Best Kayak Spray Skirts

Updated November 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

24 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
396 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best kayak spray skirts

Last Updated November 2019

If you’ve spent any time in a kayak, you know how annoying the constant dripping from the paddles and the splashing from waves can be. If you wanted to be soaked, you’d be in the water, not paddling on top of it. And what is merely annoying on a river or lake can become much more serious if you’re paddling in whitewater, surf, or colder water.

This is where a kayak spray skirt can help. While fairly simple in their function, there are actually a number of features and other factors you will need to consider before purchasing a kayak spray skirt. This guide will walk you through considerations like the material, kayak type, and skirt size, in addition to useful features like pockets, shoulder straps, and pricing.

When purchasing a kayak spray skirt, you will need to consider the type of kayaking you plan to do, as well as your budget. To learn more about kayak spray skirts, continue reading our buying guide.

Kayak spray skirts are for use with sit-in kayaks, both single and tandem — though the latter is fairly rare. Skirts cannot be used with sit-on-top models.

Key considerations

Parts of a skirt

Before we dive in, we should probably cover some skirt terminology that will help you understand the parts of a skirt and how they work with you and your kayak.

The three main parts of a kayak spray skirt are the tunnel, the deck, and the rand.

The tunnel is the part of the skirt that hugs your torso.

The deck is the section of skirt that stretches out from the tunnel to the edges of your cockpit.

A skirt needs some way to “grip” the rim of the cockpit — this is where the rand comes in. Usually a rubber lip built into the edges of the deck, the rand can also come in the form of a bungee cord.

Flatwater vs. whitewater

Do you enjoy a calm paddle around a lake, the lazy branch of a river, or the sluggish flow of a tidal basin? Or do you prefer being a bob amidst the rapids while avoiding rocks? Spray skirts are designed differently to deal with both of these situations, from keeping out the occasional splash of water to averting the deluge of a class IV river during spring runoff.

The primary difference between the two skirt styles is found in their materials. Flatwater skirts do not need the same level of waterproofing as whitewater skirts. Whitewater skirts are often designed to have a taut surface that prevents water from pooling and leaking through the skirt.
 

Skirt size

When sizing for kayak spray skirts you will actually need to take two different measurements into account: your size, and the size of your kayak.

Kayakers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The majority of spray skirts take this into account and offer adjustable tunnels to fit a variety of body shapes and equipment levels (like bulking up for cold-water kayaking, for example). You should verify that any skirt you are considering offers a range of adjustability that works for you.

The skirt will also need to fit your kayak, and skirt manufacturers typically provide detailed sizing charts that should help you find the proper size for your kayak brand and model.

While excellent for cooler weather, some kayakers may find spray skirts to be too cumbersome and hot for warm weather paddling.

Features

Materials

There are three basic materials or material combinations that go into the construction of a kayak spray skirt: nylon, neoprene, and a nylon/neoprene mix. The type of water you paddle will play a large role in which material is right for you.

  • Nylon: Better for use in milder waters, nylon is easier to attach than neoprene, largely because it tends to rely on a bungee cord fastener for a rand. While these skirts can be secure and offer protection from splashing, they are not waterproof and won’t keep your lower half dry if you roll or capsize.
     
  • Neoprene: More durable than nylon, neoprene is also more waterproof and can be better at keeping you warm in cold water paddling. The neoprene rand offers a much tighter fit than most nylon bungee cords, which can be great in rough water but will make the skirt difficult to attach and detach.
     
  • Nylon/neoprene mix: Skirts that offer a combination of nylon and neoprene offer the best of both in terms of comfort and water protection. These skirts can be used in a range of kayaking conditions.
     

Whichever you decide to go with, a skirt should be sturdily constructed, with double-stitched seams to improve durability.

Shoulder straps or suspenders

While not standard on all kayak spray skirts, some do ship equipped with shoulder straps or suspenders. These help to keep the tunnel from sagging down and create a taut surface that allows water to easily run off the deck instead of pooling.

If a skirt does include suspenders, be sure that they are removable so you will have the option of detaching them when they aren’t necessary.

Pockets

While some kayak spray skirts will not include pockets, the majority of them will feature some form of built-in storage — either inside or out — to secure items such as sunblock, snacks, or other items you will want to take on your paddle. The best pockets will be zippered or offer some other form of closure, such as hook and loop closures.

Pockets made from mesh will allow for easy drainage, while those fleece-lined will also double as hand warmers.

Grab loop

A grab loop is the quick release for your skirt in the event you capsize. These are especially important for neoprene skirts, which fasten much tighter than nylon and can be more difficult to detach. The grab loop should be prominently on the front of the skirt; a bright contrasting color will help it to stand out in the event you wind up in the water.

Waistband closure

In addition to adjustability, tunnels may also offer zippers or some other enclosure options that will not only help you pull the skirt on and off, but can also be used to cool off when the sun is beating down. These closures are also a great way to access stored water bottles and more in the interior of the kayak.

DID YOU KNOW?

A tensioned deck stay is used in some spray skirts to keep the deck rigid so water won’t pool.

DID YOU KNOW?

Some kayak spray skirts are designed specifically for women, with shorter tunnels and a more conical shape.

Kayak spray skirt prices

Kayak spray skirts start out around $60 and can reach $130 to $150. Size is a big determiner of price here, with the majority of skirts offering a range of prices depending on the kayak you need it for. Skirts at a higher price point will also offer a better build and tighter fit, with neoprene or a nylon/neoprene combo being much more likely. Advanced features such as more secure pockets will also be found in pricier skirts.

Tips

  • A grab loop can help you to quickly remove the spray skirt and exit the cockpit, but it won’t do you much good if you can’t reach it. Be sure that the loop is on the outside of the skirt and within easy reach before heading out.
  • Rinse your skirt off with clean water after every use, particularly if the skirt has been exposed to salt or chlorine.
  • A kayak spray skirt will keep you comfortable in cooler weather, but it will do nothing to help you if you fall in. For that, you should really invest in a quality wetsuit.
  • To protect your kayak spray skirt from UV damage, store it in a dark, cool, dry location when not in use.
  • Splash decks — or half spray skirts — are specialized spray skirts that only protect the front of your cockpit from splashing, while keeping the rear open for air circulation.
  • Wetting a skirt before you attach it can “loosen up” a tight-fitting spray skirt so it will be easier to fit to your kayak.
  • For the best fit, climb into your skirt hole and adjust it around your waist before you slip into your life jacket.

Other products we considered

We had a few more kayak spray skirts that we ran across while researching this guide that we wanted to mention in case you didn’t find the right skirt for you in our top picks.

The Perception Kayaks Truefit Skirt is a real boon to anyone with a Perception kayak. This skirt offers ultra-durable nylon construction with an adjustable neoprene chest band.

The Level Six King Sprayskirt features both a tunnel and deck that are made from 100% neoprene. While for river and whitewater paddling, this skirt was originally designed with spring run-off rapids in mind.

Finally, the Seals Tropical Tour Sprayskirt is both waterproof and breathable, a real plus in tropical climates. The extras here include removable suspenders, zippered deck pockets, and the choice of several different colors.

While black may seem to be almost universal for kayak spray skirts, you will occasionally find some models that offer a choice of colors.

FAQ

Q. Is there anything I can do to help my spray skirt fit better?
A.
The whole point of a spray skirt is to fit the kayak snugly enough that water won’t enter your cockpit, but some skirts can take this to extremes. If you are finding it difficult to attach your spray skirt, you can loosen it up some by attaching it to your kayak and leaving the skirt in place for a few days. This can add a little “give” to the rand or bungee cord that hugs the cockpit lip.


Q. What is the easiest way to attach the skirt to my kayak?
A.
The hardest aspect of a kayak spray skirt is often attaching it, but you can alleviate this with proper technique. With the skirt around your waist, climb into the kayak cockpit. Starting at the back, tuck the rand under the cockpit lip, hold it in place, and begin working your way around the cockpit lip to the front, constantly securing the rand as you go. Finish up by snapping the rand in place in the front, then work your hands down both sides to verify that all parts of the rand are secure and won’t slip.


Q. What is the difference between a spray skirt and a cockpit cover?
A.
A kayak spray skirt and a cockpit cover are similar, with the exception of a hole in the skirt where the person goes. Where a spray skirt is used for kayaking, a cockpit cover is used to keep rain and debris from your cockpit when the kayak is being stored. This solid, stretchable cover is also handy for keeping insects and rodents from setting up house in your kayak.

The team that worked on this review
  • Kristin
    Kristin
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Peter
    Peter
    Writer
  • Rich
    Rich
    Writer

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