For summer kayaking what type of shirt under pfd and shorts

Again new to kayaking. So always have pad and whistle mostly on small/med lake no motor boats. So what recommendation for shirt and shorts? Swimm trunks and non cotton shorts how bout shirt. Right now use non cotton shorts and cotton shirt. Suggestion appreciated. Also not looking to buy $100 shirt. Budget

Oop mean to say use pdf not pad. Lol

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Terrific you’ve discovered the sport.

Ditch the cotton shirt. Cotton absorbs water and stays wet. You’ll be more comfortable in a polyester or other synthetic fabric. The material dries quickly. Heck, you can probably find shirts like that in your local thrift shop.

Enjoy your adventures!

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Since you have #1 priority covered – your PFD – the second biggest hazard to contend with is the sun. Even if I have shorts on, I will wear SPF leggings, long sleeve spf shirt or sun sleeves with non-cotton t-shirts. I will also have wide brim hat or cap with spf neck gaiter.

I enjoy the sun, while being protected from it with SPF rated clothing.



I agree with Sing although I find quick dry fabrics can be really hot. But , too much sun can do this to you.

I have become a believer in SPF 50 sunscreen.


If quick dry clothing gets hot in the summer…get it wet. Let evaporative cooling cool you off on hot, sunny summer days.

However, have a rain/wind jacket with you in a dry bag. Less than 2 weeks ago in a class with experienced paddlers being held on a hot 85F day, the wind picked up to about 10 kts & everyone quickly cooled because we were all wet. Two students had to borrow jackets because they didn’t bring one to paddle on a hot summer day on the Gulf Coast. They learned a lesson that day to always carry a jacket to block the wind.


Go to the sports and workout clothing section at Wal-Mart, and grab a shirt that is polyester. I paid maybe $7 for the one I wear in the summer. I’ll take a picture of it tomorrow and add it here. It’s out in my car right now. It stays wet for a bit, but dries quick enough. A lot quicker than cotton, and it’s affordable. It is short sleeved though, so you’re not getting sun protection from it. You can use the money you save on a hat and sunscreen.

You can also go to Amazon and pick up a rashguard shirt. Their no-name brand shirts are inexpensive. I don’t have any experience with them though.


The best sun protection is currently Olefin. It is expensive because only a few companies are using it.

Other types of polyurethane cloth do almost as good of a job. Target sells All-in-Motion shirts for $13 and they are 83% recycled. Nike Dry-Fit shirts still work, as do Walmart’s sports tees, just make sure they aren’t cotton.

When I go out for a long paddle, I still use Under-Armor compression shirts, they seem to hold my shoulder together better.

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An old cotton twill office shirt dries quickly and you stay cooler: if you do get hot wet it down
Cotton twill is an entirely different animsl thsn cotton jersey whoch never dries
Twill does beautiful evaporative cooling

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Or worse, much worse like kill you.

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Depends what you paddle and how far and fast you paddle.
Russell Athletic Men’s Performance T-Shirt

Something like the shirt above maybe fine for some to wear. I wear them all the time daily. I even wore them to work in construction laying brick and blocks. Dry fast never feel wet like cotton. So one day I decided to take a fast paddle. I won’t be going for long so I’ll use it as a base layer .

Great idea NOT! So I head out it’s a great day I feel energetic. I paddle fairly fast most of the time. As I go I change my plans and keep adding miles. Ok now closed to 10 miles from home I feel something under my arms not so comfortable. Ok I’ll head home now and be careful how I paddle. I’ll slow down try to keep my arms up a bit.

Took a few splashes here and there under the arms so it’s wet. Paddling home feet turned to yards. No method of paddling I could come up with helped the pain at all.

Now thinking about all the Kokatat shirts I have home from merino wool to synthetic / poly or what ever they use. It felt like I had a belt sander under each arm by the time I saw my floating docks. I though ok home now I’ll shower and medicate with lotion and few Advils or pain pills of choice.

Get out of the shower and look under my arms :scream:. I have a nice half moon type bright red welt under each arm :cry:. It was painful just to sit and watch TV. It took over a week till it was gone and I could paddle again.

Lesson I already knew don’t experiment with the types of gear you use. I relearned that lesson that day. You need flat seams, tight rash guards unless you’re just more if a very casual shirt distance paddler. Shirt may have worked better inside out. Expensive paddling gear is better for a reason. I have some Kokatat shirts over ten years still good few threads snipped once in a while.

I wear my Kokatat gortex hat ALL the time like a good luck charm. I floats, dries fast, adjustability is great, stays on in any wind, good for visibility to others. It folds sides up, back up, front up, everything up. Great sun protection. Insulates my head when hot sun hits, keeps my head warm in the winter. I’d rather leave the dock without a paddle than my hat :laughing:.

Kayaking gear usually has SPF ratings on the labels. Rash guards need to be to snug.

I always wear waist high leggings also. I hate paddling and feeling sweat running down my legs or a drip under the skirt. Possibly a big trapped under the deck on my leg. Paddling in comfort is a must so develop your gear and stick to it for your style of paddling. The sun :sun_with_face: can chew you up. It’s very stealthy it creeps up on you. I tan decent, never had any skin related issues with the sun. I have seen many others have serious problems. People at work and people who worked on the bays digging clams. Night paddles are great no sun!


I have always had good luck with Under Armour Heat Gear t-shirts and long sleeves. The MK1 line is vert nice. They are not expensive either. Just don’t put them in the dryer.

I just picked up a Columbia Omni shade long sleeve t-shirt and it works really well under my pfd: it did protect me from a sun on a long day paddle and was light enough not to feel hot.


Around here you’d die in the heat wearing a personal sauna… er, dry suit. I just wear a cotton tee in summer because you can get it wet so it cools you off. OTOH in winter poly is the way to go.

Non-flat seams will tear you up.


O forgot i do have a wide brim hat too. And i have used the 50 sun screen lotion.
Will go to target and wally world. I did buy a long sleeve rash shirt just yesterday. will try it out. O ya and use the sun glasses too. thanks all!

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Good point. Air temp is approaching 90F but water temp of Little Traverse Bay is 44F. That and gale warnings equals no paddling for me today.

I just use an extra light (so the breeze goes right through it) long sleeve synthetic top with extra long sleeves that I can tuck into my fingerless paddling gloves…or an old beat-up cotton work shirt. But I do think it’s worth spending a little on sunscreen that doesn’t feel greasy.

I know you’re looking at budget, but let me mention NRS H2Core Silkweight shirts. They are super comfortable, dry quickly, SPF 50, wear well. They’re in the $40- 50 range but I’m in the habit of noodling around on websites that offer deals, closeouts (especially holidays - Memorial Day, the 4th, Labor day, etc) and have never paid close to that. Those and lot’s of high SPF sunscreen including on ears and face.

Neutrogena is good stuff.