Best Kayak Spray Skirts for 2022: the Ultimate Guide

If you start kayaking beyond the bounds of sunny weather and sheltered water, you will quickly realize the value of a good spray skirt. In a closed cockpit kayak, getting wet legs constantly is more than just annoying. If water pours into your cockpit from waves, wind, or rain, it can slowly fill up your kayak, making it hard to control and less stable.

In this guide, we’ll talk about choosing the right spray skirt. We’ll also review some of the best kayak spray skirts on the market.

Don’t have time to read the whole article? Take a look at our condensed list to find the best choice for your specific needs:

Model Specs Where To Buy

Attwood Nylon Spray Skirt
Deck material: Nylon
Tube material: Nylon 
Skirt type: Bungee
Amazon

Seals Inlander Sprayskirt
Deck material: Nylon
Tube material: Nylon 
Skirt type: Bungee
Amazon

Seals Sneak 
Deck material: Nylon
Tube material: Nylon and neoprene with detachable shoulder straps
Skirt type: Bungee
REI

Seals Extreme Tour
Deck material: 4 mm neoprene
Tube material: Breathable waterproof material with removable shoulder straps
Skirt type: Rand
Amazon

NRS Drylander Shock Cord
Deck material: 4 mm neoprene
Tube material: 2 mm neoprene 
Skirt type: Rand
NRS

Immersion Research Lucky Charm
Deck material: 4 mm Supratex neoprene
Tube material: 3 mm neoprene
Skirt type: Rand
Amazon

Seals Splash Deck Spray Skirt
Deck material: Nylon
Skirt type: Bungee
Amazon

What is a Spray Skirt?

A black spray skirt on a blue kayak's cockpit

Spray skirts fit around the cockpit of your kayak and prevent the ingress of water. In strong winds that drive waves, or in white water rivers, you rely on a spray skirt to prevent your kayak from filling up every time a wave crashes over you. These waves, if they were to fill your kayak, would make it harder to control and more likely that you capsize.

In cold conditions, a spray skirt will protect your lower half from wind chill and help to trap warm air inside your kayak. In warm weather, a spray skirt will protect your exposed legs against UV, but you may find the inside of your kayak warms up too much.

A spray skirt is also essential if you want to roll a kayak.

Splash Deck vs Spray Skirt

In warm weather, a spray skirt may feel like overkill and you might end up baking inside your kayak. A splash deck, or spray deck, covers just the front of your cockpit and doesn’t fit around the paddler. A splash deck won’t keep water out in the same way and isn’t suited to rough conditions, but it will keep out splashes and spray.

RELATED: Best Kayak Cockpit Cover: Keep Dirt, Water, and Critters Away

When to Use a Spray Skirt?

Spray skirts are essential on sit-in kayaks if you’re paddling white water or ocean swell, especially where you are far from shore. Any time you might need to roll your kayak, you should wear a spray skirt.

However, kayakers should be comfortable wet-exiting the kayak before they use a spray skirt and should practice removing the spray skirt underwater before they use it ‘for real’.

Most kayakers choose to wear a spray skirt in cold weather. Neoprene spray decks in particular trap heat inside the kayak so your legs, which aren’t active enough to keep the blood flowing, have a chance of staying warm. Most kayakers who are accustomed to a spray skirt will wear it every outing.

Spray Skirt Materials

The materials your spray skirt is made from will affect the cost and waterproofing capabilities. They also determine, to an extent, how easy your spray skirt is to put on and remove. Nylon and neoprene are two main materials when it comes to spray skirts for kayaking.

Nylon

Most kayakers are introduced to the use of spray skirts with a nylon skirt. Nylon spray skirts have a little stretch in them, but usually just enough to fit over the cockpit of a kayak. Compared to neoprene skirts, nylon skirts are much easier to remove but this does leave them open to accidentally coming off or imploding in waves.

Neoprene

Neoprene spray skirts are more secure and less likely to implode under pressure than nylon skirts. For this reason, they are favored by sea kayakers and white water kayakers, where an imploding spray skirt can cause immediate issues. Neoprene spray skirts are tighter and harder to remove than nylon skirts.

Parts of a Spray Skirt

A black spray skirt on an orange kayak

Spray skirts are composed of two elements, the deck, and the skirt. Often these are made from the same material, but some touring spray skirts use nylon tubes and a neoprene deck.

Tube

The tube fits around the paddler’s midriff and holds the sprayskirt up at a comfortable height. With the right layering, this tube can create a seal that prevents water from entering your kayak. Tubes should be a close fit and this is achieved either by neoprene, which is elasticated, or through a bungee strap at the top of the tube.

Deck

The deck is the main part of the spray skirt, fitting around the cockpit and securing in place under the rim. This stays in place with either a bungee that is stretched and contracts under the rim, or with a rubberized rand. Spraydecks with a rand are more secure, using the rubberized section to grip the cockpit rim, but they are usually more difficult to fit.

Additional Features

A woman wearing a spray skirt stands new her blue kayak on the shore

Specialist spray skirts are designed with additional features that make them suited to particular environments.

Shoulder straps

Nylon tubes are often less secure than neoprene tubes, relying on a bungee strap rather than integral tautness. A slack tube will slip over time and cause the deck section of your spray skirt to sag. In turn, this means that your deck will hold water that can seep through. 

Shoulder straps are commonly found on touring spray skirts to avoid this. These straps fit over your shoulders and hold the spray skirt in place without having to overtighten, or repeatedly tighten, your tube. If you’re out on the water on a long day, a loose tube allows some ventilation inside the kayak to prevent you from overheating.

ALSO SEE: Best Touring Kayaks for 2022: Reviews and Buying Tips

Pockets

Accessible storage should never be underrated for touring kayakers. Where better to keep items in reach than on your spray skirt? These pockets are excellent places to keep maps, hand compasses, or cameras.

Deck tensioner

Nylon decks can sag with time and use. A deck tension strap will prevent water from pooling on your skirt. Any water that pools will slowly seep through, no matter how waterproof your deck may be. A well-fitted deck tensioner keeps the water running cleanly off your deck so you stay dry.

Spray Skirt Sizing

As with the elements of a spray skirt, sizing is split into two parts.

Deck: Does the Skirt Fit Your Kayak?

Unfortunately, there is no uniform size for kayak cockpits. Different companies and different models have different cockpit sizing. This can make it difficult to know what size of spray skirt to choose.

If your spray skirt is too tight it won’t fit onto your cockpit, or if it does it will be prone to coming off easily. If it’s too big, your spray skirt will sag and hold water, which can leak through over time. Companies use size charts including cockpit length and width to size their spray skirts.

Tube: Does the Skirt Fit Your Body?

Similar to the deck portion of your spray skirt, different companies have different sizes for their tubes. These tend to fall more in line with clothing sizes, but you should still check company size charts for fit. A loose tube is likely to fall when you are in the water and make it hard to swim, while a tight tube is restrictive and uncomfortable.

Using your Spray Skirt When Kayaking

A young paddler rolls a kayak in the white water

The most important part of spray skirts is knowing how to use them properly and safely.

Fitting the skirt to your body

To create the best seal and prevent water entering your kayak, your spray skirt should ideally sit underneath your PFD and spray top. Higher end cag jackets often have a double layer that the spray skirt sits between and this offers the best seal against water. Make sure the tube is pulled up high on your body, otherwise the skirt will sag and pool water.

RELATED: Best Kayaking Drysuits

Fitting the skirt to your boat

When you climb into your kayak, make sure to move your skirt out from under your butt, otherwise you have to wriggle around to free it. Start by hooking the bungee at the back of the deck under the cockpit rim. Move from front to back, working the sides on as you go around, before flipping the front over the cockpit rim.

This can be tricky at first, but you will soon get used to it. The most important thing to remember is that the handle on your spray skirt should always be out and ready to grab. If your handle is tucked inside your skirt, you cannot easily exit your boat underwater.

Best Spray Skirts for Kayaking

Best Budget – Attwood Nylon Spray Skirt

Attwood Nylon Spray Skirt

Deck material: Nylon
Tube material: Nylon 
Skirt type: Bungee

When you’re starting out, you don’t need to be breaking the bank to get yourself a spray skirt. The Attwood Nylon Spray Skirt does exactly what you would expect it to while managing to cost under $40. The adjustable deck bungee means that this skirt fits a range of cockpit sizes, but if you’re toward the top end of the size range, the lack of rubberized rand does limit how well it grips the cockpit.

The tube section is enormous, with more than enough space for paddlers of all sizes. This can make it a little baggy on smaller paddlers and some have noted that water pools on the deck because of this. However, this is an affordable deck that will keep the spray out, keep the heat in, and even allow you to learn to roll your kayak.


Best Recreational – Seals Inlander Sprayskirt

Seals Inlander Sprayskirt

Deck material: Nylon
Tube material: Nylon 
Skirt type: Bungee

Recreational kayakers often put their equipment through the most rigorous use, with some kayakers taking to the water almost daily. If this sounds like you, then you need a spray skirt that can stand up to the challenge. Seals Inlander is made from medium weight nylon, almost the same material as a grill covering, and is designed to withstand continued recreational use.

The heavy duty deck can feel difficult to fit initially, but after a few uses it will slide more smoothly over the cockpit rim. This tautness, coupled with rim grip technology and adjustable bungee, means the Inlander sheds water efficiently and isn’t likely to slide off without warning. Plastic tubing around the release handle makes it easy to find underwater, as well as being more difficult to accidentally trap inside the deck.


Best for Touring – Seals Sneak 

Seals Sneak 

Deck material: Nylon
Tube material: Nylon and neoprene with detachable shoulder straps
Skirt type: Bungee

When you’re going on a tour, comfort and convenience are two of the most important features to look for in your kayaking equipment. The Seals Sneak spray skirt features adjustable, elasticated shoulder straps and a velcro waistband, allowing you to keep the deck tensioned without over-tightening. This deck tension is enhanced by a convex deck band that ensures any water is shed immediately.

A front zipper makes it easy to fit and remove the Sneak and also gives you access to any equipment stored in the cockpit of your kayak, without having to remove the deck from your kayak. Two front mesh pockets give you quick access to items you need close at hand. The front release handle is easy to find and pull in the event of a wet exit.


Best for Advanced Touring – Seals Extreme Tour

Seals Extreme Tour

Deck material: 4 mm neoprene
Tube material: Breathable waterproof material with removable shoulder straps
Skirt type: Rand

In heavy seas and stronger winds, there is comfort in knowing that your spray skirt will survive the rough conditions. The Seals Extreme Tour is made from tough 4 mm neoprene and has a rim grip rand that prevents it from being torn off as waves crash over your kayak. The reinforced Sealtex edges limit the wear at the most vulnerable point of your spray skirt, where it runs over the cockpit rim.

The nylon tube section is more breathable and loose-fitting than neoprene, so your body has more space to breathe. Velcro fasteners and removable shoulder straps keep the tube suspended properly and prevent it from sliding down and allowing water to pool around you.


Best for Entry-Level White Water – NRS Drylander Shock Cord

NRS Drylander Shock Cord

Deck material: 4 mm neoprene
Tube material: 2 mm neoprene 
Skirt type: Rand

Moving water, crashing waves, and smaller kayaks that can fill up quickly with water. When it comes to white water kayaking, you need a spray skirt you can rely on. Made from 4 mm neoprene and with a rubberized edge for a sturdy grip, the NRS Drylander suits entry-level white water kayakers looking for an affordable skirt.

The design is simple but effective at keeping water out. Along with the 4 mm deck, a 2 mm neoprene tube fits snugly around you and can create a watertight seal along with a cag top, or drysuit. A rubber grip on the grab handle makes it really easy to find and pull if you need to exit your kayak underwater. 


Best for Hardcore White Water – Immersion Research Lucky Charm

Immersion Research Lucky Charm

Deck material: 4 mm Supratex neoprene
Tube material: 3 mm neoprene
Skirt type: Rand

Immersion Research has led the way in white water spray skirts for years and the Lucky Charm is one of the best on the market. It isn’t cheap, but if you’re pushing class IV-V rivers, big waves, and waterfalls, you need to know that your skirt isn’t going to come off. The tri-fin rubber rand around the edge prevents this deck from imploding, even in some of the biggest white water.

To enhance water resistance, a neoprene apron extends beyond the bungee seal, giving a better seal against the kayak. The high vis, grippy grab handle is designed to be easy to find and pull, even in disorientating situations.


Best Splash Deck – Seals Splash Deck Spray Skirt

Seals Splash Deck Spray Skirt

Deck material: Nylon
Skirt type: Bungee

On sunny days out on the water, you might not need the full protection that a full spray skirt offers. Seals Splash Deck prevents water spraying into your cockpit but keeps your body cooler by allowing air to flow around you. 

A deck tensioner holds the splash deck in shape and ensures that the water sheds efficiently from the nylon deck. A large front pocket gives you space to store essentials close at hand. The soft bungee fits the splash deck comfortably to you without pinching or rubbing as you paddle.

Tom Kilpatrick avatar

Moose started his paddling life on the ponds and rivers in the South-East of England. He has slowly worked his way north and has spent the last few years paddling in Scotland, both with friends and as a canoe guide. A very experienced and knowledgeable coach and guide across Scotland and the rest of the UK, he spent a summer in Norway and a month in Nepal. He is also a cofounder of PaddleMore.co.uk.

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