Insulation Layering for On and Off The Water

Thermal Clothing Guide for Kayak, SUP and other watersports.

This time of year is pretty exciting if you’re a U.K based whitewater kayaker. The air is fresh, crisp and sunny, but when it’s not rain starts falling to fill up our beautiful rivers. It’s basically a win win situation.

It also means it’s time to start wrapping up warm to enjoy as much time on the water and out in the elements as possible. This gives us the opportunity to share our tips and thoughts on thermal layering for active insulation.

Layering your breathable, waterproof and thermal clothing can help to keep you warm, dry, comfortable and safe in and on the water. By choosing a variety of garments it allows you to add or remove layers to react to the conditions and your own body temperature. It’s always a good idea to plan ahead what you want to wear, what to take with you and even what to have ready waiting for you as soon as you get back to the car!


We would recommend a base layer all year round. In the summer it keeps you cool by wicking moisture away from your skin and in the winter it keeps you warm by trapping air close to your body.

How should it fit?

A base layer should be tight fitting so the fabric is close to the skin to work most effectively.

What should it be made of?

At Nookie we believe for watersports a synthetic base layer offers better performance. It dries much quicker than natural fabrics such as wool and offers wicking qualities as you start to get warmer through your activity.

What do we recommend?

Nookie Core Hybrid Thermal Base Layer

Nookie Core Hybrid Thermal Base Layer
Hybrid insulation thermal base layer designed to adapt to your body temperature, the perfect base layer for high-energy activities in the cold.

This versatile base layer has everything you need for season round climate control. The main shirt is a 4-way stretch fabric with a soft plush lining with brushed fibres, these trap warmth and simultaneously wick away moisture when you start to sweat. The core chest panel is a mid-weight breathable fleece for extra warmth and cosiness.

What should I wear it with?

The simple answer is ‘everything‘. It’s a great layer against your skin under a Drift Jacket, or it can be comfortable like a rash vest under a neoprene Ti Vest for extra warmth.

What can I use it for?

The Core Hybrid base layer? Anything! Literally anything. We know from customers, Team Riders and our in-house factory team that it works brilliantly for nearly any sport and activity. 
Kayaking, Canoeing, Stand Up Paddling, Wild Swimming, Walking, Running, Skiing, Snowboarding, Mountain Biking, Road Cycling, Outdoor Circuit Training, Surfing Rash Vest, Motorcycling, Rafting… to name but a few!


This layer is designed to trap the warmth your body creates, as well as further wicking away any perspiration from activity. For watersports you might choose a quick drying fleece or a neoprene/wetsuit layer.

How should it fit?

A mid layer fleece should fit comfortably and does not have to be as tight as a base layer. It works by trapping air between your layers, so a fit like a snug jumper would work nicely.

What should it be made of?

In most situations it should be a breathable fabric, but occasionally a neoprene/wetsuit layer may be a better choice for watersports because of its windproof properties.

What do we recommend?

Nookie Iceman – All In One – Recycled Polartec®

Nookie Iceman All-In-One Thermal Suit
Polartec® Classic 100 recycled fleece – warm, lightweight, quick drying. Mid-layer insulation for wear under drywear or on its own.

This popular classic in the Nookie insulation range is the perfect choice when you need a little more warmth all over. Nobody knits synthetic fleece better than its original inventors. Imitators have tried, but none have matched the standard of quality found in Polartec® fleece which is why we choose it for our premium mid-layer thermal.

Recycled polyester yarns are used for their hydrophobic properties, to repel moisture and speed dry times. The lofted structures create thermal air pockets to retain warmth, and still allow optimal breathability.

What should I wear it with?

Wear it over the Nookie Core Hybrid Base Layer and under an outer shell like the Nookie Charger Drysuit for the ultimate warmth in harsh environments.

It’s also a great single layer under the Nookie Pro-Bib Pants for a bit of extra warmth on colder days. The twin head zip on the Iceman means the relief zip is still functional in all our drywear. It also means you can access the the pocket in the leg of the Iceman through the drywear relief zip. A great place to keep your keys without the risk of losing them.

Nookie Iceman – easy access zipped leg pocket

What can I use it for?

Primarily designed for cold kayaking expeditions, this one piece thermal has a following that includes RAF pilots, heating engineers, mechanics, hard-core campers and any one on a river shuttle run.


Sometimes for watersports neoprene can be the best form of insulation. It functions by trapping a thin layer of water between your body and itself. Neoprene is made of small closed cells that are filled with air which provide insulation against cold water by trapping heat in. It performs particularly well in the water, so if you are going to be submerged a lot it can be the best choice.

How should it fit?

A wetsuit, neoprene leggings or a wetsuit top should be a tight fit. The material is stretchy, so it will move with you. To get the most out of its warm insulation properties make sure it fits snugly without excess fabric or folds.

What should it be made of?

For the best fit choose a garment that uses premium quality neoprene with good stretch. There are many technical features that can enhance the warmth and over all climate control of a neoprene layer. Here’s a quick breakdown of the some of the properties we choose for our various neoprene garments.

Glued & Blindstitched V’s Flatlocked Seams – Glued and blindstitched seams are the bees knees when it comes to wetsuits. They are what they say. The seam is glued together and then stitched through half the ‘rubber’ to create a waterproof yet durable seam. This is great for warmer winter layers and prevents water flushing through, featured in our Strides legwear range. Flatlocked seams are a simpler construction but work better on super thin neoprene, like our 1.0/0.5mm Ti Vest for a robust seam where total anti-flushing is not the primary requirement.

Metalite Glideskin Neoprene – A technical coating on the inside layer of the neoprene that helps keep the layer of trapped air warmer by reflecting your body heat back towards your skin. It’s a smooth coating that makes it incredibly easy to put on as, again like it says, it ‘glides’ against your skin.

Thermic Lined Neoprene – This is a great advancement in climate control for neoprene garments. The plush lining creates a thermal barrier in the cold, but wicks moisture from perspiration on warmer more active days.

What do we recommend?

Our whole neoprene range can be layered up to offer insulation and wind chill protection.

Nookie 1mm Neoprene Wetsuit Ti-Vest Long Sleeve
Ti Vest Top
Wetsuit Jacket available in Long and Short sleeve and a variety of colours

Stretchy 1.0mm neoprene wetsuit top with Metalite Glideskin torso and back reflecting body heat, maximising heat retention to your core. Jersey lined arms create a smoother entry, the easiest Ti-Vest we’ve made to put on, with glideskin cuffs to prevent water flushing. The seamless underarms are made from 0.5mm Super-flex, as the name suggests, it offers extremely flexible unrestricted movement with a superior feel.

NookIe Three Quarter 3mm Wetsuit Leggings - Neoprene Strides
Neoprene Strides
Wetsuit Leggings available in Short, 3/4 Length and Full Ankle Length choices.

3.0mm extremely stretchy wetsuit trousers with plush Thermic lined neoprene for climate control with glued and blind-stitched water resistant seams. Great fit for both men and women.

What should I wear it with?

Neoprene is such an adaptable material you can wear it on its own against your skin or as an extra layer. If you want to layer up for a little more warmth you can put a base layer like our Core Hybrid underneath. Or for a little more wind protection a shell like our NKE Centre Jacket or NKE Salopettes over the top.

What can I use it for?

Perfect in a kayak or canoe, or on a SUP or dinghy your wetsuit top and trousers will be warm whether you get wet or stay dry. It’s particularly popular with surf kayakers and SUP boarders in the surf because they spend as much time in the water as on it.

You can find out more about how to look after your neoprene products in our Product Care Series – Part 1.


Depending on what activity you’re doing on the water, means you need to choose the right outer layer for you. This layer should protect you from the wind and rain, and if you choose, keep you dry in the water. It should also be breathable to help release the active moisture your base and mid layers have wicked to the surface.

Why not read our Drywear Guide for helpful advice about how to choose between a full drysuit, or a layering system of jackets and trousers.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this thermal clothing guide for kayak, SUP and other active watersports. Have fun out there this season, and whatever you do, make sure you keep yourself safe and warm!