One question asked by many when entering the world of kayak fishing.... What shall i wear? There are numerous options and it very much depends on what time of year you are planning to kayak fish and your budget! I've put together this little guide with some info on recommended clothing for kayak fishing.
Kayak Fishing Clothing
It is important to dress for the water. In the UK we are blessed (taste the sarcasm!) with cold water for most of the year. Even in the summer the water is cold against the skin and it doesn't take long to sap your energy levels. Reducing the chances of the cold water getting to your skin is a sensible idea!
The UK is subject to quite contrasting seasonal conditions. The Late Spring to Early Autumn period brings mainly fair weather, mild to hot air (15-25+°C) temperatures and mild (but still cold) sea temperatures of around 12 to 17°C. Late Autumn to Early Spring brings colder air temperatures (>10°C to below 0°C) and harsher weather conditions along with water temperatures which drop down as low as 6°C on open coastline and down to freezing in sheltered estuarine and inland waters. Don't Forget: if it's windy the wind chill factor can bring air temperatures several degrees lower than shown on any forecast. With such contrasting seasons and range of temperatures, it can be difficult to find one clothing solution for all year round. You need to ask yourself when you will most likely be kayak fishing.
Recommended Clothing for Kayak Fishing
Neoprene Clothing & Wetsuits for Kayak Fishing
A better option would be a 'farmer john' style long john wetsuit - effectively a wetsuit with the arms cut off! These are designed for paddling and will be more comfortable to wear. Neoprene shorts can be worn with just a t-shirt or better still a rash vest or neoprene top if it is a really hot and calm day, but if you go in the water you will feel the cold!
Pair up some neoprene clothing with a basic windproof breathable cag and you will help to reduce any wind chill if it is breezy. It will also help keep any cool spray off your upper body too. Durable wetsuit boots are also recommended to protect your feet - see the footwear section further down for more info.
In the paddle clothing world, neoprene is fairly inexpensive. A reasonable quality summer 3/2mm or winter 5/3mm wetsuit will set you back around £70-100, as will a long john style paddling wetsuit. A basic lightweight breathable cag can be picked up from around £50.
Two-Piece Clothing for Kayak Fishing
Lower Body - Dry Trousers
Dry trousers are the important component here as it is your lower half that will mostly get wet whilst kayak fishing, with splashes coming over the kayak and wet fish being brought onto your lap. Dry trousers come in various options, primarily those with dry socks built-in, and those without. Those without dry socks will feature either latex or neoprene seals at the ankle to keep the water out of the trousers. Those with built-in socks have the added bonus of keeping your feet dry, and therefore warmer, however expect to spend a little more for this option. Expect to spend £90+ for dry trousers without socks and £150+ for those with socks. Also a popular option are Bib and Braces - essentially a dry trouser with a shoulder brace section. These offer a little more protection against the elements and prevent cold water from reaching your lower back. Expect to spend £200+ on a pair of paddling Bib and Braces. Please Note - Bib and Braces are NOT fishing waders, and waders are not recommended for kayak fishing. Waders can quickly fill with water and make re-entry onto your kayak almost impossible.
Upper Body - Warm or Hot Weather
If it is warm or hot then a long-sleve rash vest or thin neoprene top is a good upper body option. If it is really hot (those rare calm hot summer days) then a t-shirt can be worn but will provide little thermal properties if you go in the water! Rash vests are inexpensive and can be found for as little as £15. Expect to pay £50+ for paddling-specific neoprene tops.
If it is cooler then wear a breathable cag over the top of your warm weather top. If it is cold then wear thermal base layers beneath. When choosing a cag (also known as a cagoule or paddling jacket), look for touring style cags, and not white water style cags. Touring cags feature an open style neck with zippers, to allow for good ventilation. White water cags feature full neck seals like those found on drysuits, and whilst not completely unsuitable, they do tend to get a bit sweaty during warm days.
A simple lightweight cag is ideal for Spring to Autumn use for those days when it is a bit cooler and will certainly help to cut down on the wind chill. Look for those with adjustable neoprene or 'exo-skin' wrist cuffs and waist band - these help to keep any cold breezes and the odd splash from getting to you! A good quality cag can be found for as little as £50, with hooded options closer to the £100 mark.
Please Note: A twin-waist cag and dry trouser combo is not 100% waterproof but if the waist seals are a snug fit to the body it will not let much water in if re-entry onto the kayak is fairly quick should you fall in.
For really cold weather then a one-piece dry suit is the safest, warmest and best option.
Surface Immersion Drysuits for Kayak Fishing
Surface immersion drysuits differ from diving drysuits, which are often constructed of heavier duty non-breathable materials and have tighter seals to ensure waterproofness under pressure at depth. Avoid these drysuits - you need a surface immersion drysuits. These are designed to keep your body dry should you immerse yourself at the waters surface - a possibility whilst kayak fishing! Look for one constructed from breathable fabric otherwise you will end up a sweaty mess after a little while paddling! The breathable fabric will be waterproof but allow water vapour from within the suit to seep back outside. A decent quality breathable drysuit will keep you comfortable in warmer weather too. In really hot weather you will probably find it uncomfortable so some neoprene or two-piece back-up options may be worth having for those hot summer days!
Look for drysuits with 'Glide-skin' or 'Smooth-skin' neoprene neck seals for comfort. Cold feet can be a session killer so invest in a drysuit with built-in fabric socks - these are great as they keep your feet dry and allow you to wear thermal socks to help keep them warm. Expect to spend upwards of £450 for a good quality breathable drysuit with built-in socks.
Whilst a surface drysuit will keep you dry should you take a swim, it won't necessarily keep you warm. It will in the sense that the water won't be coming into contact with your body beneath the suit and neither will the chilling effects of the wind reach your body, but in terms of actual thermal properties, a dry suit offers very little. The best way to stay warm is to use layers of thermals.
Thermal Layers for Kayaking
If you are fishing in cooler or cold weather, in a two-piece suit or drysuit, you will want to use thermal base layers to keep your body warm. Using several layers of thermals allows for flexibility - put more layers on when its colder, and less layers on when its warmer. The separate layers will trap air which will be warmed by your body heat, further insulating you and keeping you warmer. One-piece 'teddy-bear' thermal suits also work well, particularly in the colder months.
When choosing a set of paddling thermals there are a number of characteristics you want to look for. You want them to be lightweight and warm but at the same time you want them to be breathable and fast-wicking to move water vapour (sweaty air!) away from your body quickly. Many people make the mistake of using standard cotton-based thermals - great for under a pair of jeans or trousers but in the often humid environment of a drysuit these will hold water against the skin. This water will cool down leaving you feel very cold. Good thermals aren't cheap but they may well save you having to cut a session short because you are shivering.
Footwear for Kayak Fishing
If you are looking for footwear to wear over your dry trouser or dry suits dry-socks, then make sure you select a foot size at least 1 or 2 sizes bigger than your normal footwear. This allows room for the extra dry-sock fabric, as well as room for you to wear a pair of thick thermal socks beneath them for extra warmth! Most kayak clothing manufacturers make a range of kayaking footwear including Palm Equipment who have a great selection of all styles.
Headwear for Kayak Fishing
Eyewear for Kayaking
Skin-wear for Paddling
Not sure what else to categorise this as but you put it on your skin so i guess it's skin-wear! Suncream is essential during bright, sunny or hot conditions, especially during the summer months when the effect of the suns UV rays is higher. High SPF waterproof suncream in a spray bottle is handy to carry on the kayak for top ups during the day to help avoid potential sunburn and sunstroke.
Most good paddling shops will have a range of clothing suitable for kayak fishing and i can personally recommend Cornwall Canoes as having a good range covering the top brands. Whatever you wear, make sure you are comfortable and safe on the water. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below!