The Best Cold Weather Gear for Kayaking [Keeping You Warm and Safe]

As the thermometer dips below freezing, I pull my kayak out of the garage and into the driveway. I know that some people like to hibernate during the cold winter months, but I’m not one of them. I love being on the water, no matter what the temperature is outside.

I quickly load my gear into the kayak and get ready to launch. The only problem is that there’s a thin layer of ice on top of the water. I know that if I don’t take care, I’ll be in for a long day of paddling – my muscles won’t work as well in the cold, and I’ll tire much more quickly.

But with a few extra precautions – like wearing the right cold-weather gear – I can stay safe and warm, even when the temperature outside is below freezing.

Best Cold Weather Gear for Kayaking

Cold weather paddling clothing and gear

When it comes to full-body cold weather kayak gear, there are two primary options: wetsuits and drysuits. Both have their pros and cons, so let’s take a look at them in more detail.


When temperatures start to drop, the last thing you want is for your kayaking trip to be canceled because of the cold.

That’s why a drysuit is such a great choice for cold-weather kayaking. It allows you to wear more layers underneath, which keeps you warm when temperatures go low.

Drysuits are also very effective at keeping you dry, which is important in cold weather since wet clothes can make you very uncomfortable and even dangerous if they get too cold.

Plus, drysuits are easier to put on and take off than wetsuits, so you’ll have no trouble getting ready for your next kayaking trip in the cold weather.


One popular option is a wetsuit. Wetsuits work by using your body heat to warm up the water that gets trapped inside the suit after submersion. They come in different thicknesses, so you can choose one that’s appropriate for the temperature conditions where you’ll be kayaking.

Most cold-weather kayakers who use wetsuits opt for a minimum thickness of six millimeters when temperatures dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

The downside of wetsuits is that they can make you very hot when temperatures rise, so make sure to take them off as soon as conditions warm up.

Headwear for cold weather kayaking

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being out on the open water, especially during the colder months. The air is crisp and clear, and the only thing you can hear is the sound of your paddle slicing through the water.

But even with all of that fresh air blowing around you, it’s still important to stay warm. That’s why it’s a good idea to invest in some good headwear for kayaking in cold weather.

There are a few different options when it comes to headwear for kayakers. You can choose between a hood or a cap, depending on what works best for you. Both will help keep your head warm, but there are some key differences between them.

Neoprene cap

If you’re kayaking in cold weather, a neoprene cap is a must-have piece of gear. The cap will keep your head warm, no matter how wet it gets.

They work just like full-body wetsuits, trapping the heat that would otherwise escape from your head. So if you’re kayaking in the rain or snow, or if you capsize in whitewater, your head will stay warm and comfortable.

Wool beanie

A wool beanie is a good alternative – it’s more easily removable than a neoprene cap, and it’s still effective at trapping heat and keeping your head and ears warm. However, keep in mind that a wool beanie will be significantly less effective than a neoprene cap if it gets wet.

Ballcap and buff

When choosing headwear for paddling in cold weather, it’s important to consider how much insulation you’ll need. A neoprene cap or wool beanie will provide more warmth than a ballcap, but if you tend to run hot, you may find them too sweaty and uncomfortable.

The ballcap and buff combo allow you to adjust the amount of insulation you need as conditions change. The buff can be worn down around your neck or pulled up over your face and ears for extra warmth.

This combination also provides more sun protection than a bare head on sunny days.


Cold weather kayak uppers provide an extra layer of protection against the cold, helping to keep you comfortable during extended periods on the water. They typically consist of a waterproof outer shell and a warm inner lining, and may also include features such as a hood, neck gasket, and cuffs to further seal out the cold.

While they are not necessarily required gear, they can be a valuable addition to your kayaking wardrobe if you paddle in colder conditions. When choosing a cold weather kayak upper, it is important to consider the type of fabric, the fit, and the features that you need.

Fabric is typically either neoprene or nylon, with neoprene being more durable and nylon being lighter weight. The fit should be snug but not constricting, and the upper should allow for a full range of motion.

Features like a hood or neck gasket can help to seal out the cold, while cuffs with adjustable closure help to keep water from seeping in.

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Choose the right cold-weather kayak upper for your needs, and you’ll be able to stay out on the water all season long.

Paddle jacket

It’s a cold, blustery day on the coast and you’re out for a paddle. You don your paddle jacket, secure the straps at the neck and ankles, and step into your kayak.

You push off from shore and begin to make your way along the coast. The wind whips through your hair and the spray from the waves sting your face. But you’re warm and comfortable in your paddle jacket.

The jacket keeps you protected from the wind and cold spray as you paddle along. It’s like having an extra layer of protection against the elements. You feel safe and secure in it, knowing that you can continue to paddle even when conditions are less than ideal.

Wetsuit top

When it comes to staying warm while paddling in cold weather, a wetsuit top is a great option.

This piece of gear is perfect for whitewater paddlers or anyone who expects to get wet while paddling. It provides extra insulation for your upper body and is easy to put on and take off.

However, if you don’t expect to get wet while paddling, be aware that these tops can be snug and uncomfortable. So, if you’re just looking for some extra warmth on a casual paddle trip, you may want to skip the wetsuit top and go with something else.


One of the most important pieces of gear is your lower layers. Just like with uppers, adding lower layers will give you the freedom to layer up or layer down depending on the conditions. So let’s discuss few-layer choices for keeping your lower half warm when cold weather paddling.

Paddle pants

When you first hear about paddle pants, you might think that they’re some kind of joke. Paddle what? But when you take a closer look at them, you realize that they’re a great idea.

Paddle pants are the perfect partner to your paddle jacket. They provide an extra layer of windproof insulation for your lower half, which is especially important if you’re paddling on a day with heavy sea spray.

The best thing about paddle pants is their versatility. They can be worn in all kinds of weather, and they’re perfect for both wet and dry conditions. Plus, the bungee-style waist and ankles make them super easy to put on and take off.

Wetsuit bottom

When most people think of wetsuits, they think of the top half. But what many people don’t know is that you can also buy wetsuit bottoms to keep your legs and feet warm.

Wetsuit bottoms are typically made from neoprene, which is a type of rubber that traps heat to keep you warm. They come in different thicknesses, so you can choose the one that best suits your needs.

The great thing about wetsuit bottoms is that they can be used in temperatures up to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes them a great option for those who live in colder climates or who plan on doing some winter swimming.

The only downside to using wetsuit bottoms is that they can be a bit constricting. But if you’re looking for a way to keep your legs and feet warm while paddling, they’re worth considering.

Kayaking gloves

There’s a reason kayak gloves are such an important piece of gear for cold-weather paddling – and that reason is blood flow.

When temperatures drop, our bodies naturally shunt blood away from our extremities to keep our critical organs functioning properly. That means that our hands are one of the first things to get cold, which can make paddling very uncomfortable – and even dangerous.

That’s why kayak gloves are so important. They help keep your hands warm, which in turn allows you to paddle more comfortably and safely.

So if you’re planning on paddling in cold weather, be sure to pack a pair of kayak gloves.


When most people think of kayak gloves, they picture the thin, summer variety that offers a bit of extra insulation without sacrificing dexterity. But what many people don’t know is that kayak gloves come in all different thicknesses – just like wetsuits!

For cold weather paddling, we recommend looking for gloves with a minimum thickness of three millimeters. This will provide you with the extra insulation you need to keep your hands warm while still allowing you to maintain your dexterity and grip on the paddle.


There’s a reason why so many experienced kayakers prefer to wear mittens instead of gloves – they keep your fingers warmer. By keeping all of your fingers together in one compartment, you prevent any cold air from seeping in and causing them to become chilly.

But dexterity is still really important for kayaking, especially when it comes to performing certain tasks like opening storage compartments or securing your spray skirt. So how do you maintain dexterity while wearing mittens?

It all comes down to practice. Just like with anything else, the more you use your hands in kayaking situations while wearing mittens, the better you’ll get at it.

Soon enough, you’ll be able to open those storage compartments and attach your spray skirt with ease – all while keeping your fingers nice and toasty.


If you’re kayaking in cold weather, pogies are an option worth considering. They offer the best of both worlds – they keep your hands warm and also make it easier to hold onto your paddle.

Some pogies even attach directly to your kayak drysuit, providing a continuous layer of protection against the cold. And if that’s not enough, some designs even allow you to wear an additional pair of gloves inside them.

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Kayaking shoes for winter

There are a few different ways to keep your feet warm when kayaking in cold weather. The easiest way is to buy some booties specifically designed for kayaking in cold weather. These booties have neoprene insulation and a waterproof outer layer, which will keep your feet warm and dry.


As the cold weather kayaker expert, I was consulted on the matter of booties. Booties, while popular, come with a few drawbacks. The main one is that they keep your feet wet all day long.

I always prefer to kayak in a wetsuit or neoprene cap because my head stays warm and I don’t have to worry about my hair getting wet. But many people love booties because they provide insulation for your feet and also have added grip for when you pull up onto land.

Just like with a wetsuit or neoprene cap, thicker booties will provide more insulation as the temperatures get colder. So if you’re looking for some extra warmth this winter, consider giving booties a try.

Wetsuit socks

Wetsuit socks are a great option for those looking for extra insulation in colder weather conditions. Most wetsuit socks are made from a thicker material that helps to keep your feet warm and dry in colder temperatures.

However, wetsuit socks are not a standalone option and should be worn in conjunction with a sandal or wet shoe.

Most wetsuit socks do not include any sort of grip or protection, so it is important to be careful when walking on the beach or in other slippery conditions.

What else could you use to kayak in cold weather?

One important piece of gear for winter kayaking is a good set of accessories. Here are a few of my favorites:

Fleece base layer

There’s a reason fleece base layers are so popular among paddlers – they work! Not only do they provide warmth and insulation, but they also help to wick away moisture. This makes them perfect for keeping you comfortable and dry no matter how cold the weather gets.

So, if you’re planning on hitting the water in cold weather, be sure to pack a good set of fleece base layers. They’ll keep you warm and comfortable all day long, no matter what.

Spray skirt

Be sure to grab a compatible kayak spray skirt as well – this will keep the inside of your kayak dry and help protect your lower body from the cold air outside of your boat.

With the right gear, you’ll be able to enjoy a fun day on the water even when it’s chilly outside.


A Personal Flotation Device, or PFD, is an essential piece of gear for anyone spending time on the water, but it’s especially important in cold weather. A PFD will keep you afloat if you capsize and can help you stay warm by providing an extra layer of insulation.

When choosing a PFD for cold weather, look for one that is made from a waterproof and windproof material like Gore-Tex. taped seams will help to prevent water from seeping in and make the PFD heavier and more uncomfortable to wear.

If you’ll be spending time on a boat, make sure to choose a PFD that is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. And always remember to check the weather forecast before heading out onto the water.

Dry bag

A dry bag is an essential piece of gear for anyone heading into the outdoors, whether you’re hiking, camping, or kayaking. A dry bag helps to keep your belongings dry and protected from the elements.

When choosing a dry bag, it’s important to consider the size, material, and closure system. Dry bags come in a variety of sizes, from small bags that can hold a few items to large bags that can hold an entire camping set-up.

The material is also important; dry bags are usually made from water-resistant nylon or PVC. And finally, you’ll want to consider the closure system; most dry bags have either a roll-top closure or a zipper closure.

When packing your dry bag, it’s important to start with the items that you need to keep the driest. Items like your sleeping bag and extra clothes should go in first. Once you’ve packed the essentials, you can fill any remaining space with less critical items.

By following these simple tips, you can be sure that your belongings will stay dry no matter what Mother Nature throws at you.


The sun may not be as strong in the winter, but the water can reflect a surprising amount of light.

Water bottle

Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles. Paddling in cold weather can be tough on your body, so it’s important to stay hydrated.

These water bottles will help you do just that. They’re insulated to keep your drinks cold, and they have a wide mouth for easy drinking. Plus, they come in a variety of colors so you can find the perfect one for you.

So whether you’re kayaking in the cold or just trying to stay hydrated on a hot day, these water bottles are sure to help.

Sunscreen and bug spray

I also recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with you to ward off any pests and sunburns.

If you are paddling in areas with lots of vegetation, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt will help to protect your skin from scratches and scrapes.

What is the 120-degree rule?

The 120-degree rule is a general guideline that lets you know when you should wear a wetsuit or dry suit. This rule is based on the fact that your body can lose heat faster in water than in air.

The rule says that you should wear a wetsuit or dry suit whenever the sum of the air temperature and water temperature is equal to or less than 120°F. This rule is a good way to stay safe in cold water, but it’s important to remember that warm weather does not cancel out the danger of cold water.

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Wearing lighter clothing on a warm day actually increases your risk of hypothermia. So, if you’re planning on swimming in cold water, be sure to dress appropriately and always err on the side of caution.

Is it OK to kayak in the winter?

When most people think of kayaking, they think of doing it during the summertime when the weather is nice. But what about kayaking in the winter? Believe it or not, kayaking in the winter can be a lot of fun.

As long as you’re careful and take some safety precautions, kayaking in cold weather can be a great experience. The body of water you choose to paddle on will play a big role in how enjoyable your trip is. If the water is iced over, then it’s best to stay away – but if there’s only a thin layer of ice on top, then you should be fine.

Make sure to dress warmly before heading out on your kayak. Wearing a wetsuit or drysuit is a good idea, as they will help to keep you warm and dry.

It’s also important to bring along some extra clothes in case you get wet. And finally, make sure to bring plenty of food and water with you. Paddling in cold weather can be tough on your body, so it’s important to stay hydrated.

How do you keep your hands warm while kayaking?

There are a few different ways to keep your hands warm while kayaking. One way is to wear gloves. Gloves will help to protect your hands from the cold and wind.

Another way to keep your hands warm is to bring along hand warmers. Hand warmers are small packets that you can put in your pocket or glove. They use chemical reactions to generate heat, which will help to keep your hands warm.

Finally, you can also try wearing mittens instead of gloves. Mittens are warmer than gloves because they allow your fingers to share body heat.

No matter what method you choose, keeping your hands warm is important because it will help you to paddle longer and stay safe in the cold.

Can you kayak in 50-degree water?

Temperature is definitely a factor when it comes to kayaking. Water below 60 degrees Fahrenheit can be dangerous due to something called “cold shock.”

When your body is exposed to cold water, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, you lose breathing control, and your ability to think clearly decreases. So why would anyone want to kayak in cold weather then?

The truth is, kayakers can enjoy paddling in dangerously cold weather if they’re dressed for it. Many people love kayaking in the winter because it’s a great way to get outside and enjoy the scenery.

If you’re planning on kayaking in water that is 50 degrees Fahrenheit or below, I recommend wearing a wetsuit or drysuit. These suits will help to keep you warm and dry, which is important when paddling in cold water.

Should kayaking gloves be tight?

When it comes to kayaking gloves, there’s a lot of debate about what the best option is. Some people say that you should have tight gloves so that you have a good grip on the paddle. Others argue that loose gloves are better because they’re warmer and more comfortable.

I’ve tried both options and I prefer loose gloves. They’re warmer, and I find that I can paddle more easily with them. Plus, they don’t restrict my movement as much as tight gloves do. Of course, this is just my personal preference; some people swear by tight gloves for gripping the paddle tightly.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you which type of glove you prefer. Just make sure that whichever type you choose, they fit well and don’t restrict your movement.

Can you use cycling gloves for kayaking?

You’re in the middle of a kayaking trip when you realize that you left your gloves at home. You don’t want to go back, so you try using a pair of cycling gloves instead.

They work pretty well, but they’re not quite as flexible as neoprene gloves would be.

So is winter paddling a good idea?

For the most part, yes. Winter is often the best paddling season: no crowds, lots of water, and milder weather than in summer. However, there are a few things to keep in mind before hitting the water.

  1. First, dress for success. Hypothermia is a real danger when paddling in cold weather, so make sure to wear layers that will keep you dry and warm.
  2. Second, be prepared for ice. When paddling in areas where ice is a possibility, bring along a pair of ice picks or an ice screw to help get yourself out if you get stuck.
  3. Finally, take extra care when paddling alone. With no one around to help if something goes wrong, it’s important to be extra cautious and aware of potential hazards.

But as long as you take the necessary precautions, winter paddling can be an incredibly enjoyable way to spend a cold day on the water.

Wrapping up

Dressing for cold weather kayaking is all about layering. You want to start with a base layer that will wick away moisture, then add layers of insulation to keep your body heat in.

On top of that, you’ll need a waterproof outer layer to protect you from the elements. And finally, don’t forget gloves and footwear to keep your extremities warm.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to stay safe and comfortable while paddling in cold weather conditions. Just remember to dress for success and be prepared for anything.

Last updated on June 30, 2022 by Duncan Barrett

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