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  • Kayaking - What Should I Wear?

    Posted on May 25, 2006 by Justin

    I recently came across a great kayaking blog, Paddle Tales that is frequently updated with new pictures and descriptions of some great places to kayak in the Florida area. Well, I asked the author of the blog, Peggy Sherman, if she wouldn't mind providing my readers with some advice on what to wear for the type of kayaking that she does. She was gracious enough to provide the following detailed advice and suggestions:

    "As a paddler in Florida, my experience and recommendations tend to reflect weather conditions ranging from very hot to mild, as well as flatwater kayaking rather than whitewater.

    If you live in a cold climate, or an area where the water temperature stays cold through much of spring, you will want to dress accordingly. The general rule to follow in those conditions is to dress for the water temperature, not the air, which could include a wetsuit in case of a capsize. Meanwhile, in warm-weather and -water climates, comfort is the way to go. From top to bottom: Consider a brimmed hat, rather than just a visor. Not only does this protect your scalp and ears from sunburn, but the full brim will keep the sun from coming into your eyes from the side if you are out as the sun is getting low in the sky to your right or left. Since you are going to be paddling, be certain that your shirt is loose enough to accommodate the paddling motion of your arms and shoulders. Columbia clothing company makes an excellent shirt with an SPF rating and a vented back panel. It's lightweight, short-sleeved, and extremely cool and comfortable (they also make a longsleeve version). T-shirts and tank tops also work. Don't forget to apply sunscreen with a high SPF to all exposed areas. You have lots of choices of pants styles. If the weather is cool enough to wear long pants, do not wear cotton sweatpants--in the event that you capsize, they will soak up water, which could hinder rescue, and they will basically never dry and you will be very (potentially dangerously) cold while they are wet. Consider layering with cold-weather Under Armour leggings or shirts under nylon-blend pants and shirts if it's nippy out. Shorts are cooler than long pants in hot weather but offer less sun protection. When you get dressed, remember that you will be sitting, so be certain that the waistband is loose enough for comfort in that position and not just while you are standing; elastic is best. If there is any chance you will be wanting to go for a dip in the water during a stop or after your paddle, you might want to consider shorts made of the new quick-dry materials that can be worn in the water and will dry rapidly when you get out. I do not recommend denim in any weather conditions. If you can find pants/shorts with a zippered cargo pocket, this can be a good place to carry your car key. If your key has an electronic chip in it, there is a small chance that it will not function if the key gets wet, so you might want to put it in a waterproof ziplock bag before putting it in your pocket, if you choose to carry it on your body rather than in a dry bag. One excellent choice of pants, particularly during the change of seasons from spring to summer or summer to fall, is "convertible" pants. These are long pants that have zippers that enable them to easily be converted from long pants to shorts and back to long pants again as the climate warms or cools. I have found it to be very easy to go from long pants to shorts without exiting the kayak--I've never tried to go the other way while on the water. Several clothing companies make these pants and they can be found at outfitters as well as online stores such as and Your choice of footwear is largely based on personal taste. I paddle barefoot but carry sandals with me during the summer. I wear waterproof socks with a liner sock under them during cooler weather. You may be paddling in an area where the shoreline consists of soft sand or mud. If this is the case and you are going to be getting out of the kayak along the shoreline, you will want to carry or wear footwear that will stay on your foot if you sink several inches into shoreline muck! I strongly advise against getting out of a kayak along any shoreline without having something protective on the bottom of your foot, whether it's a sandal sole or waterproof shoe. Even if it's hard sand, there may be sharp shell fragments just below the surface that could cut the bottom of your foot as you step out.

    In summary, dress for comfort in loose clothing while kayaking on a calm lake or river in warm weather. Alway apply sunscreen before you go out. Do not wear denim or sweatshirts or sweatpants. Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature, if the water temperature is in the hypothermia-causing range.

    This post was posted in Clothing Layers, Kayaking, Outdoor Gear

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