neoprene vs. non-neo skirts

I am soon to purchase my first spray skirt. Some tell me to get neoprene for the taut deck, yet others say it will be too hot for summer paddling in the U.P. of Michigan (can hit 80s-90). I have also been told that non-neo skirts pool water and can come off too easily in a roll and just don’t keep the water out of the cockpit. I am a casual paddler who only paddles flat water and the occasional 1-2 foot waves. I haven’t even attempted a roll (since i have never owned a skirt in my 3 years of paddling)but plan on learning one this summer. Any advice before I buy would be appreciated.

Depends on the fit. I had a nylon Snapdragon when I started out, and it fit my boat very well. It survived some pretty rough conditions for a nylon skirt.

On my current boat I’ve always used neoprene and prefer it - just a tighter fit. I don’t notice that it’s any hotter but the nylon I had was non-breatheable. I don’t know if I’ve ever paddled Lake Superior without a wetsuit, so it really doesn’t make a difference to me if the skirt is breatheable or not. Especially if you go with neo, make sure to do some wet exits to get used to the tighter fit.

Neo if want to roll
- unless you plan to learn the roll in a rental boat then decide on a new boat for yourself.

Anything other than neo won’t stretch as you twist around down there, will pull off the coaming and give you an immediate disadvantage of several gallons of water to lift up in addition to yourself. I’ve seen people learn to roll in looser-fitting cordura skirts with a thicker bungie, but the skirts that I’ve seen like this are near impossible to find in this country.

As to regular paddling - I have never found a neo skirt with a breathable tunnel to be any hotter than the basic coated mylon skirts that are so often foisted on newbies. Some nylon skirts do fit better and have things like built-in supports to stop water from being able to pool tho’ if that concerns you.

I don’t know what your heat tolerance is but I live in SE MI and use an all-neo skirt. I always wear it and have gotten used to it as second nature.

Do neo skirts prevent implosion from a sizeable wave as compared to a nylon skirt?

IME yes

– Last Updated: Apr-11-07 10:25 AM EST –

They can.

I don't know why anyone would use a skirt with anything but a neo deck at the least.

I use neo - in S Florida.
When really hot, I leave it popped open in front on calmer waters - and getting some 80 degree water in is not big deal either. I’d be less cavalier up North.

Nylon is a big PITA, and can be harder to get on (slips/doesn’t stretch). Problems launching, bigger problems getting it back on in conditions.

Beginners are often told neo is harder to get on/off - but this is more of a fit issue. Neo need not be harder to get on/off if sized right, and the way my snapdragon curls under at the back makes it really easy (note: many WW skirts are purposely made tighter/stronger and may contribute to this generalization).

Where you are - I’d only consider neo deck skirts. Tunnel is another story, as you have options there too.

I currently use a Glacier Trek - with breathable material tunnel (of questionable value but price was right) and a very comfortable adjustable neo “dragon collar” at the top. I also use a neo Brooks Akuilisaq with my smaller cockpit skin on frame that is super comfortable as it allows a lot of movement.

I Have Both
I don’t notice any temperature differance between the differant materials. The neo is much more water resistant than the other. The neo does not pool water. The neo is much harder to get on and off.

If you don’t use it for rolls, and you are not concerned wtth waves washing over the deck then I would say it does not matter much.


How about both?
If it’s gonna be a hot day, I’ll actually be more prone to use my neoprene skirt, but only because if I get too hot, I’ll just roll. A nylon skirt won’t keep water out during a roll.

But on a hot day when the water is still a bit too frigid to roll without getting an ice-pick headache right behind the eyes, I’ll go with my nylon skirt. Some nylon skirts come with a rigid bar across the cockpit that helps a lot with preventing pooling water (which happens with both neoprene AND nylon, but is usually easier to deal with in a neo skirt).

One note…you CAN roll with a nylon skirt that fits the cockpit tight enough, but keep a pump with you, because you’ll probably have to evacuate water that comes in through the tunnel.


Snapdragon makes one
Two actually, that have a breathable tunnel and neo deck. Glacier Trek and Sea Trek.

I went with the Sea Trek as the adjustable tunnel on the glacier was a weee bit to tight even at it’s widest.

Ocean trek
Anyone know anything about the Ocean Trek made by Snapdragon? A dealer nearby has them for about $87.

I use an all neoprene skirt in South Florida. I had a breathable skirt from Bomber Gear, but it didn’t last very long. It began to fall apart after a few months of light use. So, I made my own.

You can easily make your own skirt, and it will fit you and your coaming perfectly. Check out these instructions:

I made some minor modifications to this technique which I think work a little better. If you’re interested, let me know and I can explain.

Last time I paddled in hot weather with full sun exposure, I did notice my legs were pretty warm. If it gets warm, you can splash some water onto the deck of the skirt to cool it off, the neoprene won’t leak.

Whatever you choose, do learn how to roll. It’s great to know that you can get back up without getting out of the boat. That said, I’ve never had an accidental capsize…yet. I taught myself how to roll without a skirt. Cold water isn’t an isuue down here. :slight_smile:

Pedro Almeida

I like the idea
I like the idea of making one. I’ve been using a cheap Bomber Gear nylon skirt with a rubberized cockpit edging. It stays on just fine when I roll but it leaks quite a bit around the combing. I like the idea of a neoprene skirt in cold weather – but not in hot weather. And I want to pull a skirt on over my head – to keep it out of the sand. Maybe if I made my own I could mix materials and come up with something nifty.

neoprene skirts hot??
I guided and instructed in the southeast all last summer and wore my neoprene skirt everyday. It wasn’t hot, maybe a bit warmer than without a skirt but not HOT.

Has anybody ever tested the temp differences with a thermometer? I haven’t so maybe there is a significant difference.

Hybrid spraydeck

– Last Updated: Apr-11-07 10:38 PM EST –

FWIW, I have an Immersion Research "Excursion Touring Skirt". It has a breathable waterproof (Goretex clone) cloth tunnel, but a neo deck with a HEAVY bungee rand. I haven't rolled with this deck because my boat is unsuitable for rotary pursuits, but I have practiced wet exits with quite a bit of thrashing and not once has it come off without pulling the handle or engaging the kick strap.

It does pool water a little and will dribble around the waist a bit if you spend a good deal of time inverted, but overall I think it's a pretty good compromise.


I have a Glacier TRe by Snapd, like Grey

– Last Updated: Apr-11-07 11:16 PM EST –

I love it and would not change to a nylon.

It is hot as a belly dancer's navel in the summer. I do not wear it in the summer, preferring the cooling slosh of the stinkwaters in which I paddle. Sprayskirtless Capsize = heat relief, and a swim to shore to pump the kayak out.

(I am listening to Even Better THan The Real Thing on my iPod now, and it is true, Bono--you silly Earth Day nappy ho, you-- neo is indeed better than the real thing. I am making no sense now, so hitting Mr. White's PJ Party. G'night y'all).

Don’t do as I do
I (practially) never where a neo skirt (except when practicing in moderate-heavy surf).

I use Solstice (by Wildwasser) (no longer made) which is a ‘breathable’ material with stretch. (they call it vtech or something).

So the skirt would not ‘pop’ off (easily) when ‘stretching’ around (as nylon would).

I’ve used this on long trips (with ‘heavy surf’ landings), and it has held up well.

HOWEVER, it is much safer to use a full neoprene sprayskirt (and always where your pfd).


I bought a Snapdragon Glacier Trek from Downwind Sports in Marquette…$100 on sale. I hope I like it.

Nice Yoop
And nice price as they are usually $117. Enjoy.

I have a Seals Gore-tex skirt that I like a lot. It’s got a zippered pouch, bungies, and attachment points on it (So I can carry binocs/flares/etc in it), and a decent seal around the coaming for a non-neo skirt. It also has an implosion bar. I’ve surfed, and paddled tidal races with it, and never had a problem.

It’s nice in the summer. It does leak a little more than a neo skirt when rolling, but not to the point that the leakage is an issue. The great part about the attachment points and pouch are that I can put safety gear in the pouch, and tether my VHF to the skirt. This way, if I have to wet exit, all my emergency stuff comes out with me, and stays with me.

That said, it is a PITA to put on the coaming when it’s dry, but it stays there once it’s on.