What to Wear for an Amazing Canoeing Experience

If you are new to the exciting world of canoeing or are looking for ways to improve your preparation for upcoming trips, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we will explore the essential clothing items you need to wear for a comfortable and enjoyable canoeing experience. Whether you are paddling in warm weather or braving the cold, we’ve got you covered with valuable tips and insights.

Dressing for Success: Canoeing Essentials

In the Canoe

When you’re out on the water, it’s crucial to wear clothing that dries quickly. Canoes can tip, even on calm waters, and unexpected rain showers can occur. Here are some essential items to wear while paddling:

  • Quick Dry Athletic T-Shirt: Opt for a non-cotton gym t-shirt that dries fast and keeps you comfortable.
  • Quick Dry Athletic Shorts or Lightweight Hiking Pants: Choose lightweight shorts for warm weather and consider hiking pants if you expect to do a lot of portaging.
  • Life Jacket: Safety always comes first! Wear a life jacket at all times during your canoeing adventures.

To be prepared for changing weather conditions, keep warm and waterproof clothing within reach. Store a fleece sweater, rain jacket, and rain pants in a dry sack. A sudden drop in temperature or unexpected rain won’t catch you off guard.

At the Campsite

Once you arrive at your campsite, you have the option to change into your “site clothes” after completing campsite duties. These clothes offer comfort and relaxation. Here’s what you can wear:

  • Flannel Shirt: A lightweight wool flannel provides both coziness and style.
  • Wool Shirt: Consider a wool base layer shirt for added warmth and versatility.
  • Fleece Pants: Indulge in the comfort of fleece pants, perfect for relaxing by the campfire.
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Remember that campsite clothing provides you with options. You can stick to what you’re wearing or change into your site clothes. It all depends on your preferences and the weather conditions.


Choosing the right footwear for canoeing is crucial. Here are some options to consider:

  • Wet Shoes: Wear trail running shoes or sturdy sandals that dry quickly and provide excellent traction.
  • Dry Shoes: If you want to keep your feet dry at the campsite, consider open-toed sandals like Tevas.
  • Wool Socks: Pack a few pairs of wool socks for their quick-drying and insulating properties.

While hiking boots are durable and suitable for portaging, they can be challenging to swim with if you accidentally tip over. Running shoes are an option, but keep in mind that they may stay wet for a long time.

Hats & Head Gear

Protecting yourself from the elements is essential, so don’t forget these headgear essentials:

  • Sunhat: Choose a full-brimmed hat, such as a Tilley Hat, to shield your face and neck from the sun.
  • Sunglasses: Bring sunglasses to reduce glare and protect your eyes while paddling.
  • Bug Jacket: During bug season, a bug jacket or a bug hat can make your camping experience much more enjoyable.
  • If Paddling Whitewater, Helmet: If you’ll be navigating moving water, ensure your safety by wearing a suitable helmet.

Canoeing in Spring and Autumn

As the seasons change and the weather gets colder, your canoeing attire needs to adapt. Here are some clothing recommendations for spring and autumn canoe trips:

  • Base Layer: Choose a moisture-wicking, long sleeve shirt made from materials like merino wool or synthetic fibers.
  • Sweater / Jacket: Bring along a warm sweater or jacket to stay comfortable during your paddle and at the campsite.
  • Hiking Pants: Opt for hiking pants treated with Durable Water Repellency (DWR) for water resistance and durability.
  • Long Underwear: Consider wearing a pair of long underwear beneath your hiking pants for added warmth.
  • Wool Hat / Merino Wool Buff: Keep your head warm with a wool hat or merino wool buff to retain vital body heat.
  • Gloves: Water-resistant gloves can protect your hands from wind and rain during campsite tasks and chilly paddles.
  • Neoprene Socks: To keep your feet warm in cold water, consider investing in neoprene socks, which provide excellent insulation.
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Safety Considerations for Cold Water Canoeing

In early spring and late autumn, when water temperatures drop, it’s important to prioritize safety. Cold water can present significant risks, so please keep the following in mind:

  • Dry Suit: If you plan on paddling in cold water, invest in a dry suit to protect yourself from the frigid temperatures. They are a valuable investment that can save lives.
  • Cold Water Survival Times: Educate yourself about the risks of cold water and be aware of your limits. Check out cold water survival time tables for more information.

Final Thoughts on Canoeing Attire

Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of what to wear for your canoeing adventures, keep these two key pieces of advice in mind:

  1. Avoid Cotton: Cotton clothing takes a long time to dry, so opt for quick-drying materials that keep you comfortable.
  2. Acquire Gear Gradually: You don’t need to buy everything at once. Invest in high-quality gear over time as you learn your preferences and needs.

For a detailed canoe gear packing list and more tips, feel free to download our free canoe trip planner. Safe and enjoyable paddling adventures await you!