Hi @Sluggo92 - Thanks for reaching out. It's great to hear that you're getting into kayaking!
What you wear while kayaking depends a lot on the weather, water temperature, and how you plan on interacting with the water. For an overview of different options and when to choose them, we suggest taking a look at our Expert Advice article titled What to Wear Kayaking: Layering Tips.
Because there are so many variables to what a day out kayaking can look like, it'd be helpful to get some more information to be able to give you well-suited recommendations. Are you planning on ever getting in and out of the water while out kayaking or will you plan to stay in your boat at all times? Will the lakes be fed by snow run-off in the spring? Answers to these questions will impact whether you are looking for wetsuits/rashgaurds or other less technical clothing options.
In all circumstances, you will want to make sure that your layers are synthetic. Once cotton is wet, it will stay that way for a long time. Another good all-around tip is to always have sunglasses with you. Even if it doesn't seem too sunny while you're on land, the glare of the water can have a big impact and sunglasses will help with visibility.
Hopefully this is a good start!
I have a sit in kayak and plan on paddling on lakes and slower moving rivers in NJ and PA. So generally it's not bodies of water from snowmelt, but I would like to get on the water soon as the weather gets nicer. So I anticipate the water still being cold. I don't plan on getting out of the boat into water, but based on everything I have read, I think I need a wetsuit for these conditions in the spring and fall especially when the water is only 50 degrees or so.
I have paddled in 50 degreeish ocean water in southern California. /a wetsuit will probably come in handy. A two piece outfit will give you more versatility.... A vest will free your arms and may work quite well for you.
Is this recreational kayaking? Do you have a sit-in or a sit-on? I have been recreationally kayaking for years in the north (Mi), I have a sit-on, and I wear a range of clothing from water-resistant, to leggings, shorts, sweatpants, hoodies, all depends on what you plan on doing. I kayak on a lake and will fish occasionally. I don't normally get wet because I go on calm days in the fall or spring. In the summer, bathing suits all the way.
Best brands I have found to be comfortable, water-resistant, and not restricting:
Columbia: shirts, cargo pants, sweaters. Look at some of their fishing gear.
UnderArmour: shorts, sweat pants, leggings
Northface: Waterproof jackets/shells
Athleta: they have some nice quick-dry leggings
LuluLemon occasionally, if I am feeling fancy 🙂
Helly Hanson: they have a VERY nice sailing collection, however, they are pricy.
Thanks for the feedback. I have a sit in and will be paddling in NJ and Pennsylvania, so it's not going to be as cold as Northern Michigan. That said there is a nice deep water reservoir near me that I would like to get out on soon and the water is below 50 degrees. So I am really just worried about unplanned dumps into cold water.
I will definitely look into these brands.