in the summer sun.

Life Jacket

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) or life jackets are a must-have device no matter the weather. It is never safe not to wear a life jacket. Even in calm, still waters, you should have your PFD on you.

Some argue that wearing a life jacket in summer is uncomfortable because it makes you sweat, and it can get sweltering wearing it for so long. To counter this, we advise investing in a good, breathable PDF. 

Breathable life jackets have good ventilation, allowing air to move in and out quickly. Wearing a breathable PFD will enable you to stay safe and be comfortable at the same time.

what to wear kayaking summer

Board Shorts

A good option for bottoms is board shorts. Being made from polyester or other synthetic materials, they are quick to dry. Therefore, you will not have to worry about remaining wet for long when wearing board shorts.

Pants with Zip Off Legs

A good and perhaps better alternative to board shorts is hiking pants with zip-off legs. (Not cotton). Why are they better?

Zip-off pants are better because they give you the benefits of both shorts and pants without the hassle of carrying around each. You can wear shorts when the sun isn’t too intense. When it gets too hot, or you want to protect your legs from the rays, you can always make use of the pants. Zip-off pants are quick and efficient when kayaking.

What to Bring When Kayaking in Summer

There are a bunch of essentials that you need to have with you when you go kayaking. Let’s look at what those are and why they are so essential.


We cannot stress this enough, put on your sunscreen! Sunscreen is the most essential item you need to bring when kayaking in summer or doing any outdoor activity. Prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays, including UV rays, can be really harmful. It can cause sunburn, but it may do some severe damage to your skin health by affecting your skin barrier.
Bring along your sunscreen when going kayaking, and don’t forget to apply it to all exposed body parts. Make sure you reapply it every two hours, especially when getting wet as it’s likely to wash off your sunscreen sooner than expected.

Dry Bag

This one is essential. You will need a safe space protected from water to keep all your belongings nice and dry. You may need a dry bag to put in things like your camera, chargers, snacks, sunscreen, clothes, etc. Try to find a bag with a comfortable strap so it is easier to carry.


A hat can comfort our eyes when the sun rays are directly on our face. In addition, a hat provides protection against the sun and keeps your head cool. However, it is very likely for your hat to fly away with the wind or for you to lose it in the water, so buy a hat that has a string or a strap that can keep it safely anchored under your chin.
We recommend broad-brimmed hats rather than caps to provide maximum protection.

View the range of hats available on Amazon


Bring sunglasses along with you on your kayaking trip in the summer. They provide some much-needed cool relief against the onslaught of the hot sun rays.
Simply wearing a hat won’t cut it. Since water is a reflective surface, you will still get the reflected sun rays in your eyes even if you successfully evaded them from above. Wear your sunglasses, and keep an pair extra just in case.

Make sure your sunglasses too have a strap that can safely keep them anchored around your neck, to prevent them from going overboard.

Insect Repellant

Keeping an insect spray with you can make a world of difference on your kayaking trip. You are out in the open when kayaking, which usually translates to some unwanted meetings with our little friends.
To avoid the stings and rashes from insect bites, keep a bug spray or an insect repellant in any form in your dry bag. Trust us, you will need it.

Spare Clothes

No matter how well prepared you are, accidents happen. Therefore, it is best to keep a spare set of clothes in your dry bag if you need them. The clothes should be comfortable, light material, and quick to dry.


All that paddling and swimming is likely to drain all your energy. It is therefore a great idea to keep a stack of filling and energizing snacks in your dry bag to fuel up if you feel tired and low on energy. Protein bars with a good balance of protein and carbohydrates are a good choice.

First Aid Kit

When going for any outdoor activity, you should always have a first-aid kit. Similarly, you need to keep a first aid kit when going kayaking. You don’t have to pack heavily; just the basics will do.

what to bring kayaking


Despite all that water around you, you will need water to drink after a day of paddling and swimming. Be sure to keep an ample supply of water per person.
We suggest a full day of paddling in the warmer months would require approximately 1 gallon of water per person. Less water would be needed in colder climates or during winter.

Wrap Up

Kayaking in summer can be enjoyable and adventurous, but you will need to have the proper gear. Now that you know what to wear when kayaking and bring along, you are well prepared for your kayaking experience. We hope these suggestions were of help to you and that you can have a safe, protected, and fun kayaking trip!

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