Packing the right gear and clothing for a sailing trip can make the difference between a great and miserable outing. Believe it or not, not all sailing is created equal. So before you start packing, ask yourself these three key questions:
- What kind of sailboat will I be on?
- Where will I be sailing? What time of year?
- How long do I plan on being out for?
An afternoon of racing under sail in a warm climate will necessitate mostly light clothes and maybe a pair of sailing gloves while spending a week offshore in higher latitudes will require foul weather gear and extra safety items.
When sailing on a small open boat, you’ll need loads of sunscreen and a jacket while overnighting on a large sailboat with a Discover unique sailboats for rent near you—Only at Boatsetter
- Layers– Light, quick-drying inner layers like fleeces will serve you well but avoid cotton that doesn’t dry quickly. Waterproof jackets of varying weights for outerwear offer the most options for the conditions you’ll face.
- Full coverage clothing to prevent sunburn– You don’t need SPF-rated garments, but lightweight nylon shirts with long sleeves or rash guards may save your skin, especially in the tropics.
- Hats– Full-brimmed hats or at least a ball cap are easy to pack. Bring a lanyard to keep it on your head in a breeze.
- Footwear– Non-slip and non-marking shoes that can dry quickly are best so anything from flip-flops to full sailing boots may be appropriate.
- Gloves– Pack either sailing gloves for boats with small thin lines that can dig into hands or warm gloves for cold weather sailing.
- Change of clothes– Bring extra wear in case you get doused.
Pro tip: Pack light, there’s usually little room on a sailboat, even a large one. Don’t bring a roller bag but rather, opt for a soft-sided duffel bag that can be stowed easily and won’t damage surfaces.
- Sunglasses– Glare from the water and sails can be brutal. Bring an extra pair and a lanyard in case they’re knocked off your face.
- Prescription glasses (or contacts)– Pack an extra pair if either gets lost.
- Prescription & over-the-counter medication including seasickness meds– Bring enough for the duration of the trip.
- Sunscreen and lip balm– You can’t feel the developing sunburn when sailing in a brisk breeze so apply early and often.
- Toiletries– If you’ll be aboard overnight or for an extended time, bring a toothbrush, soap, etc.
- Towel– This is always useful if you get wet or just want to lay out on Safety gear
- Lifejacket or personal floatation device (PFD) with a harness/tether– If you have your own, pack it. Otherwise, ask the captain.
- Waterproof flashlight or headlamp– Bring your own for overnighting.
- Sailing knife or multitool– These are great to keep in your pocket for emergencies or fixes.
- Personal locator beacon (PLB)– Bring it if you have one but this is usually not required of beginner sailors.
- Binoculars– These are great for keeping watch and finding distant markers.
Pro tip: If this is your first sailing trip, consider renting a sailboat with a captain. Boatsetter’s captain network is made of local experts carrying USCG-certified licenses.
- Bluetooth speaker– Music is a must always. Bring your music but ask the captain before playing.
- Nautical charts and weather apps– You can download both onto your phone to keep up with where you are and what the weather is doing. (Not sure where to start? Read this: Top 10 Best Marine Weather Apps for Boaters)
- A Luci Light– This small, waterproof, inflatable light is great for evenings in the 9 Best Boating Snacks and Tips for Cooking on a Boat)
- Books or an e-reader– You’ll probably have little or no connectivity, so bring along unplugged entertainment for long voyages or lazy afternoons with a good book.
Pro tip: Print this blog post to use as your checklist! Or, copy/paste it onto a Word document and edit it to your needs.
Boatsetter is a unique boat-sharing platform that gives everyone—whether you own a boat or you’re just renting—the chance to experience life on the water. You can list a boat, book a boat, or make money as a captain.
Zuzana Prochazka is an award-winning freelance journalist and photographer with regular contributions to more than a dozen sailing and powerboating magazines and online publications including Southern Boating, SEA, Latitudes & Attitudes and SAIL. She is SAIL magazines Charter Editor and the Executive Director of Boating Writers International. Zuzana serves as judge for SAIL’s Best Boats awards and for Europe’s Best of Boats in Berlin.
A USCG 100 Ton Master, Zuzana founded and manages a flotilla charter organization called Zescapes that takes guests adventure sailing at destinations worldwide.
Zuzana has lived in Europe, Africa and the United States and has traveled extensively in South America, the islands of the South Pacific and Mexico.