I am planning to go on a 7 week kayak trip in alaska over the summer. I am shopping around for a spray skirt to fit a Current design extreme kayak. Currently I am looking at a kokotat goretex touring skirt and a snap dragon. If anyone has any reviews or advice on particular skirts I would appreciate your help. I don’t want to end up a frozen popsicle because my skirt is crappy. Thanks.
Which part of Alaska?
Last year I paddled the Inside Passage from Ketchikan to Skagway. Conditions were usually pretty mild. I bet other areas get more wind, not to mention big waves and swells.
Anyway, the SnapDragon skirt I used held up wonderfully. It was already 2 years old and in excellent condition. At the end of the trip, it was still in excellent condition despite being donned and removed several times a day for 25 paddling days.
The model in question has a Supratex deck (cloth-reinforced neoprene, with a very stout sewn-in rim bungie) with coated nylon tube and suspenders. Nice because it can be used with the tube either under or over the PFD. During the long heat spell we enjoyed, I wore the tube over the PFD, much more comfortable than under in such hot weather.
SnapDragon will make you a custom skirt (no extra cost) if that is necessary to get a good fit. I had them make me one for my wood kayak.
I'd worry more about the hull getting scraped and gouged than the sprayskirt's longevity. If you are going self-supported (no mother ship), sometimes you will make less-than-gentle landings on those mussel- and barnacle-encrusted rocks. With 60+ lbs of gear/food loaded in addition to your own weight. Even my plastic boat shows the scrapes and gouges.
We have each
My husband has two Kokotat skirts, one Goretex with suspenders and one neoprene with a neo tunnel. I have two neoprene Snapdragon skirts - my Explorer LV required a smaller one than my previous boat. We spend three weeks in Maine in the summer, so are regularly in water that runs the high 50’s or 60 in a really warm season.
First, the Kokotat Goretex is a lovely skirt but a neoprene deck is still warmer. And neo will stretch when you move around to manuver the boat, so you don’t tend to have water coming in from the side as easily.
As to the two brands in neo - both are hardy as heck and both manufacturers will get you into the right size if you call them. Snapdragon is especially accessible.
There are a few diffs you may want to consider. Kokotat comes with a stiffer grab loop, though I achieved the same effect with my SnapDragon by adding plastic tubing from a hardware store and using duct tape to seal it around the strap. It’s been thru lots of wear and nothing is even remotely frazzled.
Then there is sizing - the Snapdragon folks as a normal routine will do things like seperately size the deck (for the boat) and the tunnel (for the person). My newest is an extra small skirt with a medium tunnel.
Another diff is that the Kokotat neo is designed so that the paddler doesn’t have to pull forward first in order to free the skirt, even in a glass boat with deep coaming. You can just pull back like you would with a skirt on a plastic boat and it’ll come right off.
Now, I’ve looked at it and don’t see any reason I can’t get my Snapdragon set up the same way with some additional strap material, a neo patch and a trip to a shoe repair place (for their sewing machines). I plan to get that done in January. But in case it matters and you want to buy one already set up that way…
I love my Kokatat spray skirt…
One of the things that sets my Kokatat spray skirt apart from the Snapdragon skirts is that it has a hand-warming pocket on the front of the skirt. First of all it’s great for a quick hand warming (it’s lined with fleece and is very warm), and it is where I carry my survival kit (space blanket, fire starter, etc.). It is available in either all goretex or with a nylon tube and neoprene deck. The neoprene would be warmer. I also recommend not getting a spray skirt with a neoprene tube because it tends to wick water up your back.
check out the $39 Zyflex skirt. A fabric skirt that can be worn over your pfd. I’d carry a bombproof Snapdragon for rough stuff and the Zyflex for comfort. Wearing the skirt over your pfd may look geeky but it really makes a lot of sense for fabric skirts. I’d get a $39 Zyflex over any techy goretex skirt that can puddle water.
Check out Seals Skirts. There is a new model for '05 which has a neo deck and breathable tunnel. They make excellent skirts and will even custom make them for SOFs at no extra charge. I used a Tropical Tour all summer and it was great.