Breathable, waterproof and extremely resilient. These are the basic properties that functional clothing should demonstrate. Today, sailing clothing made with technical material is common place. However, wearing just a breathable sailing jacket on its own won't be enough! As well as choosing the right material, it is also important to decide whether to buy a complete sailing suit, or just a sailing jacket or trousers. A complete set could be the right choice to suit your needs and prove to be more cost-efficient. This mainly depends on where and how much you are on the water. Many sailing jackets can now be used in other outdoor activities thanks to technical membranes such as Gore Tex, BR1 and BR2 or MPU membranes. However, this depends largely on the style and fit of the jackets.
Our guide to functional sailing clothing will tell you how to layer correctly, what types of sailing clothing are recommended depending on the sailing area, and what material differences and features are available from the most popular manufacturers of sailing clothing.
Which sailing clothing is the right one for you depends on a number of very different criteria. This includes the sailing area and season as well as the size of your boat. Furthermore, you should also consider what kind of sailing you are doing. Are you a going on a leisurely cruise? Are you more into sports sailing and maybe even taking part in regattas? Or are you perhaps a complete beginner in the world of water sports? We are happy to advise you!
It is no wonder that sailing clothing is also called functional clothing. After all, it does quite a lot. It keeps you warm, protects you from wind and water and carries away moisture. Nevertheless, when buying sailing clothing you have to decide what your personal preference is. Because the higher the resistance to water & wind, the lower the breathability. With more layers, sailing clothing often becomes heavier. So, which sailing clothing is the right one for you? As a rule, brands distinguish between sailing clothing for near-shore sailing (inshore & coastal), for offshore sailing (ocean & offshore) and for regattas (racing).
Beginners, motorboaters & on inland waterways
As a newcomer to sailing, you don't want to invest a huge amount of money in technical sailing clothing right from the start. If this is your first time sailing on a trip with friends lasting several days or on a chartered boat, for example in the Mediterranean, coastal sailing clothing should be fine. Coastal clothing is also ideal for motorboat users. If you are planning to sail on inland lakes or rivers, sailing clothing for the coastal area will also give you excellent protection in bad weather.
Inshore & coastal sailing clothing
Sailing jackets and sailing trousers for inshore sailing or coastal sailing must be waterproof and windproof as well as breathable, but nowhere near as technical as offshore clothing for longer trips. This means that the price of inshore & coastal sailing clothing is significantly lower than that of offshore sailing clothing. Inshore sailing clothing usually consists of 2 layers, which makes it lighter than offshore clothing. Sailing jackets for inland & coastal areas also have lower collars than offshore models.
The right wet weather gear for sailing trips on the North and Baltic Sea
For the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, coastal oilskins are usually more than enough. You should only go for offshore sailing clothing if you are going there in winter or in extreme conditions. If you have a smaller sailboat of 8-15 meters and are standing at the helm, i.e. are exposed to wind and spray from the front, it may be better to switch to offshore for better protection with a high-cut collar. Generally speaking, larger boats offer better protection and coastal sailing clothing is usually all that is needed. On smaller ships you are more exposed to the elements. In this respect offshore sailing clothing makes more sense.
Offshore wet weather gear - When do I need to use high-performance marine clothing?
Offshore sailing clothing is made for extreme conditions. If you enjoy sailing not only when the weather is fine and travelling further away from the coast, you should think about offshore gear. If you are planning an Atlantic crossing, a round the world trip or a cruise on the high seas lasting several weeks, offshore sailing clothing should be part of your basic equipment!
Sailing clothing for high sea sailing must withstand the most extreme weather conditions, temperature fluctuations and the highest demands. For this reason, up to 4 layers are often used to make offshore sailing clothing, or a high performance membrane like Gore Tex, which makes them heavier but gives better performance and a higher water column. Offshore sailing jackets and sailing trousers are made with great attention to detail. They have an extra high collar that protects against wind and cold. Many sailing jackets, especially for offshore use, also feature hoods & pockets with fleece lining, wrist cuffs and a waistband to further reduce cold and moisture penetration.
Racing & regatta sailing clothing
In regatta sailing, a particularly good fit, light fabrics and high freedom of movement are extra important. Breathability is also even more important in competition than for recreational sailors. Regatta clothing should be as simple as possible to save weight and to avoid getting caught on board during one of the many manoeuvres.
Whether you buy sailing clothing online or in a shop - when trying on sailing jackets and trousers, make sure they fit and allow freedom of movement. Sailing clothes that are too tight can hinder your mobility, just as clothing that is too wide and bulky and not suited to your body shape can prevent movement on board. For this reason, always check the following when trying on oilskins:
1. Freedom of movement
Get on your knees and twist your upper body as if you were operating a winch. Check that you can do all the movements easily, or whether you feel restricted by the sailing clothing. Pay particular attention to how it feels on your shoulders, buttocks and knees. Then stand up again and stretch as far as possible. Check here too to see if the clothing hinders your movement.
2. Adjusting sailing jackets & sailing trousers
Good sailing clothing should always be adjustable to fit your own body as well as possible. Sailing trousers usually have straps or buckles in the waist area to adjust to suit your size. Are you able to and is it easy for you to adjust them?
Most sailing jackets have an elasticated hem that can be tightened to prevent wind and water from entering the jacket from underneath.
Good sailing clothing should also be fitted with velcro or straps on arms and legs that can be adjusted. It should be easy and intuitive to adjust and fit your body shape perfectly. The cuffs are especially important. Do the velcro straps have the right length to close around smaller or wider wrists?
3. Additional cuff
Many sailing clothing manufacturers fit a second, internal cuff on the wrists, which is often elasticated. This is because, ideally, no water should enter here even when stretching the arms upwards. Check the fit when trying on your sailing jacket.
A good sailing jacket should have a collar that fits snugly to protect you as much as possible, but should still be comfortable. Check the fit of the collar when the hood is packed away and when it is on. When the hood is folded back in the neck, the collar will feel a little tighter. Do you feel any chafing or tightness? Compare the fit of the collar with the hood up. Is the collar still tight enough? A fleece lined collar keeps you warm and provides more comfort.
Try the hood with the jacket on. Is it long enough? Or maybe too long? Turn your head to the side. Can you move your head well and see everything, or does the hood get in the way? How easy is it to close the hood? Can you do it with one hand? If you have long hair, remember that if you have plaited hair you may need a longer hood than with loose hair. Test both ways. With some hoods you can adjust how much they cover the face.
Check to see if the sailing jacket has any extras that are important to you.This includes pockets, for example. They can be used to hold things you want to carry with you or to keep your hands warm. Some manufacturers sell sailing jackets with lined pockets. Make sure that the pockets on the jacket or sailing trousers are either watertight or have a drainage system to allow water to drain away.
Sailing clothes are available from many different manufacturers, the best known are GILL; MUSTO & MARINEPOOL. Which brand you choose for your sailing clothing depends primarily on how much money you are prepared to spend.Our SEATEC wet gear is manufactured to the highest quality and features everything you need to protect you from all conditions on the water. In April 2020, our SEATEC Coastal sailing clothing was awarded the prize for best value for money in tests of sailing clothing for coastal areas by YACHT. Clothing from well-known manufacturers often excell in terms of comfort. They can include details such as intuitively adjustable hoods that can be adjusted with one hand or fleece lined warming pockets. In return you may have to spend a little more money on these brand name sailing clothes.
The water column indicates the water permeability of sailing clothing. The higher the value, the thicker the material. However, the water column itself is not always reliable, as there are different standards, measuring procedures and test methods for determining it, and test conditions are not the same everywhere. For example, not all manufacturers test the maximum limit. Furthermore, a high water column makes little difference if the clothing is not made to a high standard and water enters the garment at the zipper or seams. Hence, the water column is only an approximate guide and should not be relied upon as a deciding factor when buying a sailing jacket.
For your own safety, but also to protect your shoes and your boat, you should always use special, technical boat shoes for sailing. The special thing about boat shoes, in particular, is their flexible soles made natural rubber. It makes sailing shoes not only waterproof, but also non-slip, so that you still have a firm foothold on deck, even on a steep incline and wet surface. The high-quality material also prevents streaks being left on the boat deck. This even applies to boat shoes with coloured soles. For beginners or cruising, classic leather boat shoes are usually sufficient. For the more sporty sailor, we recommend a trainer that holds the foot better and absorbs moisture. For colder areas, special sea boots are the most suitable choice. When going ashore you should have a second pair of shoes on board, because sailing shoes have soles that can absorb grease and oil on land, making them slippery. Find out more about choosing the right boat shoes in our boat shoe guide.