Can You Wear Jeans Kayaking? [Why It’s Not The Best Clothing to Wear]

It’s your first ever kayaking trip so you have no clue what to wear. You pull out your favorite cut-off jean shorts and T-shirt that everyone loves. You hope that they’re good because you want to look cute and trendy. So can you wear jeans kayaking?

Can You Wear Jeans Kayaking?

While there are no set regulations against it. Jeans are not only restrictive making it challenging to move and be comfortable while paddling. Denim absorbs water when it gets wet, making them heavy, bulky, and uncomfortable. In addition, it takes hours to dry and can cause chafing or rashes.

You should wear a quick-drying material that is lightweight, quick-drying material that is lightweight such as polyester, fleece, or Gore-Tex, which are perfect for wearing on a kayaking trip.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at why you may want to leave those skinny jeans at home and use appropriate kayak clothing.

But first, let’s take a look at how denim jeans are made and why they’re not the best types of clothing to wear for aquatic activities like kayaking.

What Is Denim?

Denim is a durable diagonal ribber pattern also known as twill weave usually made of cotton. This makes jeans heavier than other types of clothing. For instance, Levi’s jeans are classified as mid-weight denim, which weighs 12-16 ounces per yard.

Normal lightweight jeans are made from fabric that weighs 12 ounces per yard.

That said, both lightweight and midweight denim jeans hold a lot of water when they get wet.

4 Reasons Not to Kayak In Jeans

There are several reasons to leave your cut-off jean shorts or favorite denim jeans and cotton T-shirt at home.


Denim is not flexible at all in comparison to other types of materials. If you move around in your kayak, you’ll find that your movements are restricted because denim is thick and heavy.

In addition, denim material can cause friction on your skin, as it rubs against the inside of your legs and thighs. Chafing is caused by a combination of moisture, friction, and irritating fabric such as denim.

Making it challenging to maneuver and paddle your kayak. The best way to avoid chafing while kayaking is to avoid thick materials from rubbing your thighs while exercising.

It’s a painful experience and if it does happen, it’ll be painful to kayak until it clears up.

Baggy jeans will drag a kayaker faster than tight-fitting jeans, as water can pass more easily through the tight jeans.

However, jeans that are too tight can restrict the muscles needed for regular motions such as paddling.

Bad for Water

Cotton absorbs water and stays wet longer, making for a cold uncomfortable day on the water. If your kayak tips, you’ll have a hard time staying afloat, and denim can fatigue even the best swimmers quickly.

Denim becomes heavier when wet which can easily wear you down through the drag. It’s possible to swim a short distance, but challenging to swim long distances – depending on your fitness.

Most people who kayak are at least 1-2 miles away from shore, depending on where they are kayaking.

Pollute the Water

Some kayaking spots won’t allow people to kayak in denim jeans, as denim has been proven to be bad for the environment. Studies have proven that denim jeans shed 56,000 microfibers during a normal wash.

Meaning when you’re kayaking in jeans, your jeans are contributing to the pollution in our waters. While it’s unknown if the blue jean fibers have an impact on marine life, many popular kayaking spots don’t allow people to kayak in jeans.

Hot Temperature

During the summer, you’ll be kayaking in hot, humid weather conditions. Denim is a heavyweight material that constricts the body and hinders breathing. Darker colored jeans will absorb heat more than lighter colored pants.

When you’re kayaking in open water in the summer, you can be exposed to extreme heat and intense sunlight. The ray’s sun bounces off the water making it feel hotter exposing you to harmful UV rays.

During these conditions, it’s important to have lightweight, breathable clothing that allows the sweat to escape your body.

Wearing the wrong clothing can lead to heat exhaustion, stroke, and other heat-related illnesses. According to, excessive heat is responsible for 138 deaths per year in the U.S. from 1990 through 2019.

That’s why it’s important to know the signs of heat exhaustion which can range from severe thirst, headaches, fatigue, and dizziness. If you’re feeling too hot, you’ll want to find some shade on the water as soon as possible.

What Pants to Wear Kayaking?

Don’t feel like you have to run out and spend hundreds on a pair of kayaking pants or shorts. Chances are you already have some clothing in your closet that will work perfectly for this aquatic activity.

Board shorts or comfortable quick-dry pants are great options. The most important thing is to choose clothing that dries quickly, and won’t bind or chafe.

If you’re kayaking in humid weather, opt for quick dry clothing. Chances are you’ll want to splash yourself with water to stay cool or dive into the water if it’s allowed. So you’ll want clothing that dries quickly.

Ladies can wear active shorts, neoprene shorts, etc with a swimsuit underneath. While the guys can wear surf trunks, guide shorts, board shorts, or their favorite swim trunks.

When kayaking in colder weather, a wetsuit or Goretex kayaking pants work best for everyone regardless of gender.

If you don’t have anything in your closet, you can find some affordable clothing at Walmart, Amazon, or even second-hand stores like Goodwill.

Final Word

If you’re planning on kayaking, it’s best to wear a quick-drying material that is lightweight such as polyester, fleece, or Gore-Tex.

Denim absorbs water when it gets wet making them heavy and uncomfortable for any type of activity where you need to be agile.

In addition, denim takes hours to dry which means if your clothes get wet in the morning then they’ll still be damp by nightfall, making it for a long uncomfortable day on the water.

When you’re spending a day on the water, leave your favorite jeans at home, you’ll be so happy you did!

Related Articles