What to Wear for Kayaking? Compehensive Guide

The minimum kit for rough water.

The first part of this article is intended for beginners in whitewater rafting or rodeo. It is advisory in nature and is not a set of rules.

Let’s have a look at the minimum of equipment by amount and price in order to make rafting and rodeo less comfortable and safe on rough water. About the equipment for touring, kayaking, and resting on the water you can read in detail below in the second part of the article.

Helmet

A very important element that directly affects safety. A skirt and a helmet are two things which you can not save! There are many models on the market in different price ranges. What you should pay attention to.

The helmet for rafting / rodeo should be firmly attached to the head and not shift on it. Displacement of the helmet during rafting causes a part of the head to be unprotected. The forehead or the back of the head. If at this point, turn over and hit a rock you may be seriously injured or worse – lose consciousness, which can lead to very tragic consequences. To avoid this, choose a helmet with systems that prevent displacement. They have different looks and names from firm to firm.

It is worth paying attention to inexpensive models of helmets by the American manufacturer Shred Ready. They are equipped with everything you need and are quite strong. Since they are made of plastic, they are limited to 3-4 years. If you look at more expensive models, these helmets are made using composite materials. They are stronger and last longer. These helmets have a lifespan of 5 or more years. These are Shred Ready composite helmets and the really cool ones are Sweet Protection.

Lycra jersey

A lycra jersey, or quick-drying thermal jersey, is suitable for water activities. This piece of gear is worn under the kayaker’s jacket in cool weather and used as a separate piece of clothing in hot weather. It is worn under the jacket for greater comfort and protects against chafing.

Lycra T-shirt material helps moisture wick away from the body. Due to the cut and properties of the material, Lycra T-shirts fit the muscles and have a supporting effect, but do not shrink and do not hinder the movement. As an independent piece of clothing, the T-shirt is used on hot days to protect against the sun, or in the pool. Often impregnated with antibacterial impregnation.

Many novice kayakers get this piece of clothing while still in the training stage of the pool.

What to look for later: Polartec Power Stretch products for cold weather. Warm even when wet and suitable for all kinds of activities – kayaking, hiking, ski racing… The advantage of clothes from Polartec is the versatility of use, for example, as a base layer of clothes under the membrane jacket.

Kayaker Jacket

An indispensable part of a kayaker’s gear. The modern whitewater kayaker jacket is made of membrane fabric and at least has latex cuffs on the sleeves.

Subjectively, stormwater jackets can be divided into 2 types – with latex on the neck and sleeves and jackets without latex on the neck but with latex on the sleeves. Only jackets with latex on the sleeves and neck provide complete dryness. For expeditions and rafting in cold weather, you should choose these jackets.

Jackets without latex on the neck are suitable for rafting and rodeo in warm and moderately warm climates. Neoprene on the neck feels more comfortable than latex, but doesn’t give as much dryness. Some companies (Immersion Research, NRS) in their 3-season jackets use a particularly elastic neoprene around the neck allowing for a tighter fit around the neck and achieving almost the same dryness as with latex.

Where to look: models with more technologically advanced and therefore more expensive fabrics. These fabrics have more breathability, often last longer, and provide more comfort when rafting. For rafting and expeditionary travel, you should aim for a dry suit. It will be warm and dry on the water and onshore. For summer rodeo a short sleeve jacket is appropriate.

Lifejacket

A lifejacket should provide the kayaker with positive buoyancy, not slide down “on his ears” during the swim, and its shape should not interfere with paddling. Life jackets have different shapes and purposes, but most the modern life jackets for rough water have the so-called distributed volume when most of the stuffing is concentrated in the belly. For the beginner, a necessary minimum is a good fit on the torso and comfortable paddling. The presence of additional options at first will not play an important role. In this case, to do rodeo in the most top cricket vest will not be comfortable and not reasonable.

It is worth paying attention to the products of the company Astral. Until recently, 90% of all products of the company – were life jackets (and now added a line of steep shoes for use on the water). The company was created by kayakers. Comfortable shape, good functionality, and a reasonable price.

For rafting and screaming there are many models on the market – Type V models from Astral, NRS, Stohlquist, Kokatat, MTI… The leader in rodeo and rafting vests is Astral.

Skirt

For African rodeo and especially for extreme rafting we recommend choosing skirts with Rubber rand. Rubber rand skirts are less stretchy (more effort is needed), more water permeable, but can only be ripped off at the will of the paddler. In some cases, the spontaneous release of the skirt can lead to “serious” heat. Maybe you will not paddle in rapids, where the skirt could rip, but it is always better to be sure that it does not happen than to think about it.

Seals and Immersion Research make top-of-the-line expeditions and especially Rubber Rand harness crickets. The same Seals and NRS have simpler skirts for rafting and rodeo with bungee-type harnesses.

Pants/shorts

You can’t go anywhere without them. They should keep you warm in the boat and on shore during rafting and viewing and keep you warm during the swim. The most budget-friendly option is neoprene kayaking pants made of modern neoprene, which is less thick and warmer than older neoprene products. Over the pants, you can wear shorts made of durable, quick-drying material, such as surf shorts. These will prevent the neoprene from chafing and brighten up your look.

There is also the subjective opinion that a kayaker in a neoprene skirt and neoprene pants looks somewhat comical. When rafting on particularly hot days you may wear only shorts.

The optimal solution in terms of comfort and practicality for whitewater kayaking are rafting pants and thermal underwear. Semi-dry (neoprene + velcro) or with latex/sock decide to each individually. Dryness will give only pants with a sock followed by pants with latex. But in the case of a long swim, there is a small chance that the pants can take on water and the sock or latex will not let the water flow out.

For warm weather, it is worth choosing double shorts with an outer nylon layer and an inner layer of fleece or neoprene. Such shorts are available from Level Six, IR.

Footwear

The simplest option is water-resistant strappy sandals with a neoprene sock. This option is suitable for a summer expedition when you can wear the same quick-drying shoes both on the water and on shore, and the space inside the boat is critical. The downside is that the sandals can slip quite a bit on wet rocks and don’t sit snugly on the foot. Many rodeoists ride in neoprene socks in cold weather.

Special shoes are more suitable for kayaking. They are designed to move on wet rocks, keep you warm, and stay firmly on your feet. The neoprene footwear from NRS has proven excellent.

The neoprene boots are available in different models, low and thin soles for narrow boats (slalom boats, narrow sea kayaks, rodeo boats), and high and thick neoprene soles for rafting and water tourism.

The more expensive versions are a combination of good non-slip soles, comfortable to walk on, with the functionality of water sports shoes. Astral (Brewer-based models) and NRS produce top-of-the-line shoes for versatile water and shore use. Non-slip sole on wet rocks, water drainage system, and quick-drying materials. These shoes are great for the city, water, and expedition rafting.

Equipment of a sea (touring) kayaker

Consider the minimum equipment, both in quantity and price, to comfortably and safely rest on the water. This kit is suitable for small outings and does not involve a long stay in the water. Options for colder weather gear are listed at the end. It is worth mentioning that the proposed set is suitable for temperatures from +12 and above.

Keep in mind that the harsher the conditions in which you find yourself, the more serious approach to the equipment must be. If you expect to be in the open sea in stormy conditions + you can shoot (leave the kayak), then the only option is a dry suit with latex on the neck and sleeves.

Helmet

A must-have piece of equipment for any sea kayaker that you should always have with you even if it’s warm outside, in case of a sudden change in the weather. When folded, it takes up virtually no space and is easily stowed in any pocket. Worn in cold weather, or in strong winds and rain, it keeps your head warm even when wet. It’s better to choose an undershirt made of modern neoprene. It has less thickness and more warming ability. For more comfort and very cold weather, there are helmets with a soft fleece layer inside, which also keep your head warm when wet. For example, the company NRS offers siyakings helmets made of modern neoprene – terraprene. The combination of a rough water jacket with a good underarm cap is a great alternative to the classic touring jacket with a hood. Not everyone likes a hood that’s constantly hanging around their shoulders, so many sea kayakers choose this combination.

A helmet for siyaking is not a necessary part of your gear. It can be useful if you like to surf the waves on coastal cliffs. If you think that you need a helmet it is better to look at models with a visor that gives protection from the sun.
In summer an indispensable detail of any siyaker is a panama with wide fields, which will protect your head from the scorching sun.

Jacket

All stormwater jackets are suitable for siyaking. The presence of latex on the neck is optional. If you need 100% dryness you should choose a jacket with latex on the neck (dry jacket), but in a jacket without latex on the neck (semi-dry) is more comfortable. Some companies in their semi-dry 3-season jackets use high elasticity neoprene on the neck with a smooth inner surface, allowing you to achieve almost as much dryness as with a latex cuff while maintaining neoprene comfort. Especially for sea kayaking and touring, manufacturers produce hooded jackets. The hood protects against wind and rain but limits visibility. An undercoat can be a good alternative to a hood. If you do expedition kayaking and may find yourself in stormy conditions, models with a hood are preferable.

T-shirt

A long sleeve neoprene t-shirt for cooler weather.
In temperatures from +12 to +18, a neoprene long sleeve t-shirt is the minimum (including a light jacket on top) that you should wear. The more modern neoprene is, the thinner and warmer it is, and the more comfortable and functional. Modern neoprene is made with the addition of titanium powder, which allows you to achieve high insulating properties with minimal thickness. The thick neoprene of the 90’s would make it difficult to move when rowing.
The main advantage of neoprene is that it warms up no matter how wet or dry it is. Provided you are active in some way, it is warm. The combination of neoprene and a lightweight jacket allows you to do your favorite activity at temperatures ranging from +9 degrees in good weather and from +13 degrees in adverse weather. The temperature threshold strongly depends on the cadence (frequency) of paddling and the individual’s personality.

Long sleeve lycra t-shirt for summer.

A long sleeve is needed to protect the skin of the hands from the active sun.
Lycra T-shirt material promotes the removal of moisture from the body. Thanks to the cut and properties of the material (Lycra + spandex) Lycra shirts fit the muscles and have a supporting effect, but do not shrink and do not hinder movements. As an independent piece of clothing, the T-shirt is used on hot days to protect against the sun, or in the pool. Often lycra is impregnated with antibacterial impregnation. The T-shirt can be used as a base layer under a jacket in bad weather.

Lifejacket

A lifejacket should provide positive buoyancy, not slip “on the ears” during the swim, and its shape should not interfere with the paddling.

Life jackets have different shapes and purposes, but most of the modern life jackets for siyaking have the so-called distributed volume when most of the stuffing is concentrated in the belly. For the beginner, the necessary minimum is a good fit on the torso and comfortable paddling. The presence of reflective strips, pockets for gear and radio, additional attachment points, arm warmers, and breathable materials adds functionality.

Special children’s life jackets are available for children and teenagers.

Skirt

There are many different skirt options for sea kayaking/touring. Nylon skirts, neoprene skirts, a combination of nylon and neoprene, Gore-Tex skirts. The simplest solution is the nylon skirt.

The more expensive solution is the neoprene skirt; it is tear-proof and gives almost 100% dryness.

Pants/shorts

You can’t go anywhere without them. They should keep you warm in the boat and ashore while rafting and browsing and keep you warm in the water.
The most budget-friendly option is neoprene kayaking pants made of modern neoprene, which is less thick and warmer than older neoprene products. You can wear shorts made of durable, quick-drying material, such as surf shorts, over the pants. They will prevent the neoprene from chafing and brighten up your look. There is a subjective opinion that a male kayaker in a neoprene skirt and neoprene pants looks somewhat comical. On the water on particularly hot days, you can wear only shorts.

The optimal solution in terms of comfort, warmth, and practicality for sea kayaking/hiking are dry/semi-dry pants and thermal underwear. Only pants with a dry sock give 100% dryness. Next in terms of dryness are pants with latex. They can safely go into the water and do not fear leaks. The only disadvantage is that the latex will initially be a bit of a squeeze on the ankle. If this feeling will be too intrusive, then the latex should be trimmed (the main thing is not to overdo it). The disadvantage of pants with a sock and latex is the possibility of gaining water (which will not come out) in the case of a swim.

Footwear

The simplest option is water-resistant strappy sandals with a neoprene sock. This option is suitable for a summer expedition when you can wear the same quick-drying shoes both on the water and on shore, and the space inside the boat is critical. The downside is that sandals can slip quite a bit on wet rocks and don’t sit snugly on the foot.

Special shoes are more suitable for kayaking. They are designed to move on wet rocks, keep you warm and stay firmly on your feet. Practical shoes made of modern neoprene with warming inserts – something you will not regret. More expensive options are a combination of good soles and fast-drying materials, walking comfort, and the ability to use in everyday life.

One of the first firms that introduced innovative shoes for kayaking was the American firm Astral. This is a combination of the comfort of urban shoes and the functionality of shoes for kayaking. You can walk in the city and do your favorite sport in the same shoe. National Geographic magazine honored this shoe with a Gear of the year award.

Special mention should be made of the mittens (paws)/gloves on the hands. You will need them for cold weather. It’s drier with gloves, but the feel of the paddle’s mote is better in the paws, which is important for experienced kayakers.

Composition of rafting set of clothes

  1. Neoprene jumpsuit or separately pants and jacket. Recommended thickness of neoprene clothing is 3-5 mm. Thicker ones are comfortable to swim in, but do not paddle the boat.
  2. Pants windproof – worn on top, as in the wet neoprene is very cold in the wind. Synthetics. Well-proven non-breathable pants, cheap and practical.
  3. Fleece – additional insulation when it is very cold. Synthetics.
  4. Windproof jacket – over neoprene, to protect from wind. Synthetics.
  5. Neoprene socks or boots.

Neoprene can have allergic reactions – then it makes sense to wear thin underwear underneath.

If you have no neoprene and do not want to buy it, you can do without it. Neoprene can be replaced by fleece (Polartec) or wool + waterproof and windproof.

It is highly recommended to have neoprene socks or boots. If only socks – they must be accompanied by sneakers (sneakers), you can take the leakiest (so that the water poured out). It’s painful to walk on stones in socks alone. The shoes must be tight on your feet and not float away in the first rapids. It is better to protect your fingers.

In rafting, set should NOT be things from cotton fabrics, preferably even underwear. Cotton clothing is not warm when wet and takes a long time to dry. Jeans are also not worth taking (it dries even longer).

Composition of dry clothing set

  1. Fleece, woolen, or sports pants (1-2 pcs.) for sleeping and standing.
  2. Fleece or sweater (2 pieces) – thinner and thicker, with a neck.
  3. A sports jacket or windbreaker.
  4. Raincoat – preferably a good quality, not thin polyethylene.
  5. T-shirts (2-3 pcs.) – any comfortable.
  6. Warm socks 2 pairs.
  7. Change of underwear – several sets.
  8. Thermal underwear – is a very useful thing.
  9. Warm jacket – it can be very cold at night. Replaced by underwear + a pair of fleece + jacket-windbreaker.
  10. Sneakers or sneakers – comfortable.
  11. Rubber galoshes without holes (“gardener’s slippers”) – are comfortable for walking in mud, wet grass, and moss. Optional.

If the day is warm, you won’t need warm clothes. In the evening a T-shirt and a sports jacket or a fleece will be enough.

In May rafting warm clothes need to take more than in summer. Also on a May rafting on the Przecha need to take a backpack, not a bag, since it is provided for one hiking trip.

For kayaking: personal belongings must occupy 45-50 liters (the size of an airtight bag in a kayak). It is necessary to keep within this volume.

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