By: Kevin Cook
The age old question, what kind of neoprene spray skirt should I get a bungee or a rand? Both have qualities that will appeal to different types of paddlers. We will break down the construction differences as well as the pro's and con's of each style.
The most traditional style of neoprene spray skirt is the bungee rand. It is a elastic cord composed of elastic strands that form a core and is covered in a woven polypropylene sheath. The sheath is braided in strands spiraling around the core so that a pull causes it to squeeze the core, transmitting the core's elastic compression to the extension of the sheath and cord. This allows it to be very "stretchy" while still maintaining a solid grip on whatever it is wrapped around (in our case a cockpit coaming). The more it is stretched the stiffer the core gets. On a neoprene skirt it is stitched right through the center of the core onto the neoprene fabric as seen in the pictures below.
So what are the benefits?
Typically bungee skirts are easier to take on and off compared to randed skirts. They maintain their stretch in colder temperatures and while they do stretch out a bit over time, it is usually not as much as a rubber randed skirt. The diameter of the bungee cord also allows it to fit on narrower cockpit coamings and those "hard to fit" boats.
Some argue that bungee skirts are not as dry, but it really depends on the quality of the bungee rand and how it fits on your cockpit. If you have had difficulty in the past putting on and taking off your skirt, are a beginner or intermediate paddler and are not running high volume whitewater, running waterfalls, or going into big hydraulics, a bungee skirt may be the skirt for you.
As you can see in the above photo, some world class playboaters choose bungee skirts, so the bungee rand is certainly are not limited in it's ability to perform. Before you make up your mind, let's break down the other type of skirt!
To create a rubber randed skirt the rubber must be extruded through a die. The extrusion process begins with the rubber compound being fed into a extruder. The extruder carries the rubber forward into the die, increasing in pressure and temperature as the material reaches the die the build up in pressure forces the rubber through the opening to create the desired shape. Once cooled and cut to the desired length, it is glued to the neoprene. At Level Six we we designed our rand so that it fits exactly to the 4mm neoprene deck and is bonded on 3 sides which allows us to use a stretchier rubber while still maintaining a strong bond to the neoprene. We apply multiple layers of special rubber adhesive that is carefully smoothed out along the outside and inside of the neoprene skirt and rubber rand before they are pressed together to form a bond.
Changing the size and shape of the rubber, using different types of rubber compounds, and using different types of adhesives all have an effect on how well the rand stretches, maintains it's elasticity, and how it fits into a cockpit coaming.
The picture below is the inside of the skirt.
The picture below is the outside of the skirt.
So what are the benefits?
Randed skirts can have a greater connection to the cockpit coaming compared to a bungee rand. The rubber "sticks" to the boat, it has a greater contact with the coaming as it has more surface area and has greater elastic strength when it is settled in place. This basically means it stays on your boat better. Paddlers who have had their skirt implode on them on the past, and those running larger, more difficult water usually prefer randed skirts.
The downside is that rubber rands are more susceptible to changes in temperature than a bungee rand. Because the rand is already larger and traditionally stiffer then a bungee it can be more difficult to get it on and off the boat. This issue is amplified when the skirt is used in colder temperatures. If you feel comfortable paddling with a skirt that is more difficult to get off and on, you'll have the benefit of a firmer seal around your cockpit coaming.
The choice is up to you! Happy Paddling.
Shop Sprayskirts: https://www.levelsix.com/collections/sprayskirts