What to Wear Kayak Fishing in Winter

What to Wear Kayak Fishing in Winter

Cold winter weather shouldn’t keep you from making the most of your kayak and fishing gear. Kayak fishing during winter can be a rewarding experience for your mind, for landing trophy fish, or your table. However, it’s crucial to wear the right clothing when taking to icy winter waters in a kayak.

For kayak fishing in winter or cold weather, wear clothing with your safety in mind. Waterproof pants and jackets are a must. Tight-fitting wrist and ankle cuffs and gloves to keep water out are essential. Wear layered clothing with wool socks, shirts, or specialized cold-weather fabrics.

Let’s take a look at some of the measures kayak fishers should consider before setting out, including what type of clothing they should wear to stay safe, warm, and dry.

Winter Kayak Fishing Clothing Considerations

Those who’d like to go kayak fishing in winter should be sure to look up your desired fishing spot’s temperature beforehand, purchase winter-appropriate kayaking gear, dress for the chilly weather, and prepare for emergencies. Waterproof, lightweight, heat-trapping clothing tends to work well.

No matter where you intend to take your kayak out for some cold weather fishing, there are some clothing considerations to keep in mind. For example, nearly all clothing items should be:

  • Waterproofness 
  • Weight
  • Heat-trapping ability

Of course, it might not be necessary to invest in waterproof socks, underwear, or shirts. And waterproof boots don’t necessarily need to trap heat as well as drysuits, jackets, and pants. 

Understanding these different factors can help you make the right decision for each item of clothing.


Nearly all outerwear you decide to wear while fishing should be waterproof, especially during cold weather. While breathable fabrics might keep you from sweating, waterproof materials can help prevent or reduce hypothermia if you accidentally fall into the water.

However, the majority of the clothing you decide to wear beneath this waterproof, non-breathable outerwear can be nearly any fabric, and I would recommend wool or hi-tech cold weather materials.

I used to wear Pendleton wool shirts while outdoors. Now, hi-tech clothing, as you will find at Blackfishgear.com, has overtaken wool material since the 1970s (Source). Still, low temperatures will often call for thicker, denser fabrics and materials.


Every kayaker knows how important weight is, and those who like to fish while kayaking certainly understands the importance of weight and balance. You don’t want to overburden yourself and take on water while scaring fish away, but you also don’t want to neglect packing the essentials.

It may be best to strike a happy medium between these two needs by investing in lightweight kayaking clothing. A happy medium can be tricky. As denser, heat-trapping materials tend to weight a little more than their breezy counterparts. 

Still, fleece and cotton are lightweight fabrics that can help keep kayakers warm as long as you layer your clothing appropriately.

Heat-Trapping Ability

Several soft fabrics can help keep you warm, absorb sweat, pull it away from the body, and feel comfortable against the skin. Some of the most popular include:

  • Cotton
  • Wool
  • Fleece
  • Polypropylene

Each of these materials can make a fantastic option for those hoping to stay warm while kayak fishing. This is especially true when kayakers wear a waterproof outer layer over cotton shirts, fleece jackets, and wool pants.

Preparing for Winter Conditions

It’s vital to be prepared for winter conditions in your home or away fishing waters to ensure that you’re wearing the best clothing for winter kayak fishing. This can help you avoid treacherous waters and icy conditions that may be difficult to navigate. 

Kayak fishers should do the following before heading out to catch some fish:

  • Research the temperature
  • Purchase heat-saving gear
  • Prepare for the worst

Following these steps is bound to result in a safer, warmer, and more comfortable kayak fishing experience, even in light snow or frigid temperatures. However, even the best gear can struggle to protect you from extreme conditions, like sudden snowstorms or a storm blowing in.

Researching the Temperature

Choosing what to wear when kayak fishing during the winter season all begins with understanding how cold your destination is likely to be. Though this can be difficult to accurately determine several weeks or months in advance, looking at temperature averages on Climate-Data.org can help.

For example, Floridians hoping to get some winter kayak fishing in may comfortably sport a t-shirt and a light waterproof jacket. However, Minnesotans will need far more clothing and gear to stay warm while fishing. Researching and understanding your destination’s temperature makes all the difference.

You’ll want to invest in heat-saving thermal wear or gear to help prevent hypothermia during longer fishing trips. Hypothermia is when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. A body temperature drop of a few degrees can cause your body to stop working according to the Mayo Clinic!

Purchasing Heat-Saving Gear

Fortunately, quite a few pieces of waterproof, heat-saving kayaking gear can make a chilly fishing adventure far warmer. In terms of outerwear, wearing a dry suit is often wise. 

The Atacama Drysuit is an excellent example of a lightweight, waterproof suit that is economical compared to other drysuits and can help reduce icy water from causing a serious incident on a fishing trip. It’s available in several sizes. But outerwear is only the beginning.

Wearing the right clothing beneath your waterproof protective gear is also crucial. Fleece is absorbent, soft and excellent at trapping heat. Fleece-lined jackets, gloves, pants, socks, or boots can help keep you warm and comfortable. However, it’s always a good idea to pack a second outfit.

While it’s never fun to consider the terrible things that may happen while kayak fishing in wintertime, it could save your life. Having a change of clothing, a first aid kit and a waterproof, collision-resistant container can help keep you safe during a crisis.

Preparing for the Worst

Kayak safety begins with knowledge. If you know what you need to have and do to stay safe, you’re far more likely to successfully roll through an emergency without panicking or suffering undue harm.

There are several items you should have with you when setting out to do some kayak fishing. They include:

  • A life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD)
  • A bilge pump
  • Sunscreen
  • Backup clothing
  • A paddle float
  • A first-aid kit 
  • A spare paddle
  • A flashlight
  • Backup food
  • A spraydeck

While this might seem excessive, especially if you’re already hauling fishing gear with you, each one of these items is integral to safety and survival. A PFD will help keep you afloat if you fall into the water, and a hand-powered bilge pump can keep your kayak dry if water accumulates inside it.

Sunscreen might not be necessary, but backup clothing certainly is. A paddle float can help keep your paddle from sinking if it happens to get away from you, and a second paddle is always an excellent investment, just in case, the first one flows away.

A flashlight and some shelf-stable backup food can help in extreme situations, and a spray screen or spraydeck can help keep your lower body dry and warm while fishing. It might also be a good idea to bring a whistle and GPS, or compass, with you.

However, whether you’re camping or fishing, it’s essential to let friends and family know where you’re going and when you’ll be back before heading out (source). Doing so could help rescue workers find you quickly if an accident happens. 

But while waiting for help, or fishing safely in your kayak, it’s imperative to dress appropriately.

Regardless of the weather temperatures, YOU SHOULD ALWAYS WEAR A PFD while kayak fishing or any water sport! My Top PFD Picks and the PFD I wear can be found on my Recommended Gear page.


Understanding what to wear when kayak fishing in the winter begins with researching your preferred fishing location’s expected temperature. Once you have a good idea of how cool your ideal spot is likely to be, you can begin gearing up. A drysuit can help immensely.

That’s because it’s waterproof and can help reduce heat loss. Fleece clothing is also a fantastic option to wear beneath your waterproof protection. It’s also essential to bring or wear emergency gear while kayaking, as doing so could save your life.

When choosing cold-weather clothing for kayak fishing, it’s essential to pick items that are waterproof, lightweight, warm, affordable, and appropriate for your purposes and preferences.

Thanks for stopping in and stay safe out there!

Mike Rodman

Mike enjoys fishing all year round, from fly fishing small streams in Wyoming's higher mountains to kayak fishing the lower altitude lakes and reservoirs. Mike also has a passion for ice fishing. When he has spare time, he'll be found at his rod bench building custom fishing rods.

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