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Canoeing Cags

Canoeing cags (short for cagoules) are functional paddle pullovers made from robust nylon, perfect for many water sports or tough swim training. They range in weight from thin summer shells to the high-end arctic cags. Some have an integrated spray deck.

Robust canoeing cags are great for wet adventures. Enjoy them for active watersports where you often go into the water, or for open water adventure swimming where a robust top is useful.

Designed for frequent immersion they have no neck zips but a velcro fastener. These are great for sports where you are in and out of the water a lot, like kayaking, windsurfing, stand-up paddling and swimming.

Cags are essentially spray tops designed specifically for canoeing and kayaking. They offer protection from wind and spray while the seals help to keep water out.

As paddling is often a very wet sport, the windproof layer (the shell) will protect your insulating clothing layer from some of external moisture, and reduce the wind chill effect of wet clothes.

Combine your cag with thermals or a rash vest and long water pants, for comfort and protection. It's the most basic item of clothing and vital equipment for paddlers.

Depending on the purpose, canoeing cags come with and without hoods. Hooded cags are intended more for open water touring. Without the hood they are better for kayak slalom, splashing around, swimming and kayak rolling practice.

Canoeing Cag Design

Canoeing cags are specially cut and shaped for freedom of movement, generously sized to allow layering. They are shorter than anoraks or cagoules, reach just below the waist.

Canoeing cags are over-the-head style pullovers and usually come without a hood. They are shorter than adventure cagoules to avoid bulk around the seat in your boat.


The sleeves are wide near the shoulders to allow freedom of movement. They are tapered towards the wrists to reduce water collecting in there when paddling or swimming, which makes them easier to swim in. They have seals on the waist, wrists and neck to reduce water flow through your inner layer of clothes.


Most cags have just a short zip or a Velcro fastener on the front. Some cags have a secure pocket for keys and money, which is great for open water swimming, when you go a good distance from one point to another, leaving nothing behind on the beach. Pull-it-on-and-go simplicity.

Features to look for on a cag include zips, pockets, maybe a storm hood, and of course, quality seals on the waist, neck and wrists.

Although the fabric is waterproof, cags won't keep you dry when you go through big waves or capsize your boat, unless it is a "Dry Cag" with Latex seals on neck and wrists.

Some water will always enter through the openings and soak your clothes underneath, depending on how tight you seal it.

From lightweight recreational cags to full dry tops, there is a huge range available to suit every style of paddling, in every type of environment. The key point to remember is that they keep you warm by blocking wind chill and keeping water from repeated soakings off your wet clothes underneath.


Bear in mind the colour that's best for your chosen sport. High visibility colours like red and yellow add an extra element of safety to canoeing trips or survival swimming. Nature photographers may want a more stealthy green, brown or grey cag.

Size and Fit

A canoeing cag is a simple pullover garment, but shorter than an adventure cagoule to fit better with a canoe spray deck. Since you sit in the boat they don't need to be long and thus avoid extra bulk. The shorter fit also makes swimming easier.

Some sailing tops have a tighter fit so they don't pick up too much water when dipping into the water whilst on the trapeze during a fast ride.

Canoeing Cag Styles

Short Sleeve Canoeing Cags

Summer swimming or paddling is great and when the sun finally deems to pop its head out, or if you decide to head off to warmer climes, a full on long-sleeved cag can be a bit on the warm side. That’s where a short-sleeved cag, or shorty cag, comes in.

A short sleeve cag is ideal for those warm days on the water. Paddling in a shorty feels great, the water splashing onto your skin or swim shirt gives a real feeling of freedom and being one with nature, while the cag keeps your core a bit more protected.

Shorty cags are super-packable and easy to wear over a swim shirt, there's no excuse to be without it if you need a little extra protection when swimming or for other watersports.

Play cags usually have no zip, just an elastic head opening. They look like nylon T-shirts, are easy to put on or take off, give good freedom of motion, and don't weigh much.

They are not meant to keep you dry, but look good, reduce wind and water chill a bit and avoid chafing of the spray deck or buoyancy aid. Wear a T-shirt or thermal top underneath if you tend to get cold. Combine them with over the knee shorts or long water pants to complete the look.

Competition Cags

Short sleeve cags are worn for kayak slalom competitions, freestyle playboating, or on warm summer days. They don't hold much water in the sleeves and thus make it easier when rolling the boat, or enjoying other wet fun sports that require a lot of agility. Play cags are useful for easy resistance swim training in pools. They give just a bit of resistance in the water, good for beginners.

Competition canoeists warm up, race, then cool down. They often only get wet for short periods, like during a race and a swim afterwards. Short-sleeved canoeing cags are worn by them to keep warm but retain full arm movement. Most are designed with a generous cut for dynamic paddling, with an elasticated waist that keeps them in place.

Whitewater Cags

River cags come in a few different styles: summer weight, semi dry and dry. The quality of wrist and waist seals varies from basic velco closures to combinations of latex and neoprene. Double waist seals, for example, will give you less leakage around the spray deck.

The defining feature of a whitewater cag is an "overskirt" to sandwich your spray-skirt like a double tunnel. This keeps your kayak drier while rolling or paddling in waves. The point is to reduce the amount of water that comes in with each full immersion.

Sea and Touring Cags

Basic sea touring cags have a strong, less breathable fabric, with Velcro closures. Many have a hood to keep your head warm and protect you from rough weather. As you move up the ranges you get double, Latex sealed wrists, stiffened hoods and highly breathable fabrics. Some have a build-in spray deck.

The ability to be able to close off openings efficiently means you are able to vent when warm, and stay dry when conditions are not favourable. With a proper touring cag it's fun to splash through the waves, yet stay cosy and warm, but not always dry.

Most of these cags tend to be in highly visible colours for safety. Inspite of their more robust and complex design, they are still fairly easy to swim in when the need arises. Practice swimming in your touring cag and spray deck before you head out into the wild. You'll be better prepared.

Reader Comments

Short Cag

from Aiden in Bournemouth, England

The short cags are great for canoe polo in swimming pools. They keep the spray deck from chafing around the waist, and don't hold much water when you roll the boat. I wear a short sleeve cag all the time in and around the pool during kayak training.

Another use is for resistance swimming, a powerful form of aquatic strength training which involves swimming in clothes. No more dragging buckets or nets behind you, which is a safety hazard for other swimmers and yourself.

The shorty cag causes a small amount of drag, more than a shirt, but less than a long sleeve cag or hoodie. This allows me to vary the training level much finer. Since canoeing always involves swimming in clothes, this really keeps me fit.

Outdoor Centre

from Craig, Wales, UK

Outdoor adventure centres are great fun. Every year I visit several venues for wet and wild action. Canoeing, kayaking, and adventure swimming are my favourites.

On the first day, before we go out on adventures, we always practice swimming in our adventure clothes, so we get used to it. This is huge fun when we play wet and wild games for two or three hours, mess around in boats, or swim around.

We have to keep full clothes on for the whole time to make sure it all fits well and feels good, but we can change into different clothes to find out what works best in the water. I did that a lot to check out whatever was available.

On warm days I prefer to get wet in T-shirt, track pants, and a hoodie. On cooler days I wear one of my canoeing cags and pants on top of thermal clothes. My clothes are easy to swim in. Dressed like this I'm ready for any wet adventure.

On hot days I jump into the water before any watersport session, just to get my clothes wet and keep cool. That gives me more confidence when I fall in during a capsize or other water games. It's a constant in and out of the water. Serious fun if your clothes keep you warm in the water.

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