What to wear when canoeing

What to wear when canoeing will depend on what type of canoeing and type of boat you have.

What to Wear in an Open “Canadian” Canoe

This will be very dependent on weather.

Assuming that you’ll not be tackling whitewater, there’s no reason to expect to get very wet…. unless of course, it is raining.

So wear something appropriate for the weather (i.e. hot or cold), and having something to keep the wind and rain off is useful.

Even if it is a summer’s day with t-shirts and shorts, we always take some fleeces (or micro fleeces) and a cag in a dry bag, as the weather can change and it can get cold on the water.

One thing you should plan for is getting your feet wet and paddling in water a little bit.

In summer, shoes that drain water quickly are ideal, but in cooler months you will want something to keep your feet warm and dry.  Don’t choose something that will fall off, like flip-flops.

And one thing that’s a must: buoyancy aids (or life vests for small ones or those that can’t swim).

What to Wear Using a Sit-On-Top Canoe

With sit-on-tops, you will get wet…especially on your backside.

Again, a hot summer’s day and a t-shirt and shorts may be OK, but prolonged exposure to water and wind, and the body’s temperature soon drops, so be prepared.  If it is not a glorious hot day, you may want to dress as if using a kayak…

What to Wear When Kayaking

Kayaks are more unstable than Canadian canoes (but this makes them more manoeuvrable).  You therefore need to plan for getting wet.

What to wear when kayaking (click for larger image)

Rash Vest

A Rash Vest will provide you with a little bit more comfort under your wetsuit.

  • Help prevents your wetsuit from rubbing your skin
  • Makes it easier to get wet suit on and off
  • Could provide a little bit of additional insulation (though probably minimal)…
  • …Get one that ‘wicks’ and it will make the wetsuit more comfortable when warm


Wetsuits are essential in the British Isles.

You can get different rated wetsuits, with lighter ones for summer use.

Shortie wetsuits are cut off at the legs and arms and provide something that can be more comfortable when it is warm, and also a little less restrictive arm movement.

Remember, wetsuits don’t keep you dry, and don’t heat the water.  They work by absorbing water into the suit which is warmed by your body, which acts as an insulating layer against the cold water.   As you will get wet, remember to bring a change of clothes.

Wetsuits needn’t break the bank and there are wetsuits for men, women, and children.


Wetsuit shoes or boots are ideal here.  In warm weather, some fast draining water tolerant sandals also work, but make sure they’ll stay on your feet if you go for a swim.

Cag or Spray Top

A ‘Cag’  provides you with some protection from splashes, and more importantly, keeps the wind off.

Safety Gear

Needless to say, a Buoyancy Aid is essential (or a life jacket for young children). If you are not sure of what the difference is, read our guide to Buoyancy Aids and Life Jackets.

If you are whitewater rafting or kayaking in the surf, you’ll also need a helmet – one suitable for water sports.


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