What to Wear Sailing
Going sailing? It can be hard to know what to bring when you venture out on the boat. How do you prepare for changing weather and what happens if you fall overboard? For an inexperienced sailor, the unknowns can be overwhelming. To dress for sailing, you want to be protected against the wind and spray from the waves, and also the sun! A layered approach is usually good, but your choice of layers will vary. From sailing jackets to sailing shoes, we’re here to break it down.
What type of sailing will you be doing?
At Helly Hansen, we sort the types of sailing into four main categories: dinghy, inshore, coastal, and offshore sailing. Before you know what to wear, decide what type of sailing you’ll be doing.
Dinghy Sailing, Small Boat Racing, or Other Close-to-Shore Water Sports
Dinghy sailing takes place close to the shore in relatively warm waters. Usually done during the daytime, dinghy sailing doesn’t typically require many layers, but you can get wet and cold. Look for protection from the sun and spray with neoprene sets or rash guards.
Use neoprene if you expect to be in and out of the water. Neoprene will keep you warmer when you’re in the water than a swimsuit or base layer would. It’s a fuller form of protection for dynamic dinghy sailing. Look for full stretch neoprene that will move with you.Our dinghy collection is called Waterwear, and was designed alongside professional dinghy sailors, so it’s sure to fit your needs. Here’s a pro tip from the Norwegian Sailing Team: wear a base layer under neoprene for some additional warmth.
Midlayer and Added Warmth
Be prepared for a breezy evening with a midweight item to throw on in a pinch. You may never even put on your midlayer, but it’s nice to have something around if temperatures drop. Our Crew Midlayer is a classic in marine style — versatile enough for when you go onshore and warm enough to use inshore sailing, too. A warm, waterproof midlayer, like the Crew Midlayer, should be enough to stay warm on most days, even though you may not wear it out on the dinghy. Throw it on when you go onshore.
Dinghy sailing shoes should be quick-drying as well as grippy. Boat decks can be slippery, and it’s important that your shoes don’t leave marks on the surface. Our Hurricane Slipon is easy to pull on and off and will give you the performance you need on the boat
One of the most important pieces in your kit is your life jacket. Dinghy life jackets need to allow for freedom of movement. Read here for more tips on choosing the right life jacket for you, but the Rider Vest is a popular choice for dinghy sailors. Finally, don’t forget a hat for more sun protection.
Inshore sailing takes place in open water, but you’re still close to shorelines and in protected waters. Keep in mind, the gear for each category of sailing can sometimes overlap (eg the life jackets for inshore sailing are often similar to dinghy, etc.). But, there are some key distinctions to keep in mind. Overall, inshore sailing requires quick-dry materials and lightweight jackets that enable freedom of movement around the boat.
Base Layer – next to skin
For amateur and expert sailors alike, sun protection is important. Wear lightweight, quick-drying, base layers. After all, your base layer may end up being the only layer you wear (other than your life jacket). Your next-to-skin layer should absorb sweat and keep you cool.
Inshore sailors gravitate to our Driftline Polo because it’s quick-dry fabric and clean design make it functional on the boat and also for casual wear. For a more sport-specific shirt, choose a technical tee, such as the HP Foil Ocean T-shirt.
Shorts are a popular choice for inshore sailing. Look for durable shorts that are also quick-dry. Our HP Dynamic Shorts are ideal because the low profile pockets pockets zip close, so that you don’t lose your credit card or keys on the boat. They are more durable than your typical board shorts, so they won’t snag or tear on the boat. Yet, they will dry quickly.
Look for a midlayer that is more lightweight and can also function as a stand-alone jacket. The HP Fleece Jacket has a slick face surface that makes it easy to throw your jacket on and also a sleek look.
Inshore sailing jacket and Pants
Many of our most classic sailing styles, such as the Salt Flag Jacket, are ideal for inshore sailing. Look for wind and water protection with high collars and lightweight designs.
More serious sailors, such as those foil sailing, need even more protection and mobility on deck. Lighter jackets provide protection from ocean spray without weighing you down, as inshore sailing can be a fast moving sport.
The entire Hydropower series offers lightweight protection that’s ideal for serious inshore sailing. Designed to be durable, waterproof, and lightweight, it’s ideal for the more advanced inshore sailors.
Like dinghy sailing, inshore sailing shoes should have a good grip and also be quick drying. But, you may look for a more structured design, such as the HP Foil F1
When coastal sailing, your boat will be out on the water for an extended duration alongside, but not far removed from shorelines. Yachts out coastal sailing require a high degree of self-sufficiency, and sailors should be prepared for a variety of conditions.
Coastal sailing requires more protection from cold winds and foul weather. Build on your inshore kit with some added protection. Sturdier, waterproof fabrics, and warm midlayers are even more important.
What you’re looking for in a base layer for coastal sailing is good moisture management and warmth. It’s not unlike the requirements for a good base layer for skiing, or even hiking. If you need help finding the right base layer for your activity and your body, check out our Find Your Base Layer tool.
A midlayer is the added layer of warmth that can mean all the difference when you’re far from shore. Look for a midlayer that can warm you up without a lot of extra weight. Slick surface material makes it easier to slide on under your sailing jacket, too. The right midlayer will also be versatile enough for use onshore (or inshore/offshore sailing, too). The HP Racing Midlayer Jacket is insulated with LIFALOFT™ technology to keep you warm without feeling weighed down.
cOASTAL SAILING JACKETS and pants
Look for protection on windy days and waterproof barriers for waves and damp breezes. The Pier Jacket is a perennial favorite and a great purchase for those who are just getting into coastal sailing. One step up in protection is the Skagen Offshore Jacket. Also protective enough for many offshore pursuits, the Skagen features a sturdy HELLY TECH® Performance fabric 2 ply fabrication with mesh lining for comfort, a protective collar with a facemask, double cuffs and hand warmer and storage pockets. Originally made for ocean racing, the Skagen Jacket has a face mask front design on the collar, making it ideal for more high-performance coastal sailing.
Coastal sailing pants should be durable: a reinforced seat and knees are a big plus. Big pockets and easily adjustable suspenders may seem like unimportant features, but they can make daily activities on the boat smoother. And of course, waterproof and breathable fabric will protect you from the waves, as well as your own sweat. We recommend the Skagen Offshore Bib.
Like many other sailing shoes, coastal sailing shoes should have a sturdy grip and quick-dry fabric, such as the Ahiga V4 Hydropower.
Offshore sailing involves long distances, far from shore. Offshore sailing requires the most durable and protective gear for any type of sailing. When sailing in open, unprotected waters, there are likely to be large waves and strong currents. Weather conditions can change quickly and the nearest outside assistance may be farther away. Be prepared for tougher conditions.
Offshore sailing base layers basically serve the same function as Coastal Sailing. Moisture management is the most important feature (above sun protection or being lightweight). If you’re sailing in the cold weather, Lifa Merino, our unique 2-in-1 base layer with LIFA® fabric next to skin and a Merino wool outer layer is our top choice.
Like the other types of sailing, a good midlayer for offshore sailing can be worn as a standalone piece or add extra warmth under your foul weather jacket. The HP Fleece Jacket is a versatile piece. The Ægir H2Flow Jacket is designed specifically to be worn with the Ægir kit and features the temperature regulation system, H2Flow.
offshore sailing jackets and pants
The Skagen Collection is durable and warm enough for most offshore sailing (in addition to coastal sailing), but if you expect to venture into colder waters, you’ll need the next level of protection: Ægir
Look for offshore gear that is waterproof, windproof, and breathable. Good offshore gear should have reflex and hi vis details for safety, fully sealed seams, and a sailing specific design. The Ægir Offshore Collection was designed to perform in the world’s harshest conditions, such as the Volvo Ocean Race. For example, the drop seat construction in the Womens Ægir Race Salopette was developed with the all-female Team SCA in the Volvo Ocean race as they raced non-stop for several weeks at the time. Learn more about the development of our most professional grade sailing gear.
Store all your gear in a waterproof dry bag. Don’t forget your life jacket! And have a great time out on the water!
For those people who are not as concerned with extreme performance as they are performance lifestyle, marine sportswear is a perfect fit. If you live by the ocean or enjoy an evening on the boat, even if you’re not primarily focused on the sailing, check out these comfortable pieces that will perform great and also look the part.