Summer paddling is great and when the sun finally deems to pop its head out, or if you decide to head off to warmer climes, then donning a full on long-sleeved cag can be a bit on the warm side.
That’s where a short-sleeved cag, or shorty cag as they are commonly known, comes in.
Paddling in a shorty feels great, the water splashing on your skin gives a real feeling of freedom and being one with the water, but what shorty to choose?
Like their long-sleeved brethren they come in a bewildering array of types and styles.
Do you need latex seals, or maybe just a basic shell and what about double-waists?
So, to help you get the right shorty for you and to give you a head start when you pop to your local paddling shop we’ve had the CK Test Team put eight of the most popular shorty cags to the test.
The 8 Best Shorty Cags
1. Palm Vortex Short Sleeve Paddle Jacket
This is a short-sleeved version of Palm’s popular Vortex cag that’s ideal for summer use.
It is constructed from Palm’s own XP50ª 2-layer fabric and features neoprene neck and bicep seals, an elasticated waist with 40mm gripper elastic edging, reflective piping on front and back for increased visibility and has fully taped seams throughout.
We really liked the simplicity of the Vortex, it’s a no nonsense piece of kit and it looks really good on too.
It is ideally suited to touring, but we’ve used sea kayaking and even for river running duties in the Alps.
Unless you’re rolling all the time it’s surprisingly dry.
The neck and bicep seals work really well at keeping the water out, but we did get a bit coming in up under the waist tube.
At the end of the day, if it’s warm enough to wear a shorty, are you worried about a small amount of water getting in?
It probably wouldn’t be your first choice if freestyle or surf kayaking is your bag, but for everything else we found it more than good enough.
It would be great for slalom and marathon paddling too.
The build construction is spot on and at a little over forty quid it’s hard to beat in the value department and in our opinion this is an excellent cag for the price.
2. Artistic Aveto Radical Micropore 3L Shortie Cag
The Aveto is intended for use as a heavy-duty playboating and whitewater semi-dry jacket.
It is built from Micropore 3 layer material and features an anatomical adapted cut for high freedom of movement, a power-stretch neoprene collar with smooth-skin, adjustable neoprene bicep cuffs with smooth-skin and a double-waist, with wide Neoprene closure.
This is a very tasty looking piece of kit from German manufacturers Artistic and was an instant hit with the test team, who liked the styling, but also the attention to detail and clever design touches.
The fit was good with great movement without excess material.
The team really liked the seals, as they could be left loose for flat sections, touring etc. or tightened up for the rough stuff, the smooth-skin on the inside of the seals was dead comfy on the skin and provided a really effective seal against water.
The construction is excellent and this is a well thought out and designed piece of gear.
That’s why we’ve given it the CK recommended award.
3. YAK Klarus Short Sleeved Cag
The Klarus is constructed of breathable PU coated Nylon, with fully taped seams, handy, zipped chest-pocket, neoprene cuff seals, an adjustable neoprene collar and an adjustable twin waist neoprene waist.
The Klarus looks OK and it has a fair few features for the price, but it just misses the mark on a lot of front.
The cut was not good, although it offered reasonable movement it felt baggy and there seemed to be a lot of spare material. This means apart from not looking great the paddler tended to feel cold quicker.
The seals were OK, but the neck seal was thin and the finishing on the neoprene was again not great.
The material feels very ‘crinkly’ especially when compared to all the other cags on test, but having said that, it is the cheapest double-waisted cag in the test by far.
To be fair to YAK their latest shorty design, The Fusion, came out too late for inclusion in this test and they do seem to have addressed some of the issues that we found in the Klarus.
4. Palm Sidewinder Shortie Cag
The Sidewinder is a high performance 3-layer short-sleeved cag with latex gaskets designed for protection in cold water, warm air conditions.
It is built from Palm’s XP150ª 3-layer fabric with Cordura 300D reinforcement.
Its features include natural latex gaskets at neck and biceps with adjustable over-cuffs, articulated dynamic panel cut with no underarm seams, water resistant zipped chest pockets, Cordura 300D abrasion resistance at shoulders, Velcro adjustable neoprene waistband with asymmetric cut for improved fit, lightweight XP100 inner-waist with gripper elastic edging, fully taped seams throughout and reflective detail at collar and cuffs.
This shorty has been designed with serious whitewater use in mind and would be an ideal choice for expedition paddlers heading to warmer climes but paddling on glacial waters, freestyle or surf kayakers that want performance but total dryness.
It is also going to appeal to professional users such as coaches or river/raft guides.
The majority of the testers loved this, but a couple found it hard to put on and take off and didn’t like the latex on their biceps.
It has to be said latex seals on biceps need to fit well or they can inhibit muscle performance, so they need to be trimmed to provide a good seal, but a comfortable fit, if needed.
The attention to detail through out is impressive and the build quality is top notch.
We really liked the striking colour-way too and it was highly visible on the water and looked good to boot.
This is the ‘Daddy’ of shorty cags with a price tag to match.
But as they say ‘you get what you pays for.’
Plus, if you take in to account the materials used and the great design touches that the Sidewinder sports, it starts to look like a pretty good deal.
Hardcore for sure!
5. Reed Chill Cheater Unisex Short Sleeve Dry Cag
Made from Reed’s unique Aquatherm and Super-Stretch Aquatherm fabrics. The cut is comfortable and roomy enough should you need to get extra thermal layers underneath for cooler conditions.
The neck and cuff seals are made from Reed’s Super-Stretch, water-repellent material and there is an adjustable neck seal option available too.
The main body of the cag is Reed’s full stretch, abrasion resistant, waterproof and wind-proof Aquatherm.
This shorty also features an adjustable twin waist seal and all external seams stitched and taped for strength and water-tightness.
The testers weren’t that keen on this at first glance.
Reed’s unique materials give their products a certain, ‘agricultural as one tester put it, look.
But once on and in use they very quickly came round to a different point of view.
The Super-Stretch seals work very well indeed, we’d say almost as good as actual latex seals, and the cag felt light to wear with a good cut for movement.
The thermal of the material also meant that only the lightest of layers was required underneath and when the temperature dropped unexpectedly it kept the tester wearing it warmer than the rest.
It will be at home in pretty much all paddling scenarios and we really liked using it on the sea, as well as the river, as the seals were a lot easier on the skin when combined with salt, than neoprene or latex.
If you want a versatile and well performing cag that won’t break the bank then this could be just what you’re looking for.
The yellow is a great safety colour for sure, but it’s not the most stylish, although it is available in black too, but in fact, and despite it’s unusual looks, because of its dryness, versatility and competitive price it’s getting the prestigious the nod for our best in test.
6. Peak UK Combi Shorty Cag
The design team at Peak UK have taken a clever route with the Combi and come up with a shorty that sports an articulated cut, but with the nifty option of adding a pair of detachable, articulated neoprene arms as an upgrade!
Constructed from breathable and durable X3 rip-stop nylon.
The Combi features AO3 super-stretch neoprene cone neck with concealed elastic adjustment strap, neoprene AO3 outer waist seal with lightweight X2.5 inner.
AO3 latex inner arms with opening neoprene outer, fully taped seams and a front pocket for storing the sleeves, or other useful items.
The cag itself is well constructed, and as we’ve come to expect from Peak UK, nicely styled.
The latex seals on the biceps again raised a few conflicting views within the test team, The biceps cones were extremely tight on our test cag, even though we had a ‘Large’ and you will probably have to cut these down a bit to fit.
A good shop should be able to help you with this if you don’t feel confident doing it.
This shorty has been primarily designed for river running, freestyle or surf use and would be ideal for all of those applications.
Opting for the additional sleeves certainly makes this more versatile and they can come in handy if the weather changes, or you find yourself entering a sunless canyon etc., they attach over the latex bicep seals with a simple Velcro tab.
The outer fabric bicep cuff then cinches tight over the top. This provides an effective seal and offers a surprising amount of protection.
Water did creep into the sleeves from the cuffs and then eventually down the arm, but all the sudden jets of cold water were repelled.
The arms are windproof and have a silver reflective coating on the inside, which kept arms comfortable in proper coldwater conditions.
A great whitewater shorty, with a little extra up its sleeves.
7. Kokatat Gore-Tex Knappster
US manufacturers Kokatat are renowned for using some of the very best materials in the construction of their paddling gear and the Knappster is no exception as its constructed from GORE-TEX®.
It also features APT neoprene neck closure, “punch-through” coated Lycra® stretch biceps cuffs, sealed seams and double skirt with Smooth-skin neoprene waistband and fully taped seams throughout.
The Knappster felt amazing to wear, it’s really lightweight and the material is soft and supple.
The neck and cuff seals were very comfortable, but did let a fair amount of water in, again not really an issue if its really warm and the GORE-TEX® construction did mean that it was very effective at wicking moisture away, especially when combined with a good short-sleeved thermal.
It was OK for whitewater and surf use but we’d like to see more effective seals on it really, but on the other hand we really liked as a touring and sea cag because of its lightweight, breathability and comfy seals.
8. Palm Apex Short-Sleeved Paddle Top
A short-sleeve version of the Apex, a warm weather semi-dry 3-layer shorty for the dynamic paddler.
The Apex is constructed from Palm’s XP150ª 3-layer fabric and features a ‘Glide Skin’ lined neoprene gasket at the neck, natural latex gaskets at biceps with ‘Glide Skin’ lined over-cuffs, an articulated dynamic panel cut with no underarm seams, a water resistant zipped chest-pocket, elasticated draw-cord tensioned neoprene waistband with asymmetric cut and gripper elastic edging, lightweight XP100ª inner waist with gripper elastic edging, fully taped seams throughout and reflective detail at collar and cuffs.
The Apex is a good-looking piece of kit and as far as ‘style’ goes was the favourite amongst the test team.
The blue and white colour-way shows up surprisingly well on the water too.
The cut on the Apex, as with all the Palm cags was excellent and freedom of movement was great.
We really liked the Glide Skin neck and it kept us pretty much dry, even during playboating sessions with lots of rolling.
The same comments apply to the latex seals as other cags that feature them in the test, but the combination of latex cuffs and Glide Skin neck seal did seem like a good compromise between comfort and performance.
The Apex made a great river running, freestyle or surfing option and it would be suited to coaches and the like too.
If you’re paddling in warm conditions then don’t forget to slap on the sunscreen!
Keep some on you too, so you can reapply every no and again, you don’t want lobster red forearms now do you.
Bear in mind too that many sun screens can damage latex seals if they come in to contact with them!
With that quick reminder out the way, we hope this article will help you find and buy the best shorty cag for you and your paddling adventures!