Staying Warm on a Budget with Neoprene

Keeping warm while paddling is much easier now than it was 20 or 30 years ago, thanks to the enormous range and quality of clothing available. Investing in a drysuit is our #1 tip for extending your paddling season, but adding Neoprene to your river wardrobe reigns supreme on our guide for paddlers looking to stay warm on a budget. 

What is Neoprene?

Neoprene is made of small closed cells that are filled with air which provide insulation against cold water by trapping heat in. The thicker the neoprene is, the warmer it will be because it has more heat-trapping insulation. It is important to research the water temperature in the region where a paddler will primarily use neoprene.

There are several Neoprene options available to paddlers today, including:

  • Booties
  • Wetsocks
  • Helmet Liners
  • Gloves/Pogies
  • Lined Shorts


An alternative to Astral or other river shoes, neoprene booties are primarily worn by kayakers all times of the year. Not only are neoprene booties less bulky –which is especially important when fitting your lower half into a kayak – they also keep paddler's toes a bit warmer than other water shoes. Neoprene booties offer tread on the soles so paddlers aren't slipping over rocks at the put-in or take-out.

Gifts for Kayakers Neoprene NRS Wetsock
NRS Freestyle Wetshoe
Level Six River Boot 2.0


Dry suits are a gear investment that deserves to be cared for. CKS Online's #1 recommendation? Put neoprene socks over drysuit socks. It will add protection from sand/silt that can get caught in between river shoes and drysuits.

A constant friction on your soles may create pinholes, which can eventually lead to cold, wet water leaking into warm, dry feet. Avoid this with an inexpensive pair of wetsocks!

Level Six Photon Sock
NRS 2mm Wetsock


We always think about our feet and toes, but don’t forget about those hands! There are a variety of neoprene gloves available, and NRS’s Hydroskin is extremely popular line of Neoprene because it’s durable and affordable.

Hydroskin is a bit thinner than traditional neoprene, so this line is great for paddlers looking to boat in the shoulder seasons, not in cold weather. To learn more about Hydroskin, read our expert review

Men's Gifts Kokatat Kozee Gloves Neoprene Mens Gifts NRS Neoprene Gloves
Kokatat Kozee Glove
 NRS Mens Hydroskin Gloves

Helmet Liner

Add an extra layer of insulation (and keep hair from getting tangled in a mess of water and wind) by investing in a neoprene helmet liner. Also known as a thermo cap, this liner fits in between your skull and your helmet. Helmet liners are great for playboaters or SUP river surfers.

Mes gifts helmet liner Neoprene 
Immersion Research Thermo Cap
NRS HydroSkin 0.5 Helmet Liner

Lined Shorts

 Men's Gifts Neoprene Lined Shorts Some people invest in drysuits or drypants, others rock shorts all year long. A happy medium between the two is neoprene-lined shorts, like the Level Six Pro Guide Lined Neoprene Shorts. A cozy fit without compromising ruggedness, these shorts keep paddlers warm in places that matter.


Originally published November 18, 2020.
Updated April 24, 2023.

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