What to Wear Kayak Fishing?

  • Author: Ted Jones
  • Date: November 29, 2022

What To Wear Kayak Fishing

In this article we will cover what to wear kayak fishing in different weather conditions.

The clothing and equipment will very a fair bit between personal preference and the water, wind and air temperature.

In the first section of this article I will list what I choose for my local fishing conditions. Then we will cover in depth popular kayak fishing clothing choices that is common when kayaking.


Overall one piece of advice is to have spare layers in a dry bag in case the weather changes. Or you end up in the water which might be unlikely, but it can happen so plan for the worst case scenario.

Also another point is to remember that if you have to paddle a long way to get to your fishing spot, you will become hot. But when you anchor and start fishing, you will cool down quickly. So it can be a balance in what you wear.

What I Wear Kayak Fishing In Very Hot Weather

  • PFD
  • Wide brimmed hat.
  • Polaroid Sunglasses.
  • Light fishing gloves or kayak paddling gloves.
  • Light weight *cotton full length shirt.
  • Full length lightweight pants.
  • Wetsuit Neoprene Boots or sandals or Croc type shoe.

*Cotton is not ideal when the temperature drops and it is damp from water spray or sweat, as it clings to the skin. However for hot weather this makes it ideal to cool you down.

Note: This clothing choice is for very hot weather, in the middle of the day. I would still take extra layers of a fleece thermal layer and rain jacket as well in a dry bag. This is in case the weather changes. Or the fish are on the bite and I end up fishing until dark, or through the night.


What I Wear Kayak Fishing In Mild Weather

  • PFD
  • Waterproof French Foreign Legion type paddling cap or wide brimmed hat.
  • Polaroid Sunglasses.
  • Fishing gloves or kayak paddling gloves.
  • Wetsuit pants.
  • Wetsuit top.
  • Waterproof and windproof rain jacket.
  • Wetsuit Neoprene Boots. Optional – SealSkinz waterproof socks.

Note: I have additional layers of clothing and a rain jacket in a dry bag if the weather gets colder.

What I Wear Kayak Fishing In Cold Weather

Cold can vary in meaning depending on where live, so add additional layers or even consider in investing in a dry suit if it suits your conditions.

  • PFD
  • Waterproof beanie.
  • Polaroid Sunglasses.
  • Wetsuit gloves with the thumb and index finger cut off. So I can tie hooks on the fishing line, etc.
  • Light weight stretch neoprene pants. This goes on under the wetsuit.
  • Light weight stretch neoprene top full length. This goes on under the wetsuit.
  • Farmer John type wetsuit.
  • Fleece thermal layer top.
  • Rain jacket that is windproof
  • SealSkinz waterproof socks.
  • Wetsuit Neoprene Boots.

Note: I still have additional layers of fleece clothing in a dry bag if the weather gets colder.

I generally try not to paddle too quickly or you end up sweating. When you sweat in cold weather, your clothing can become damp and then cold when you cool down.

The light weight stretch neoprene pants and top also makes putting the wetsuit on easier, as it is a smooth type material. A good brand will also stop chaffing when paddling.

I have worn thick neoprene fishing waders (and PFD) with a wading belt in very shallow water kayak fishing where I could easily stand. But this is not recommended as it is too hard to get back on or in a kayak with bulky waders on in deep water.


What To Wear Kayaking In More Detail

Now we will get into more detail and some pros and cons of the clothing choice when on the water and extra options.

Does it really matter what you are wearing while kayaking?

Is it really important to wear specially created spray skirts or wetsuits for your next kayaking trip? Well, if you think otherwise, then let us tell you that the clothing you choose for kayaking can make or break the trip.

Wearing the right clothing and gear when kayaking can turn a wet and cold experience into a nice adventure that you will cherish all your life.

Kayak fishing is not a kind of sports activity that comes with a dress code of its own. Still, what you choose to wear can make a lot of difference owing to the weather in which you will be paddling.

The rule of thumb is to dress for the temperature of the water, wind and the weather off the water. But does that mean your regular beachwear will be a perfect match? No, the reality is quite the opposite. Let’s check out a detailed guide on what to wear kayaking in different weather conditions.


What to wear kayaking in warm weather?

Kayaking in warm conditions isn’t complicated at all as you can try out whatever is comfortable. However, what happens if the weather changes?

You can paddle if you visit the lakes and can manage a kayak for an hour. Just a t-shirt and a pair of shorts are good enough. But if you aim to bake yourself in the sun for a long span of time, then there are some precautions that need to be taken.

This is because sun exposure may lead to sunburn and even sunstroke. So, you should protect your skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun.

When you are out on the waves, there is no shade to shield you. Sunlight will bounce off water and come from all angles which means you can’t escape it in any way. So, how should you dress up for kayaking in warm weather? Let’s find out:

  • Long sleeves and trousers: Though you may be all cool and comfortable in a regular t-shirt, wearing a long-sleeved shirt can offer complete protection from the strong sun rays. Its better you choose a light and breathable fabric so that there’s hardly any difference.

When we talk about long sleeves, long trousers are also a must for sit on top kayaks. They will offer better coverage in hotter weather and sunburns. Also if you are fishing from a kayak, the pants offer some limited protection from fish spines, scale and hooks.

For sit in kayaks, long pants for warm weather isn’t a concern.

Even if you are thinking that having too much bulk will heat you, in reality, long-sleeved shirts and long trousers can save you from overheating. Selecting the right attire that dries up faster, offers better wicking and UV resistance will keep you dry and well protected from the sun.

  • Sun hat: When you are out on the sun kayaking in warm weather, your face, shoulders, and head are most exposed to the sun. It’s important to wear a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Sunglasses: Last but not the least, you shouldn’t miss the sunglasses as it shields your eyes from issues like Photokeratitis.

Also, when the sunlight reflects off water, it becomes very painful for the eyes and gives rise to a condition like snow blindness. Having polarized lenses on will help you see through the water effortlessly. Polaroid sunglasses are great for fishing. Just make sure that you have attached a float so that your glasses do not trip over to the water, or get floating Polaroid sunglasses.

  • Sun mask: Your sun mask for kayaking should be comfortable and breathable while being UV resistant. This is a must-have to shield your face from sun exposure and prevent water glare. Moreover, they are also effective against various coastal issues such as salt irritation, spray and wind.
  • Paddling gloves as well as help prevent blister also stop the back of the hands from getting sunburn.
  • Footwear: When it comes to choosing footwear for summer, you can wear water shoes or heel straps or even go barefoot if you are comfortable with it.

But it’s better to avoid sandals and flip-flops because as some can slip off within moments. Moreover, they are extremely inconvenient and do not provide any protection. Most experienced kayakers will wear suitable footwear rather than paddling barefoot.

The shoes should be lightweight while protecting your feet from extreme exertion. Wetsuit booties for warmer weather can be an option.

No matter whether you are kayaking for five minutes or kayak fishing for several hours, packing a high coverage sunscreen is a must. Sunburn would not just ruin your enthusiasm for the day but also about you at risk of serious sunburn with allied skin issues.

It’s best that you cover your exposed body with a sunscreen that has at least a sun protection factor of 50. This will block the sun’s rays roughly for up to 3 hours on the parts which are most exposed. It’s important that you choose a dermatologically approved brand that offers a waterproof solution.

It’s better to avoid cotton clothing by all means, with the exception of very hot weather.

Though this material has the reputation of keeping you cool in hot weather, the cotton fabric will also retain moisture when you are sweating. Be careful when cooling down kayaking or kayak fishing close to dusk as your body temperature can drop quickly.

When you are vigorously paddling in hot weather, wearing the wrong clothing will not only become uncomfortable but extremely clumsy also. It’s better to opt for high-wicking fabric suited for sports.

Besides dressing up right for kayaking, it’s crucial that you carry enough water to keep yourself hydrated. Kayaking is an intense water sport and when you are doing it in extremely hot weather, you run the chance of dehydration.

Extra water is handy for washing your hands, especially if kayak fishing and you have slime, algae or mud on you.

For extra information on what gear to take kayak fishing and set it up, click on – How To Outfit A Kayak For Fishing


What to wear kayaking in mild weather?

What you are going to wear when kayak fishing in mild weather is also dependent on how far you are going to paddle and the kind of paddling you will opt for. You might race everywhere to get to the fishing hotspot quickly a long way away. Or you might plan were to put your kayak in and fish close by.

Even though the weather is fine with the right temperate both above and below the water, the amount of physical exertion you will undertake should also be taken into account. This is because you have to make sure that the clothing is comfortable when you have indulged in this extreme type of sport.

Though the dress will be similar to what you wear for summer weather. You must cover up well, wear high protection sunscreen and steer clear from cotton clothing altogether in mild weather.

Remember to pack the extra warm layer and rain jacket in the dry bag. A good rain jacket will not only prevent spray, wind and rain, but should be breathable as well.


What to wear kayaking in cold weather?

The weather outside is almost freezing but that won’t stop you from going paddling out for a fish. Freshwater or saltwater fishing, it doesn’t matter, but the weather’s cold but you want to catch the big one.

Though you are motivated to hit the water by adding one extra layer of clothing in winter, dressing according to the weather is an absolute necessity.

You can never tell when you will head towards a disaster and capsize the kayak or a freak wave and wind chills you to the bone.

In case you become stranded in freezing water, having an additional insulating layers can save your day.

Survivors who have experienced things going wrong on their kayaking trip can only explain why it’s crucial to wear the right stuff (and PFD) when you are physically exhausted or your body temperate has fallen quite low.

So what to wear kayaking in cold and inhospitable weather? Let’s find out.

  • Drysuit or wetsuit: It depends on how severe the weather is as well as water temperature.
  • Thermal clothes: The insulating clothes should hug your body while keeping it warm. The thermals shouldn’t be loose-fitting or made of cotton since it retains moisture.
  • Thermal headdress: You must protect your head from the freezing cold temperature both within and without the water.
  • Water-resistant jackets: This should be made from high-class synthetic fabrics so that it keeps you warm without sucking in moisture. Make sure your jacket is not overly bulky or restrict your movements, especially while paddling. A good rain proof jacket will also stop the icy wind. Especially important if you are stationary, like kayak fishing.
  • Waist pack or small dry bag: You will need a waterproof waist pack for storing your necessary belongings such as phone, medicine, keys, or similar other items. You can skip it if you have a PFD equipped with pockets.
  • Gloves: It’s advised that you carry two pairs of gloves when going kayaking. One set of polypropylene gloves for paddling is necessary for wet use since they dry very fast. The other pair of thermal gloves will be needed when you are not kayaking.
  • Socks: How would you feel when your feet are cold and damp in freezing weather? Don’t forget a pair of high-quality waterproof socks.
  • Boots: Though moderate-duty sneakers or hiking boots can serve the purpose of kayaking in most cases, if you see that you run a chance for wetting your feet, it’s good to invest in neoprene wetsuit boots. For colder weather, waterproof socks like Sealskins and wetsuit booties are a practical combination.


What are PFDs?

PFDs (Personal Floatation Device.) refers to life jackets which are essential elements for any fishing from a canoe, boat or kayaking.

Regardless of weather conditions, it’s crucial that you wear them as and when you are adventuring on the water. When you are kayak fishing in cold water, it’s important to ensure that the PFDs fit over the dry or wet suits that you are wearing. It must be a snug fit even when you have several layers of clothing on.

Drysuits for kayaking

When you are paddling in icy cold conditions, water touching your skin is going to be overly uncomfortable and sometimes it’s even painful as well.

Drysuits go a step beyond the winter wetsuits in protecting you from this undesirable condition. They are crafted to keep the water away. As you seal in the suit, the waterproof membrane would check the water from getting inside the suit so that you can enjoy better insulation in cold temperatures.

While expensive, drysuits are valuable equipment that is worth its weight in gold in freezing conditions.


Wetsuits for kayak fishing

Wetsuits are best for keeping you warm in cold weather while shielding you from abrasions. Wetsuits are also a great tool for maintaining buoyancy when you are on the verge of capsizing, but you still should wear a PFD. There are two primary kinds of wetsuits: for summer and winter.

Both of them function by entrapping a fine layer of water in between the suit and your skin so that when the body heats up, the water layer acts as insulation so that you are warm. The difference between summer and winter wet suits lies in their thickness. The summer wetsuits come with a neoprene layer of 2 – 3 millimeters while the winter wetsuits have this layer of 5mm to 6mm.

The thicker your wetsuit, the better protection it will give. But it also poses flexibility issues across the chest, shoulders and arms, especially when paddling. Thus, in order to make sure that the wetsuit doesn’t restrict your movement, make sure you try it out before purchasing.

The best kayaking wetsuits will be designed to be more flexible around the shoulders, chest and arms for paddling.

Some drysuits are even called hybrids owing to their combination of the waterproof outer layer along with a synthetic layer of rubber on the inner side. These hybrid suits are extremely well suited for colder conditions and are widely used by deep-sea divers and other sports adventurers who have to dive into chilly water frequently.


Kayak Fishing Clothing FAQ

Should you wear a bathing suit kayaking?

Whether or not you should put on a bathing suit for kayaking depends on the type of kayak fishing you want to go for. For instance, when you are kayaking in a relaxing easy environment, just having some fun than a bathing suit is okay.

Some fishing kayakers wear bathing suits under other layers, since you will probably get a bit wet paddling, winding the rods in and hopefully playing the fish jumping about. Putting on a bathing suit bottom will make sure that you stay comfortable. Unless you have issues with your clothes becoming wet, it’s important that you put on bathing suits for better absorption of water.


What do you wear to a sit on top kayak?

When you are going in a sit-on-top kayak, your first concern is to keep yourself dry and comfortable. Unlike a sit in kayak wear some of your torso and lower body is protected, with a sit on top kayak you are exposed to the wind and spray when fishing

And for this, there are four crucial elements that you should consider. Let’s take a look at them by and by:

  1. Dressing to repel water: When on sit on top kayak, you are likely to bring faced with water from two sides, down low and high up. And you must take ample measures to weather away these difficulties. Depending on weather conditions, you should choose the right water-repellent hat and an upper wetsuit made from a light weight or heavy-duty nylon or crushed neoprene or vulcanized rubber.
  2. Protecting against spray and wind: As you want to be dry and comfortable, you should solve the problem of rising water from the back which will soak away the posterior part of your body. This would result in wet paddling for the whole day if you are not equipped with waterproof clothing or a wetsuit.
  3. Optimizing your kayak seat for extra dryness: When you see that there is a scope for modifying your kayak seat for extra dryness, you must raise up the paddling position to a higher position, but careful of the balance.

You can also lay down a foam layer and place the seat pad above it. I sometimes used a swimming kick board that I would put under my sight. This didn’t upset the balance too much of me sitting a little bit higher. But it also keep my backside drier.

  1. Paddling at a lesser angle: As you want to stay dry, wearing water-resistant clothing and footwear may not be enough. It’s better to practice paddling less aggressively and for this, you should refrain from driving the paddle blades vertically. You should insert the paddle at a lower angle. Though this means that your speed will be reduced, you will come out of water cleaner and drier than others.


Do you need a life jacket when kayaking?

Despite all the training and preparedness for kayaking or kayak fishing, it’s a must to equip yourself with life jackets.

Even if you think that you are a great swimmer and have been swimming for decades. Still, you must put on a life jacket when kayaking. You must wear it, rather than keeping it stored on the kayak just in case.

You will be surprised to know that about 70 percent of fatal accidents in boating happens from drowning. Out of these, a major 83 percent of people die because they did not wear life jackets. Even the strongest swimmers may find it difficult to weather away from the strong currents and merciless temperate of the water.

You should never allow your over-confidence to receive you. You can never tell when there could be a medical emergency or a change in weather or collisions or physical injuries that may make it difficult for you to survive. Thinking that you will be able to wear a life jacket is similar to wearing a seat belt right before a car accident. And you know how impractical it is.

So even when you feel that the situation is right within your control, you should brace yourself up with the life jacket. In fact, it is such an important factor for your safety that it can never feel exaggerated. When you are up for kayaking, make sure that this first line of defense is there at your service to save your life when things go wrong.

Also with kayak fishing you have the added risk and complications of fishing rods, lines, anchor ropes, tackle bags and other items that can get in the way and tangle up if capsized.

A lot of states have rules and regulations when kayaking or canoeing you must use an approved life jacket or PFD. You can get some very comfortable fishing PFDs that don’t restrict you too much when paddling.

A fishing PFD is also great for storing fishing gear in that is easy to get to when on the kayak.


What to wear kayaking for sun protection?

Kayak fishing being an overly outdoor sport increases your risk of complete sun exposure and its consequences. But that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a day out in the open water. You must wear a long-sleeved weatherproof shirt with high collars to get maximum sun protection. The moisture-wicking material of these fabrics will dry you up quickly without making you too hot.

Next comes a top-notched outdoor hat with UPF 50 rating and adjustable chin strap for added protection. Some of these hats also come with a drawcard for better adjustment so that it fits snugly over the head.

Besides wearing photo-protective clothing, you must also consider a broad-spectrum sunscreen or sun primer to protect the exposed part of your skin.

The two primary ways in which sunscreens shield you from UV rays are physically and chemically. The best part is that most of the good sunscreens available these days come with a combination of physical and chemical active elements.

Before applying sunscreen for kayaking, make sure that it offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays and contains ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium oxide for better UVA screening.


Can you wear jeans kayaking?

When you are completely drenched, jeans can become extremely heavy and cold.

There’s one more thing that you shouldn’t imagine yourself in when kayaking. And that’s definitely the pair of jeans you love to wear everywhere.

In the worst cases, you may even fall off the kayak into the water. Since the wet jeans would make you excessively heavy, it will be extremely hard for you to swim through. As it goes without saying that water will splash into your kayak, you should remain protected with the appropriate pants, like a light weight trousers, wetsuit or water-resistant pants.


What to wear for kayaking shoes?

The best pair of footwear for kayaking range from wetsuit booties, waterproof boots to strapped sandals and a lot in between. Based on the temperature of the water as well as the weather, there are several brands and models that qualify as the best kayaking shoes.

  • Sport sandals: Sandals like Teva offer maximum support and comfortable cushioning. Moreover, they are also great when you want to lounge around after an exhausting day. These shoes come with Velcro straps for wrapping the front part of the heel and can be adjusted easily. Sports sandals are a suitable choice for kayaking in all kinds of water and terrain.
  • Athletic shoes: Even though shoes and water are not great partners, tennis shoes are equipped with thinner materials and holes that allow water to flow out easily. Though they may allow water to flow in, it would also ease drainage. This feature comes in handy when the water is extremely cold. Above all, tennis shoes offer the right balance of flexibility and versatility in both warm and cold weather.
  • Crocs: These are perhaps the best kayaking shoes because of their breathable material and comfort. Moreover, they have straps around the heel which will keep the footwear clung to your feet regardless of the force of water. Plus, the crocs are made to float which is a great feature should your shoes slip off your feet.
  • Wetsuit booties made out of neoprene with some waterproof sock are a good choice if your feet are going to get wet.



So when you have made up your mind to go kayak fishing, the first thing you need is to check the weather. Make sure you have dressed for the conditions and take your PFDs.

For colder days, a set of spare clothes in a dry bag is going to be your savior from the unbearable cold. On the flip side, cover up yourself with long-sleeved clothing, sun protection, and sunglasses when the weather to too hot and sunny.

Paddling and fishing should be a thrilling experience. It shouldn’t leave you drenched to the bone or keep you boiling in a kettle. Dressing right for the weather will make sure that you enjoy each moment while kayaking.

When choosing your kayak fishing clothing and gear, select them with the mindset of there is a chance you will end up in the water. So have spare clothing layers for the worst case of going for a swim in cold water.


Additional Reading and Resources.

Kayak Fishing Tips