July 4, 2024

9 min

Equipment reviews

Sailing Clothing: What You Need to Wear and Pack

lady on deck of boat

Setting off on a sailing adventure requires more than just a good boat and an adventurous spirit. The sailing clothing and accessories you choose will significantly influence your comfort, safety, and fun on the water. There’s a huge range of sailing activities, but whether you’re on a yacht or dinghy, sailing clothing is something you need to get right. This guide will help you navigate the world of sailing gear and sailing clothes, ensuring you’re well-prepared for your sailing adventure.

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The Essentials of What to Wear

1. Base Layers – Tops

The foundation of any good sailing packing list is the base layer; this really is a crucial part of your sailing gear and you’ll want a good stock. This layer should be moisture-wicking to keep sweat away from your skin, maintaining your comfort during strenuous activity. Look for materials such as merino wool or synthetic fabrics that offer excellent insulation and breathability.

When selecting a base layer, consider the following examples and features:

Merino Wool


Merino wool is an established and popular range of sailing suitable base layers due to its natural moisture-wicking properties, excellent insulation, and breathability. Unlike traditional wool, merino wool is soft and comfortable against the skin, making it ideal for prolonged wear.


This long-sleeve top is made from 100% merino wool, providing warmth and comfort without bulk. Its natural odor-resistant properties mean you can wear it for extended periods without worrying about unpleasant smells. It is expensive, but if you want the best out there, this may be it.


Synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon are engineered to wick moisture away from the skin and dry quickly, which is crucial during high-intensity activities on the water. These fabrics are often blended with spandex for added stretch, ensuring a snug yet flexible fit. They are usually much cheaper than Merino wool, but may not feel quite as snug and can capture odors a little quicker.


This dual-layer shirt has a brushed interior that keeps you feeling warm and a fast-drying exterior. Stretch-mesh panels keep it breathable while still being quick-drying. Made from stretch fabric, it has good freedom of movement and they’ve been careful to keep seams away from high-abrasion areas. It’s made of 87% Polyester and 13% Elastane, giving a stretchy, streamlined fit.


Some base layers combine merino wool with synthetic fibers to offer the best of both worlds. These hybrid fabrics provide the natural benefits of wool with the durability and quick-drying properties of synthetics.


The Solution 150 Merino Quarter Zip Hoody features Black Diamond’s patented Nuyarn stretch merino wool, making it stronger, warmer, and faster-drying than traditional merino. It offers superb thermoregulation, moisture-wicking, and natural odor resistance. Flatlock stitching prevents chafing in awkward areas and integrated thumb holes make for easy layering without sleeve bunching. Designed for mountaineers but great for sailors too.

2. Mid Layers

For sailors, choosing the right mid layer is essential to staying warm and dry in what can be damp, windy environments. Fleece mid layers are ideal for their breathability and quick-drying properties, making them comfortable and effective for sailing. Synthetic mid layers, on the other hand, offer superior moisture resistance and durability, ensuring warmth even when wet. Both options are excellent, with the choice depending on specific needs for moisture management and insulation


The Patagonia R1 Pullover is a superb, versatile mid layer for sailing, perfect for layering or wearing alone. Its Polartec Power Grid fleece provides excellent warmth, breathability, and moisture-wicking, while we love the lightweight, slim-fit design that offers comfort and ease of movement. It has a deep venting zip, is solidly made, and fits snugly which is a bonus. We’ve consistently found it to be a favorite of the skippers.

Craghoppers CO2 Renu Half Zip Fleece

Craghoppers, an always reliable outdoor brand, has surprised us with the innovative CO2 Renu Fleece. It’s proved to be a comfortable and dependable fleece. What sets it apart is its sustainability: 30% of the fleece is made from Bio3 carbon smart polyester, derived from captured CO2 emissions, while the remaining 70% is recycled polyester. The design uses 100% recycled materials for labels and zip-tape, and employs a 3D design programme and lapped seams to minimize waste. It’s great value and groundbreaking in its sustainability.


While a sailing jacket can be a significant investment, it’s one that pays off in terms of comfort, safety, and performance. If you’re going to spend money anywhere, this is the place to do it. A good jacket will keep you warm and dry and given that you’ll be wearing it for long hours, sometimes for entire days, the importance of quality and fit cannot be overstated. Customers also appreciate the quick delivery of these high-quality sailing jackets.


We found this mid layer from the Musto range of sailing jackets to be exceptionally warm and protective when layered over a thermal base layer. In more extreme conditions it will need a foul weather jacket over the top, but for almost all other conditions it does superbly. It has adjustable cuffs and hem, a nice high collar, well articulated sleeves, and useful reflective detailing. It’s made from recycled materials for top eco credentials.

. Outer Layers – Foul Weather Gear

The outer layer, often referred to as foul weather gear, is your first line of defense against the elements when sailing. This gear, which includes fully waterproof and windproof jackets and trousers, is indispensable for ensuring comfort and safety on the water. Buoyancy aids are also a critical part of the necessary safety equipment for both kids and adults during sailing activities. Here’s why investing in high-quality foul-weather clothing is crucial for sailors:


Foul weather gear is designed to keep you dry during the heaviest rainstorms and protect against the strongest winds. Waterproof materials, such as GORE-TEX or similar advanced fabrics, ensure that no water penetrates the clothing, keeping you dry even in torrential downpours. Windproof features prevent what can be icy cold winds from penetrating the fabric: essential for maintaining body warmth and preventing hypothermia.


While these garments are fully waterproof and windproof, they are also designed to be breathable. This means they allow moisture from perspiration to escape, preventing the buildup of sweat inside the clothing. Breathable fabrics can make a big difference in comfort, especially during strenuous activities that generate heat and sweat.


Foul weather gear often includes safety features such as high-visibility colors and reflective elements. These features improve visibility of the crew member in low-light conditions or emergencies.


The new MPX 2.0 range of sailing jackets and waterproof trousers feature a new generation three-layer Gore-Tex Pro membrane and recycled nylon for the face material, resulting in efficient, lightweight, and comfortable garments with excellent freedom of movement. Seamless shoulder panels add comfort to the jacket, while a reinforced lower back panel protects against abrasive deck surfaces. The improved storm collar and high-visibility hood system reduce bulk and allow easy access. New photo-luminescent reflectors enhance visibility in low light. The regular price of all Goretex foul weather clothing is expensive but this is the best value available in our opinion.


We really like the Gill OS1 Ocean range, with the new Xplore+ three-layer fabric, which is lighter, more flexible, and more durable than what we have worn previously. They have also added the very effective plant-based XPEL water and stain-repellent treatment. We stayed warm and dry in this. The waterproof trousers were exactly that and the sailing jacket had a high storm collar was really liked. The pockets are well-sized and placed, and the attachment points for a PLB and multitool are a good addition. It is much cheaper than the Musto, so a serious alternative.

4. Deck shoes

Proper footwear is important on a boat. Non-slip soles are essential to prevent accidents on wet, slippery decks, and shoes need to be comfortable for long periods of wear but also sensible to wear ashore. Bare feet are not recommended as you will likely hurt your feet. The first time you try it may well also be the last time you try it! Flip flops are an absolute no-no as you will almost certainly trip and fall. We have written elsewhere about the best boat shoes, but here are our current favorites. Having the right deck shoes can enhance the fun and enjoyment of sailing activities.


We really like Dubarry’s Regatta deck shoe for men. It has a stylish, sporty look with a combination of leather and nubuck. Its water-resistant coating makes it a great shore for both sailing and ashore and will give good service for many seasons. The soles give excellent grip and are thick enough to make them really comfortable too wear for long periods at a time. A real winner from their ever popular range.

One of our female crew swears by her original Chuck Taylor All Stars as the perfect match of comfort, looks and performance. They’re a timeless icon with a durable canvas upper and OrthoLite cushioning for loads of comfort. The fact is, they do look cool!

Other Sailing Gear You Probably Need

A note on dinghy sailing

Dinghy sailing, for the most part, requires a different range of sailing clothes to those worn on yachts. Dinghy sailing generally means getting wetter and therefore needs a range of clothes and wetsuits that are specifically for dinghy sailing and accommodate that. We’ll be writing an article on the best range of sailing clothes for dinghy sailing soon so watch out for that!

Looking for a comprehensive packing list for your sailing trip? See the packing lists we issue crew on our Rubicon 3 adventures. They’re just as suitable for first time sailors on sailing holidaysas to seasoned explorers! Come and have fun and Sail | Train | Explore with Rubicon 3!

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