What to wear while canoeing

What to Wear While Canoeing and Kayaking for Maximum Comfort and Safety

Canoeing and kayaking, a fun outdoor activity that allows you to explore the beautiful waterways, is a great way to enjoy the warmer months. However, knowing what to wear when canoeing or kayaking is important for your comfort and safety.

Proper clothing and shoes will protect you from the sun, wind, and water and allow you to move freely while paddling. Here are some tips for choosing the best canoe and kayak clothing for different weather conditions.

Choosing the Right Canoeing Clothes for the Conditions

Wear PFD while Canoeing

Weather is an important factor when deciding what to wear when riding a canoe. Here are some recommendations for canoeing clothing for different temperatures.

Canoeing in Warm Weather

Light, breathable, and quick-drying clothing should be worn when canoeing in the summer. Avoid cotton as it can cause chafing if left wet. Good options are:

  • moisture-wicking synthetic T-shirts
  • UV-protection shirts and pants
  • board shorts or swim trunks
  • quick-dry shorts
  • rashguard shirts
  • bathing suits with UV protection
  • lightweight pants made of nylon or polyester
  • a wide-brimmed hat for sun protection
  • sunglasses with polarization

Always use waterproof sunscreen, even if you’re wearing sun protection clothing.

Canoeing in Cold Weather

Winter wear Canoeing

If you plan to canoe in spring or fall when temperatures are cooler, choose layers to keep you warm and avoid overheating while paddling.

  • synthetic or merino wool long underwear tops and bottoms
  • fleece jackets
  • nylon windbreaker jackets
  • neoprene gloves for warmth
  • wool socks
  • weatherproof pants and jackets
  • beanies, gloves, and scarves as needed

What Shoes to Wear Canoeing

Closed water shoes, sports sandals, and boat shoes are suitable for canoe footwear. Look for non-slip soles that offer protection and support.

Avoid beach sandals that are easy to take off. In cool weather, wear neoprene boots or waterproof boots and socks to keep you warm and dry.

Choosing the Right Kayaking Clothes and Shoes

Hot weather canoe wearing

Kayaking involves many of the same clothing considerations as canoeing. Here are some kayaking-specific clothing tips.

Kayaking in Warm Weather

In warm conditions, wear a swimsuit, UV shirt, rash guard, or wicking clothing that you don’t mind getting wet. Good shoes include:

  • water socks
  • neoprene booties
  • sport sandals or aquatic shoes with straps, laces or a binding system
  • closed-toe water shoes with drainage

Kayaking in Cold Weather

When kayaking or paddling in cold water, wear a layer of moisture-wicking synthetic fabric or wool and:

  • Spray top or dry top jacket
  • neoprene gloves and socks
  • Warm pants with fleece lining
  • Waterproof boots or shoes that won’t leak if the inside gets wet

Special Considerations for Sea Kayaking

Sea kayaking requires protection from splashes, waves and wind.

  • splash skirt around cockpit
  • Breathable nylon or GORE-TEX paddle jacket
  • polypropylene or merino wool base layer
  • neoprene boots and gloves
  • Sunglasses with a foam strap
  • safety hats and equipment

Other Important Canoeing and Kayaking Gear

Spring wear canoeing

In addition to proper clothing, please bring the following essentials:

  • Sunscreen: Use waterproof sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher), UV-blocking shirt, and lip balm. Wear sunglasses with straps.
  • Life Jacket: Wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket. Make sure it fits snugly and allows full arm movement.
  • Emergency Equipment: Bring a whistle, waterproof flashlight, emergency blanket, and other safety equipment. Use a waterproof bag to keep your gear dry.
  • Drink water and snacks: Stay hydrated and energized with a water bottle or hydration pack.
  • Securing cords: Attach equipment such as sunglasses and cameras to the life jacket so that it does not float if dropped.

What are the best shoes to wear canoeing and kayaking?

For canoeing and kayaking, closed-water shoes, sports sandals, and boat shoes with non-slip soles are suitable. Look for secure straps, laces, or a binding system that will hold you in place in waves and rapids. Neoprene socks and boots provide warmth in cold weather.

What should you wear kayaking in summer?

In warmer weather, suitable clothing for kayaking includes swimwear, UV shirts, rash guards, board shorts, wicking shorts, and water shoes or sandals that you don’t mind getting wet. Avoid wet cotton.

What do you wear under a wetsuit for kayaking?

Wear a synthetic or wool long underwear base layer under your wetsuit for warmth and ease of donning and doffing. Materials such as polypropylene and merino wool are insulating even when wet. Avoid cotton material under wetsuits.

Should you wear a lifejacket canoeing and kayaking?

Yes, always wear a close-fitting Coast Guard-approved life jacket when you canoe or kayak. Keep your arms and shoulders fully mobile when paddling. Life jackets are required by law on most recreational paddling trips.

What clothing provides sun protection for paddling?

Look for clothing made from lightweight, breathable fabrics with built-in UV protection, or wear a rash guard. Wear a hat and use waterproof sunscreen on exposed skin. UV-blocking sunglasses also help protect your eyes while paddling.


Choosing the right clothing and shoes for canoeing and kayaking is an important part of planning your paddling adventure.

Keeping in mind weather conditions, temperatures, sun exposure, and paddling style, versatile layered clothing, safe footwear, and essentials to keep you comfortable and safe as you explore the scenic waterways accessories can be selected.

With breathable, quick-drying synthetics and wool, safe sunglasses, a suitable life jacket, and a waterproof gear bag, you’ll be ready for a memorable paddling day whatever the season.

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