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How to dress for a kayaking tour

A day out on the ocean can quickly became uncomfortable if you have not prepared by wearing the proper clothing. There are several factors to take into consideration before you start planning your outfit for the day.

what to wear while kayaking

1) Know the weather forecast. Check the forecast and know what type of day to plan for. While a thermal shirt and windbreaker might be perfect for a cool, breezy day, it will be very uncomfortable on a hot summer afternoon. Find out ahead of time if you are going to need wind or chill protection for your day. If it is looking like a wet or rainy day, consider wearing a wetsuit.

2) Don’t wear cotton. Cotton absorbs water and stays wet, making for a cold and uncomfortable day on the water. Even if you never flip your kayak, you will get wet from splash, spray, and drips. If you are in a sit-on-top kayak you will be sitting in some water, so cotton pants will quickly become soaked and cold. Instead of cotton, wear synthetic materials such as polyester, fleece, or Gore-Tex. This means you shouldn’t show up for your kayak trip in jeans and a cotton T-shirt unless you like being cold and wet.

3) Dress in layers. Your outer layer should help you stay dry. A good paddle jacket is a water-resistant, breathable layer that should fit snuggly and help keep you dry.  If you are going on an Adventure Company trip, we will provide you with a lightweight paddle jacket to use for the day. Under your paddle jacket, you should have a few synthetic layers so you can easily peel out of clothing if the weather gets warm.

4) Wear shoes that will stay on your feet. A water bootie or water shoe is the ideal choice for kayaking. They will stay on your feet, keep out the rocks, and your feet will stay warm while kayaking. Water sandals with proper straps are also a good option, such as Tevas, Chacos, or Crocs, though you might have chilly feet if the weather is cool. Flip flops are not recommended, as they tend to easily come off your feet in the water and the soles are often slippery.

5) Protect your head! Wear a hat or beanie to protect your head from the sun or cold, but don’t forget to protect your brain with a proper helmet if you are kayaking whitewater or in a rocky environment. (Helmets are provided by Santa Barbara Adventure Company and are required for all guests on Channel Islands sea cave kayaking trips and for kayak surfing.)

6) Pack a change of clothes. At the end of your kayak trip, chances are you are going to be wet. So pack a towel to dry yourself off and a comfortable change of clothes for your journey home.

Lastly, wear your biggest smile. It helps make every experience better!


Richard Baker

Everything you said is true. You could have mentioned for paddlers who are old and ca no longer cartoons even a light craft a trailer is an option.

Grant Cunningham

Hello Anita,

Great question! We have seen a few tricks to keep your feet warmer in booties. Some folks will opt for neoprene socks to combine with their booties. Some layer their booties with wool socks. That method has mixed reviews. You also want to make sure you picked the right size bootie..if they are too big, they will not keep you warm!

Rebecca Gardner

It’s good to know that cotton should be avoided since it stays wet. My sister is looking into buying kayaks for her family to enjoy since she wants to spend more time outdoors with them. I’ll share this info so she can avoid common mistakes when dressing her family for their upcoming kayaking adventures!


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