To a newcomer, or a novice kayaker, the clothing you choose to wear may not seem like an important idea to consider when getting ready to go on a kayaking adventure. To those more seasoned, this is actually a vital decision to make depending on your activity or the weather. Choosing the proper garments to wear when kayaking can truly make or break your experience and can prove to be an incredibly significant factor in your health and safety. Choosing the best wetsuit for kayaking can make a huge difference in the comfort level of your trip and can help tremendously during colder weather.
Best Wetsuit for Kayaking : Ratings and Recommendations Included
Kayaking Activities that Require Special Garments
Activities that you may choose to take part in on the open water could determine whether you will need a wetsuit, drysuit, or any special clothing.
What is a wetsuit?
A wetsuit is just that, a suit that is wet. Many people are under the impression that wetsuits keep water out and keep the person wearing them dry. This is actually not the case at all. A neoprene wetsuit allows a thin layer of water in that can be warmed by your body heat.
The material that wetsuits are made of, neoprene, is specially suited to reduce the evaporation of water on the surface. This typically would cause a cooling effect, so reducing this enables you to keep warm.
What is a drysuit?
A drysuit is typically the option most water goers will choose in cooler weather. Dry suits offer better protection in colder conditions or in rough water conditions such as rapids or surf. If the potential for bad weather is near, a dry suit is also a good option for protective clothing.
Unlike the padding that is available in wetsuits, dry suits do not have any insulating material included. Dry suits are typically made of nylon material and coated with a waterproof material. This could be a polyurethane coating similar to those found in fleece wetsuits, or it could be a waterproof laminate material, commonly Gore-Tex.
While simply paddling along in the water sounds like a simple, quaint kayaking activity, it could prove to be a sport worthy of protective clothing decisions. At any point in time, you could capsize your kayak, even in a familiar body of water. Should you be exploring a new area, your risk increases because you may not know what you need to work around. Imagine capsizing your craft in an unfamiliar area, even in moderate to mild temperatures. You’ll be weighed down by wet clothing and the temperature is subject to change, so you’d run the risk of getting cold, perhaps even to dangerous levels.
Any extreme kayak sporting activity should be done with a wet or dry suit as the odds of getting wet are nearly certain. Keep in mind the safety associated with wearing a suit
Types of Wetsuits
Not only will you have to decide whether or not a wetsuit is necessary for your excursion, but you will also need to determine which type of wetsuit is best suited for the task! There are actually several types of wetsuits, each with a little something different to offer. Thickness of material, actual material, and lining are all factors to consider, along with the cut of the suit itself.
Wetsuits are available in full length suits, short cut suits, or variations of the suit such as a ‘Farmer John’ which doesn’t have sleeves. Female versions of the Farmer Johns are also available. These are typically chosen in moderate weather seasons. Additionally, wetsuit separates are also available, making it possible to combine suit options depending on your needs.
There are different thicknesses of wetsuits available for what may be needed in various activities. The thicker wetsuits are most commonly used for extreme diving, so most kayakers won’t opt for thick suits, as they are too bulky and warm for paddling. The more popular wetsuits in kayaking are 2-3mm in thickness. Weather conditions and movement restriction will play a role in choosing what thickness of suit best coordinates with your plans.
While common wetsuits are made of neoprene, there is another material option: polyurethane-coated fleece. This material looks a lot like neoprene but is fuzzy and stretchy. This material is warm and usually worn when there is a lesser likelihood of being in cold water for a long period of time. Because these are lined in fleece, they are typically considered when paddling in cooler weather.
Types of Drysuits
Unlike wetsuits, dry suits are only available in one style: one-piece fully sleeved and sealed suits. Because dry suits aim to keep water out, there are latex gaskets at the ends of the openings and even a special zipper to prevent water from getting inside your suit. There are separates options available in dry suit fits, allowing for the mix and match of dry and wet suits for personal preference.
Since there are fewer options in style for dry suits than in wet suits, you have to consider the additional protective layers you choose to wear under the suit. Depending on the weather, you may need to consider long underwear or special fleece liners that are available. Often, the choice made for dry suit liners include a full fleece suit designed with special zippers much like the dry suits themselves. Other options include breathable separates that can be layered under wet and dry suits.
You also have to consider your activities when planning to wear a drysuit. For example, if you are planning a more extreme sporting trip such as paddling rapids, where the chances of ending up in the water is higher, you’ll probably want to consider what material your suit is made with. A breathable Gore-Tex suit will allow you to maintain a comfortable body temperature as you paddle back to your craft or to safety should you capsize.
Along with choosing the right suit to wear while kayaking, you’ll need to consider other garments for the trip you plan to take. Not to be overlooked, these can provide you with additional safety, warmth, or protection from the sun. Carefully evaluate what all potential clothing items you may need so that you can be prepared even if you don’t plan to wear them from the start.
As with any activity in which you plan to spend a significant time outdoors, you should consider wearing a hat as a form of protection from the weather. Not only will a hat shield your head and face from the sun, but if you’re planning any winter kayaking trips, a proper hat will help you to keep warm while exposed to the elements. There are even special hoods designed for water sports that are made of neoprene to assist in keeping you dry and warm in winter months.
Helmets may be needed for any extreme sporting activity you plan while out on the open water in a kayak. Any whitewater rapids trip would require a helmet as things get pretty rough and you would run the risk of injury without a helmet. The old saying of better safe than sorry rings true in these instances, as being prepared would be more beneficial than not.
Gloves are always a good idea to have while kayaking for hand protection while paddling. If you know you will be paddling rough water currents, gloves can protect your hands from blisters. In colder weather, gloves are protection from the elements. Be sure to get water sport gloves that way they are waterproof and made to protect your hands properly. There are even specialized gloves available to retain your grip for paddling.
Footwear options aren’t always as crucial for kayaking. In good weather, you don’t have to be as concerned about your feet getting wet, but you would have to consider this in colder temperatures. While in the warmer months and conditions, you can opt to wear sandals, water shoes, or even a good but old pair of sneakers, you would have to consider special dry fit shoes during the winter. Specially insulated boots are available that will keep your feet dry and warm. Other available options are special waterproof socks that are paired with your dry suit or neoprene booties to prevent your feet from getting wet.
Choosing the Right Wetsuit for you
Whether a wetsuit or a dry suit, one-piece or separates, lined or breathable, your decision in kayaking garments is a serious consideration you have to make based on temperature, water conditions, and activities, choosing the right suit can really impact the outcome of your trip. If there is any chance you could end up in the water, a suit is necessary, but the temperature conditions could determine whether you go with a wet or a dry suit.
Take into careful consideration all of the possibilities surrounding your specific trip. Always remember that preparedness is better than not being prepared and it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry. Every cliché euphemism you can think of rings true when it comes to water sport safety, so bear them all in mind, roll your eyes a bit, then get to packing the appropriate gear for your trip.