Whether you’re setting out on choppy seas via kayak, or you just prefer to stay dry, finding the perfect spray skirt will enhance your next adventure.
Before you decide to forego a spray skirt, read on. Below you’ll find everything you need to know, from why we use them to when it’s best to leave them behind.
What is a Spray Skirt?
Spray skirts are waterproof covers for kayaks. They fit around kayakers’ waists and attach to the cockpit. The watertight seal prevents the kayak from filling with water and keeps the kayaker dry. It’s used for a kayaker’s safety and comfort.
When to Use a Spray Skirt
Some folks opt to use a spray skirt regardless of weather and water conditions. Others only use them when the water and air are chilly. In rocky waters, it’s best to use a spray skirt so the vessel doesn’t fill with water.
Note: It’s imperative that you learn to do a wet exit before venturing out with a spray skirt attached to your kayak.
Parts of a Spray Skirt
A spray skirt is made up of three primary parts: a tunnel, a deck, and a rand. The tunnel is worn around the kayaker’s waist. The deck covers the kayak’s cockpit, and the rand fastens around the outer lip of the cockpit, also called the coaming. These terms are helpful to know when you’re shopping for a spray skirt.
Materials: Nylon vs. Neoprene
Whether you opt for a nylon or neoprene spray skirt is a matter of personal preference. There are benefits and drawbacks with both:
Nylon – This type of skirt is generally easy to take on and off. Ideal for recreational touring and for areas with warmer weather and water, nylon spray skirts do seal to the cockpit, but they will not keep water out of the vessel in the case of a capsize.
Some nylon spray skirts are waterproof and breathable, while others are highly water resistant. This type of skirt typically has a spandex or adjustable tunnel, allowing for a custom fit. There are often shoulder straps included with nylon spray skirts.
Neoprene – Many folks choose neoprene spray skirts due to their ability to keep water out of the cockpit. They also provide warmth, so they’re ideal for chilly conditions. If you’re setting out to sea or trying whitewater kayaking, a neoprene skirt is the way to go.
This type of skirt has a snug-fitting neoprene tunnel. Learning to do a wet exit is key if you opt for a neoprene spray skirt, as removing the skirt is more difficult than with nylon.
Combo – A nylon/neoprene spray skirt offers a great combination of features, including a neoprene base and a nylon tunnel. Opt for this type when weather conditions may vary during a tour.
Bungee vs. Rand
Depending on which type of spray skirt you choose, you’ll have bungee or rand piping. This is how the skirt seals to the cockpit. Bungee skirts tend to be stretchy and easier to put on and take off. Rand skirts, on the other hand, ensure you won’t get wet. Many folks opt for bungee skirts simply because they’re easier to handle.
If you’re a fan of added features, you might appreciate a spray skirt with one or more of the following:
A Stow Pocket – Spray skirts may include interior or exterior pockets. You’ll appreciate this feature if you have small items to stow, such as snacks or sunscreen. Some pockets are made from mesh, while others close to hold your belongings securely. Some spray skirts even come with fleece-lined pockets to keep your hands toasty.
Suspenders – To keep your tunnel extended to its full length, shoulder straps are a nice added feature.
Adjustable Waistband – This feature is ideal for a custom fit and can make the skirt more comfortable.
Types of Spray Skirts
Whether you want to be protected from the sun, or you’re kayaking with a companion, there’s a spray skirt for that:
Half Spray Skirts – If the water and air are warm, consider a half spray skirt. This type allows for airflow, while still keeping water out.
Tandem Spray Skirt – Especially designed to fit a two-person, single cockpit kayak, this type of skirt includes two pieces, and connects to form a single spray skirt to cover the entire cockpit. Paddlers sharing a vessel with two cockpits will need separate spray skirts.
Getting the Perfect Fit
When it comes to finding a spray skirt that will fit your body, technology is your friend! Manufacturers make the sizing process super easy by offering comprehensive sizing charts.
One of the best out there is Seal’s cockpit size chart, which allows you to enter your kayak manufacturer and model information, and lists spray skirt recommendations in both nylon and neoprene options.
Because sizes vary greatly among manufacturers, it’s important to check your manufacturer’s specs before purchasing a spray skirt.
For anyone who is unable to find a spray skirt to fit your kayak, contact a manufacturer or local kayak shop to get recommendations. In some cases, it may be best to order a custom skirt.
Spray Skirt Tips
I understand that shopping for a spray skirt can be an overwhelming process, but once you choose the perfect skirt, you’ll be in kayaking heaven. Below are a few tips and tricks I’d be remiss not to mention:
- Put on your spray skirt first, followed by your personal flotation device (PFD). This will help you to get a better seal.
- Put your spray skirt on from back to front, ensuring the rand is tight. Always double check to make sure there are no gaps or holes.
- Readjust your suspenders, if needed. You may need to tweak them after attaching your spray skirt to your vessel.
- Check and double check that your front grab loop is not under the skirt. It’s important that the grab loop is accessible in case of emergency. You can also add a lightweight ball to the grab loop for easy accessibility.
- If at all possible, try on multiple skirts. This will ensure a great fit.
- Take proper care when storing your spray skirt. After each use, rinse it in chlorinated or salt water. Hang to dry, and keep your skirt out of direct sunlight.
As with any sport or hobby, having the right tools in your toolbox will make kayaking a more satisfying experience. With your newfound knowledge, you’ll be hitting the waves in no time.