What to Wear Canoeing: Stay Comfortable and Dry on Your Canoe Trip

What to Wear Canoeing: Stay Comfortable and Dry on Your Canoe Trip

If you’re new to canoeing or looking to improve your preparedness, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll discuss the essentials of what to wear while canoeing. We’ll cover everything from clothing for the canoe and campsite to navigating cold weather conditions. Let’s dive in!

Dressing for the Canoe

When you’re in the canoe, it’s crucial to wear clothing that’s quick-drying. Canoes can tip, unexpected rain showers can occur, and you want to be ready for anything.

  • Quick Dry Athletic T-Shirt: Opt for a non-cotton gym t-shirt that dries quickly. Pack a few of these for your trip.
  • Quick Dry Athletic Shorts or Lightweight Hiking Pants: Depending on the temperature, choose shorts or lightweight hiking pants. If you have a lot of portaging, prioritize pants to protect your ankles and knees.
  • Life Jacket: Always wear a life jacket, even on calm water. New models are comfortable, look stylish, and most importantly, can save your life.


To stay warm and dry during your canoe trip, carry a 10 L dry sack containing a fleece sweater, rain jacket, and rain pants.

  • Fleece Sweater: Keep a lightweight fleece sweater handy for sudden temperature drops or windy conditions.
  • Rain Jacket: Have a reliable rain jacket easily accessible. Don it as soon as raindrops start falling.
  • Rain Pants: Consider packing rain pants, especially for longer trips. They provide superior protection against heavy rain. If you’re on a budget, the MEC Aquanator Rain Pants are a great alternative.
Read more:  Choosing the Perfect Canoe: A Guide for Adventure Seekers

What to Wear at the Campsite

Once you reach your campsite, you can decide to change into more comfortable “site clothes” or continue wearing what you had on during the day.

  • Flannel Shirt: Lightweight wool or synthetic flannel shirts are perfect for rest days or cooler evenings. Avoid wearing them in rainy weather.
  • Wool Shirt: A wool base layer shirt is a great alternative to flannel. Pair it with a synthetic down jacket for added warmth.


You might prefer fleece pants for their comfort and mosquito-repellent properties. Additionally, pack pajamas made of synthetic long underwear and a base layer T-shirt to stay dry throughout the night.

Remember to pack your clothing efficiently using a compression sack to save space.

Footwear for Canoeing

For your wet shoes, choose trail running shoes or sturdy sandals like Keens. Both options offer excellent traction and protect against debris during portages.

Wet Shoes

Dry shoes are essential for the campsite. Consider open-toed sandals like Tevas that allow you to wear wool socks underneath for added warmth.

Wool socks are a must. They dry faster and provide warmth even when wet, unlike cotton socks.

Hats & Head Gear

Protecting yourself from the elements is crucial when canoeing. Here are some essential items to consider:

  • Sunhat: Invest in a full-brimmed hat like a Tilley Hat for complete face and neck protection. They are waterproof, durable, and resist fading from sunlight or stains from sunscreen.
  • Sunglasses: Bring sunglasses to combat the glare off the water, which can strain your eyes and make paddling difficult.
  • Bug Jacket: A bug jacket or bug hat is essential between May and July when black flies and mosquitoes are prevalent.
  • If Paddling Whitewater, Helmet: If you’ll be paddling in moving water or rapids, always wear a helmet for protection.
Read more:  Your Ultimate Canoe Camping Packing Guide

Canoeing in Spring and Autumn

As the weather gets colder, adapt your clothing accordingly.

In late spring and early autumn, wear quick-dry hiking pants, a merino wool shirt, and a fleece sweater for warmth.

  • Base Layer: Opt for a moisture-wicking, long-sleeve shirt made of merino wool for exceptional warmth and moisture management.
  • Sweater / Jacket: Bring a warm fleece sweater or jacket to wear while canoeing and at the campsite. Avoid cotton sweatshirts as they take longer to dry when wet.
  • Hiking Pants: Choose hiking pants treated with Durable Water Repellency (DWR) to ensure water resistance. The Arc’teryx Gamma LT pants are excellent, but the more affordable MEC Borderland Pants are a good alternative.
  • Long Underwear: Consider wearing merino wool long underwear underneath your hiking pants for additional insulation.

Spring Canoeing

Don’t forget to wear a wool hat or merino wool buff, water-resistant gloves, and wool socks to keep yourself warm during chilly months.

Canoeing in Early Spring and Late Autumn

Before planning a canoe trip in early spring or late autumn, remember to consider water temperature.

When the water temperature is below 10°C (50°F), survival time in the water is limited. For these trips, a dry suit is essential for your safety. It’s a significant investment, but it can save your life in cold waters.

Autumn Canoeing

Final Thoughts on What to Wear Canoeing

Remember these two key points:

  1. Avoid cotton: Assume your clothing will get wet, so choose items that dry quickly.
  2. Acquire new gear gradually: You don’t need to buy everything on this list right away. Invest in high-quality gear over time and refine your clothing system based on your preferences and needs.
Read more:  A Guide to Choosing the Perfect Canoe Paint

Don’t forget to download our free canoe trip planner, which includes a packing list for clothing essentials. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out. Enjoy your canoeing adventures!

East Coast Paddle Sports

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