Whilst high-end, expensive kayak clothing can help make your kayaking experience more comfortable, you don’t need high-spec equipment to allow you to go out on the water and enjoy yourself. This blog will focus on the essential clothing to allow you to enjoy a kayaking trip, with a few practical tips on how to use them too.
Drysuits and Wetsuits
The first place to start in terms of kayak clothing is to buy a good drysuit or wetsuit. If you’re a newcomer to the world of watersports, you may be unsure of what the difference is and how drysuits and wetsuits work. Drysuits are designed to keep you 100% dry, even if you fall in the water. Drysuits are effectively rubber suits that cover the entire body other than your head, hands and feet, with latex cuffs and a sealed zip, meaning that your limbs and torso remain completely dry. The biggest disadvantages of drysuits are that they are expensive and lack breathability. I wouldn’t recommend it as the gear you want for a day on the beach or a short kayaking trip.
Wetsuits are not designed to keep you dry but rather to keep you warm. Made from neoprene, they are designed to let water inside, but because they are so tight (a snug fit is a must!), this water will be trapped inside. Your body heat will then warm up the water, so although you will be wet, you will be warm. The warmth that the wetsuit provides depends on the thickness of the suit – the thicker the suit, the warmer you will be. However, thicker suits will also be heavier and more restrictive in terms of your movement. It’s recommended to wear a rash vest under your wetsuit, which will make it more comfortable and avoid the suit rubbing against your skin. One area to avoid whilst out on the water is natural fabrics such as cotton or wool. Once these fabrics are wet they won’t keep you warm or dry, and the combination of the water and wind can make your body cool down very quickly.
Your footwear is important to consider, not only in terms of keeping your feet warm but also to protect your feet from any sharp rocks or glass which you might find on the water’s edge. I guarantee that you will have to step into the water at least twice during your trip! Therefore when looking for suitable shoes, look not only for pairs designed to keep you warm but which also offer abrasion resistance and good grip as you’ll be stepping on slippy surfaces. The type of gloves which are most suitable is dependent on the temperature. Gloves can help prevent blisters on your hands, thus increasing your comfort. If it’s warm, fingerless gloves can help to protect your hands without them getting too warm, whilst if it’s cold, full finger neoprene gloves can keep your hands warm in a similar way to how a wetsuit works. Always wear a personal flotation device, even if it is really warm. If you don’t wear it, it cannot help you stay safe.
Dressing for the weather
The advice above covers the general essentials of choosing the right kayak clothing, but it is still important to adapt what you’re wearing to the weather conditions. In warm temperatures, sun cream and a hat are a must, even if the sun is hidden by cloud cover as clouds do not stop UV rays. Water also reflects UV rays, increasing your exposure in comparison to equivalent conditions on land. Sunglasses are something that you should always take with you, offering you protection not only against the damage UV rays can cause but also against the intensity of the light, making your trip more comfortable. If it’s warm, T-shirts and shorts will do the job. Again, avoid natural fabrics – you can get neoprene shorts or sleeveless wetsuits which will do the job perfectly! If it’s sunny but the temperature is not warm, you can increase your temperature by wearing a thermal rash vest under your wetsuit, or alternatively a fleece or waterproof and windproof lightweight jackets on top of your wetsuit.
If rain is forecast, don’t let this put you off kayaking! A longsleeve wetsuit can keep you warm. You’ll need a jacket to keep your body dry, and also a peaked cap to protect your face from the rain. Other options you can consider will be thermals or over-trousers. Gloves are particularly important in the rain, as your skin becomes softer when it’s wet, meaning that it is easy to pick up painful blisters. Neoprene boots with a rubber sole will keep your feet warm even in the rain! I would recommend avoiding Wellington Boots, as it is very difficult to swim in them should you fall in the water.
When the temperatures are particularly cold, wearing a thick wetsuit with a thermal rash vast underneath is a wise move, as are gloves and a hat that covers your ears and keeps them warm. Alongside neoprene boots, you can also keep your feet warm in cold temperatures with a pair of neoprene diving socks.
It is easy to think of kayaking as a sport for a nice summer’s day, but you can enjoy kayaking in any weather. One of the key parts of your preparation is to check the weather forecast beforehand and dress accordingly. Remember there is no such thing as bad weather, only poor preparation leading to inadequate equipment – with the right clothing you can enjoy kayaking January through to December.
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