Kayak clothing: what you need to wear on the water

Kayak clothing: what you need to wear on the water

At the risk of sounding like your parent, the clothes you wear really will affect how much you enjoy your experience on the water. Kayak clothing doesn’t need to be expensive or specialist, and you can still have a great time on the water with the basics. To help, we’ve made a list of what you will need and a few extras you should think about before getting started. Take a look!

The basics: 

Wetsuits or paddle-top and bottoms?


Best suited to the warmer months, wetsuits are a fantastic item of kayak clothing to get you started on the water. When you’re learning, the chances are you’re going to find yourself taking the occasional dip, so a wetsuit, made from insulating neoprene rubber, is a good piece of basic kayaking gear to invest in.


A paddle-top, or cag as they are often known, is an outer shell designed to keep the elements out. They are worn over the top of your thermal layers, wetsuit, or basic paddling vest and shorts combo, and come in as many variations as there are paddling disciplines. A basic cag will usually be made of a waterproof and breathable material and will have neoprene cuffs and neck to keep the spray out.


These days many paddlers don’t bother with a wetsuit, but use a combination of paddle-top and bottoms to keep them warm and dry. Made from either neoprene or nylon, often with reinforced knees and bum to prevent wear, they will usually have a sealed waist and cuffs on the ankles to keep the wet stuff out. You can find examples of these from Gill Marine. 


Thermals are a good base layer and will help keep you toasty, as well as taking moisture away from your skin through its material. These are usually made from man-made fibres or natural materials like wool. A fleece layer over your thermals will seal the deal and keep you comfortable, even on the coldest of days. You can wear them under your paddle top and bottoms or drysuit, or if you paddle for speed, thermals can be a great alternative to the other kayak clothing options available.

Extras you might need:

  1. Drysuits. Drysuits are an investment and you’d only really need to splash the cash if you were planning on paddling in all weather conditions. Paddlesport-specific drysuits have become understandably popular, as they represent the ultimate in dryness and comfort and eliminate any nasty cold spots around the waist and kidney areas. Unsure what we mean by a drysuit? Take a look at these from Gill Marine. 
  2. Helmet. If you are paddling on moving water, you should wear a helmet. You’ve only got one brain, so it’s best to protect it from harm. A helmet will keep your head safe from any potential knocks and bumps. To properly protect you, a helmet should fit you snugly, cover your temple area and the nape of the neck and, as obvious as this sounds, should always be securely fastened.
  3. Spray-deck. This isn’t essential when you first start, but if you paddle a closed cockpit kayak then as your skills and confidence increase you will want a spray-deck to keep your boat dry. It’s worn around the waist like a skirt and then seals over your kayak’s cockpit rim to create a watertight seal.
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