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Kayaking is an incredible sport that has often paddlers experiencing the elements of wind, water and sun — often all at once. If this sounds like you, you should consider investing in a wetsuit to keep you warm while you paddle. But how do you choose the best wetsuit for kayaking when there are so many cuts, thicknesses, materials and features on the market?

Here at The Adventure Junkies, one of our top goals is to find out which wetsuits are worth the price and highlight everything you should look out for when choosing a wetsuit for kayaking. In this guide, we’ll tell you how to choose the best wetsuit and show you the best models of the year.

For more of our top kayaking gear recommendations, check out the Best Drysuits for Kayaking

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Kayaking Gift Guide

 

Quick Answer - The Best Wetsuits for Kayaking

  1. NRS Farmer John
  2. O’Neill Epic
  3. Kokotat NeoZip
  4. SUPreme Blade
  5. Henderson Thermoprene
  6. Sharkskin Chillproof
  7. Oceanic Lavacore
  8. Henderson Aqua Lock Jumpsuit
  9. NeoSport Premium John
  10. Stohlquist Rapid

 

Comparison Table - Best Wetsuit for Kayaking

PictureNameThicknessCutMaterialPriceRating
NRS Farmer John3.0 mmSleevelessHigh Stretch Neoprene$$4.7
O’Neill Epic4.00 mm/3.00 mmSteamerUltra-flex Neoprene$$4.7
Kokotat NeoZip3.0 mmSleeveless2-sided Neoprene$$4.7
SUPreme Blade3.00 mm/2.00 mmShort-sleeveQuantum Foam Neoprene, Fleece Interior$$4.6
Henderson Thermoprene3.0 mmSteamerNylon II Neoprene Mix$$4.7
Sharkskin Chillproof0.5 mmSteamer3-layer Composite, Fleece/Lycra/Nylon$$$4.8
Oceanic Lavacore0.5 mmSteamerFleece/Polyurethane/Lycia$$4.9
Henderson Aqua Lock Jumpsuit5.00 mmSteamerNeoprene, Fleece Interior$$$$4.8
NeoSport Premium John3.0 mmSleevelessNeoprene$4.8
Stohlquist Rapid3.0 mmSleevelessUltra-stretch Neoprene$4.5
PictureNameThicknessCutMaterialPriceRating

Reviews - The Best Kayaking Wetsuits

NRS Farmer John


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Cut: Sleeveless
  • Material: High Stretch Neoprene
  • Thickness: 3.0 mm

BEST FOR: PADDLERS WANTING A TOP-OF-THE-LINE WETSUIT FOR A GREAT PRICE

PROS: Glued and stitched seams, comfortable, extremely flexible, great value

CONS: Can be tight for some

O’Neill Epic


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Cut: Steamer
  • Material: Ultra-flex Neoprene
  • Thickness: 4.00 mm/3.00 mm

BEST FOR: MULTISPORT PADDLERS IN COLD WATER

PROS: Double-seal neck closure, great value, glued and stitched seams, knee pads

CONS: Neck area can be very tight

Kokotat NeoZip


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Cut: Sleeveless
  • Material: 2-sided Neoprene
  • Thickness: 3.0 mm

BEST FOR: PADDLERS WHO WANT FLEXIBILITY AND FULL ARM MOBILITY

PROS: Seamless arm holes for less chaffing, knee pads, front entry zipper

CONS: Tends to run large – especially in women’s version

SUPreme Blade

Specs
  • Cut: Short-sleeve
  • Material: Quantum Foam Neoprene, Fleece Interior
  • Thickness: 3.00 mm/2.00 mm

BEST FOR: MULTISPORT PADDLERS WANTING A GREAT ALL-AROUND WETSUIT

PROS: Flat lock construction to guard against chaffing, windproof, fast trying, knee pads, easy on-and-off

CONS: Material tends to stretch after heavy use

Henderson Thermoprene


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Cut: Steamer
  • Material: Nylon II Neoprene Mix
  • Thickness: 3.0 mm

BEST FOR: MULTISPORT KAYAKERS IN VARIABLE CONDITIONS

PROS: Stretchier than a typical wetsuit, great value, durable, comes in plus sizes, flexible knee pads

CONS: Not as warm as traditional neoprene

Sharkskin Chillproof


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Cut: Steamer
  • Material: 3-layer Composite, Fleece/Lycra/Nylon
  • Thickness: 0.5 mm

BEST FOR: WARM WATER KAYAKERS NEEDING A SUIT THAT PROTECTS AGAINST SUN AND WICKS SWEAT

PROS: Makes a great under-layer for thicker wetsuits, protects against stingers, machine washable, wind-proof, rear zip

CONS: Too thin for cold water, size runs small

Oceanic Lavacore


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Cut: Steamer
  • Material: Fleece/Polyurethane/Lycia
  • Thickness: 0.5 mm

BEST FOR: WARM WATER PADDLERS NEEDING A WETSUIT THAT PROTECTS THEM AGAINST THE ELEMENTS

PROS: Flexible, comfortable, wind-resistant, can be worn under thicker wetsuit, easy to put on

CONS: Too thin for cold-water paddling, fleece pills after heavy usage

Henderson Aqua Lock Jumpsuit


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Cut: Steamer
  • Material: Neoprene, Fleece Interior
  • Thickness: 5.00 mm

BEST FOR: COLD WATER AND WHITE-WATER PADDLERS WHO NEED EXTRA WARMTH

PROS: Interlocking wrist, ankle, and neck openings compatible with other accessories, seams double glued and sewn, flexible

CONS: Challenging to put on and take off for some

NeoSport Premium John

Specs
  • Cut: Sleeveless
  • Material: Neoprene
  • Thickness: 3.0 mm

BEST FOR: PADDLERS LOOKING FOR A WETSUIT THAT CAN HANDLE VERY HEAVY USE

PROS: Easy Velcro shoulder entry, durable stitching and seams, pairs perfectly with jacket, great value

CONS: Knee pads wear around the edges

Stohlquist Rapid


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Cut: Sleeveless
  • Material: Ultra-stretch Neoprene
  • Thickness: 3.0 mm

BEST FOR: PADDLERS IN MODERATE TEMPERATURES WANTING A HIGH-FLEX WETSUIT

PROS: Glued and stitched seams, extra wide arm holes, relief zipper, padded knees, reinforced back and seat

CONS: Tends to run small

 

 

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST WETSUITS FOR KAYAKING

MATERIALS

Most wetsuits are made with neoprene, a synthetic rubber that insulates your body by keeping a thin layer of warm moisture between your skin and the material. Pure neoprene is typically stiffer than neoprene mixed with lycra or nylon. If you want a flexible suit that’s easy to slip into, choose a wetsuit with a neoprene mix or ultra-flexible neoprene.

Many wetsuits pad the inside of the wetsuit with a layer of microfleece for extra softness and protection.

 

THICKNESS

The thickness of a wetsuit is typically measured in millimeters, especially when made with neoprene. Thin neoprene (less than 3 millimeters) tends to be more flexible and is perfect for tropical water and can guard your body against wind and sun without being too warm.

Some wetsuits are made with mostly nylon or lycra, are very thin, and act as an exposure suit. These very thin wetsuits have a smooth surface and can easily be layered under thicker wetsuits for when you need some extra warmth.

Thick wetsuits, (4 millimeters and above) are best for cold water kayakers who need something that will keep their bodies very warm as they paddle. These tend to be much stiffer than thinner wetsuits — making it harder to paddle. However, if you’re in icy temperatures, they’re a must-have.

If you are paddling in near-freezing conditions, a wetsuit will likely not be warm enough. In that case, you might consider investing in a kayaking drysuit. Go Kayak Now has an article on drysuits vs. wetsuits if you’re not sure which one is right for you.

 

CUT

Wetsuits come in virtually every combination. You can buy a wetsuit as just the top, bottom, or as a full suit. Steamers provide the most warmth and have long sleeves and long legs. There are short sleeves, short sleeves and legs, long sleeves and short legs, and more. If you can think of it, it’s probably out there.

Kayakers tend to like the farmer-john style sleeveless wetsuits, with no sleeves and long legs. This allows kayakers to have a full range of arm motion and a warm body as they paddle. Paddling in a steamer sometimes causes chaffing in the armpits if the wetsuit isn’t fitting properly or if you’re out for a long paddle.

 

SPECIAL FEATURES

What features you’d like in a wetsuit totally depends on personal preference. High-quality wetsuits tend to have glued and stitched seams to prevent water from seeping in. Reinforced knees add to the lifespan of a wetsuit and provide protection — a great feature for kayakers constantly docking in and out of the water.

Some wetsuits also have relief zippers for those who hate peeing in their wetsuits, locking systems where you can pair your wetsuit with other accessories, and even internal heaters. Thicker wetsuits often have leg zippers to help ease into your suit. What you choose completely depends on the conditions that you plan to paddle in.

 

SIZE

Getting the right size is one of the most important things you need to consider when buying a wetsuit for kayaking. If it’s not offered in your size, don’t purchase it. The wetsuit needs to fit snug — think of it like a second skin — but not too snug where it will cause pinching and chafing.

While it’s usually okay if the sleeves and legs are the wrong length, you need to watch for a snug fit around the torso. If the torso is too baggy, water will pool inside and make you cold. If the neck opening is the wrong size, you risk having water flush into the suit too easily — or getting a rash if it’s too tight.

When you try on the wetsuit, it should be flush against your body without pinching any areas or sagging. Some key areas to look at are the armpits, bottom, neck, and chest.

If you have a great fitting wetsuit, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of kayaking without feeling cold.

READ MORE

For more of our top kayaking gear recommendations, check out these popular articles:

About The Author

Adventure Sports Junkie

Chantae Reden is a journalist based in Perth, Western Australia specializing in travel, action sports, scuba diving, and adventure. Her writing has been featured in a variety of publications including Travel + Leisure, Boating Magazine, Backpacker Essentials, and many more. You can find more adventures and advice on her blog, Chantae Was Here.

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