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Spray skirts- my least favorite piece of kit


Jun 30, 2012
Kodiak, Alaska
Kayak technology has come a long way in most regards with improvements to boat and paddle material and design, as well as the advent of comfortable waterproof-breathable clothing. The one thing I have never been satisfied with has been spray skirts however. Even when the rest of my body is dry and comfy, by lower torso (abdomen and hips) are either damp from sweat from the inside, or damp from the seepage of sea water through the outer material. Spray skirts with fabric tunnels usually fit like schitt as the tunnels are made for people with 50" bellies and require massive modification not to fit like maternity wear. Neoprene tunnels don't breath and lead to bellybutton funk. The many overlapping layers of material required to make the 'seal' inevitably leads to a warm, humid lower torso where even breathable fabrics can't do their jobs. The constant material rub and flex at the paddler/tunnel/paddle jacket overlap causes the tunnel to break down within a year or two for me. If the tunnel does not meet the skirt in a taut way, water pools at the small of your back or lap so I use suspenders with paddle jackets or attach the tunnel to my drysuit via clips.

There has to be a more durable, comfortable solution.

I would love to try a system where the deck of the skirt attaches to the bottom of a paddle jacket or waist of the drysuit via a waterproof zipper. Not necessarily a dive zipper, but maybe one of those more supple 'paddlesuit' zippers. You would essentially have an integrated storm cag where you could move the skirt's deck between outfits. The zipper length could be standardized or come in 3 sizes (S, M, and L) creating a modular system where you could mix and match tops and spray decks. A single zipper going around the waist of your dry suit, long sleeve paddle jacket, and short sleeve paddle jacket would allow you to move the spray deck from garment to garment and none would have the many overlapping layers of fabric now employed to mate the deck to the clothing so your lower torso would be as happy as, say, your elbow. I suppose you could just have a spray deck integrated permanently into ALL of your paddlewear, but that would get really bulky on trips where I take a drysuit, long sleeve paddle jacket, and a short sleeve paddle jacket along.

Anybody have a solution that 1) breathes, 2) lasts for more than 1k miles, 3) is durably waterproof, 4) and works equally well for dry suits and paddle jackets?
There is GoreTex tuilik made in Victoria Ca by a friend of WCP member Mickael Jackson. I bet you already knows what tuilik is, but just to make sure; tuilik is paddle top/spray skirt/hood all in one. It's been made with neoprene , also light weight neprene like material ( Reed's tuilik), but this one is made with GoreTex. It is used to do a lot of rolling Greenland style, so it should withstand a lot of splashing over the lap.
I don't own it yet, but it is on my wish list. When I get it someday, it may well replace my storm cag which is grate piece of gear.
You should really look into the Chillcheater products as well. I have one of their spray decks and just love the product. It's much thinner, more flexible and waterproof than neoprene. It breathes as good (or better) than any other material I've used. They're custom made for your size by Reed in the U.K., so waste tunnels fit perfectly. Red has a wide range of sizes and will custom make your deck if you send them the template, right down to your seating position in the boat. They stretch drum tight on your cockpit coaming so they do not pool water and the material sheds water really well from splashing. If you use a waste band on your dry top (or full suit) the cockpit will remain completely dry after dozens of rolls. You can even order it with map loops and a dry bag style roll-up hatch that you can open to pump out your boat in the event of a wet exit or just to get to small items stored under the deck. I've had mine for about 1.5 years and would get a second one in a heartbeat. If I had any complaints about the product it would only be that it's not massively tough and can be damaged easier than nylon or neoprene. I have done dozens of "T" rescues and that has left a couple of small nicks in the material.

Reed also makes a full line of integrated jack/deck products too. I bet they already have exactly what you're looking for. Check them out if you have a minute. www.chillcheater.com
Ironically ordered a Reed spray skirt recently and will happily offer some thoughts on it when it arrives, and after extended use. It sounds great in theory and I am willing to be gentle with it. Paddling alone 95% of the time I won't be emptying other boats across my cockpit, but I do hope the tunnel material does not deteriorate through normal flexing and use. My current strategy is to buy something like the NRS Drylander, cut the neoprene tunnel off about an inch above the deck, and sew on my own fitted breathable fabric tunnel. No material seems to withstand the constant, low-level rub of hundreds of thousands of torso movements inherent to paddling long distances.