Spray skirts.... (a reluctant question)

Ok, I’m obviously not an expert on this, but here goes… As most of you now know, I just got a Tempest 170. I need a spray skirt, which I have yet to purchase. While looking, I have noticed that there are quite a few styles out there. I have seen them with and without suspenders, neoprene, nylon and a combination of both. What style do you guys suggest? Any specific models? Is this a personal preference, or are there functional difference in the different styles??

Thanks – Kelly

I prefer neoprene

– Last Updated: Oct-14-05 10:29 AM EST –

for the deck at least. better sealing, water-resistance and implosion resistance. A fabric "chimney" is more comfortable for touring than a neo one (less confining and lets some heat escape). I prefer suspenders but some dont.

Oh yea, make sure you get one that fits your coaming.

I JUST got one for my WS Pungo 140 and one nice feature it has is a zipper. You can unzip it (partially) and forage for stuff without taking it off completely. But ANY skirt sure makes paddling in chilly water more enjoyable. No more drips.

Paul in Atlanta

We (my wife and I) have tried…
the various different materials and styles and have what works for us the best.

It is the Snap Dragon neoprene with the tunnel that uses a velcro closure.

It is leak proof and doesn’t puddle like the waterproof nylon ones do.

Neither one of us like the suspender types.



Options and their place:
If you’re going to roll or learn to, especially with Greenland rolls, get neo. Nylon doesn’t stretch and may pull itself off when you wind up. Neo’s also a heap warmer and a real bugger to get on compared to nylon. If you don’t plan to roll and are going to use it in warmer weather, nylon may be a better choice. Since nylon doesn’t stretch, it doesn’t fit your torso as well either. Suspenders may be a nice addition then. IR make a nice compromise in a 2mm neo (thinner) “touring” skirt. Stretchy, grippy, no suspenders needed, cooler.


Neoprene gives a tight
fit that doesn’t leak when you roll. But it restricts torso rotation a bit and can be hot in warm weather. Any sprayskirt that requires suspenders probably isn’t tight enough around the waist to really keep water out. Personally, I prefer a neoprene skirt, which I use with a drytop or drysuit that has an extra flap (double tunnel) that goes over the skirt. In that way, no water enters the boat at all, even after dozens of rolls or playing in surf for a long time.

Fit is the most important thing, both fit to your body and to the boat. I’d suggest asking the boat manufacturer about specific brands and sizes that fit the boat perfectly, then talking with the sprayskirt manufacturer to get the tunnel (waist) size perfect. if nothing is perfect, Snapdragon will make you a custom skirt. I’ve had very good luck with mine–you trace the coaming, indicate the seat position, and give the waist size, and then get a skirt that fits perfectly, for just $10 more than their regular sizes. The location of the seat back relative to the back of the coaming is an important but underappreciated variable in how well a skirt fits.

Nylon/other light material skirts are good for hot weather and for racing.


I have three skirts. Two are nylon, one with a velcro waistband closure, the other with a tunnel that has a bungee closure. Since I bought a neoprene skirt, I have never used the nylon ones.

The nylon ones sag more than the neoprene, which only sags behind my back. Water pools in the saggy areas and with the nylon skirts, the pools make the skirt sag more and the pools grow. The water drips through seams in the skirts, and you end up with a wet cockpit. One of the nylon skirts has a built in nylon truss that is supposed to make the skirt bow upwards and shed water. A good idea, but has never done much for me.

The neoprene skirt is much more water tight. If I’m rolling, I still get water in the cockpit, but way less than with the nylon skirts. Some water still pools behind me, but not as much and it doesn’t leak as much as the nylon. Like I said, once I started using it, I have never used the nylon ones.

Seals has a nice neoprene skirt that’s marketed as a ww skirt. It definitely gets warm in July, but I’ve been pleased. I’ve heard that neoprene skirts ware faster than nylon, especially on composite boats, and if you’re more likely to exit than roll, neoprene is a pretty tight fit. I had a few scary moments this spring when I was working on my wet exit. You get used to that though. Biggest drawback, as already mentioned, they get hot. (Can’t wait till I can do a roll to cool down!)

We like snapdragon

Just make sure that you try it on your boat before heading out on the water. I’m sure that you know to make sure that it fits securely enough around the coaming, but also make sure that you can release it one-handed.

The recommended skirt for my Eddyline NH 16 came too snug and I had send it back to be loosened up a bit. By the way, it wasn’t that I was weak, my husband had to have his loosened as well. :slight_smile:

Fellow Texan
( sounds like a politician) anyway, I have a 170 that I use a Snap Dragon Trek Series Supratex Neoprene on in a size medium (deck).The tube or body size will depend on how big an ole boy you are or what you wear under it. Mine fits really well and I like it. Chris

to roll or not to roll
We have perception Carolina 16’s and have kokatat nylon spray skirts with the frills, suspenders, pockets, etc. They are great until you want to do some roll practice and then all you wind up practicing is two man rescues because the skirts pop off no matter how tight we adjust them. After speaking with the dealer we now understand neoprene skirts are suited for rolling, nylon are not. We Are sort of bummed because we really like our skirts…no pun intended… we can say that we are pretty well practiced in wet exits and looking forward to actually completing a roll… just one for now!

Snapdragon or Kokatat
Re fit, one thing to consider is the posibility that your cockpit is one size and your waist another. For example, because I often paddle in cooler weather with lots of layers and I was right on the cusp between sizes, my Snapdragon skirts both have a medium tunnel even though the deck sizes are small (fit the Squall and now the Vela) and extra small (that one fits the Explorer LV).

Both Snapdragon and Kokatat have neoprene skirts that wear like iron and can be ordered from a dealer with diff size deck and tunnel. You’ll find fit charts on line that should list your boat to get the deck size, the other sizing goes by your waist. Kokatat has some neat features like the vinyl tubing around the strap (I have had to add that to my Snapdragon skirts), and their pull-off strap is set to work without having to pull it forward to free it from the front edge of the coaming.

But you can emulate the latter by getting a skirt with a bungie that is not sewn in, which means it runs around in a tube and ties off in the back, and leaving it long enough that the skirt will release if you just push off from the bottom of the boat. My my older Snapdragon skirt has a bungie I can shorten and lengthen, and has been beat to heck in practice work thru three boats when I needed to leave it a little looser while I built up confidence. (started with huge entrapment issues) It looks pretty ragged but it is still going strong.

Both brands are good skirts that’ll last forever.

I prefer a velcro closure or a neoprene tunnel rather than suspenders for many of the reasons above, but some people love them. The more likely you are to be practicing wet skills like rolling or sculling, the more a tight tunnel matters.

I have all 3
There is some good advice above. I use the nylon for flatwater paddles that won’t involve rolling and its hot. nylon/neophrene when might roll or practice rolling and weather is hot or cool. Neo when going to roll or its cold. the neo/nylon will leak when rolling. The neo alone is too hot to use year round here in SC. If I had to choose only one it would depend totally on the conditions I paddle and would choose between the all neo and the neo/nylon. bought mine when the dollar was strong against the CND$ but you might want to check out a company called MEC. They usually have good prices.


Clarification… on conditions
I am in far South Texas, so it is almost always hot, or at the very least warm – I’m talking shorts on a SOT in January… Also, the majority of my paddling will be in the bay (Intercoastal Waterway) between Port Mansfield and South Padre Island. Odds are that 90% of the water I’ll be in is less than 3 ft. deep. I don’t forsee alot of rolling, but I would like to lear how to do it at some point. It sounds like a nylon/noe combo might be better??? At least for the keeping cool factor.

Thanks – Kelly

I live in South FL and don’t do much rolling so got the Seals Tropic Tour skirt. Even in 90 degree weather it is not hot at all. It’s the waterproof/breathable version.

Also a function of the coaming design
My KajakSport Millenium has a rather deep sharp edged coaming and I’ve never had a skirt pop off, fabric or neo. Some of the shallo,w thick, rounded plastic coamings do not do such a good job though. The downsode of my composite coaming is that it does not seem to have as much surface area on the edge to seal water out so it’s a bit wetter in a roll.

Snapdragon, Kokatat, and Seals
all make great spray skirts. All have sizing charts.

You cannot beat a neoprene deck. I happen to also like a neoprene tunnel.

Be certain, if neoprene, that you can release the deck without excessive effort.

Be sure to practice wet exits, especially if you do not yet have a roll.

Wild Wasser Pocket Neo
This is my favorite skirt. It has a pocket on the deck that is a great place to put snacks, trash, etc.

Pockets on the tunnel are unusable if you wear a pfd.

This skirt has kevlar around the edge to keep it from wearing from the combing or rescue practices. It is very water tight.

They also make a nylon version which I use in very hot weather or flatwater. It’s not as water tight as the neoprene one.

Just picked up a new Snap Dragon
today. I bought a vinyl snapdragon skirt with the boat and it works ok. It had suspenders which I had to remove, (every time I realy bent my torso the suspenders would pull the skirt off the coaming. The vinyl skirt also leaks but that is not entirely bad around here for the summer months.

I was up with liv2paddle about a month ago and he offered his experience that all vinyl skirts that he has tried have leaked. He also said that neoprene skirts do much better. So, I now have one of each, Ill want the neoprene one for when the temps start dropping soon.

happy paddling,


real bugger to get on
I find the opposite - nylon slips. With neo I just hook the rear and its easy to get on and off. Can do it one handed.