Kayak Fishing Clothing
Kayak Fishing is a water sport and it is therefore wise to dress for immersion! Whilst the aim is to stay on the kayak, you never know when you may end up in the water. Once you are used to your kayak, it is unlikely that you will fall off, but it is not impossible and everyone is likely to get caught off guard at some point and end up in the water. If that water is cold then you may quickly get into difficulty.
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
There is not really one clothing solution that suits both summer and winter here in the UK. Most newcomers to kayak fishing will be fair weather kayakers restricted to the Spring to Autumn months. There are various clothing options suitable for the warmer months but bare in mind that the water temperatures are at their coldest at the start of Spring, even if we are lucky enough to get warm air temperatures. If you are planning on fishing year round then sensible winter clothing will also be required.
Neoprene Clothing & Wetsuits for Kayak Fishing
Neoprene clothing is great for first time kayak anglers. It is relatively inexpensive and does the job fine in the Summer which tends to be the time of year many people take up kayak fishing. In the warmer months you can get away with wearing a standard 'surfers' wetsuit. Whilst not designed for wearing out of the water, they will provide warmth if you do end up in the water! They can cause chafing on the arms and armpits though, and can become sweaty in hot sunny conditions.
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
This is the most flexible option. Two piece clothing usually comprises of a pair of dry trousers or bib and braces to keep your bottom half dry. These can then be paired up with various options for your upper half depending on the weather conditions. Two-piece clothing can be used year round.
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.
Upper Body - Cool / Cold Weather
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.
If you are planning to use a two-piece set up year-round it is wise to go for the driest two-piece options available. Look for two piece clothing that has a 'twin-waist' - this is where there are extra layers of material at the waist section that overlap between the bottoms and the upper body layers. These overlapping layers help to create a seal and prevent water getting through. Also look for cags that have proper seals at the wrists, usually latex. This will prevent water entering through the arms. Likewise, choose dry pants or a bib and brace with built-in fabric socks, so that you can keep your feet dry and warm. Expect to spend £150+ for a twin Waist cag with wrist seals.
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
In terms of safety, a surface immersion drysuit is the safest clothing option for kayak fishing in the UK. This is particularly the case if you are planning on kayak fishing during the colder months when the sea temperatures drop. A water temperature below 10 degrees celsius will be bitterly cold against the skin and soon take the energy from your body. This can make things difficult when it comes to self rescue should you fall in. You may only get a few chances to re-enter your kayak before hypothermia starts setting in, making your body incredibly weak and the situation worse. Minimising the chances of the water coming into contact with your skin is paramount. This is where a drysuit comes into play.
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
Footwear for Kayak Fishing
Kayak fishing bare foot is not much fun. Cold feet can be a real session killer so it really is advisable to get decent footwear for use on and in the water. There are various types of footwear that are popular for kayak fishing. For many, a durable pair of wetsuit-style boots will provide plenty of protection whilst getting your kayak too and from the water from your vehicle, and whilst on the kayak itself. Look for boots with a firm textured rubber sole for extra durability and grip as well as protection for your feet when walking on uneven ground. These are cost-effective and perfectly good for most kayak fishing applications.
You can also get tall 'wellington-style' neoprene boots which provide additional protection and warmth. The taller design also helps to keep sand and muck from reaching your feet, which can often happen when launching and landing your kayak. For those who want a proper all-terrain water boot there are various hiking-style boots available that are designed specifically for kayaking, and provide great ankle support, comfort and grip on wet surfaces.
If possible, try on the footwear before purchasing as you will want to find a good fitting boot. Footwear that is too tight will restrict blood flow to your feet - this does not help them to stay warm, especially in colder conditions, and your feet will soon become numb and potentially painful! Having boots that are slightly loose are better than ones are tight on your feet.
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
Not essential but in hot weather and bright sunshine it is advisable to wear a sun hat to keep your head cool and reduce water loss which may lead to dehydration. Baseball caps are also great for keeping the sun out of your eyes. Hats with neck covers are also useful to prevent sunburn on your neck! Buffs are also a great way to keep the sun off your neck, and they are inexpensive too. In the colder months an insulated woolly beanie-type hat will help to retain body heat and keep you warm!
Eyewear for Kayaking
By all means not essential but sunglasses are particularly useful in bright conditions. Look for polarised lenses which function to cut out the suns glare on the waters surface. Also look for lenses with UV filters to help protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. Floating frames also help too if you can find them. If not put a floating lanyard onto the glasses to save them being lost to the sea if they get knocked off your head! Blue reflective lenses work best on the open sea, and brown lenses are better for inland waters. Costa Del Mar sunglasses are popular amongst anglers for those wanting to splash the cash but more affordable and very good polarised shades are also produced by Dewerstone (a Devon-based company) and Bolle.
Skin-wear for Paddling
There are a range of clothing options for kayak fishing. For those starting out, a simple wetsuit paired up with a lightweight cag and some wetsuit boots is a great way to get on the water for little cost. For those who are kayak fishing regularly then a two-piece option or drysuit is a much more comfortable option, particularly for year-round use. Just be sure to dress for immersion as you never know when you may end up in the water!
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!
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