The question of Nylon or Neoprene Spray Skirts?

After years of renting kayaks, I have pulled the trigger on a pair of touring/sea kayaks for my wife and I. (Delta 16 & 15s) I am trying to decide on spray skirts. Based on where we live, in the Washington DC area I plan to explore besides smaller lakes the Chesapeake Bay and the many tributaries that feed into it. I also want to explore barrier islands along the intercoastal waterways. So many other places too and so little time.
I will be taking beginner sea kayak cases to learn more advances paddling skills such as edging and wet exits. I have a dream of learning to roll but not sure how realistic that is. I also plan on joining the local club for others to kayak with.
So now my question, Nylon or Neoprene spray skirts. I am torn understanding that nylon will be cooler on hot summer days, but the neoprene will give a much better seal. Do a lot of you have both? Will the nylon work well keeping the boat dry while edging and moderate waves like I will find on the bay?

Delta or Seals skirts?

In general, a neoprene skirt will do a better job of keeping water out of the cockpit. A nylon skirt is cooler. A comprimise is a skirt that has a neoprene deck and a nylon type material for the tunnel.

Congrats on your kayaks. Definitely take the sea kayak lessons this summer before venturing into rough or moving water.

As for your primary questions about skirts…yes, I have both skirts for my main kayak. My secondary kayaks have neoprene with neoprene tunnel. The skirt I use 97% of the time is neoprene with neoprene tunnel also because I roll & like to play in the surf zone (neo far superior in these conditions) & do lots of paddling when the water is in the 50s & low 60s. The nylon skirt is reserved for those stifling daytime summer paddles with no/almost no wind, flat calm, and water in the 80s which is when I almost never paddle = the dead of summer = I paddle then at dawn/dusk/night and use neoprene. My skirts are Seals & SnapDragon though the next I buy will be an IR.

PS - For over a decade as a beginner I only used a nylon skirt and wondered why I was always wet from splash even only calm days…then I learned about neoprene and have learned to stay much drier in the cockpit.

Expand the possibilities.

Stretchy polyurethane material of the Seals Odyssey makes a taut rugged deck like neoprene but with an adjustable tunnel with removable suspenders For use with a tunneled drytop/suit. This has become my go to skirt unless playing ww or surf. Lighter than neoprene for warmer weather. More comfy tunnel that fits a huge range of body types.

So, yes I carry them at the store, and they nylon skirts on the next hanger collect dust.

Review here: (Gad, that was 2017!)

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I like neo. Has better insulating quality than nylon. Last longer for me.

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We have the Seals Odyssey Spray skirt that Marshall mentioned above. For exploring the tributaries of the Chesapeake, like the Chester, Choptank, and Nanticoke they have been great. Easy to use, nice tight seal around the cockpit, very adjustable. We are glad Marshall recommended them.

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I’ve had both and am in the Chesapeake Bay area. The nylon skirts I’ve had always seemed to develop leaks where the tunnel joined the deck. As this is where water tends to pool if waves are washing over the boat, even a minor leak could let in a fair amount of water over time. I’ve found that neoprene is less prone to leak and is quiet as well. Neoprene is less susceptible to UV than thin nylon, and can last for many years if you rinse them after use in salt water and to remove sweat. I’ve found that nylon/neoprene combination skirts have the same problems as plain nylon. Although nylon tunnels fit looser and allow a bit of air circulation, neither one breathes and so both can be hot in the summer.

I’ve been happy with Seals and Snapdragon. Make sure that you get the right size for your boat. Check with a reputable dealer, outfitter, or the manufacturer. Too tight or too loose can cause problems. It might be good to pick out cockpit covers as well. With cockpit covers do not trust the cockpit cover to stay on at highway speeds by itself. Many come with a secondary means of attaching it to your boat. If not, use a nylon strap or line around the boat.

Always remember that a spray skirt is an integral part of a sea kayak, not an optional accessory.

The heat never bothered me, but I have to admit I worked in restaurant kitchens all my life.

My nylon leaked.

My neoprene doesn’t leak. However on a summer day I can be all wet down there from sweat.

Be sure to ask questions at your club and classes. It is always better to find out the best solutions for your area. We , people on the forum, come from all over.

This is going to raise some eyebrows, but most of the time my skirt resides in the forward hatch… If conditions get too sloppy, where I mostly paddle, you are never more than a quarter mile from a nice sandy beach, so going to shore to put on the skirt if needed, is no big deal. I have had a couple of surprises, but even so the water that got into the cockpit was minor and didn’t prevent an immediate brace -up, or lay back and instant up-righting. Don’t in any way interpret this as advise–just my experience and possibly bad practice.

Anyway, I’ve never had a time when a nylon skirt wasn’t sufficient to keep me dry enough. The wettest I’ve ever gotten was going ashore at a very low tide where a muddy bottom got me stuck half way up to my knees.when I got out of my boat. I won’t do that again–hopefully.

Eyebrows raised.

I am not someone who needs a super tight seal. But I do some rolling - less lately so there is work to be done this spring - and the problem with some nylon deck skirts is that they pull off when you do that. Hard to know if a particular one will have that issue until you try it. Neoprene or similar for the deck stretches and stays put.

I have a neo tunnel skirt for the WW boat. For the touring boats I find it needlessly fussy to get on and off and picky about fit. An adjustable tunnel like Marshall mentions is a lot easier to live with.

Right size neo tunnel like I have I don’t see a problem putting it on. I slip it over my head and down.

I find the neo tunnels more cumbersome than adjustable tunnels over dry wear, which is a more common choice for me than most.
I may also wiggle a bit in my waist size. I always get it back to where it should be but am at an age point where it is more of a battle to manage off season slippage.

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Another thing to consider: bungee or rubber rand to attach to the cockpit.

That depends a lot on the cockpit rim. Composite and thermoformed cockpit rims are generally thin with no downward taper, so most skirts are secure on them. Poly boats can have thick rims that taper and will be more likely to cause a skirt to slip off. Rubberized coatings can help with that. Regardless of the style, make sure it’s the right size skirt for your boat.

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To the OP - don’t use rubber rand. The Delta kayaks are thermoformed, and rubber rand skirts could possible permanently attach to them. The recommendation is to never use a rubber rand skirt with thermoformed or composite boats.

Given the OP’s comparison of nylon vs neoprene, I don’t think he is looking at any sort of conditions which would require a rubber rand (generally used in more extreme white water conditions, where a bungee rand may not hold on tight enough).


Never heard of them permanently attaching (not doubting you), but agree that bungee is preferable for the OP’s needs. Also, rands don’t stretch as much as bungee, so are more difficult to get on and off cockpit rims.

I’m in DC, too. Mind if I ask where you are planning to take instruction? I bought a boat last year, but, like you, I’m in need of certain skills.

For lessons in DC area contact Randi at Capital City Kayak. She’s a really good ACA instructor.

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Even the best nylon spray skirt won’t last as long as a neoprene skirt. I have a nylon Seals spray skirt and a neoprene Seals spray skirt. The waterproof coating on the underside of the nylon one started to delaminate after about 5-6 years or so. The neoprene one is as good as the day I bought it. Called the Seals company and they stated that the nylon spray skirts are good for up to 10 years with proper care. I ended up peeling off the remainder of the inner coating, as pieces of it were hanging. If I feel ambitious, I may spray something on it to see if I can make it waterproof again, but I don’t really need it, since I have the neoprene skirt.

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