Your essential guide to finding the best kayak jacket out there.

A lot of newbie kayakers have this question on their hearts: “What is the best kayak jacket?”.

The answer, contrary to popular belief, isn’t really as simple as it may seem.

That’s why we’ve created this post. With the information contained in the next few pages, we’ll show you what to look for, what to avoid, and how you need to go about the task of finding yourself the perfect jacket for your kayaking adventures.

JacketsRatingPrice
Stohlquist Splashdown Sea Touring Paddling Jacket$$
Stohlquist Torrent Long Sleeve Paddling Jacket$
Kokatat GORE-TEX Paclite Kayak Paddling Jacket $$$

Let’s kick things off with some basic buyer’s advice…

Things to Consider Before Buying a Jacket for Kayaking

This seems pretty obvious, but a kayak spray jacket and a kayak paddling jacket will have different characteristics, and performance of the one simply cannot be measured to that of the other. Before you purchase one specific jacket, it’s important that you take a few aspects of your intended applications in mind.  These aspects include the environmental factors and the accessories you’d prefer to see in a great jacket. We’ll elaborate here…

 

Environmental Factors Which Determine a Kayaking Jacket’s Value

Exposure to Cold Weather

A lot of paddlers will be faced with hypothermia at one point or another during their paddling adventures. Hypothermia doesn’t only happen in temperatures that drop below zero, they may be caused by a range of different temperatures. You have to ensure that your jacket will protect you from exposure to cold water, rain, and heavy winds.

Exposure to the Sun

Your kayaking jacket needs to offer sufficient protection against the harmful rays of the sun. Keep in mind that large water surfaces reflect the sun’s rays, intensifying them. This calls for a proper jacket that will be able to keep you shielded from the elements.

 

Comfort Factors Which Determine a Kayaking Jacket’s Value

Layers

When you have the option of adding or removing layers as conditions change out on the water, you’ll be a lot more comfortable in your kayak (and your jacket for that matter).  Consider investing in a jacket that sports an inner layer, a layer of insulation to keep you warm, and an outer layer which will deter weather conditions. Let’s show you what we’re trying t highlight when we mention layers…

Inner Layers

These layers are essentially what manage the levels of moisture inside of your jacket. Fabrics such as polypropylene will wick sweat away from your body and transfer it to the external layers. This, in turn, helps you stay dry and cool in hot conditions and warm and snug in colder climates.  You can also opt for cotton, which is a warm option but sticks to cotton only for the use in colder conditions as it may cause overheating. There’s also nylon, which is lightweight on comfortable, but might not be the best idea for using in the coldest of conditions as it won’t provide extra warmth.

Insulating Layers

Insulating layers can consist of either wool or synthetic fleece materials. Wool is a natural insulator, but since it’s bulky and takes forever to dry, it’s not the most obvious choice in modern times. Synthetics, on the other hand, dry quickly and they’ll keep you warm even if the materials get wet. The downside to fleece of pile is that it won’t keep the wind out unless of course, you find a jacket that comes with windproof membranes in its fleece layer.

External Layers

Your jacket’s external layers are what you’ll rely on to keep you protected from wind and water as well as sun exposure.

 

What to Look for in the Best Jacket for Kayaking

  • Splash Jackets – when it comes to protecting yourself from splashing water, wind and rain, you’re going to have to go with either Gore-Tex of urethane coated nylon fabrics. They’ll keep the wind chill out and keep you dry in the same effort. The difference comes in with Gore-Tex materials having the ability to breathe, which does cost more but adds comfort to the deal.
  • Fleece – Fleece materials aren’t expensive, and even when it gets wet, it will help keep you warm. Try and invest in Polar Fleece whenever you have the option.
  • Quick-Dry Materials – Look out for materials such as nylon, polyester, Buzz-Off, polyolefin, and Suplex when it comes to your paddling jacket. They will enhance the wearing comfort during your paddling adventures, and they’ll dry quickly when they get wet, keeping you warm when the need arises.

 

3 of the Best Kayaking Jackets Reviewed

While there are literally thousands of products to choose from, we reckon that by showing you what 3 of the market leaders in the paddling jacket category looks like, you’ll be able to make your own, well-informed choice when it comes to purchasing your own kayaking jacket. Have a look at our reviews to find out what makes the best of the bunch…

The Best Kayak Jacket

Stohlquist Splashdown Sea Touring Paddling Jacket

Stohlquist Splashdown Sea Touring Paddling JacketAcross the board, we found the Stohlquist Splashdown Sea Touring Paddling Jacket to be the winner when it comes to perfectly combining value for money, quality, and durability. For just under $150 a pop, you can invest in a jacket that will support you beyond your wildest dreams.

This jacket is perfect for protection against the elements, and since its super breathable, it’s lso one of the most comfortable in its class. If you’re paddling in conditions which tend to get moderately wet, we’d be happy to recommend this jacket.

The jacket is constructed with Suplex micro-denier, which makes it both lightweight and waterproof, perfect for paddlers looking to stay both warm and comfy. With its durable and rugged shell, the Stohlquist Splashdown can be used in a wide range of applications, and won’t limit you to cold weather paddling scenarios.

 

The Pros:
  • Made with high quality materials
  • Waterproof and very durable
  • Can be adjusted to fit the shape of the paddler’s body
  • Micro-fleece keeps paddlers warm even when the jacket gets wet
The Cons:
  • Might not be ideal for very cold weather
  • Might not offer optimal protection for the wettest of scenarios

Stohlquist Torrent Long Sleeve Paddling Jacket

Stohlquist Torrent Long Sleeve Paddling JacketSeeing that our number one pick for the best paddling jacket was from the brand Stohlquist, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see yet another product from this brand on our roundup list. The Torrent Paddling Jacket costs roughly the same as its Splashdown sibling, but it’s not insulated, which means that it won’t be a great choice for cold weather paddling.

We love the fact that the Torrent also offers comfort and adjustability, and it sports most other features found in the Splashdown, such as its breathability and waterproof lining. The Torrent has a roomy and comfy look to it, very modest yet very efficient-looking.

The Torrent can be worn as is, or as a base (or external) layer. As mentioned, we reckon the Torrent deserves a spot in this roundup because it’s durable and offers great value for money, but since it doesn’t offer any insulation, you’ll have to purchase extra insulating layers to wear underneath this garment if you plan on doing some very cold weather paddling.

 

The Pros:
  • Made with high quality materials
  • Very breathable and waterproof
  • Comes with an inner lining for added comfort
The Cons:
  • Doesn’t come with insulation
  • Not the typical look of a paddling jacket
  • Not suitable for cold weather applications

Kokatat GORE-TEX Paclite Kayak Paddling Jacket

Kokatat GORE-TEX Paclite Kayak Paddling JacketWe included yet another brilliant paddling jacket in our roundup, the Kokatat Paclite Paddling Jacket, and the main reason we rated it as our last entrant, is due to the fact that its considerably more expensive than our previous 2 picks.

The Paclite offers exceptional breathability, waterproof ratings, and durability, plus the fact that it looks so cool just ads some shine to the whole deal.

We love the lightweight shell, the comfy fit, and the fact that this jacket has the ability to move the way your body does. As an added bonus, this jacket also comes with a cool zippered sleeve pocket, which is also self-draining just in case any moisture happens to make its way inside your pockets.

 

The Pros:
  • Very comfortable
  • Warm and lightweight
  • Very durable
The Cons:
  • Doesn’t provide a moisture-wicking layer
  • Expensive when compared to competitor products

 

Final Thoughts

We’ve shown you what you need to be on the lookout for when it comes to purchasing a paddling jacket. We’ve also shown you what three of the market leaders in this category look like, and how they measure up to each other. Obviously, our first choice goes to the Stohlquist Splashdown Sea Touring Paddling Jacket, and we’d be more than happy to recommend it to paddlers looking to invest in a quality kayaking jacket that won’t break the bank.

We hope that you have enjoyed reading this post and that has armed you with all the information you could ever need in order to make a solid choice when it comes to purchasing a new kayak jacket!