According to an old sailors' saying, there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. While the right sailing outfit will keep you dry, warm, and comfortable, the wrong one can turn your trip into a cold, wet catastrophe.
Once you are committed to the sailing lifestyle, finding the proper clothing is crucial. That's why we've created this practical guide to sailing clothes so you can wear the perfect outfit for your sailing trips.
What To Look For In Sailing Clothes
Sailing outfits require special materials and design elements to withstand the wet conditions and inclement weather you'll face onboard. Here are a few key features to look for:
Wet weather gear, such as bib overalls and shell jackets, should be made from waterproof materials intended for use in harsh conditions. While GORE-TEX is the most popular textile on the market, there are plenty of proprietary materials that can keep you equally dry and comfortable. The best clothing and accessories are also equipped with waterproof seams and zippers to keep your inner layers completely dry.
Comfort is key to any enjoyable day on the waves. It's best to wear layers that can adapt to changing weather conditions throughout the day. Start with a fitted base layer that wicks sweat and locks in body heat. The water-resistant coat you wear over the top should be roomy enough to slip a fleece mid-layer in between. Your clothing should offer all-day comfort and a full range of motion, regardless of how many layers you wear.
If you're someone who prefers wearing natural materials, try wool in the winter and cotton or linen in the summer. These time-tested fibers are naturally breathable and moisture-wicking, helping you stay comfortable without all the microplastics. A long-sleeve t-shirt or sweatshirt makes an excellent choice under a lightweight windbreaker, while a merino wool quarter-zip sweater is ideal under heavier coats.
There's nothing worse than losing something overboard during your sailing trip. Zippered pockets help keep your phone, wallet, and other small items safe and secure as you battle the waves. Look for jackets with chest pockets and hidden interior pockets for added versatility.
Many water sports clothing offers UPF ratings. Whether you have a few hours of offshore sailing or enjoy all-day boat life, a UPF-rated sailboat outfit will help reduce your exposure risk significantly.
UPF-rated clothing indicates how much UV ration the fabric allows to reach your skin. For example, long sleeve shirts with UPF of 50 blocks 98% of the sun grows and only allow two percent to penetrate.
What to Wear Sailing
Proper sailing attire can vary widely based on the weather conditions of your trip. A casual summer cruise around the lake requires much different apparel than an ocean fishing trip off the coast of Alaska. Conditions can change quickly on the water, and a smart sailor is always prepared for foul weather.
There'll be limited space to stash your stuff onboard regardless of where you're adventuring. Pack wisely, bringing only what you truly need for your trip. Leave your cumbersome hard suitcases at home, opting for an oversized backpack or duffel bag instead. Here are a few essential items to pack inside:
The most important gear to wear sailing: is a life jacket. Keep a personal flotation device on board for every sailor (in both adult and child size) to use in case of emergency. Double-check your body measurements against the size chart to ensure you get the safest fit for your height and weight.
A fleece quarter-zip pullover makes the perfect mid-layer on a cold, windy day. The lightweight, cozy fabric is designed to insulate its wearer while allowing moisture to evaporate. Plus, it transitions easily from the boat deck to a dockside restaurant.
Sailing trousers are a practical piece of foul weather gear that every serious sailor should own. Made from fast-drying technical materials, they'll protect you from the elements and allow for a full range of motion. For casual sailing, a pair of functional hiking pants or yoga pants will do just fine. Sailing bibs provide added coverage and warmth for more intensive offshore excursions.
A waterproof jacket is an absolute must, no matter what sailing adventure you're heading out on. It'll keep you dry, warm, and protected from unexpected foul weather.
While a lightweight, layerable shell is great for spring and summer, you'll want an insulated waterproof coat to stay warm in less favorable conditions. If there's one piece of sailing gear worth splurging on, this is it!
Water environments can amplify UV rays, meaning you'll need ample sun protection while you're out on the water. Polarized sunglasses will improve visibility on a sunny day and keep your eyes protected from damaging UVA and UVB rays. Look for a sporty pair that's lightweight, comfortable, and fingerprint-resistant. Use a sunglass strap to keep your new shades from going overboard.
Your eyes aren't the only thing that needs protection from the sun. No matter the season, it's crucial you wear sunscreen any time you're out on the water. Stick with waterproof formulas over SPF 30 and limit your time in direct sunlight.
Merino Wool Socks
The right socks make all the difference on a cold, windy day. Merino wool is naturally moisture-wicking, breathable, and anti-microbial, keeping your feet dry and protected. Be sure to pack a few extras to change into throughout your sailing trip. The same can be said for underwear too!
While you may be tempted to sail barefoot during the summer, it's crucial to wear shoes while you sail. They'll improve safety onboard by protecting your feet from injury and improving traction on slippery surfaces. A pair of boat shoes, water sandals, or rubber boots made with water-resistant materials and a non-scuffing sole will keep your feet warm, dry, and blister-free.
Sailing gloves are an essential component of any sailing outfit, whether you're gearing up for recreational kayaking, offshore fishing, or competitive dingy sailing. They'll prevent rope burn and blisters while protecting your hands from the elements. With an array of finger lengths and weather-resistant materials to choose from, there's something for every sailing excursion.
While a sun hat may be in order during the summer months, you'll want a warm beanie for colder weather, and it'll lock in body heat and protect your ears from bitter cold winds. Stick with a functional style made from a sweat-wicking material like merino wool.
Waterproof Phone Case
A waterproof phone case keeps your phone safe and dry while documenting your sailing holiday. Choose a case with a wrist strap or lanyard that keeps your phone from falling overboard while you're busy snapping pictures. There's no need to invest in anything fancy, and something simple and affordable will do just the trick.
Best Sailing Brands
If you're serious about your sailing hobby, it's worth investing in high-quality sailing gear that'll last through countless adventures over the years to come. These top-rated sailing brands deliver the durability, versatility, and functionality you'll need on the water.
Zhik, an industry-leading Australian-based sailing brand, utilizes the latest textile science and apparel technology innovations. Every wetsuit, waterproof jacket, and layering tee undergoes rigorous testing to ensure it meets the demands of life on the water. Zhik's cutting-edge performance apparel can be seen on world champions and Olympians across the globe.
British performance brand Musto partners with the world's best technical fabric manufacturers to engineer cutting-edge waterproof textiles. After intensive research and development in the lab, each specialized technical fabric is put to the test in hostile environments. Equipped with ergonomic fits and functional design details, Musto gear is not only some of the most advanced ocean sailing apparel on the market today; it's some of the most comfortable too.
Gill Marine is a technical sailing clothing brand with over 45 years of experience under its belt. The boundary-pushing British label offers a wide assortment of technical apparel suitable for casual and competitive sailors alike. It's got waterproof jackets for dinghy sailing, insulated bibs for cold weather fishing, and wetsuits for paddleboarding and surfing.
Helly Hansen is a world leader in technical skiing, sailing, and outdoor apparel, outfitting adventurers in the mountains and on the sea since 1877. Founded in Norway, the sailing brand is no stranger to harsh conditions. It developed some of the first fleece fabrics in the 60s, the first technical base layers in the 70s, and the first temperature-regulating system of the 21st century. Who knows what sartorial breakthrough they'll scheme up next!
Beloved for its preppy yachting clothes and timeless boat shoes, Sperry is an excellent option for recreational sailors. Over the past eighty-some-odd years, the nautical, New England-based brand has established a legacy of reliable heritage products with superior comfort and quality. Equipped with traction-enhancing rubber sole and premium full-grain leather, its best-selling Top Siders transition effortlessly from the deck to the dock.
Founded in Manchester in 1963, the British sailing apparel manufacturer Henri Lloyd pioneered the use of waterproof fabrics and seam taping. The aim: create the best waterproof sailing clothing in the world. Now, over fifty years of innovation later, every product is made using recycled materials, organic fabrics, or zero waste production methods.