Kayaking in Alaska? Here's 6 Things You Should Wear

A couple kayaking near Seward, Alaska, enjoying the rich scenery.
A couple kayaking near Seward, Alaska, enjoying the rich scenery.

It's easy to lose yourself in the miles of breathtaking coastal mountains and fjords when you're kayaking in Alaska. Kayaking is an exhilarating experience, but it's important to plan for unpredictable Alaskan weather. If you're planning to kayak, dress smart. Wear warm, waterproof layers, protect yourself against the sun, and be sure you've got the right stuff to keep you comfortable and safe.

To help you plan your attire for an Alaskan kayaking shore excursion, here's a list of six things to remember. Once you've covered these bases, be sure to speak with a local expert who can give you more detail about the area you'll be kayaking in.

1. Suit up. For longer, expedition-style trips, dry suits or wetsuits are strongly recommended. While preferable, these can be hefty investments; if you're not interested in purchasing the whole getup, rental shops are a great secondary option. If you're only going on one day Alaska shore excursion with a guide, you may just want to wear a splash jacket and Capilene layers. Whatever you decide on, make sure to top it off with a reflective life vest.

2. Dress smart. When dressing for cold-water kayaking, dress for the temperature of the water, rather than the air. Water warms at a much slower rate than air, and if you capsize, you could end up swimming in Alaskan summer water temperatures that usually range in the low 50s.

3. Layer up. It's good to don extra layers of clothing if you get cold while you're kayaking, or to unzip layers if you get hot or fall into the water. Remember, synthetics such as Capilene are your friends. Additionally, having fleece on hand to provide extra layering can keep any chill off, especially if there is a strong breeze.

4. Think water-repellent. Neoprene booties and gloves are a must. Neoprene is remarkable: It insulates, it's water-repellent, and it's light, making it less of a burden to wear. The booties may not look stylish, but don't climb into a kayak without them. Sandals, while fashionable, can become clunky and restrictive.

5. Wear sun protection. It's easy to forget about the damaging effects of sun rays in places that don't experience extreme heat. Even when cruising Alaska, you absolutely want to wear sunglasses, a hat, and a layer of sunscreen. Protecting your face from the rays of sun that reflect off the water will help keep you from getting a bad sunburn.

6. What not to pack: Cotton. Avoid wearing cotton. This fabric easily absorbs water, and once it does, it can fail to insulate your body. Wearing it in potentially wet conditions could leave you at risk for hypothermia.

A day spent kayaking in Alaska is sure to revitalize any traveler on an Alaskan cruise. Don't forget to bring your camera, with a waterproof case, so you can photograph scenes others can only dream of.