Cold Weather Kayak Gear You Need | Great Days Outdoors

Cold Weather Kayak Gear You Need

There’s no reason for us kayak anglers to put the ‘yak up when it starts to cool off. There are just too many great fish to be caught in cold weather, and since many power boaters don’t go on the water much in winter, even here on the Gulf Coast, we paddlers often have the water and the fish to ourselves. All we need is the proper cold weather kayak gear.

But cold weather and cold water do require that kayak anglers take some very important steps to ensure our safety and comfort. Winter kayak fishing is not the situation to go on the water badly equipped.  Wet and cold together can be not just uncomfortable but quite dangerous.

A kayak roll over which in summer would be at most a minor annoyance and a source of embarrassment for a paddler can be very serious and even life-threatening when the water is cold.

It’s important to gear up right and most importantly, to dress up right for a cold weather kayak fishing trip. If we get wet, then we get cold, very fast.



Rule One- Keep Dry, Keep Warm

Keeping warm when kayak fishing is actually pretty simple. It’s crucially important for a paddler to stay dry. No matter how cold that north breeze might be, if we stay dry, we’ll  handle it just fine. After all, we exert a lot of energy either paddling or pedaling. 

Basically, kayak anglers need to think about dressing in layers. There should be good insulated, lightweight gear inside and lightweight but solid waterproof clothing on the outside.  Winter kayaking is no place for blue jeans or other absorbent clothing. The idea here is to keep the water off the skin, and that means some sort of waterproof outer layer.


kayak caught redfish

This winter time redfish didn’t care how cold my hands were- he wanted to eat.



When I go cold weather kayak fishing, and to tell the truth, some of the best kayak fishing I’ve ever done has been in brutally cold conditions, I make sure that the water and I stay well apart with the proper winter kayaking gear.

I usually wear a pair of lightweight neoprene waders over everything, and I have a waterproof jacket that can be cinched tight at the waist.  With this sort of total covering, paddling and pedaling is a little more difficult, but I do stay dry and warm.

Our hands can get pretty cold when kayak fishing. 

“For my hands, I do carry winter gloves, but I put two Hot Hands hand warmers in my vest pockets. Then I can put my cold hands in the pockets to warm them up.  These hand warmers will last all day and keep my hands warm all day. But you need to buy your handwarmers before hunting season starts, they’ll sell out fast when the hunters start gearing up,” advisesTim Perkins, a champion bass angler on various tournament circuits.

Kayak anglers fishing in cold weather conditions can’t neglect parts of the boy that may not usually draw attention “My big thing in cold weather is keeping my neck and ears warm.  I use a thick neck gaiter and earmuffs. I may look funny, but I stay warm, adds Perkins.

In most cases, if a kayak paddler can keep the hands, feet, and head warm, the rest of the body will be just fine.


PFD – Wear it

Cold weather presents kayak anglers with one valuable reward. Those Personal Flotation Devices,  which are so hot and uncomfortable during warm weather fishing trips are superb body insulation in cold conditions. Put that PFD on under a jacket and over a layer or two of lighter wear, and you’ve got a very warm arrangement. PFDs provide a very good layer on insulation.


cold weather kayak gear

This kayak angler may look funny but he dept warm all day in a very cold north wind.


And of course, if we happen to fall in, that PFD may be the only thing that keeps us afloat. Most people cramp up when they hit cold, cold water, and a PFD even under a jacket, will still keep us up so we can take steps to rescue ourselves or get help.

So even if we don’t love to wear that PFD in warm weather, when the north wind blows, it’s best for a number of reasons to have the PFD on.


Kayaking Outfit That Works – and Doesn’t

Perkins fishes a great deal in cold conditions, and he has good advice for anglers who are wondering what to wear kayaking in the winter. 

“I recommend Kokatat Water Pants for cold weather use. They are sealed and waterproof,” he says.

“When it gets cool, I put on boots over the water pants. This works even in the rain. Kokatat has a water jacket that works well in wet and cool weather, too,” Perkins said.

Perkins cautions kayak anglers about wearing cold weather gear that other anglers can use but is not suitable for kayak anglers.  In particular heavy, Perkins cautions against thick insulated rain suits that are fine for bass boat anglers, But a thick rain suit with insulation can get really heavy if soaked in water, and a kayak angler who finds himself in the water will have a very hard time getting back in the boat if he’s wearing a soaked heavy rain suit. 


kayak fisherman in shorts

This is one tough angler. In cold weather he has bare legs, but the rest of him is well covered.


It’s much better to go with lighter, less absorbent gear that won’t weigh a kayak angler down in case of an accident.

Another bit of advice for kayaking in cold weather, if you keep your head covered, your head will probably be warm.  We lose a great deal of body heat through our heads in cold weather, so a warm hat or hoodie jacket can make a big difference in keeping warm.

My final piece of kayak clothing for cold weather, is a pair of thick, partly woolen socks. These socks will keep my feet warm even if they get wet and they help keep me on the water even if I have a misstep when I launch the kayak. 


December 2019 cover


This This article first appeared in the December 2019 print issue of Great Days Outdoors Magazine. For more great hunting and fishing content for the deep South, subscribe to Great Days Outdoors print and digital editions or click the image to download this issue.




Stay Updated

Get outdoor trends, data, new products, and tips delivered to your inbox.