What to wear on a sailboat? (Sailing Outfit 101)

What sailing clothes should you choose when your friends invite you on a sailboat trip? When your date wants to show you off during a sailing regatta, what sailing outfit to choose? No worries, we got you covered! In the following paragraphs, we will dive into all the different aspects of a sailboat wardrobe to help you avoid sailor faux pas based on lack of information. From swimsuits over foul weather gear to the right sailing shoes and the best clothes for sailing.

sailing outfit for sailing holidays

What to wear When Sailing.

Some sailors might say, “Who wears clothes offshore?”. We definitely encountered some naked sailors along our sailing adventure, but most of us do wear sailing clothes. The choice to wear sailing outfits is not only based on bashfulness but especially on safety. They save you from getting wet from rain, burned from the sun, or cold from the wind but most importantly, they protect your hand and toes from injuries. 

However, like anything we wear nowadays, it has a fashion aspect. Especially if you intend to go on a sailing holiday and not a sailing race. Even if we are being honest, sailing races can quickly turn into fashion runways floundering with brand logos everywhere. Nowadays, personal style does not have to suffer when it comes to sailing outfits.

We do like to divide our sailing clothes into these categories:

If you plan to go on a sailing trip soon, download our sailboat packing list!

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Nautical safety cloths

We are not referring to personal safety equipment such as a safety vest or a harness. Those are items your skipper should procure, and please make sure before boarding a sailboat that these safety equipment are in place. If you want to dive into sailboat safety, we made a video about offshore safety here. When we refer to nautical safety clothes, we talk about sailing gear such as sailing shoes, foul weather gear or sailing gloves. Items that are your responsibility to have on you. 

If you intend to go for a sailing holiday where sunbathing and snorkelling are the focus, you probably do not need all these items. However, we highly recommend having at least sailing shoes on you. They do not need to be high-performance, but they need to follow 2 rules:

  1. white/nature soles to avoid leaving marks on deck
  2. no heals (for so many obvious reasons)

Leisure sailing outfits

Now comes my favourite part. Full of sailing hats, swimsuits, floaty sailing dresses and comfy sweaters. The leisure sailing wardrobe depends heavily on where you sail. However, there are are some sailing clothes you should always have on you and a few general rules your boat clothing should abide by:

  • Comfort (es: avoid tight jeans you can not sit in for hours) 
  • Practicality
  • Easy to clean
  • crease-resistant, no-iron fabrics (es: leave those suit shirts at home) 
  • Weather protection from sun, cold and rain
sailing outfit for sailing holidays
girl on sailboat

Sailing Outfit Must haves:

marine clothes you always need on board no matter where you sail:

  • Rain jacket: nothing like being drained to your underwear on a windy sea. Weather changes at sea can happen very quickly, so a good rain jacket is a must! There is an incredible selection of rain jackets from high performance to high fashion. While I personally love the high fashion items, we both settled for high-quality foul weather gear from Zhik (get 10% off with the discount code BOATLIFE10). Less stylish but multi-purpose.
  • Windbreaker: needless to say, to sail, we need wind. Ergo it will be windy when we sail xD. No matter the climate you sail in, we recommend having a windbreaker at hand — a light jacket, which can be the same as your rain jacket or a separate one. You might not feel it immediately, but exposure to wind over an extended period of time, even if the sun is out, can weaken your body. Moreover, the breeze could always pick up and turn into a cold wind, so have that windbreaker always at hand no matter how sunny the weather. Find the windbreaker we use on ForTuna here. (get 10% off with the discount code BOATLIFE10)

TIP: instead of buying multiple jackets, go for good foul weather gear. We use that jacket for wind, rain and stormy weather. No need to have various jackets on board

  • Sailing hat/ sailing cap: save that sweet head of yours from sun and wind by wearing a sailing hat. When you are on a sailboat, you will be constantly exposed to nature, especially the sun can be very damaging. To avoid getting sunstroke, please always wear a sailing hat.
  • Sailing Sunglasses: It might seem an apparent item to mention. However, we can not stress enough the importance of wearing sunglasses on board. When you are on a sailboat, you will be surrounded by water, which means sun rays will not only hit your eyes from the sky but will be splayed across the whole surface of the water, hitting you at every angle. If you decide to invest in proper sailing glasses, make sure they are polarised to “see-through” sun reflections on the water surface. We love the START SUNGLASSES, designed for sailors.
sailor sunglasses on sailboat

Sailing outfit for colder climates

Layers, layers, layers. The best way to protect yourself from wind and cold temperatures is through layers. Turn yourself into an onion, from your underwear to your sailing jacket. We recommend long johns, long sleeve shirts, sweaters and jumpers to wear in layers. I especially love my down vest. It allows me to move comfortably on board while protecting my upper body, which besides the head, is the most crucial body part to keep warm. 

To complete the winter outfit, make sure to have your wet weather overall pants and jacket, socks, boots, woolly beanie and gloves. Wearing your foul weather gear in colder climates can save the day, as keeping out the wind helps massively in keeping your body warm.

You can always take some layers off if it gets warmed, but your main goal is to avoid getting cold. It will not only raise the possibility of seasickness but also impact your concentration and increase the risk of inquiries.

Sailing outfit for warm/ tropical climates

Living in a swimsuit is your dream? boatlife in tropical climates should be your choice. Since we sailed to the Caribbean, our wardrobe consists of bikinis, floaty sailing dresses, swim shorts, and tank tops. We learned to invest in good quality light sailing cloths such as linen and floaty cuts to allow airflow between the skin and the sailing clothing. We recommend UV-protection clothing if you have sensitive skin or are not used to the intense tropical sun. 

Cover up properly during the first days at sea if you get sunburned easily. Sunrays will be hitting you at all angles as the sea surfaces will reflect them, so even if you sit in the shadow, you are still subjected o UV rays from all around you.

Sailing holiday bag rules

One last tip we want to share concerns the bag you choose for your sailing adventure. Straightforward rule: no hard case! Why? Sailboats have limited space, so unless you want to share your bed with your hard case luggage, we recommend choosing a soft bag like a duffle bag or backpack. If you have opted for a luxury catamaran, this problem might not exist. But please check in with your skipper/organiser to avoid luggage dilemmas. In general soft bags is the ideal choice, even better if they are waterproof.

On sailing holidays, most cruisers bring far too many sailing clothes’ just in case,’. The trick is to get some good ‘mix and matches’ catering for onboard and ashore wear. If you are unsure about the sailing weather, you will be facing use clothing bags to divide your clothes. Storage room in sailboat cabins can be small, so depending on the weather, you can take out the clothing bag from your luggage.

Besides sailing outfits, there are other items you should have in your bag for a sailing trip, such as sunscreen or a lip balm. Download our sailing packing list not to forget anything, and have a great sailing adventure.

Get our Sailboat packing check-list for free!

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One response to “What to wear on a sailboat? (Sailing Outfit 101)”

  1. […] Like most sports sailing requires specific footwear. Proper sailing shoes are necessary on sailboats to keep the athlete protected and the white Gelcoat and teak of sailboats intact. Sailing shoes should have appropriate rubber soles to avoid slipping on wet surfaces and be adequate for the climate. More information about sailing shoes here. […]

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