There are times when a rash guard is not enough, and a spray top or wetsuit top is too much. Such times require a hybrid approach like the new ZSkin Top, constructed with an ultra-thin, slick neoprene layer on the torso and water-repellent, breathable XWR four-way stretch fabric on sleeves and neck.
I spent some time dinghy sailing with this on a cloudy, breezy day when the air and water temps were hovering just above 65, which was probably pressing the top’s lower design limits. At first, I was skeptical about how well the stretch fabric would keep my arms warm, especially with a lot of spray. I brought my dinghy top along just in case, but I never needed it. My arms were certainly not as warm as my torso, which was nice and toasty, but that was fine, probably because I was actively trimming and steering. Maybe a full day on the water in those conditions, and I might have wanted a spray top over it, but for a few hours in those lower temps, it was fine.
What I particularly liked about it—and what it was designed for—was how little, if at all, it restricted arm movement. That’s why the ZSkin top is also being marketed to paddlers and surfers. It’s like wearing a rash guard, but warmer. And it’s much more aerodynamic than a dinghy top. If you end up in the water, you’ll come out much warmer and potentially take on less water than you might with a dinghy top.
The ZSkin is designed to fit snugly and for relatively athletic builds. My sense is that it runs a bit on the small side. At 5′10″ and 175 pounds, I could just get into a size large. The good news is that, once on, I was warm, could easily move my arms and hardly knew it was there. $189.99