Winter Kayaking Checklist: Prep for Cold Weather Paddling

By Debbie Hanson

Jan 03, 2022

List of winter kayaking tips that apply to winter kayaking gear, winter kayaking clothing, ensuring your cold weather adventures on the water are safe

For those who love the serenity of the outdoors, winter kayaking often comes with the benefits of fewer people on the water and beautiful snowcovered views. However, paddling during the winter requires a high level of respect for the elements and special safety considerations.

If you’ve been wondering, can you kayak in the winter? The answer is yes, but make sure you know what you need to safely paddle during the winter months. Winter kayaking gear and winter kayaking clothing needs are much different than other seasons of the year, particularly when there is a chance for immersion.

While you should always consult with an outfitter or kayak safety pro, these key winter kayaking tips will give you a general idea of how to prepare for cold weather adventures on the water.

Get a Kayaking Dry Suit

Not sure what to wear winter kayaking? When the water temperature drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, you'll want to wear a kayaking dry suit. You can wear winter clothing layers underneath the protective dry suit layer made from a special membrane fabric or neoprene. Dry suits are 100% water resistant and built specifically for cold weather kayaking.

Dress in Layers

Wear a dry suit as your outermost layer, then layer your clothing underneath the dry suit in the same manner that you would for any other outdoor activity during the winter. The closest layer to your body should be made of some sort of synthetic, non-cotton material. Synthetic materials do a much better job of wicking moisture away from your body and drying quickly when they get wet.

Wear a PFD Made for Paddling

US Coast Guard Type III PFDs (personal flotation devices) are essential pieces of kayak fishing gear to have during any season of the year. Life jackets or PFDs are the safest way to keep yourself afloat if you happen to capsize and will make it easier to climb back into your kayak. For winter kayaking, it is recommended that you wear a PFD that is rated for five to ten pounds more than the weight of your body.

Use a Sit-Inside Kayak

While sit-on-top kayaks are more popular for fishing because they are generally more stable as well as easier to get in and out of, sit-inside models are best for winter kayak fishing or paddling activities because they serve the purpose of protecting your lower body from the water and cold winds. In other words, sit-inside kayaks will provide a drier paddling experience and will also give you more space to keep your winter kayaking gear secure.

Protect Your Head and Ears

If you have a dry suit that is made with a hood, you will already have a waterproof head covering built into your outermost paddling layer. Although, make sure you wear a beanie or insulated cap underneath to protect your ears and provide extra insulation while on winter kayaking trips.

Wear Paddling Gloves

Neoprene paddling gloves that are waterproof or water resistant are a requirement to keep your hands dry and protected from the cold weather. Unlike regular gloves, kayak gloves will also have non-slip fabric on the palm side which allows you to keep a tight grip on your paddle and your kayak fishing accessories.

Can you kayak in the winter? Absolutely, if you apply these tips and are properly prepared for the elements. Get outside and try winter kayak bass fishing or just take in the winter scenery on a self-guided paddling tour.

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.