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What Should I Wear Kayaking in the Summer?


No matter when you are kayaking, whether it’s in the warm summer months or cooler fall and winter, you should always dress for submersion. There’s always a chance that you may end up in the water so you should dress for it. That means two things.  You need to dress for the temperature of the water, not the air, and dress in clothing that can get wet and you can swim in if needed.

If you are kayaking in the summer, protection from the sun will also be important. That may mean slathering on the SPF or sporting a long-sleeved rash guard and hat. But no matter what you wear, make sure it’s comfortable and allows freedom of movement.

Summer Kayaking Clothes Guide

Here’s a quick guide of what to look for when picking out what to wear kayaking in the summer.

Quick-Drying Fabrics

You’re going to want to wear something that’s going to dry quickly if it gets wet. Synthetic polyesters or quick-dry nylons like rash guards are great. Merino wool is good too because it will also wick away moisture and dry quickly. You’re going to want to avoid anything cotton. It might keep you cool and wick away sweat, but it because it absorbs water, it takes forever to dry.

Tough but Comfortable

You’re going to want something lightweight and comfortable, but nothing too thin. Kayaking requires constant shifting in your seat, so super thin materials like yoga pants, just don’t hold up. Jean on the other hand are too binding and chafe. Pick something in between.

Sun Protection

In addition to sunscreen, you can wear clothing that will provide you with protection from sun exposure. Long-sleeves rash guards and other clothing made from UPF rated fabric will offer the protection you need for a long day out on the water.


As far as footwear goes, you just want something that’s going to protect your toes and the bottoms of your feet. Many people choose to wear old tennis shoes, which can be fine, but they tend to stink and are hard to swim in. If you don’t have or want to invest in specific neoprene paddling booties, we’d recommend something more like a hiking sandal that has a back strap. These also dry quickly so your feet are less likely to get irritated. Flip flops will be too difficult to keep on if you do go over.


You might not need these depending on the water temp, but if you are paddling in a glacier fed river, you may want you can get a pair of neoprene paddling gloves. Your hands will have the most contact with the water, and gloves will prevent them from freezing as well as protect them from blisters.


A wide brim hat can offer even more protection from the sun. Just make sure it’s attached securely to your head so that it doesn’t blow away.


The sun can reflect off the water pretty strongly and those UV rays can be damaging to your eyes. A good pair of shades on a sunny day is a good idea and a retainer strap can help make sure they don’t get lost if you fall overboard.

Wet Suit

Do you need to wear a wet suit even in the summer? For the most part, your spray skirt will protect you from the cold when kayaking in the summer. But if the water you are kayaking in is significantly cooler than the air temp, you may want to consider a wet suit. A good rule of thumb we found is to add the water temp and air temp together and if it’s below 100 degrees, you should suit up just in case you end up in the water. They make 2mm-thick shorties that extend to the knees and elbows – enough to protect you from a plunge into the chilly water, but not too much so that you’re overheating when not being splashed.

Life Jacket

No matter how hot, how calm or how long you are going to be in the water, how much experience you have or how cool you think you are, you should always be wearing a PFD.

Summer Kayak Storage

Now that you know how to dress for kayaking this summer, make sure you’re storing your kayak properly to keep in great shape all summer. Our beautiful, hand-carved cedar log storage racks will keep your kayak stored safely and at the ready so you can spend more time kayaking and less time caring for and transporting your kayak. We offer a variety of wall-mounted and free-standing racks for kayaks, canoes and other small boats. Check out our standard kayak storage racks online or send us a message for a custom storage solution.