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Watersports Clothing:
A BUYER'S GUIDE FOR KAYAKERS

The #1 most popular article on the subject on the web
By Tom Holtey

Below I have outlined some apparel ensembles for kayakers. They are a "rough sketch" meant to get you thinking about appropriate paddle clothing choices, based on your personal needs and the wide variety of weather and water conditions kayakers encounter. Do suppliment your study with the articles: "Hydration For Kayakers" and "Hypothermia"; as well as "Cold Weather Clothing". For Kayak Surfing see also Wetsuits For Sit-on-top Kayak Surfing

Hot Weather &
Warm Water
Warm Weather &
Cool Water
Cool Weather &
Cool Water
Cold Weather &
Cold Water

Protection is the primary reason to wear paddle sports clothing. You will want protection from the sun, wind, rain, cold water and air. Sunburn is a concern; there is no shade out on the water to duck into. Wind, rain, splashes as well as cool air require a second skin; a Speedo swimsuit cannot work in all climates. Protection from cold water is your most important goal. Yes, you will be on your boat, in the air, but the chance of an extended swim always looms, not to mention the regular wetness SOT paddles face. Finally your feet need protection too. Brave bare-footers and flip-flop wearers may not feel the threat, but the aquatic environment can be hazardous to your feet. Coral, jagged rocks, barnacles, hot sand, broken glass and uncomfortable footrests all make a good choice in footwear worth it.


Hot Weather & Warm Water Outfit

In summer time, and tropical climates, select clothing that will protect you from the sun, dry quickly, breathe, and wick moisture from skin. Choose loose fitting sizes that are not so loose as to make swimming difficult. Some shorts will have built-in underwear or a regular swimsuit can be used as such.

TopKayaker Guide Hat
TopKayaker Guide Hat

SunSafe TopKayaker

SunSafe TopKayaker
Paddle Shirt

Paddle Shorts
Immersion Research Guide Shorts - Women's

Fingerless Paddle Gloves
Warmers NeoMesh Gloves - Unisex

Water Shoes
Teva Proton II Water Shoes - Women's

 

kayak surfer

Head:
Wide Brim light color Hat,
cotton is OK, or Cap w/ neck flap

Basic Wear:
Shirt & Pants with long sleeve & legs
(look for UV protection fabrics) or...

Tee Shirt & Shorts (w/ plenty of Sun Screen),
all made of quick dry, synthetic fabric.


Hands:
Paddling Gloves, mesh back and/or cut finger.


Feet:
Mesh top Beach Shoes.

Sun Hat
Sun Hat

SunSafe TopKayaker

SunSafe TopKayaker
Paddle Shirt

Paddle Shorts
Immersion Research Guide Shorts - Men's

TopKayaker Gloves
TopKayaker Paddle Gloves

Water Shoes
Teva Proton Water Shoes - Men's


Warm Weather & Cool Water Outfit

Ocean waters are more often than not cooler than can be safely tolerated year round. In springtime the air temps rise faster than the water temps, so you have to dress for immersion. At some times and places the water can be cold enough to merit a wet suit even on a hot sunny day! In the fall the water temps can remain rather warm while dropping air temps and shortening days make for cool air temps & chilly paddling. Look for adaptable clothing that can be layered to suit your changing weather conditions.

TopKayaker Guide Hat
TopKayaker Guide Hat

Long Sleeve Thin Skin
Immersion Research Thin Skin Shirt - Women's
shorty
Stohlquist Shorty Farmer Jane Short-Leg Wetsuit - Women's

Fingerless Paddle Gloves
Warmers NeoMesh
Gloves - Unisex

Paddle Boots
Deep See Delta Boots

kayak tourer
Head:
Wide Brim Hat,
synthetic or cotton/canvas is OK.


Base Layer:
Wet Suit as your base layer.
Depending on conditions select:


Neoprene Shorts & Top or...

Farmer John/Jane,

maybe Spring Suit if needed.

Mid Layer:
Quick dry, synthetic Shirt
(long or short sleeve)
& Shorts, or Pants, as a mid layer.


Outer Layer:
Splash Top
(long or short sleeve)
to wear as outer layer in wind,
rain and rough water.


Hands:
Paddling Gloves,
mesh back and/or full finger


Feet:
Neoprene Kayak Booties.

TopKayaker Guide Hat
TopKayaker Guide Hat

Splash Top
Kokatat Windstopper
Short sleeve
Neoprene Top
Mysterioso Nyloprene
Short-Sleeve Top - Men's

Neoprene Shorts
Mysterioso Nylo-Prene
Shorts - Men's

paddle gloves
TopKayaker
Paddle Gloves

Paddle Boots
NRS Kickers



Cool Weather & Cool Water Outfit

You will encounter weather that is chilly during early spring & late fall in temperate climates and always in mountains. Mountain run-off in rivers and high lakes can be very cold. (Also summertime in sub artic climates.) Much ocean paddling will be on the cool side.

Select clothing suitable for immersion, protection from wind and water, and that can be layered to suit your changing weather conditions. Polypropylene & Polyolefin "rash guards" as "base & mid layers" can be very useful. I have this divided into WETSUITS - "warm but wet" & DRY SUITS - "warm and dry" sub categories. 

WETSUITS & DRY SUITS

Hat
Paddler's Hat

Paddling Booties
Warmers 3mm Lo-Pro Pull-On Paddling Booties

ACCESSORIES FOR BOTH:

Head:
Wide Brim Hat, synthetic and/or
Poly Fleece Cap


Feet:
Neoprene Boots,
with wicking socks.


Hands:
Paddling Gloves,
full finger.

Fleece Cap
Watch Cap

TopKayaker Gloves
TopKayaker Paddle Gloves


Farmer Jane - Wetsuit
NRS Ultra Jane 3mm Wetsuit - Women's

Spray Pants
 Warmers Spray Pants - Unisex

Spray Top
Kokatat Super Breeze
Spray Jacket

WETSUIT - PADDLER IS WARM BUT WET:

kayak tourer

 

Base Layer:
Wet Suit - Depending on conditions select

Spring Suit or...
Farmer John/Jane & Wetsuit Top.

Insulation Layers:
Poly Fleece Top and Pants as mid layer.

Splash Wear:
Paddling Jacket and Pants
to wear as outer layer in wind,
rain and rough water.

 

Farmer John - Wetsuit
NRS Ultra John 3mm Wetsuit - Men's

Spray Pants
Kokatat Gore-Tex PacLite Boater's Pants - Men's

Spray Top
Kokatat Super Breeze
Spray Jacket


Kokatat Dry Suit
Kokatat Gore-Tex Drysuits
Kokatat Dry Suit
Kokatat Dry Suit
w/ Feet

DRY SUIT - PADDLER IS WARM AND DRY

kayak tourer

Base Layer:
Wicking Underwear,
long or short depending on conditions

Insulation Layers:
Poly Fleece Top and Pants as mid layer.

Outer Layer:
Dry Suit as outer layer -
(One piece or two-piece as needed.)

Lite Wave Dry Top

Kokatat Lite Wave Dry Top

dry bib
Kokatat Whirlpool
Dry Bib


Cold Weather & Cold Water Outfit

Those who paddle "off season", expeditions, open waters and harsh climates will require carefully selected clothing to protect themselves from the elements. Cold water (and even not so cold water) is the primary cause of hypothermia, paddler fatality and hospitalization. Protective clothing is needed.

Select clothing suitable for immersion and protection from rain & wind. Polypropylene & polyolefin "rash guards" and "base & mid layers" can be very useful. Again, I have this divided into WETSUITS - "warm but wet" & DRY SUITS - "warm and dry" sub categories.

For more detailed information see Tom's article: "Cold Water Kayaking"

WETSUITS & DRY SUITS

Balaclava
Kokatat Surfskin Balaclava

Chota Boots
Chota QuickLace Mukluk Boots

TopKayaker Gloves
TopKayaker Gloves

ACCESSORIES FOR BOTH:

 

Head Protection:
Wide Brim Hat

Neoprene Hood/Scull Cap and a
Poly Fleece Cap or two.


Foot Protection:
High-Top Boots or
Ankle -High Neoprene Boots


fleece socks

Hand Protection:
Paddling Gloves (full finger)
and Pogies.

OR Hat
Outdoor Research Seattle Sombrero

Fleece Socks
Acorn Polartec 200 Print Socks

TopKayaker Pogies
TopKayaker Pogies


NRS Wetsuit Jacket

NRS Wetsuit
Jacket

NRS Ultra John

NRS Ultra John
WETSUITS - PADDLER IS WARM BUT WET:

kayak tourer

Wet Suit as your base layer:
Depending on conditions select Full Suit or
Farmer John/Jane & Wetsuit Top

Insulation Layers:
Poly Fleece Top and Pants
as mid layer + fleece vest.

Splash Wear:
Paddling Jacket or Anorak & Pants
to wear as outer layer.

Kokatat Anorak

Gortex Anorak

NRS Steamer Wetsuit

NRS Steamer
Full Suit


Basepants
Kokatat Base Pants

Kokatat Womens Drysuit
Kokatat Dry Suit
Woman's Drop Seat

DRYSUITS - PADDLER IS WARM AND DRY:
kayak tourer

Wicking Long Underwear as base layer.

Insulation Layers:
Poly Fleece Jump-Suit/Linner,
Vest, Top and Pants as mid layer.

Outer Layer:
Dry Suit as outer layer.
(One piece or two-piece as needed.)

Patagonia Capilene
Patagonia Capilene

Kokatat Expedition Drysuit
Kokatat Expedition Dry Suit


Tom HolteyTom's Tips & Picks - What we look for in fabric, styles & brands

Splash Wear and Paddling Jackets - Rain, Wind and Splashing Water protection.

You have a choice between urethane coated nylon and Gore-Tex. Both will perform the same function, protecting you from the chilling effects of wind and keeping you dry from all but immersion. Gore-Tex will breathe, be more comfortable than urethane coated nylon, but cost more.

Splash pants will allow some water to "seep" in. Paddling tops vary from light duty short sleeve to expedition anorak styles. Athena and I like the Kokatat Super Breeze & Squirt Paddling tops and the Boater's Pants.

Wetsuits - Protection from cold water.

A wet suit is simply a rubber garment that traps warm water next to your skin. There is a huge selection to choose from. For fair weather paddlers I would recommend wet suit shorts and top. For the more adventurous and ocean paddler I would recommend a farmer john/jane with top. Full and shorty suits are also good.

I highly recommend the fleece lined suits, or any suit with wicking fabric lining. You will be much more comfortable and wear your suit more often. Be sure to look for wet suits made for paddlers! Athena and I like the LLBean, Northwest River Supply (NRS) and Warmers/DeepSee brands.

Fleece - Your insulation layer

Fleece is readily available at great prices. Pants, shirts, vests, hats. It dries quickly and is warm when wet. I am sure that some fleece is better than others. Athena and I look for Malden Mills Polar Fleece whenever possible.

Quick Dry Clothing - Wicking base layers and swimsuits.

For summer fun all you need is regular synthetic clothing. You will have to do some experimenting with what will work best for paddling, or look for garments made for paddlers. Nylon, Suplex, polyester, polyolefin and the new Buzz-Off fabrics are what to look for. On sunny days there is nothing wrong in going out on the water in your swimsuit. For a long day trip do bring a cover up just in case.

Wicking base layers like rash guards and capaline or polypropylene underwear can really enhance comfort, improve heat retention and wick moisture off the body. Athena and I have quite an assortment from Patagonia, Wickers & North Face brands, even department store & discount shop finds.

Dry Suits - Keeps the wearer dry.

A dry suit will keep the wearer dry but an insulation layer must be worn under the dry suit as a base layer to be warm. Be sure that any base layer under a dry suit has wicking properties. I would recommend a dry suit liner. Like splash wear you will have the option of Gore-Tex or coated nylon. Dry suits require some special care, be sure to follow the makers instructions. Options like hoods and socks are rare, but appropriate for some hardy adventures. A better option to look for would be a "relief zipper" for men, or a "drop seat" for women to make bathroom breaks easy. We like the Kokatat brand.

Gloves

Gloves are nice to have year round. Your hands will get soft from the water and a second skin will protect them. Look for paddler's gloves. Some folks will do ok with some other sport gloves, but paddling gloves will be best by far. Most are made of neoprene and synthetic leather. Pogies are great for protecting your hands from raw weather. Athena and I like the Northwest River Supply, Thunderware brands and our own TopKayaker gloves & pogies.

Hats

Hats are the roof over your head when in the outdoors. Sun and rain protection is the primary job. Look for a wide brim, quick dry fabric for cold climate, and a chinstrap for the wind. Other hats to look into are fleece hats (for warmth) and ball-cap (with sun flap). Athena and I like the Ultimate Hat, the OR Seattle Sombrero, Watership Trading Co. and polar fleece watch caps.

Foot Wear

Protection from rough terrain and cold water is the goal of aquatic shoes. The neoprene boot (low cut to knee high) is most common. Mesh top beach shoes are also very good. I would shy away from sandals. Athena and I like the Northwest River Supply Kickers, Chota Boots, and assorted mesh top beach shoes. Get a fit that will stay on your feet when swimming. We find that wicking socks or fleece socks in our neoprene boots adds warmth & comfort.


Where To Buy Kayak Clothing Specific items of clothing shown above may be found by cutting & pasting the name in search boxes at the links below. Some items are offered only seasonally.

	Outdoorplay.com - Free Shipping Our favorite brands of quality kayak clothing are at OUTDOOR PLAY. Purchasing through this link helps support this site. NRS (Northwest River Supply) is now available - an Excellent source of large size wetsuit wear - XXL, XXXL ("Grizzley").
Animated Coupon 120x60 Sierra Trading Post has good deals on kayak clothing. Purchasing through this link helps support this site.
Go to Amazon Market Place

Amazon's sporting goods section. See their selection of wetsuits & paddle shoes. Purchasing through this link helps support this site.

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