Spray skirt use

I am ordering a spray skirt. Likely Snap Dragon as reviews are quite good. Question is: does one put on the skirt and than the PFD or can use wear the skirt outside of the PFD? If worn on top of PFD can you get any decent seal or can I expect lots of water to enter cockpit? Mostly large calm rivers and some Gulf paddling.

socks & shoes
spray skirt goes under the PFD

Skirt under
You put the skirt on over your clothes, then the pfd over the top of it. The skirt seals on your waist which won’t work otherwise. There would be no point in wearing a skirt over a pfd.

one exception
One exception to spray skirt over clothes - if you are wearing a paddle jacket or dry top, that goes on over the spray skirt.

Double tunnelled tops
Some drytops have a double tunnel - recommendation is usually inner tunnel layer, then skirt, then outer tunnel layer of the drytop. You don’t have to follow that recommendation.

Then PFD on and clipped, then tow belt last if carrying a waist mounted one one.

As to getting wet - water can come in under the edges of the skirt around the coaming if you are edging deeply enough. A very tight fit can prevent that, but the same fit could make it hard to take the skirt off if you capsize and are tired or just not at your best. I generally prefer letting a little water in to having to worry about exiting the boat if things go really south. It’s a water sport anyway.

spray skirt checkpoint

– Last Updated: Jul-11-12 2:59 PM EST –

Have the pull loop centered at the front of the rim, not tucked in or under bungees.
Some people lash a whiffle golf ball to the pull loop.
Make sure you have the arm strength to pull it off with one hand. Small people with long cockpits sometimes have trouble with this.
Practice doing it with your eyes closed so you know where to grab then do it upside with a buddy standing by in waste deep water.

Sometimes I put the skirt on first

– Last Updated: Jul-11-12 3:44 PM EST –

I wear a neoprene vest to take the edge off of the cold water when rolling and I put the skirt on first. If the skirt is over the vest, any water that gets in it is trapped and it starts to fill like a balloon. For roll practice, I wear the skirt under everything else.

[edit to say that the vest fills with water when the skirt is on over it because of the tight seal, if that was not clear.]

Skirt around a PFD? What type of PDF do you have that makes this look possible? Then again, are you rolling or just keeping the paddle drips out of the boat? Maybe a tight fit is not needed.


1) every model of sprayskirt I have ever seen is designed to worn under the pdf.

2) When I’m just wearing a base layer, I wear my sprayskirt under the base layer. I find this keeps me a bit drier. However, unless you’re spending a lot of time underwater, it’s not an issue and even then if you’re getting a lot of water in the boat, something is probably wrong with the skirt or the boat. Note that I’m assuming a neoprene skirt with a good cockpit seal. I can’t speak for nylon skirts; I’ve never used one.

Answer varies according
to the type of skirt you order and conditions.

If you are ordering a neoprene skirt with a neoprene tunnel then it should be sized for the tunnel to fit tight on your chest and worn under the PFD.

If you order a skirt with a nylyon top with suspenders and drawstring closure it is most comfortable to wear it over the PFD where the suspenders are not being pressed hard against your shoulders. This is also good in hot weather with calm water since you can slip off the suspenders and let the tunnel down to help keep you cool but easily be raised up if waves pick. Tunnel will not seal as well over PFD as against chest, but for nylon tunnel with drawstring there is not a huge difference unless you are in really big waves that are routinely breaking up to your chest. For 1 or 2 quick rolls I do not notice much difference in over or under PFD with this type tunnel.

For skirts with nylyon tunnel but a velcro adjustment of a neoprene band at the top it is kind of a mixed bag. They are dryer when worn under the PFD. However, in hot weather if you want to start out with it down for cooling then you have to take off the PFD to raise the tunnel and secure it under the PFD. If you just try to pull it up over the PFD this type of closure is usually not sized to seal very well over the PFD. Of course that can vary with model to model both of your skirt and PFD.

I paddle a lot in hot weather often starting out in calm morning conditions and finishing in rougher conditions. I like to have my nylon tunnel skirt on, but pulled down so I am cool, but can almost instantly pull it up if conditions roughen quickly. If I am doing a lot of rolling I sometimes were my all neoprene skirt, but roll the top down to my waist. Not as dry as with it pulled up chest high, but better than having heat stroke. For winter paddling I use the all neoprene skirt up over the chest under the PFD.

Paddlers in northern waters often don’t consider this since they always have cool water to roll in or splash over themselves for cooling off. Trying to cool off with 85 deg Gulf water in 85% humidity does not work that well so being able to eaisly ventilate the skirt tunnel can make a real differnce.


Question about skirt tunnel worn high
If the tunnel is up high on the chest and not at the waist, does this affect rolling where a lay-back pulls the skirt off of the boat? I have a snapdragon skirt with velcro adjustable tunnel and I can’t wear it high enough to ever go on my chest and certainly not over a PFD.


Tunnel not high enough
can be a result of the skirt not being a proper fit for the kayak. The skirt not only should fit around the rim properly, but the center of the tunnel should line up directly over the seat. I often see people with a skirt where the opening is too far forward so part of the tunnel length is taken up getting from the front to the paddlers body instead of just going up the body.

Incidentally, wearning the tunnel under the PFD can actually exaggerate this effect for some nylon tunnerls since the tunnel is forced into an L shape running flat parallel to the deck to stay under the bottom of the PFD then turning straight up on the body. If the tunnel is put on the outside of the PFD the tunnel will run more at a 60 deg angle up to the chest and therefore actually reach higher up on the chest (although outside the PFD) than trying to make it go under the PFD.

This can also happen with a neoprene skirt if it is out of alignment with the seat. With an all neoprene skirt this can usually be identified by the fact that one side (front or back) of the tunnel is stretched very tight while the other is kind of baggy. The tight side is farther away from your body than it should be and the baggy side is closer to your body than it should be.

Try putting your skirt on the kayak without you in it. Hold open the skirt and look down the center of the opening. The center should be over the center of your seat. If it is not lined up then the skirt is not a perfect fit for your kayak. Of course it might be ok. When I order a custom skirt I always include the distance from the rear combing to the center of the seat so that the tunnel gets put the right place. Most of the time it is not necessary if they have specific patterns for each kayak model. However, even then your kayak might have a newer or older version of seat placement than their pattern.

Probably more than you wanted to hear.


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All true, and…
the skirts with suspender tops, while giving most freedom of movement when worn over the PFD, do seal decently if worn UNDER the PFD. I did the latter with my first sea kayak and skirt when I was learning to roll. More water entered than if wearing an all-neo skirt under a PFD, but it wasn’t real bad–not a big flood of water as might be feared.

For hot places, that kind of skirt allows venting heat up and out. Skirts with Velcro bands on top also allow venting, just not as much. I’ve owned all 3 kinds. Now I wear an all-neo skirt and, if I feel hot, I roll the top of the band down to let more torso breathe. Or I just roll myself. Static brace is another option for cooling down.