Figuring out what to wear kayaking in fall months can be a little tricky. As water temperatures start to dip, you need to be well-prepared to stay safe and comfortable during your outings.
The fall season often offers some of the nicest days of the year – and yet this is the time of year when cold weather paddling starts to come into play.
With this article, we are going to help you figure out what to wear kayaking during this transitional season.
Flexibility is a theme that runs through this topic so always keep that in mind as you shop. You might not face extreme cold in the fall, but you can deal with unexpected weather conditions that put you to the test.
We’ll do our best to help you prepare for whatever kayaking adventure you have planned in the upcoming fall.
Basic Fall Kayaking Outfit
Warm weather is common in the fall in some places, while cold weather may be more likely to appear in others. And, beyond air temperature, there is also the matter of water temperature to keep in mind as you dress.
With those caveats in place, there are pieces of a basic fall outfit that can then be customized depending on what the weather forecast has to say.
Long Sleeve Technical Shirt
You are unlikely to face hot weather in most places during the fall, so a long sleeve shirt is probably your best bet. Even when kayaking in warm weather, a long sleeve shirt can still be a good pick, because you might face cold water on fall days even if warm weather still persists. Of course, you could always toss a short sleeve shirt in your waterproof dry bag as a backup if you do get too hot.
It’s important that this long sleeve shirt falls into the “technical” category, which is just an indication that it is made from synthetic fibers rather than natural materials like cotton. Because what you wear kayaking is always likely to get wet, artificial fibers are going to fare much better and keep you more comfortable.
Splash or Paddling Pants
Kayaking in the hot summer, it will often be comfortable enough to just wear swimming shorts while paddling your kayak. As the fall moves in, however, those days are going to be harder and harder to come by.
With cold weather in mind, think about using a pair of splash or paddling pants to keep your legs dry and more comfortable. You don’t want to find yourself out on the water dreading each new stroke of the paddle because you know that it is going to come with a painful splash of cold water. Sure, you could use a spray skirt to block the water as well, but wearing splash pants is a comfortable and versatile approach.
For this purpose, you can use products that are marketed specifically as splash pants for kayaking, or you could opt for any other pair of pants made from a waterproof material.
The pants you choose should be comfortable to wear while seated, of course, and they should work together nicely with a paddling jacket to create a waterproof outer layer. Once you add your personal flotation device on top of this outfit, you’ll be well-prepared for a day of paddling in chilly fall conditions.
As you think about what to wear kayaking, don’t forget your feet. Bracing your feet inside the boat helps to give your strokes power and consistency, but doing that bracing in bare feet can be painful.
Over time, you’ll likely develop sore spots or blisters on your feet if they aren’t protected by a pair of water shoes. Suitable for both cold water and warm water, water shoes are designed specifically to keep your feet protected while engaging in a wide range of water-based activities. Not only will good water shoes make your paddling experience more enjoyable, but they will also help you come and go from your boat as you get in and out to explore beaches, docks, and more.
Offering thermal protection to your hands in the form of paddling gloves is sure a nice upgrade for fall trips. Even kayaking in warm weather can be improved with gloves, but this accessory really shines in the fall in colder climates.
Cold conditions in the morning can make you feel like staying in the car instead of hopping in your boat, but a good pair of gloves will help you hop into your kayak clothing and get moving. This is one of those outer layers, just like a jacket, that can dramatically improve any kayaking trip in the fall. Don’t let the colder weather catch you off guard without having paddling gloves ready to go.
Preparing for Potential Weather Challenges
As we’ve already discussed, you don’t know exactly what you’ll face when a fall kayaking trip is on your agenda. In fact, this is the case for all outdoor activities, as Mother Nature is full of surprises. So, in addition to building a basic outfit as described above, you will need to prepare yourself for other challenges that might come up based on weather conditions.
The first key piece of that puzzle is to have waterproof outer layers available. These are important not only for the water that you will splash on yourself while paddling but also for the rain that may disrupt your adventures.
Rain or Waterproof Jacket
A good waterproof jacket will go a long way, and not just for whitewater kayaking – this is an important garment for all kayakers to own as a trusted outer layer.
When shopping for a rain jacket to add to your kit, look for something that isn’t going to get in the way of your paddling stroke. If possible, try on some jackets in person so you can find one that will fit just right to allow you to paddle without being too baggy at the same time. Remember, you will need room under the jacket for your insulating layers, so leave a little room in the fit for those garments that help you stay warm.
Adding a spray skirt to your fall kayaking wardrobe is another good kayak upgrade to consider making as you stock up for the fall.
With a spray skirt in place and tightly affixed to your boat, you’ll be able to keep most of the water you splash from coming into the kayak and cooling you down. Where you might enjoy those splashes in the middle of the summer, they aren’t so fun in cool weather. Keeping your body’s core temperature up is important in the very cold waters that you might encounter late in the fall.
Going in the other direction, another challenge you could deal with during fall paddling – depending on the climate – is sun exposure. If summer conditions have carried over into fall, you’ll need sun protection that could come in the form of a wide brimmed hat that protects your head on a sunny day.
Of course, if any of your skin is exposed, wear “reef-safe” sunscreen for protection from the sun for you and protection from harmful chemicals for the wildlife that lives in or near the water.
Customize Your Outfit for Each Kayaking Trip
Before each trip, whether it is just a day outing or an excursion lasting several days, you need to carefully examine the weather conditions that are expected in your area.
Finding the appropriate clothing for your trip is impossible until you know the weather forecast. You might need to wear a base layer of thermal clothing to battle bitterly cold conditions, but that would be overkill for a nice day. If extremely low temperatures are forecast, use a base layer, mid layer, and outer layer to give yourself options and avoid losing too much body heat.
If you will be heading out of town for your kayaking adventure, check the forecast but also pack as much of your gear as possible in case the conditions don’t quite match up with your expectations. It’s pretty easy to pack most different types of kayak clothing like neoprene boots, paddling pants, a wicking base layer, and on and on.
Enjoy This Beautiful Paddling Season
Some of the best times you ever have in a kayak are likely to come during the fall. With the worst of the summer heat in the past, you probably won’t need to worry about the challenges that come with warmer weather.
At the same time, winter has not arrived, so the difficult weather and water temperatures of that season aren’t yet a concern. With the knowledge of what to wear kayaking for this cooler season, you can get to work on finding all the pieces you need to add to your kit.