Clothing to wear while kayaking?

One of the things I’ve been trying to find is good clothing to wear while on the water during summer when the sun is up and out. My wife’s family has a history of melanoma and I don’t like the idea of being burnt to a crisp, so I’m trying to see if there is some sort of good “keep the sun off you” clothing that won’t be swelteringly hot to wear.

We are kayaking on local lakes and some lazy rivers so the water is fairly warm as well.

no cotton
First, no cotton, once it gets wet it stays wet. For really warm days though old cotton/polyester blend dress shirts, long sleeve work well at protecting the skin and keeping the direct sun off the skin. Big brim hats work well too.

There are wind shirts that are all synthetic that will work, but feel clammy in the summer when it’s humid.

Bill H.


– Last Updated: Jun-22-10 3:30 AM EST – can get anything your wallet can afford.....sometimes the only material that is available, is going to be cotton. some of the specialty SPF clothing is upwards of $50+ per shirt. Obviously, long sleeves is a must. you can buy the poly/nylon convertible zip-off shorts/pants for leg protection. you might want to look at the bamboo clothing t-shirts.

Cycling wear with UV protection
long and short sleeved tops for sunny or cloudy days, I wear shorts and water shoes

I picked the vest and short set and a long sleeve top for around £25

Definitely cotton!
Once it gets wet it stays wet! When it is really hot you need to stay as cool as possible. I use old cotton dress shirts. They work really well. If you do not have to dress for work them pick some up at good will for a dollar or two a piece.

If you want to stay dry then the wicking shirts like the ones sold here on Pnet work well. They prevent chafing better than cotton if you have problems with that.

Get a hat with a brim.

I wear long pants and usually wear very thin black nylon socks if I’m in a canoe or sit on top.

I love cotton
for summer wear. Winter here, the water is frozen.

Then I just stay inside.

Rashguard etc

– Last Updated: Jun-22-10 8:31 AM EST –

Lightweight rash guard tops from any paddle wear suppliers - NRS ( or Immersion Research or Bomber Gear etc.

Supplex pants, from sports stores like EMS or REI, or you can get the fancier paddle pants from from sources like the ones for rash guard.

Hat with the extra part that comes down around your neck and ears, or just a bit floppy one.

Gloves to cover the back of your hand like from paddle stores or the above sources.

I agree that cotton holds water decently, but I can (and have) gotten chilled in it quite quickly when I got caught in a summer storm. So it doesn't work so well for me. As to getting hot - on a warm day my hats and my head are rarely dry. For more cooling needs I roll, an advantage of rolling that often gets overlooked.

If you want to stay cool
and protect from the sun and minimize chafing, cotton is not the best choice. When it is wet it stays wet, that does not keep you cool. What you want is something that will let water evaporate from the material, that’ll take the heat away from you. I wear a long sleeve, white rash guard that I got at a surf shop. Something like this

Something like Under Armor would probably work well too.

sun protection
Here are some companies with great products to help protect you: , Solumbra at , and NRS for their rash guards. Seriously look into Tilley hats- expensive but cool, comfortable, rugged with large brim to protect ears nose and neck.

Wash-In Sun Protection

Worth a try?

rash guards
come long & shortsleeved, are cut well for paddling, dry quickly and provide UV protection anywhere betw. 25 & 50 SPF.

Plenty of them in all sizes on eBay. I’ve never paid more than $8-10 for mine - get em lightly used, no big deal to me…have seen new ones as low as $10-$15.

Fishing stuff
Check out some of the long sleeve shirts and hats for fishing. The folks that fish the flats wear this clothing and it is great. Most of the stuff has vents so air moves around. We really like ours.

A good layer of 50 weight
sun block then paddle naked.

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Sun Shirt
I wear Kokatat’s Destinations shirt - it has a high collar to protect my neck and the quick-dry fabric is sun protection. A wide brimmed hat and spray skirt cover the rest - hands get some light-weight fingerless paddling gloves. I guide trips each weekend, so spend a lot of time on the water…

Cheers, Alan

long underwear tops
I use lightweight quick-drying long underwear tops. Seconds are fairly easy to find.

you’re supposed to ask for a photo first
(no offense to the OP)

Summer clothes
When it is hot, I wear long-sleeve running shirts and a broad-brimmed hat. Plus sunscreen on my face, neck and hands.

nuthin wrong with cotton
There is nothing wrong with cotton when used under the right circumstances. During hot summer months I like to wear a thin long sleeve cotton shirt. It keeps me cool, protects from the sun, is very comfortable and it does not get stinky like plastic fibers do.

I will second Angstrom’s idea
I find the knit tops (LS) to be cooler than even the Columbia PFG shirts and knock-offs. Bought to be baggy, they work for me.

Rumor has it that a wet t-shirt, while attractive on the fairer sex, is nearly worthless for UV protection.

I am a big fan of wide-brimmed hats (Tilleys to be specific, but I don’t want to open THAT can of worms again). Cotton or hemp, both work. I am less enamored with Tilley’s Nylantium fabric. On hot days, dunk your hat and let the evaporation begin!

Oh, yeah. Tilley recommends a loose fit at the band. This really helps with the chimney effect.


Capris; half skirt
Two suggestions for your legs:

  1. For women, capris rather than shorts. Danskin makes some quick drying capris.

  2. A half skirt provides great sun protection, plus shades your legs and keeps the cockpit cooler.