While we all like to imagine kayaking over tranquil azure tides without so much as a wave in sight – the reality is usually quite different. Kayak spray skirts work to protect both you and your boat, keeping water and waves from soaking you and your kayak’s cockpit.
If you’re paddling a recreational kayak, a spray skirt will keep you dry in rainy or wavy conditions, if you’re in a touring kayak it will help keep your craft afloat, and in a white water kayak it will add additional flotation and keep your head above the frothy spray.
Along with a PFD, paddle, and waterproof attire, a good spray skirt is a key component of a good kayaking setup.
While they might look similar, kayak spray skirts actually differ significantly in terms of construction methods, materials, and functionality. I’ll break down some of the best kayak spray skirts on the market, and explain how to pick the ideal one for your particular craft.
Quick Answer: 6 Best Kayak Spray Skirts
- Best Overall: Seals Coastal Tour Sprayskirt
- Best Whitewater Spray Skirt: Immersion Research Klingon
- Best Touring Spray Skirt: Seals Extreme Tour Spray Skirt
- Budget Pick: Attwood Universal Kayak Spray Skirt
- Also Consider: Wilderness Systems TrueFit Spray Skirt
- Half Spray Skirt: Seattle Sports Paddling Half Skirt
Best Overall: Seals Coastal Tour Sprayskirt
If you’re looking for a do-it-all kayak spray skirt that works well in a variety of conditions, this well-made skirt from Seals will fit the bill nicely. It offers excellent spray protection for moderate conditions, with a medium weight coated nylon packcloth and ballistic nylon wear guards with lash loops.
The fit is adjustable thanks to an elastic shock cord running around the skirt and knotted in the rear. It also fits well on the torso, with a comfortable skirt and easily adjustable suspenders. A zippered mesh deck pocket and tensioned deck stay provide extra storage and functionality.
Available in three different sizes (1.2, 2.2, 2.5), you can easily find the ideal spray skirt for your needs. Consult the manufacture’s sizing chart to find the ideal sized skirt for your craft.
While it’s not intended for serious whitewater usage, if you need a spray skirt to keep dry from rain, paddle drip, and the occasional wave, this skirt is an ideal choice.
- Do it all spray skirt for moderate conditions
- Adjustable fit shock cord system
- Zippered mesh deck pocket for added storage
- Comfortable suspended straps
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Best Whitewater Spray Skirt: Immersion Research Klingon
When it comes to whitewater kayaking, you’ll need a spray skirt that can take a serious pounding and still keep you dry. This whitewater skirt is designed to do exactly that. With a robust, implosion-resistant 4mm neoprene deck and a 3mm thick apron-style bungee skirt, it will keep you dry and well protected when the going gets rough.
The bungee skirt features a “taco” style construction that grips the outer rim of your craft. This keeps you dry while making it easier to install. A wear-resistant Nylar front casing and grippy silicone patches provide anti-implosion protection.
The skirt is designed for both playboating and intermediate level river running, so unless you’re paddling through the most difficult rapids, you’ll be good to go.
- Ideal spray skirt for whitewater playboating and river running
- Implosion-resistant 4mm neoprene deck and 3mm apron
- “Taco” style construction grips the rim of your craft
- Dry and comfortable to wear for prolonged time periods
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Best Touring Spray Skirt: Seals Extreme Tour Spray Skirt
Highly effective, extremely comfortable, and tough-as-nails, this spray skirt from the kayaking pro’s over at Seals is about as good as it gets when it comes to serious touring. It features a hybrid nylon/neoprene construction with a 3-ply waterproof and breathable fabric tunnel and adjustable chestband. The deck uses a high-performance 4mm neoprene stretch material with a Sealtex edge guard to keep any moisture from working its way inside.
Available in a large selection of sizes – from 1.2 up to 2.5 – you can easily find the right size to match your cockpits dimensions. The thick material will keep your body warm in chilly temperatures, so you can paddle without worry in colder sea environments.
Rolling your craft results in almost no water entry whatsoever, so you can be sure your craft will stay watertight if you happen to capsize in the drink. While it’s certainly not the cheapest spray skirt on the market, if you’re looking for a serious kayak touring skirt – this one won’t let you down.
- Thick neoprene deck locks in warmth and prevents water from seeping in
- Available in many sized cockpit dimensions
- Snug fit prevents water entry even during rolls
- Easy to install/remove with built in pull handle
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Budget Pick: Attwood Universal Kayak Spray Skirt
If you’re looking for a simple spray skirt for calm, flatwater use and don’t need all the bells and whistles of a high-end model, then this skirt should work nicely. It’s made with the casual recreational kayaker in mind, and will fit sit-in kayak cockpits up to 40” long and 22” wide.
Easy to install and remove, the skirt effortlessly folds up into a compact size when you’re not using it. Polyurethane coated 210 denier nylon fabric with PVC sealed seams keep water from getting inside your craft, while dual side adjustability ensures a tight fit. A built-in mesh storage bag also comes included.
Keep in mind the skirt is not intended to be 100 percent waterproof, so if your planning to perform rolls or paddle in whitewater expect some level of water leakage or seepage.
- Simple spray skirt for flat water use
- Will fit in a variety of kayak cockpit sizes
- Easy to install and remove
- Folds up flat for storage in your kayak
- Built-in mesh storage bag comes included
Also Consider: Wilderness Systems TrueFit Spray Skirt
Wilderness systems manufacturers some of the best kayaking accessories on the market, and this skirt is certainly no exception. It will keep you warm and dry while your paddling, and is compatible with a wide variety of different cockpit dimensions. Sticky edging grips the cockpit rim with authority, providing a rock-solid hold on your craft no matter how rough the conditions get.
An implosion bar prevents water from collecting on top of the skirt, and all seams are double stitched and taped for added durability and performance. A large zipped front pocket allows you to store any number of things conveniently within arms reach.
A water-resistant tunnel zipper allows air to vent out when its unzipped, and will keep you dry when its zipped shut. When your loading/unloading your craft, the skirt features a convenient grab handle with a clip for attaching your PDF.
- Designed for use in moderate conditions
- Sticky edging grips the cockpit rim for a tight seal
- Water-resistant vent zipper for venting hot air while paddling
- Built-in implosion bar prevents water pooling on your craft
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Half Spray Skirt: Seattle Sports Paddling Half Skirt
While it’s a little different than most traditional spray skirts, this half skirt from Seattle Sports works well to keep paddle drip and wave splash out of your cockpit. Two zippered pockets let you stash any number of things within arm’s reach, and an implosion bar sheds any water that would otherwise pool inside the skirt.
If you’re kayaking in choppy conditions the skirt will work to keep water out of your cockpit, but don’t expect it to perform quite as well as a full spray skirt. The material works well to trap heat inside the cockpit, and will protect your legs from the sun during hot days.
Fitting the skirt to your craft is fairly straightforward, and works similarly to full-sized spray skirts. A heavy-duty bungee cord wraps all the way around the coaming, and retying the cord behind the cockpit allows you to get a super-snug fit.
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- Half-skirt provides many of the same benefits as a full spray skirt
- Works well for kayaking in moderate conditions
- Implosion bar and zippered front pockets
- Neoprene material blocks out water from paddle drip and wave splash
How to pick the right kayak spray skirt
Picking the right spray skirt for your kayak can be deceptively complex. With so many different cockpit sizes, materials, features, and price points, finding the right one for your particular craft can be a little trying.
Let’s a take a look at some of the key features to be aware of when selecting your kayak spray skirt.
First and foremost, you’ll want a spray skirt that fits your craft correctly. The right sized one for you will need to fit both your cockpit dimensions and your torso. Manufacturer’s typically have their own unique sizing charts, so make sure to consult the chart when picking out a skirt.
To find the right size: measure the longest and widest parts of your boat’s cockpit coaming, and then match these to the chart. You’ll also want to wear any clothing (like a wetsuit/drysuit) you normally wear when measuring your waist.
The most common materials used in manufacturing kayak spray skirts is neoprene and coated nylon.
Neoprene is completely watertight, tough, and creates a firm seal around the cockpit. It’s typically used in touring and whitewater kayaks, where you need a watertight seal to prevent any moisture from seeping in. These types of skirts need to be fitted well, as they don’t have as much give to them as other materials provide.
Nylon is often used in skirts for recreational and touring kayaks, and usually have some form of elastic draw string to create a watertight seal. The seal won’t be quite as fitted as neoprene, so expect some degree of water to work its way inside – especially if you happen to fully submerge or roll your craft.
Kayak spray skirts differ significantly depending on their intended use case. Spray skirts for whitewater kayaking are substantially different from those intended for calm, flatwater paddling.
Whitewater and touring skirts are designed to provide a maximum level of watertightness needed when rolling or fully submerging in the water. If you’re simply looking for a skirt to keep out rain and paddle drip, there’s no need to go with one of these. Go with a skirt designed specifically for recreational kayaks.
The main components of a spray skirt are the tunnel, deck and rand.
The tunnel refers to the portion worn around the paddler’s torso. It creates a barrier between your body and the water – you want it to be snug, but not too snug.
The deck refers to the portion of the skirt that covers the boat’s cockpit. This potion is typically made from the thickest material, as you want the deck to be tough enough to withstand a serious pounding.
The rand is the fastener that attaches the spray skirt to the cockpit coaming (the lip).
While most spray skirts are fairly straightforward, there are a number of extra features to be on the lookout for.
Shoulder straps attached to the tunnel help keep it fully extended and ensure water doesn’t pool inside the deck. You’ll typically find shoulder straps in higher end models, and those intended for harsher conditions.
Built in pockets allow you to store all types of gear directly within your reach. These mesh pockets are easy to access, so you can easily stash sunscreen, drinking water, snacks and other important gear.
Implosion bars are an additional layer of reinforcement that keeps your spray skirt from imploding during harsh conditions. These bars typically span the width of the cockpit and provide a high degree of strength and resilience in whitewater.