Kayak Spray Skirts and How to Use Them

Think about a 1950’s hoop skirt, a turtleneck sweater, and a dive suit, and you have pretty much got the concept of the kayak spray skirt. When the weather turns nasty and water and cold weather can lead to dangerous, hypothermic condition, a spray skirt is pretty much a kayaker’s last defense against wetness.

The idea behind the spray skirt is that a waterproof nylon and neoprene material can produce a watertight plug of sorts, surrounding your core with a material that spans the length of the kayak cockpit and keeps water out of the boat and away from you.

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What to Look for in a Kayak Spray Skirt


So what makes a good spray skirt anyway? With so many spay skirts out there and so many different sized hulls, a one-size-fits-all solution is not really an option. So, the helpful folks at REI Outfitters have the following helpful tips for you to keep in mind the next time you are in the market for a kayak spray skirt.

  • A good firm fit around the waist is key keeping core temperatures up and water out, so try it on in the store before you buy it.
  • When attaching the kayak spray skirt to the boat, start at the back. Slip the rand edge underneath the coaming at the rear of the cockpit and hold onto it as you come around to the front, tucking the bunched and edge as you work your way around to the front.
  • If your kayak spray skirt includes shoulder straps, readjust them after attaching the kayak skirt to the cockpit. This will ensure everything stays taunt when you are ready to slide into the tunnel, which is rather the point.
  • Always make sure that the grab loops are on the outside, as, in an emergency, you want to eject the kayak spray skirt immediately.

Beyond these tips, which apply to a broad range of kayak spray skirts, it is good to become familiar with the anatomy of a kayak skirt. There are basically three terms you need to know that are universally used with it comes to skirts: tunnel, a deck, and a rand.

The tunnel is the part that goes around your torso and the deck covers the void of the cockpit, staying taunt and keeping water out. The rand it the edge of the spray skirt and it attaches to the kayak’s coaming or lip around the cockpit. The rand usually has an elastic or “sticky” coating that helps to create a seal with the coaming.

Common materials used in the making of a kayak skirt are neoprene, a rubber-like thermoplastic with enhanced elasticity and durability, nylon, a synthetic fabric that is known for its hydrophobic yet breathable qualities, and fleece/polyester materials that collect water and trap it away from the body, allowing it to evaporate out of the boat.

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Features and Types of Kayak Spray Skirts


There are many types of skirts out there and they all have unique features and innovations that you might be inclined to gravitate toward, so, in order to understand what is a standard feature and what represents “added value,” this website provides the following standard kayak spray skirt lexicon:

  • Shoulder straps help to maintain full extension of the tunnel so that it fits as snugly to your torso as possible so that water doesn’t pool around the top.
  • Tensioned deck stays are added materials that help keep the deck taut to keep water out.
  • Pockets are generally thoughtful addition that manufacturers sew into the deck or the tunnel. Mesh pockets generally exist on the outside of the kayak skirt, while zipper pockets securely hold things inside of the skirt. Fleece-lined pockets can also be found for the warming of the hands in cold weather models.

Special types of skirts exist, too, like splash decks made for placid waters and warm weather, and those that are lined for colder adventures. There are full decks and half decks, and there are even tandem kayak spray skirts for two-person boats. You will find fleece line tunnels and warmer weather tunnels.

Comfort and mobility is really the key, and you want a kayak skirt that feels right. Not every kayak adventure can take during the dog days of summer, and, when cooler conditions catch up, as they always do, you will want to gain those few extra months on the water with a spray skirt.

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Kayak Spray Skirt Reviews and Wrap Up

Kayak Spray Skirt

In closing, you’ll want spray skirts that fit you and your boat, whether you have a classic skin-on-frame kayak, an Old Town, or a new Viper kayak, you’ll want a solution that works, without all of that drama. The helpful folks at Canoe & Kayak reviewed some of the top spray skirt makers, and here are some of their favorites:

The Harmony Fusion is an extremely “serviceable” fabric skirt for touring in calm waters. The grippy material sticks to a cockpit rim and Velcro tunnel adjustments make getting in and out a breeze, but the lack of neoprene or and suctioning material will not keep water out in extreme conditions

The SEALS Extreme Tour Spray Skirts are made in upstate New York and the high-performance neoprene with Seal-tex edge guard and breathable fabric offer great waterproofing protection. Skirts come in small, medium, and large and boast removable suspenders and more. Moreover, abrasion-resistant materials make SEALS extreme touring specialist, and their products are top-notch.

Immersion Research Spray Skirts come with a list of rich features that, once you try, won’t want to live without. On many models, the tunnel is lined with soft mesh (a fleece/neoprene mixture), which provides extra moisture-wicking abilities and keeps water away from your core. Plus, a “sticky channel” grips the cockpit rim, holding your skirt in place, roll after roll.