Kayak Fishing Wear
You've got your kayak and all your fishing gear; but what are you going to wear? If it's sunny and warm; all you need is a pair of shorts and a T shirt; maybe a hat and some sunscreen. Odds are the weather is not going to be like that all the time; so here is a rundown of things you might need to wear to stay comfortable and safe on the next kayak fishing adventure
The first thing you will need no matter what the weather is like
is a Coast Guard Approved Life Vest or PFD (Personal Floatation Device). Life vests; or "life jackets" come in many styles and price ranges. Choose one that is appropriate for your size and weight and is going to be comfortable while you are paddling your kayak.
Mild to Chilly Weather
For a day that starts out cool and warms up; a 2mm Short John wetsuit is a good way to go. The shorty can be worn with a polypropylene shirt under the wetsuit.
These quick drying shirts will help reduce chafing and prevent sunburn. A jacket or rain shell can be worn over the shorty if it's chilly. As it warms up you can stow the jacket or rain shell and even roll the top part of the wetsuit down if it gets too warm. Get a short john with a zipper in the front; make sure the zipper is long enough in case you need to make a "comfort stop."
If it is a little too cold for a Short John; you might try a "Farmer John" wetsuit; which is like the Short John with long legs.
Some of the wetsuits may have a special interior lining that reflects body heat and helps keep the wearer warmer than plain rubber. Get one with a full length front zipper and zippers at the bottom of the legs that make it easier to put the wetsuit on and take it off. Wear a polypropylene under the wetsuit to prevent chafing and sunburn. Worn with a jacket or waterproof shell and booties; the Farmer John is a good base layer for mild to fairly cool weather conditions.
If you don't like wetsuits, it's not cold enough for a wetsuit or you want to wear shorts with a waterproof outer layer;
you might want to check out a pair of waterproof pants. Used mainly by hunters; these pants are windproof and have a waterproof, breathable membrane and usually, a nylon shell. These pants vary in price; but you can get a pretty decent pair pretty cheap; especially if you keep your eyes open for sales at the end of the hunting season.
Cold and Wet Weather
When it gets cold and wet; you don't stop fishing, you dress for the weather. Layering is the way to go; starting with a base layer. Start off with a pair of long underwear,
or "long johns." Polartec
is a well known brand of quality underwear with many styles depending on the temperature you will be going out into. Medium and heavyweight underwear is usually made from hollow-core polyester fabric that traps body heat but wicks away moisture and dries quickly. The super warm "polar weight" underwear, sometimes referred to a "PolarFleece
" will keep you warm in the coldest conditions. This synthetic fabric wicks moisture and dries quickly; it is warm even when wet.
On top; if it's not too cold, start with a polypropylene shirt. You can spend a lot of money on these shirts that are used by athletes; the shirts you can buy at your local discount stores with names like "Dri-Fit
" or "Dri-Star
"; made of 100% polyester, are just as good and a lot cheaper. For a little more warmth; go with the Polartec
; same as the long underwear, keeping in mind you may be wearing a couple layers of clothing over it. You want to be warm; but you will be paddling or peddaling and you don't want to be too warm and start sweating.
Over your base layer; what most kayakers wear is a pair of chest waders. The best waders are waterproof, breathable stockingfoot waders made of breathable fabric and neoprene booties.
You can get cheaper neoprene or PVC-lined waders; but it's probably worth it to spend a few more bucks and get a good pair of breathable waders. The good waders start about $100.USD; waders with reinforced knees, butt and feet, taped seams and extras like zippered pockets are going to cost a little more. For really cold conditions there are 3mm and 5mm neoprene waders. Keep in mind neoprene waders, or wetsuits made of neoprene are not breathable. If you are wearing chest waders; it is very important that you wear a wading belt
. If you should go overboard and you are not wearing a wading belt; the waders will fill up with water and it will be very difficult for you to get back on your kayak.
Another option are waterproof bibs or pants. These are heavy duty garments worn by snowboarders, skiers and other outdoorsmen to stay warm and dry.
They usually have a heavy duty nylon outer layer with a GoreTex
or other waterproof membrane inside. Some are also lined with Thinsulate
; or similar insulating material. The lined bibs and pants are very warm. These waterproof bibs and pants start at about $100.USD and can go for as much as $300.USD for the cold weather gear worn by professonal guides and serious outdoor enthusiasts. These garments are well made and will last a long time with reasonable care; if you go out in a wet and/or cold environment; they are well worth the investment.
As a top for this middle layer; a fleece pullover or jacket is a good call. They are inexpensive and warm; even when wet; and they dry quickly. A sweatshirt, sweater or light jacket can also be worn. If it gets too warm; you can take it off and stow it.
On top of everything else you can wear a waterproof shell or jacket.
These are usually fairly lightweight and serve mainly to block wind and keep you dry. They are usually made of a nylon shell with a waterproof/breathable membrane underneath. Cheap waterproof shells are usually coated with a waterproof coating that will eventually wear off; it's a good idea to spend a few extra bucks for a shell that has a waterproof membrane; it is more breathable and will last longer.
Other Helpful Accessories
There are a number of choices for kayak footwear. You can wear Teva-type sandals on your bare feet or over stocking foot waders.
There are also neoprene "reef walker" water shoes. When it's a little colder; you can wear wetsuit booties or paddling boots. These boots and booties come in many configurations and prices; choose the configuration and neoprene thickness for the temperature you will be paddling in.
These felt-sole neoprene wading booties are a good combination of features that work well for kayak fishermen. They can be worn over bare feet, waterproof socks or stocking foot waders. The have a felt sole that helps prevent you from slipping on wet rocks when getting in and out of your kayak and a side zipper to make putting them on and taking them off easier. There are also more heavy duty wading boots you can use if you fish in a really rocky and rugged area; but in most cases; these felt-sole booties should do the job. If you are going to use these booties with waders or waterproof socks; you'll probably want to go one size larger than you normally wear.
Cold fingers are a tough call.
There aren't really any gloves that keep your fingers warm but allow you to operate your fishing reel, change lures or tie knots with thin fishing line. These are neoprene gloves; popular with duck hunters who have to deal with decoys in cold water. You have to take them on and off to tie knots and change lures with a swivel; but you can use them when you are paddling and they are pretty much waterproof and will keep your hands warm.
Extreme Cold and Wet Weather
When the conditions are extremely cold and wet or there is a possibility of going overboard into very cold water,
the best choice of apparel is a drysuit. Drysuits keep you completely dry and you can wear warm garments underneath if it is extremely cold. Drysuits are only for extremely cold conditions because they are very warm. With acivity like paddling or pedaling a kayak, it can be too warm and you will be soaked with sweat, which defeats the purpose of the suit. Drysuits are also very expensive and have "gaskets" around the neck, wrists and ankles that need to be replaced when they become stretched or worn out. Be sure to get one with a relief zipper. Some drysuit companies make kayak fishing specific suits with reenforcement in key wear areas.
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