The 2024 Sailing Outfit Guide: Discover What to Wear & What to Avoid!

Reviewed by Tim West

Updated:

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sailing outfit

Planning your sailing outfit and unsure where to start? You’re in the right place. As a seasoned sailor, I’m here to guide you. 

This comprehensive guide is here to simplify the process and help you select the ideal attire for your sailing adventures. Think of your sailing clothes as your best mate at sea. It keeps you comfy, shields you from the elements, and even prevents injuries. 

In this article, I’ll share what’s worked for me in every weather condition, plus, we’ll explore tips on maintenance and care to ensure your gear lasts as long as your love for sailing.

Now, let’s dive into the world of sailing outfit. Ready? Let’s go!

How To Plan Your Sailing Outfit

When planning your sailing outfit, remember that your location and the season significantly influence your choices. If you’re cruising around the sunny Caribbean, your gear will be vastly different from what you’d wear sailing in Seattle. However, certain guidelines apply universally.

Sailing Types Dictate Attire

Different sailing conditions require different gear. For instance, when racing, you might need a streamlined, functional outfit that won’t restrict your movements. In contrast, a more relaxed cruising trip might allow for a greater emphasis on comfort.

Comfort and Preference Matter

Everyone’s comfort levels and preferences are different, leading to a broad spectrum of sailing outfit ideas. There’s no one-size-fits-all outfit. That lightweight sailing shirt might be the bee’s knees for your buddy, but maybe you prefer something with a little more warmth. Remember, as you search for the best sailing clothes, it’s essential that your gear not only ensures your comfort but also instills a sense of confidence while you’re out on the water.

Weather-Wise Outfit Planning

Being proactive in assessing weather conditions is a must. Always check the forecast before you set sail and ensure that your sailing clothes are suited to the predicted conditions. Have that beanie, waterproof jacket, and other wet weather gear at the ready. Mother Nature can be unpredictable, especially out at sea.

Layering – A Sailor’s Best Friend

Dressing in layers is the key to handling changing conditions on the water, and this is where your sailing clothes really come into play. Start with a base layer that pulls away sweat, incorporate a middle layer for warmth and insulation, and finish with an outer layer that is waterproof. This way, you can add or remove clothes to maintain your comfort.

Always Have a Spare

Even if space is at a premium on your boat, always have a spare set of dry clothes handy. Trust me, after a sudden downpour or an unexpected wave, you’ll be glad you packed them.

Comfort Over Style – Always

Sailing requires a lot of movement, making it essential for your sailing outfit to allow for a wide range of motion. Don’t let a tight jacket or an uncomfortable pair of pants hamper your ability to work the boat. With traditional sailing clothing, comfort should always take precedence over style.

When Safety Outweighs Fashion

Remember, when you’re out there battling the elements, fashion takes a backseat to safety and functionality. You won’t be worried about how you look when you’re focused on the task at hand. Your priorities shift towards survival and safety when the sailing gets tough.

I’ve learned these lessons after years on the water, and trust me, the right sailing clothes can make a world of difference to your boating experience.

Selecting the Right Fabrics for Your Sailing Outfit

sailing clothes

Choosing the right fabric for your sailing clothes is crucial, almost an art form. Natural materials like cotton and wool often play a key role in sailing attire due to their comfort, breathability, and body temperature regulating capabilities.

For those hot summer days out on the water, there’s nothing quite like cotton. It’s incredibly cool and breathable, skillfully wicking away sweat to keep sailors comfortable as they harness the wind. 

This is especially advantageous when it comes to the sailing outfit for ladies, as cotton pieces offer a blend of comfort, style, and functionality that’s hard to beat.

When it comes to base layers, and assuming you don’t need a performance outfit, Merino wool is a solid choice. Its standout softness, odor resistance, and ability to manage moisture make it an excellent choice for those high-exertion sailing days.

Yet, natural materials aren’t the only fabrics in a sailor’s wardrobe. We can’t ignore the importance of synthetic materials, especially when it comes to waterproof layers. These fabrics are lightweight, quick-drying, and excellent at preventing water penetration, ensuring you stay dry when the seas get rough.

Let’s not forget the role of waterproof and water-resistant fabrics in sailing gear. They serve as your shield against harsh weather conditions, keeping you warm and dry even when Mother Nature has other plans.

Though sailing outfits might seem a bit pricey at first glance, they’re an investment worth every penny. Specially designed sailing clothes prioritize both comfort and safety, providing you with an unrivaled experience on the water. I’ve seen it firsthand – the right outfit can truly transform your sailing adventure.

Best Sailing Outfit for Summer

sailing outfit for ladies

Summertime sailing calls for a wardrobe that’s lightweight, breathable, and sun-smart for both men and women. Here, I’ll share some of the top sailing outfit picks for men and women that I’ve found in my years of cruising and racing.

Footwear: Sail Safer with the Right Shoes

Going barefoot may seem tempting, but I’ve seen more than one experienced sailor take a painful spill this way. Even on a teak deck, the chances of slipping are higher than you might think. 

For this reason, I always recommend deck shoes specifically designed for sailing. They’ve saved me from countless slips and slides over the years. 

Keep your sailing shoes ship-shape by using them exclusively on the boat. This will ensure their non-slip soles last longer. 

For more information check out this guide on the best sailing shoes.

Shirts and Shorts: Stay Cool and Dry

When considering shirts and shorts for a sailing trip, choosing breathable, quick-dry material is a vital part of creating a men’s or women’s sailing outfit. Synthetic fabrics offer immense benefits, effortlessly wicking away moisture and drying promptly when you get splashed.

In my experience, cotton is a great choice for summer sailing shirts because it keeps me cool and is breathable, but doesn’t dry fast, unfortunately. On the other hand, I prefer shorts made of more synthetic materials for a comfortable summer sailing trip. 

Gloves: Improve Your Grip

When it comes to sailing, be it for men’s sailing outfits or women’s sailing outfits, one common accessory stands out – a sturdy pair of sailing gloves. I recommend those with leather palms, which not only protect your skin but also improve your grip on those thin, slippery lines. Trust me, your hands will thank you later! 

Interested in finding the perfect pair of sailing gloves? Explore our comprehensive Best Sailing Gloves guide to discover the top options that will enhance your sailing experience.

Sunglasses and Hats: Protect Yourself from the Sun

Sailing without sunglasses and a hat? Not on my watch. Remember, the glare on the water intensifies the sun’s rays, so high-quality, UV-resistant sunglasses are crucial. 

Pair them with a hat, and you’ve got yourself an excellent defense against the sun’s harsh glare. 

For a deeper dive, consider exploring our comprehensive guides on the best sailing hats, or cast your eyes over our meticulously curated best sailing sunglasses guide.

Sun Protection: Don’t Skimp on the SPF

It’s easy to underestimate the sun’s power when you’re sailing. The wind can trick you into thinking you’re not getting burned until it’s too late. That’s why I always have high SPF sunscreen at hand, and I recommend SPF-rated clothing when possible. 

With these tips, you’re set for a comfortable, sun-smart summer sailing experience.

Best Sailing Outfit for Winter

winter sailing outfit men

When considering what to wear sailing in cold weather, remember winter sailing is all about staying warm, and the secret lies in the art of layering. Each layer has a role: the base layer wicks away moisture, the mid-layer traps heat, and the outer layer guards against the elements. 

Whether you are choosing a sailing outfit for men or women, the right gear for each is crucial to your comfort and safety on winter sails. Check our sailing coats guide for more details about options and styles.

Base Layers: Your First Defense Against Cold

The base layer plays a critical role in any winter sailing outfit. It’s the clothing that hugs your skin, acting as your first line of defense against the chilling cold. It’s all about retaining body heat and wicking away sweat, and to this end, thermal underwear is the sailor’s best friend.

But it’s not just about any thermal underwear. Go for the ones specially designed for outdoor activities like sailing. They are typically made from synthetic materials or merino wool, which are known for their excellent moisture-wicking properties. The key here is to avoid getting damp, as that’s a straight ticket to feeling cold.

These base layers come in different styles and weights to accommodate varying weather conditions and personal comfort preferences. A good base layer is like a second skin, snug but not too tight, allowing a full range of movement without any restriction.

It’s also worth investing in good thermal socks. Cold feet can be a real dampener, no pun intended. Remember, a comfortable and warm sailor is a happy sailor. 

Don’t underestimate the power of a well-chosen base layer – it can be a real game-changer in cold weather sailing.

Mid Layers: Your Fleece Friend

In the biting winter chill, your mid-layer becomes your best friend. And the top choice for this? A trusty fleece shirt. Think of it as a warm hug in fabric form.

Fleece acts as a heat-trapper. It tucks warm air snugly against your body, forming a thermal shield against the cold. Opt for windproof fleece shirts – they offer that extra touch of warmth without overloading you.

Remember, sailing demands agility. So your fleece shouldn’t restrict your movement. Strike that balance between snug warmth and freedom of movement. After all, you want to be able to handle that sail with ease, right?

And the best part about layering? It’s all about adjusting to your needs. Feeling too cold or too warm? Just add or shed a layer. With fleece as your mid-layer, you have the power to control your comfort.

Outerwear: Waterproof is the Way to Go

When you’re facing cold winds, rain, or spray, a good waterproof jacket and a pair of overalls are lifesavers. 

Go for overalls that are specifically tailored for sailing, featuring breathable materials and a chest-high cut with adjustable braces. I can’t stress enough the usefulness of knee reinforcements and adjustable ankles. Most models sport a front zipper for easy access, though some ladies’ models have a back zipper for added convenience.

As for jackets, their prices can span a broad spectrum. You’ll come across “Inshore”, “Coastal” and “Offshore” or “Ocean” types. Although Offshore jackets can dig deeper into your pockets, they offer superior waterproofing, breathability, and durability. Believe me, they’re worth the investment. 

I recommend jackets with fleece-lined pockets – a godsend for cold hands, a high collar to ward off wind and spray, a robust zipper, double wrist cuffs, reflective panels, and a built-in hood for complete facial coverage. 

Getting drenched or feeling the icy bite of the wind can turn a thrilling sailing adventure into a miserable experience. Choose your outerwear wisely, and you’ll be all set to face the elements head-on.

For a deeper dive, check our best sailing jackets guide.

Footwear: Stay Warm and Dry

In cold and wet conditions, sailing boots are a must. Choose ones that are easy to pull on and off, and make sure they have excellent grip and are fully waterproof. 

I’ve found that classic rubber sailing boots do the job, but if you’re up for a bit of a splurge, go for the leather ones. They last longer and look sharp, too. 

Just like your summer deck shoes, keep these strictly for the boat to maintain their longevity.

Gloves and Headgear: Cover Up

Last but not least, gloves and insulated headgear are crucial for cold-weather sailing. Wind chill can rapidly drain heat from your body, and a lot of that heat escapes from your head. I always keep a beanie in my jacket pocket, and a cap can also be a good choice on sunny days. 

Remember, winter sailing can be fantastic, but only if you’re dressed right. With these tips, you’ll be well-equipped to enjoy it to the fullest. For more details, check our best sailing hats or the best sailing gloves guides.

Best Sailing Outfit for Spring and Fall

sailing outfit women

Spring and fall, often referred to as shoulder seasons, can offer a mixed bag of weather conditions. You could be experiencing the warmth of summer one moment, and then the crisp air of winter the next. This unpredictability makes your outfit choice crucial.

The good news is that the best outfit for these seasons doesn’t require any specific gear. It’s all about smart layering and picking items from your summer and winter sailing wardrobe based on your comfort and the weather forecast.

Let’s say, for example, it’s a sunny but slightly chilly morning. You could opt for your lightweight summer shirt for comfort and layer it with a fleece mid-layer from your winter gear to keep you warm. 

If rain or stronger winds are predicted for later in the day, pack your waterproof jacket from your winter kit, just in case. The goal is to stay dry and comfortable, ready to adapt to the changing conditions.

Remember, there’s no hard and fast rule. The key to perfecting your spring and fall sailing outfit lies in personal comfort, layering effectively, and being prepared for unpredictable weather. So, mix and match and find what works best for you!

What Not to Wear When Sailing!

Determining what not to wear while sailing can be just as important as figuring out what to put on. However, it’s worth noting that these recommendations mainly apply when you’re actively engaged in sailing activities. If you’re joining a sailboat for a leisurely cruise or a relaxing day at sea, you might have a bit more flexibility with your outfit.

Denim or Jeans: These might be your go-to for comfort on land, but when it comes to sailing, they’re not the best choice. Denim absorbs water, dries slowly, and can make you feel heavy and uncomfortable.

Slippery Shoes: Footwear with smooth soles can be dangerous on a boat deck, leading to slips and falls. Always opt for shoes with non-slip soles designed specifically for boating.

Heavy Cotton Sweaters: While these might seem like a cozy choice, once they get wet, they become heavy and take a long time to dry, leaving you cold and uncomfortable.

Jewelry: Large pieces of jewelry can get caught on parts of the boat, potentially causing injury. It’s best to leave your jewelry safely at home.

All-White or Light-Colored Outfits: Sailing can be a dirty job and light colors will show dirt and grime easily.

When planning your sailing outfit, keep in mind both comfort and safety. It’s always best to avoid items that won’t serve you well in the dynamic sailing environment.

Sailing Outfit for Kids

sailing outfit for kids

Let’s talk about how to keep the little ones safe and comfy on deck.

Choosing Kids’ Sailing Gear: Just like adults, kids need a sailing outfit that’s both comfortable and functional. Safety comes first, so make sure they’re outfitted with a well-fitted, comfortable life jacket at all times.

Dress Them for the Weather: With kids, remember to dress for the weather, but add an extra layer. They may run around and seem warm, but when they slow down, they’ll feel the chill more than adults. In summer, think lightweight, breathable fabrics. In winter, layer up starting with a moisture-wicking base, an insulating middle, and a waterproof outer layer.

Footwear: Kids need non-slip shoes too. Choose closed-toe shoes for protection. The same “deck shoes only” rule applies, keeping the grip strong for safe sailing.

Hats and Sunglasses: Don’t forget sun protection! Hats and sunglasses are a must on sunny days. For colder weather, choose warm hats that cover their ears.

Gloves: If they’re helping with the sailing, gloves will protect their hands just like yours. Pick ones that are flexible and provide a good grip.

Comfort is Key: Remember, comfort is key to keeping kids happy on board. Their sailing outfit should be easy to move in and quick to dry. The adventure of sailing is much more enjoyable when everyone’s comfortable and prepared.

Trustworthy Sailors Clothing Brands

In the world of the best sailing clothing brands, they have established their reputation with a commitment to quality, durability, and functionality. These labels offer an array of products, from technical gear to casual wear, all designed with the sailor in mind.

Helly Hansen: A pioneer in sailing apparel, Helly Hansen offers a wide range of garments from waterproof jackets and pants to thermal underwear, all crafted with their signature quality and attention to detail.

Musto: Known for their innovative approach to design, Musto’s products are made with high-performance fabrics, offering excellent waterproofing, breathability, and comfort.

Gill Marine: Gill specializes in marine clothing, providing everything a sailor might need, from gloves and footwear to technical outerwear, designed with their distinctive blend of style and performance.

Henri Lloyd: A premium brand in the sailing world, Henri Lloyd is respected for its high-quality sailing clothing that beautifully combines functionality and fashion.

Zhik: An Australian brand, Zhik is popular among competitive sailors for their high-tech fabrics and cutting-edge designs, providing superior flexibility and comfort.

Remember, while brand reputation can be a good starting point, it’s important to prioritize your personal comfort, fit, and the specific needs of your sailing environment. Choose the gear that best suits your requirements and feel confident on your sailing adventure.

Other Essential Items To Wear When Sailing

sailing outfit accessories

Let’s delve into some other crucial items for your sailing outfit.

Life Jacket: Regardless of the season or weather, a life jacket is non-negotiable. Ensure it fits well and doesn’t obstruct movement. Remember, safety comes first when sailing. Learn more about this in our article on How To Choose the Best Life Jackets & PFDs.

Sailing Watch: A durable, waterproof watch is beneficial. You’ll need to keep track of time, especially if you’re racing. Some advanced watches even have tide and weather tracking features. For more details, check our Best Sailing Watches guide. 

Sailing Belt: A good sailing belt is often overlooked but can be useful. It can keep your tools close or ensure your trousers stay in place in gusty conditions.

Safety Harness and Tether: In tough weather or night sailing, a safety harness and tether become vital. These keep you attached to the boat, preventing overboard situations.

Personal Locator Beacon (PLB): A PLB is a small device that can transmit your location in case of an emergency. It’s a worthwhile investment for serious sailors.

Multitool: A good multitool can be a lifesaver. Choose one with a sturdy knife and possibly a marlinspike for knot work.

Headlamp: For night sailing or checking things below deck, a hands-free headlamp is indispensable.

While it may seem like a lot to manage, each of these items has a purpose, and most experienced sailors will confirm their usefulness. Remember, the goal is to ensure a safe and enjoyable sailing experience!

Maintenance and Care of Your Sailing Outfit

yachting outfit

Maintaining your sailing outfit is important to extend its lifespan and ensure its effectiveness. Here are my top tips for taking care of your gear:

Rinsing: After each sail, rinse your gear with fresh water. Salt on your sailing clothes can corrode materials over time, including zippers and fabric.

Drying: Allow your gear to air dry, avoiding direct sunlight which can degrade materials. Don’t tumble dry or place over a radiator as the high heat can damage waterproofing and elasticity.

Cleaning: When needed, wash your gear with a tech wash or mild soap. Harsh detergents can strip waterproof coatings and damage materials.

Reproofing: Waterproof gear may need reproofing over time. There are numerous products on the market that you can apply to restore your gear’s water resistance.

Storage: Store your gear in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Make sure it’s clean and dry before you put it away to prevent mold and mildew.

Regular Checks: Inspect your gear regularly for damage, including checking seams, closures, and fabric integrity.

Repairs: Small tears and punctures can be patched with repair tape or kits. For significant damage, consider professional repair or replacement.

With proper care and maintenance, your sailing outfit will serve you well for many adventures. Happy sailing!

Final Words

Sailing outfit planning is vital for comfort, safety, and enjoyment while on the water. From the right fabrics and layers to maintaining your gear, each detail adds up to a better sailing experience. 

So whether you’re braving a winter gust or basking in summer’s breeze, ensure you’re well prepared. Keep these tips in mind and let your adventures begin. Happy sailing!

FAQ

What do people wear for sailing?

Sailing outfits vary greatly depending on weather, location, and personal preference. You might choose natural fabrics like cotton or wool, synthetic materials for waterproofing, or a blend of both. Specialized sailing gear can include everything from jackets, pants, and base layers to footwear, gloves, and headgear.

What do you wear to sailing in the ocean?

Ocean sailing requires gear that can withstand harsh conditions, like waterproof, windproof, and insulated jackets and pants. You’ll also need good quality sailing boots, base layers, mid layers, gloves, and headgear. Look for items designed for ‘Ocean’ sailing as they provide better waterproofing, breathability, and durability. Read this article for more details.

What does a woman wear for sailing?

The basics of a woman’s sailing outfit are similar to men’s, including layers suitable for the weather, waterproof clothing, and suitable footwear. Specific items may include sailing pants, jackets, base layers, mid layers, gloves, headgear, and boots. There are also women-specific models for items like waterproof overalls. Read this article for more details.

What should I wear first time sailing?

As a first-time sailor, focus on comfort and safety. Choose clothes that are suitable for the weather, with an emphasis on breathable, quick-drying materials. Don’t forget footwear that offers good grip, and consider a waterproof layer in case of spray or rain. Refer to this article for more detailed advice.

Can you wear sneakers for sailing?

While you can wear sneakers, they may not offer the grip and water resistance needed on a wet deck. Specially designed sailing shoes or boots are typically the best choice.

Can I wear jeans when sailing?

While it’s possible to wear jeans, they may not be the best choice due to their long drying time and lack of flexibility. Breathable, quick-drying fabrics like those found in dedicated sailing pants or shorts would be more comfortable and practical.

Should you wear a wetsuit when sailing?

The need for a wetsuit depends on the weather conditions and water temperature. In colder conditions or when sailing in open water, a wetsuit can add an extra layer of warmth and protection. But for general sailing, it might not be necessary, and other dedicated sailing gear could offer better flexibility and comfort.

What to wear while sailing in the caribbean?

Opt for lightweight and breathable clothing, including summer sailing outfits. Choose loose-fitting garments made from materials like cotton or linen to stay cool in the warm and humid climate. Don’t forget to bring swimwear, sun protection items like hats and sunscreen, non-slip footwear, and a light layer for cooler evenings. Consider waterproof gear to protect your belongings.

Why not explore more? We’ve got other sailing articles that you might find interesting:

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AUTHOR

Hi I am Peter, I absolutely love being out on the water and I have a deep passion for all things nautical. Sailing has been a huge part of my life and I plan to continue doing it for as long as I can. When I'm not out sailing, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, reading a good book, and listening to music.