When it comes to kayaking apparel, what you wear on the river is going to be dictated by the conditions.
If the waters are calm and the conditions are mild, meaning the chances of capsizing is low, and then simple clothing will suffice. The only thing you need to do is wear insulation under your rain gear and the use adequate protection.
If you decide to swim in cold-water environments or during the colder months, you need to increase the amount of protection. You need to look at drysuits, wetsuits, and other various clothing options that you can use.
1 – Drysuits
If you’re going out in bad weather, rough surf or rapids or in cold water, wearing drysuits is going to give you the best possible protection. Drysuits comprise of nylon with breathable Gore-Tex laminate or waterproof polyurethane coating. It also has latex gaskets at the neck, ankles and wrists along with a roll-up closure and special zipper – all of it is designed to keep water from coming in. If you take an unpredicted dip, you say dry.
There is no insulation in drysuits, which means you need to use them with specially-designed fleece liners or long underwear to stay warm.
It’s difficult to pick the right clothing, especially if it’s hot outside and the water’s cold – something you see in northern climates during the summer months. What you need to consider is the comfort of the paddling against the possibility for cold-water immersion and capsizing.
If there’s a chance for capsizes, you should consider a Gore-Tex suit. This ensures the escape of body heat while you paddle. Without it, you get wet from the perspiration.
2 – Dry Pants or Bibs
A set of dry pants or bids are a perfect low-cost solution for kayakers that use a dry top in the open waters, but would prefer extra protection against spells of cold weather or water.
3 – Dry Tops
This kind of clothing tends to have wrist gaskets or latex neck, usually accompanied by protective neoprene cuffs. The waistbands are generally comprised of neoprene and double-layered to seal up the spray skirt – inside and out. Dry tops are worn over Farmer John-style wetsuits or used with dry bibs for useful two-piece systems.
4 – Insulating Layers
Extra layers with insulation and liners are available to work in a variety of water sports. Top and bottom layers in a choice of fleece materials give extra comfort when worn under drysuits or wetsuits. Insulating layers are made in a breathable, quick-drying material and abrasion-resistant outer layer to block wind chill.
5 – Rash Guards
Rash guards are a type of Lycra/polyester spandex shirt that is quick-drying and best worn benefit a wet suit to minimize issues with chafing. Plus, the sun protection factor (SPF) of the rash guards is great as a means of sun-protection for those paddling or swimming in exposed waters. Most of these shirts are manufactured with form-fitting and stretch designs to avoid interfering with the ability to move.
6 – Wetsuits
While these are snug, water isn’t kept out. Instead, it traps a thin amount of water adjacent to the skin where the body keeps it warm. Neoprene reduces the evaporative cooling. Once out of the water, you still comfortable.
Wetsuits can be found in various styles:
- Sleeveless Farmer Johns
- Full-length suits
- Separate jackets and pants
- Short-sleeve springs suits
The more popular of the four is the Farmer Johns (full-length legs and sleeveless suits), especially for moderate-weather paddling, as they let the stomach area to cool. Women can find Farmer Jane suits.
Wet suits come in various neoprene thicknesses. Too thick and it’ll be bulky and warm to paddle. However, it’s the one divers usually pick. Paddles go with the 2mm or 3mm neoprene. Another kind of fabric is polyurethane-coated fleece that’s ideal for cold water. It is windproof, stretchy and warm, and is similar to neoprene although it’s fuzzy.
Garments comprised of this type of fabric, let water in and keep it warm beside the skin. The inside of the fleece ensures comfortable wear for an extended period of time in cold weather.
7 – Hats
Insulated hats are a great addition for cold-weather kayaking trips. Preferred hats or head protection includes:
- Fleece caps
- Wool caps
- Face masks
- Lightweight balaclavas
- Full neoprene hoods
A full face mask or hood is a practical choice for padding in extremely challenging conditions.
8 – Gloves
Use mittens or gloves in the cool climate conditions, but must be made in a water-resistant and durable material. The best material for this type of kayaking apparel is Lycra spandex, nylon, or neoprene. Any of these materials give great protection and reliable grip which doesn’t impact the ability to paddle.
9 – Water shoes or boots
Kayaking trips in warm water and weather rarely needs much in the way of extra foot protection. Water slippers or sport sandals are a practical option. But the kayaking apparel for cold climates needs careful consideration. Use calf-high rubber shoes or boots with a thick pair of socks to stay dry. Other options include kayaking booties which are highly effective at keeping the feet warm.