The Comfortable Kayaker: Staying Dry in a Wet Environment
Water: it’s all around us as we kayak, and that’s where we’d like to keep it. Though no Jacksonville kayak tour would be possible without the water, keeping your kayak equipment (and yourself) dry during each Florida kayaking excursion will help you stay comfortable and prevent your gear from getting soaked and damaged by the salty brine.
The goal of staying 100 percent dry on a Jacksonville tour is an unreachable one. There’s a reason that dogs make better kayakers than cats: at some point along the way, you’re going to get wet. But with a little careful preparation, you can keep yourself reasonably dry and comfy even as you splash around in the water around you.
The drier your clothing stays, the better. Though that ratty old cotton t-shirt may seem like the perfect pick for paddling, it will absorb water like a dehydrated sponge and dry slowly afterwards. You can find clothes made with many different materials that keep moisture out, while some materials even draw sweat away from your skin—these are the most comfortable options.
Layering your clothing is a smart choice for any activity that has you braving the elements, but the heat of kayaking in Florida may make extra insulation and wind protection unnecessary in many months of the year. Still, it’s good to know the best materials for each layer of your kayaking wardrobe—after all, kayaking in Jacksonville during the winter months can get quite chilly!
Layer 1: Moisture Control
The ideal material for your base layer will be wicking fabrics like polypropylene and polyester. Lightweight and durable, these materials do not soak up water, but actually pull sweat away from your skin, helping you stay as comfortable and dry as possible. Many tops and bottoms are made with wicking fabrics and may even come in varying thicknesses to accommodate different conditions. Wind-resistant and quick-drying, nylon is a reliable second choice, especially in warmer weather.
Layer 2: Insulation
When you want to keep warm, there are few better options than wool. Even when wet, wool will help you stay insulated, making it perfect for kayaking beyond Florida’s subtropical climes. Wool releases moisture better than cotton does, but can still be slow-drying and heavy. Because of this, synthetic fleece is another good option for insulation. Even when it’s soaking wet, fleece will help keep you warm, and it weighs significantly less than wool. But be warned—many fleece garments won’t block much wind and may need to be coupled with a solid outer shell. Both wool and fleece are used to make all kinds of clothing, including pants, jackets, shirts, sweaters and vests.
Layer 3: Wind Protection & Water Resistance
For most flatwater Florida kayaking excursions, basic rain gear should suffice. The most flexible rainwear will be both waterproof and breathable, capable of protecting you from splashes of any kind for a full day of kayaking. They will also let your body heat and sweat escape to help you stay as comfortable and dry as possible. One popular example of this kind of material is Gore-Tex®, which can be found in garments from jackets to footwear.
If you’re planning on doing any surf or whitewater kayaking, you may need some more protective spray wear. Spray jackets and pants are often made of waterproof nylon and are especially designed to keep splashes out. This means tight-fitting seals around the neck, wrists and ankles, which is usually accomplished with neoprene cuffs and collars. For better ventilation, look for spray wear with mesh lining, and remember to wear a good wicking layer underneath to keep away the cold of condensation.
Hats, gloves and footwear can also be very important parts of your kayaking wardrobe. The ideal hat will have a wide brim to block sun and rain, as well as a strap to keep it on your head in choppy conditions. In cold weather, a hat can also help you retain a lot of warmth.
Gloves made with neoprene or nylon will help you keep your hands warm and protected from the wind and waves, but they will also help prevent blisters. If warm weather makes gloves unfeasible, be sure to keep your hands as dry as possible and apply sunscreen/lotion to protect them.
When conditions are warm, wet feet usually aren’t a big deal. Your typical sandals and water socks should suffice—even a pair of beat up old sneakers may do the trick. But in the cold, when soaking wetness turns your feet to icicles, rubber boots, thick neoprene booties and Gore-Tex® socks can be your very best friends. Remember to also bring a change of footwear for any activities you plan to do on dry land—this will help prevent blisters.
Staying bone dry during any Florida kayaking trip or Jacksonville tour may not be realistic, but wearing the right gear will help you stay comfortable. If you need any advice on buying gear for your next kayaking trip, don’t hesitate to stop by First Coast and speak with one of our outfitters!