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a man riding skis down a river
Jenner kayaking launch

Jenner boat launch

When the beautiful Sonoma sun is shining, there’s no better way to beat the heat than a relaxing paddle down the Russian River. However, especially for those who have never kayaked before, it may be challenging to pick an appropriate outfit on the morning of your adventure. Proper planning and the correct gear will enhance any experience. Here are our top tips on picking the perfect things to wear on your Russian River Kayaking experience.


Things to Consider


The first thing to consider when assessing your wardrobe is what the weather forecast looks like on the day you plan to paddle. Generally speaking, warm, sunny days create the most ideal conditions for kayaking. That’s not to say, however, that a river adventure in a light mist can’t be just as enjoyable, provided you have the right gear to keep you comfortable. For the majority of the summer you will only encounter sunshine and blue skies, though it never hurts to double check as having a light jacket could mean the difference between shivering and enjoying a perfect morning.


The season you have planned your kayaking adventure for has a significant impact on what you will ultimately choose to wear. Summer is consistently warm but spring and fall can be accompanied by fairly rapid changes in weather conditions. Plan accordingly if visiting during a variable season.

Time of Day

You can have vastly different experiences exploring the river at different times throughout the day. If you are embarking on afternoon paddle during the height of summer, it’s safe to assume you won’t need a jacket. However, if you plan to be out during the early morning or late evening you will need to bring a wider range of clothing to accommodate the changing temperatures.


The morning of your adventure has finally arrived; you’ve checked the weather and are ready to gear up for some fun! Here are a few guidelines to follow when picking what to wear.

  • Avoid Cotton

    • Cotton is an incredible product, and in many cases the feel of natural fibers is enough to put cotton ahead of other options. Unfortunately, it does have one fatal flaw; when cotton gets wet, it stays wet. Your favorite jeans might be super comfy, but even small splashes will soak in and won’t dry quickly. Anytime you are participating in an outdoor activity on the water it is a good idea to wear wicking synthetic clothing.
  • Dress in Layers

    • Temperatures can fluctuate up to thirty degrees as foggy mornings turn into sunny afternoons. Dressing in layers allows you to incrementally adjust your comfort level by adding and removing clothing one layer at a time. While a thick jacket might seem appealing early in the day, by mid-morning you will be too hot but might not be comfortable in short sleeves yet. Dressing in multiple, wicking layers helps keep you dry and at a comfortable temperature.
  • Footwear

    • There are quite a few good options to consider when picking what shoes to wear. Sturdy sandals and water shoes are the most popular by far, though a pair of old running shoes will serve you quite nicely as well. Picking the right shoes is largely a matter of personal preference, and as long as you keep a couple key points in mind most things will work. Remember that your feet will be getting wet and sandy, make sure to pick footwear that won’t be harmed by that. There are some excellent swimming spots on the river as well, so choose shoes that are comfortable to swim with or easy to put back on with wet feet.
  • Sun Protection

    • The most common issue linked to kayaking is sun exposure. On a hot summer day you will not only deal with sunlight from above, but also the glare reflecting off the water. Following a few simple guidelines can ensure that you don’t step off the river looking like a boiled lobster. First, wear good sunscreen and reapply as needed. Especially for those with fair skin, using a high SPF sunscreen and reapplying after entering the water can save you from a serious sunburn. Second, wear a shade hat. Your face and neck are particularly susceptible to sun damage and a hat goes a long way towards protecting them. Finally, make sure to wear sunglasses. Prolonged exposure to sunlight strains your eyes and the glare off the water is particularly harmful. A good pair of polarized sunglasses will allow you to paddle all day without harming your eyes.


russian river kayaking pic

Essentially, Russian River kayaking requires the same clothing for other outdoor activities in the area. Simply stated, wearing multiple layers of quick drying clothing that can protect from sun, fog, and light rain will prepare you for all possible conditions and set the stage for a day filled with fun!


**Bonus Tips

Using a swimsuit as your base layer is a great idea; there are some stellar swimming spots on the river.

Straps/headbands for your glasses can come in very handy if you go for an unintentional swim!