Clothing for Canoeing or Kayaking

Now, it is the policy of KSCC to provide Cags to keep the worst of the water off and the wind out, however, we are often asked by regular paddlers what to wear when on the river.

Put very simply – wear what is going to be comfortable for the conditions! Now that’s easy to say but it really can be that simple;  if it’s sunny – shorts and T-shirt will be fine and if it’s Snowy, then a lot more than that!

If you’re coming down to KSCC then usually track trousers, T-shirt, sweatshirt and a lightweight waterproof(Cag) will be fine. For shoes, plimsolls or sililar are best as they are still grippy when wet and do not take up too much space inside a kayak.

While we do not say that everyone should buy a (VERY) expensive dry suit, this is a guide on using warm layers and applies not just for Dry Suits but for use with wind proofs, cags and other outer layers:


How does a dry suit or cag work?

A dry suit  doesn’t keep you warm on it’s own. The way to stay warm when paddling is to  layer your clothing properly.

A layering  system is only as strong as the weakest link.   A full dry suit over jeans and a cotton t-shirt is not going to keep you  warm as neither have any insulating property.

However  when a dry suit is accompanied with well-fitting base layers and fleeces you  can stay warm and dry in some of the hardiest conditions!

Base Layer This layer must have wicking quality. A  wicking layer will remove perspiration from against your skin. Fabrics like  cotton soak the sweat up and leave it next to your skin cooling you down and defeating  the point.Mid Layers This is your insulation. Your mid layer can be  lightweight or heavy weight depending on the temperature or you can wear more  than one.  This layer or layers stop the  heat your body is creating from leaving the suit keeping you toasty.  It also stops the cold water/air drawing the  heat through your suit via conduction.Outer layer/ Shell A dry suit is the outer most shell  to your layering system.  It stops you  getting cold by preventing wind and water touching your skin. Remaining dry is  very important. Water  cools you down  more than  20 times  faster than air of the same temperature.
Heat is lost to the environment in four ways Radiation – Heat flows from a warmer object to a cooler one. Since your  body is often warmer than the air, you lose heat when your skin is exposed.  With the right clothing covering your body and a hat, you’ll probably be more  comfortable.
Convection – Heat is lost through air movement. A cold, windy day will  steal your heat and energy faster than a calm day. Windproof garments will cut  convective heat loss.
Conduction – Heat is lost with contact with something cold and that loss  is up to 32 times faster when that something cold is water. Conductive heat  loss can be balanced with good insulation.
Evaporation – Heat dissipates when moisture leaves the body as vapor  (perspiration). Even though it may be cold outside, if you are exerting  yourself, you will sweat. As that sweat evaporates your body will get colder.  You can manage that moisture with a good system of moisture wicking,  hydrophobic insulation and breathable, waterproof clothing. By the way, cotton  holds moisture, so it is not the best clothing to wear if you are trying to  stay warm and dry.”