If you’re going to go kayaking, whether in the freezing wilds of Alaska or the balmy shores of Florida, you need to wear the correct clothing. Choose the former and you’ll have to invest in kayaking drysuits and splash pants as well as a warm waterproof jacket and lots of insulated under gear. However for Florida, if you’re just going to be paddling round quiet bays, just the splash pants will be enough.
There are many varieties of kayak drysuits and splash pants, but choose carefully if you don’t want to have to buy more than one of each. Try to go for something that will suit all your needs.
For paddling in really cold water, bad weather, surf or rough rapids, a drysuit will give you the best possible protection.
A drysuit is a one-piece suit, usually made of nylon which protects from wind and dries quickly. It is normally waterproofed with a polyurethane coating or a Gore-Tex® laminate. Gore-Tex® is a marvellous material for any sporting clothing as it is both waterproof and breathable which cuts down on the retention of sweat, while keeping the wearer dry and comfortable.
Kayaking drysuits prevent water entry at wrists ankles and neck by the use of special latex gaskets, some even having neoprene outer cuffs for additional protection.
Zip closures are heavy duty, waterproof and generally covered with an additional hook and loop sealing flap. Most drysuits feature a relief zipper for easy access when nature calls and many have built in socks or booties as well as reinforced seats and knees for extra durability.
All of this means that, even if you go for an unscheduled swim, you will stay dry but these things are not built for warmth, so you will need thermal underwear or fleece kayaking pants to stay warm as well.
If the weather and the water where you’ll be paddling is quite warm, choose a Gore-Tex® suit which will allow the body heat created by paddling to escape from the suit, so you won’t be soaked in sweat as you paddle.
Kayaking Splash Pants
If you don’t think you need you need as much protection as that offered by a drysuit, then you’ll probably want to go for a dry top and pants or kayaking splash pants. Don’t forget though, if you end up swimming, you will not be dry wearing this combination and if the weather is cold and you’re wet, you could end up with hypothermia or worse.
However, splash pants are fine if you just want to keep little splashes off you from your paddle or small waves and they do offer some protection from the cold as long as you’re not wet. They are usually made of waterproofed nylon with neoprene ankle cuffs for a good seal over your booties and a neoprene waistband. Make sure that you choose splash pants which are big enough for a layer of clothing underneath.
For more warmth, some stretchy fleece pants beneath your splash pants will be ideal. If the weather is fairly warm then wear pants made from a fabric such as Gore-Tex® REI Elements® which are both waterproof and breathable and will prevent perspiration from remaining on your skin and causing chilling.