When planning a kayaking adventure it is important to know the water temperature where you will be paddling. That is the safest way to determine what to wear for the specific location you are going to. Having the proper paddling attire will help keep you comfortable and safe. Whitewater enthusiasts can be especially vulnerable to the temperature extremes of warm sunny days and the near freezing snow-melt temperature of the water.
Materials for the water
It is safe to say that no matter where you are going to paddle, your decision of what to wear paddling should never include clothing made of cotton or similar water-holding materials. Materials such as polyester, nylon, or similar synthetics draw water away from the body. Clothing made from these fabrics are great to layer on and off as needed, and are especially suited for warmer waters and tropical locals. Good closed toe, waterproof shoes with a pair of shorts, light top, and a hat are great choices to begin paddling in warm water environments.
Preparing for water immersion
Your paddling environment must determine what you are going to wear on a kayaking trip. A good rule of thumb is to always dress for the probability of immersion! Factor in the water temperature, and you’re off to a great start. Whenever the temperature of the water is a few degrees below your body temperature, there is a risk of hypothermia which can be a devastating problem. The correct clothing can keep your warm in such circumstances.
Even if your kayaking trip starts out in calm waters, you should always expect that unexpected situations can quickly arise. The weather can change conditions rapidly or you could just reach for something and roll. You may need to rescue a paddler or swimmer in distress, or a wave may seemingly come out nowhere to knock you over. Always be prepared what what could happen if you capsize. No matter how good a paddler you are, it’s always a possibility.
Cold water options
On days where the weather is quite warm but the water temperature is cold, a great option is a breathable dry suit. All dry suits are designed to keep you dry in cold water. Dry suits have latex seals at the ankles, wrists, and neck openings to keep you dry. Something to consider when purchasing a dry suit is that you will need to make sure that it is large enough to fit over your PFD, as well as other layers of synthetic clothing that you are wearing underneath.
When the weather is sunny and fairly warm the breathable dry suit allows your excess body heat to escape and prevents overheating during extensive paddling.
The other option to keep you comfortably warm when paddling in moderately cold waters is a wet suit. Wet suits come in several different styles that vary in the amount of body coverage, such as, shorts-style with short sleeved, down to your wrists and ankles total coverage, or vest styles. Wet suits are generally tight fitting and somewhat movement restrictive and thus the style variations for preference and use. Wet suits hold water against your body that has warmed from your body heat. This process creates an insulated barrier of protection.
You are going to get wet no matter where you paddle so dress appropriately and enjoy the adventure!