It is a cold and rainy day, the kind of cold that just penetrates to the bone and tricks you into lying in bed, eating pizza, and watching reruns of 24. However, once you climb into the cockpit of your boat and secure your sprayskirt, you have created your own little microclimate where all is warm and fuzzy.
The companies involved all take slightly different approaches to the problem of staying dry, and build in additional features for comfort and convenience. And some of these are very nice indeed.
- Sprayskirts reviewed
- Harmony – Sirius
- Seals – Extreme Tour 1.4
- Immersion Research – Tortuga
- Wildwasser – Nomterey Neo/Zip Bunjie
- Snap dragon – Glacier Trek
- NRS – Neo Touring
These skirts were tested with the goals being that they go on without drama, stay on when waves are breaking over our bows, and keep the occupant utterly dry when surf play requires multiple rolls. Skirts that don't do the above are not worthy of the task of helping you become one with your boat.
Staff from Seattle Raft and Kayak modeled the skirts for us, and paddled without PFDs for the purpose of allowing a complete view of the sprayskirts. Otherwise they ALWAYS wear them.
- (800) 59-KAYAKS
The Sirius is an extremely serviceable fabric skirt for touring in protected waters. With grippy material to stick to a cockpit rim and Velcro tunnel adjustments, it would serve a multitude of paddlers just fine.
It's made of coated nylon with ballistic nylon-reinforced deck, and taped and sealed seams. High-resolution reflective tape aids your visibility. The grab loop features quick-release buckles to clip the skirt up and out of the way when off the water. It has a neoprene hinge at the base of the tunnel for freedom of movement, and four lash loops on the sides of the deck where you can attach your chart case. It comes in a standard size for touring kayaks, and also in a large size for more recreational-style kayaks.
However, compared to the other skirts in our review, the Sirius was bare bones. A zippered pocket with mesh drain panel is a nice touch, but we got the feeling that whoever designed this skirt never really went out and paddled for more than an hour or two with it. Serviceable and functional, yes, but the hand of the fabric, its relative level of noise and fussiness when paddling, and the fit and finish left us wanting more.
SEALS–Extreme Tour 1.4
- (518) 762-9558
Seals are made in a small town in upstate New York, and that fact is proudly touted with its "Buy American" hang tag. The owner of Seals is a former competitive paddler and coach who "gets it."
The Extreme Tour is made of high-performance 3.5mm neoprene with Seal-tex edge guard and a tunnel made of waterproof, breathable fabric. The adjustable neoprene waistband has removable suspenders. A three-eighths-inch bungee seals the skirt to the cockpit rim.
Seals' website has a handy fit guide that includes kayak brands. This skirt comes in tunnel sizes to fit small, medium, large, and extra-large paddlers. You
can also order a custom skirt if you're trying to fit an unusual or home-built kayak.
Like the Snap Dragon Glacier Trek, the Extreme Tour is all business. When we were going out in 35-knot winds and six-foot seas, it was a toss-up as to which skirt we would grab. Both won our confidence on big days. The use of abrasion-resistant material on the
forward part of the skirt will allow it to serve with
distinction for years to come.
- (814) 395-9191
Nylon skirts raise my hackles. Normally I think of them as low-price-point items that are related to pool toys. The Tortuga provided me with a bit of schooling. At $65, the Tortuga is certainly within the realm of affordability for most dirtbag paddlers. However, instead of being a stripped-down, urethane-coated model, the Tortuga is loaded with features. Most noticeably, its tunnel is lined with soft mesh, which provides a larger surface for body vapors to collect on, so you don't feel clammy. The fleece/neoprene tunnel adjustment, the implosion bar, and the sticky channel that grips your boat's cockpit rim all showed us that the Immersion Research folks have been doing something besides running the gnar.
While we loved the features, this fabric skirt suffered in the roll test—as do all nylon skirts. When we were hanging upside down for any length of time and watching the bottom drift by as the tide ripped us along, it wasn't long before telltale icy trickles found their way into our boats. If frequent rolling is in your future, you would be better off with a neoprene skirt. This was welcome on warmer, drizzly days when we were paddling protected waters and a
puddle in the crotch was not desirable.