Ah, yes, good old kayaking in the summer. Feeling that ultra-hot sun beating down on you while enjoying yourself on the water is something that many people enjoy doing on a summer afternoon day. Yet even though some individuals will just wing it and will just wear and pack “whatever,” we’re here to be the bearers of bad news.

Yep, ideally, you should actually plan out what you’re going to wear (and pack) when kayaking in the summer. Sure, we know, what a drag, right? Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as you think because what to wear kayaking in the summer isn’t exactly rocket science or anything like that.

There are also many different ways to go about it. So, in other words, it’s not as if you HAVE to wear this, this, and this, every time you hit the water in the summer. What you wear can depend on how brutally hot it is outside and also the temperature of the water you’re kayaking in.

No matter, before we break down what to wear kayaking, let’s point out a few critical components that will need to be accounted for regardless.

  • The water: Yep, kind of obvious, right? No matter how hot it is, you’re still going to be on the water while kayaking. Thus, wearing clothing that’s water-friendly is always ideal.
  • The sun: Even on a cloudy, summer day, the effects of the sun will be felt. And, seeing how it’s the summer, the wrath of the sun will be amplified.

Okay, with that now out of the way, let’s dive straight into the goods here.

Quick-drying fabrics and clothing

The last thing you want to wear is clothing that’s going to take forever to dry once it’s been submerged in water. After all, the goal is to usually not go swimming while kayaking, but you never know when you’re going to go head over heels and get a little wet.

So, quick-drying fabrics (such as rash guards) are perfect for the occasion. Anything cotton, though, should be avoided. Cotton is a very absorbent fabric and it’s going to be a disaster while kayaking. Of course, the classic bathing suit can also be at play here.

Exposing too much skin can be problematic due to sun damage, though, so use your own personal judgment on how much of your skin that you want to be exposed.

Some sort of hat

Whether a dedicated sun hat or just an old classic baseball cap, any type of hat can be great on the water. Protecting your forehead and eyes from the sun will go a long way in what could end up being an all-day kayaking adventure. Be careful with the wind and a potential capsizing, though, as you don’t want to lose your precious hat.


What to wear kayaking in the summer should always include a pair of sunglasses, right? In fairness, those with prescription glasses that don’t have a pair of prescription sunglasses or don’t have transition lenses might not want to wear a pair of sunglasses over their glasses. Regardless, a pair of sunglasses is a terrific option to keep the sun out of your eyes.

However, it may be wise to buy a retainer strap for them to ensure that they don’t get lost if you happen to go underwater accidentally.

Proper footwear

Honestly, finding the right footwear for kayaking is not too tricky. Some people will just wear their regular flip-flops or sandals. These can get the job done just fine, but you could also wear a pair of water shoes. Heck, we’ve seen people wear old tennis shoes while kayaking. Not the best choice, however, if you end up in the water.


Two factors could play a role if you wind up wearing a wetsuit. One, it could be a rather cool summer day (which does happen). Two, the temperature of the water you go kayaking on could be a little cold. On a hot summer day, though, a wetsuit is probably going to be overkill.

Life jacket (duuh!)

Yeah, we know what you’re probably thinking right now. “I don’t need a life jacket while kayaking as I know how to swim and I’m not going to drown or anything.” With a bad enough current, it won’t matter how amazing a swimmer you are. When Mother Nature wants to win…she’ll always win.

So, with that in mind, it’s always going to be wise to play it safe and wear a life jacket on the water. What would you rather be? “Cool” and dead or “dorky” and alive? Seems like a clear choice to us.

What other items should I bring when kayaking in the summer?

Kayak paddling at Fjorda Norway
Photo by Christer Gundersen / Unsplash

Now that we’ve covered what to wear kayaking in the summer, how about we go over some additional gear and items that can also be beneficial to bring?


There are some of us who just seem to burn more easily than others. However, here are the facts. Everyone needs sunscreen and no one is immune to the sun.

But don’t take our word for it, take the word of the American Academy of Dermatology. They will educate you on everything that you need to know about good ol’ sunscreen.


How can you go out kayaking and not bring a couple of snacks with you? That just seems criminal. As far as what to bring, we really can’t stop you from being as unhealthy as you want.

All joking aside, it’s probably best to avoid messy snacks and anything that’s going to melt. Also, if you plan to rent a kayak, ensure you know what food items are prohibited.


Staying hydrated is always key when spending several hours outside in the summer. Kayaking will be no different so be sure to pack some H2O!

Swiss Army knife

The hope is that you’d never need to use a Swiss Army knife (or really any multitool device) while you’re kayaking. Emergencies have their name for a reason, though, and you just never know when it could possibly save your life.

Dry bag

Dry bags are pretty much perfect for activities such as kayaking. Essentially, they’re waterproof bags that can be used to store a lot of your items.

Do note, though, that storing electronics in some dry bags and expecting them to protect them from submersion is still not recommended.

Final thoughts

Pretty straightforward stuff when figuring out what to wear kayaking in the summer, yeah? As we said, it really isn’t as complicated as brain surgery. With that said, you still have a fair share of freedom of what you want to wear (and also additional items that you want to bring with you).

On the topic of kayaking, here’s some more food for thought here. Have you ever wondered what muscles the activity works and what the concept of a tandem kayak is? Just a couple of thoughts is all!