What to Wear on a Sailboat: Expert Guide

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If you’re lucky enough to be invited out on a sailboat trip on a lake or ocean, dressing properly for the event is important. People often tend to think that their everyday clothes are appropriate for a boat trip, and this kind of thinking is dangerous and can lead to accidents at sea. 

What are you supposed to wear on a sailboat? Are there shoe standards, jacket standards, etc.?

How you dress for a sailboat trip requires some forethought and planning, and we are here to help you understand what to wear on a sailboat.

In this article, we will help you choose the best possible outfit based on:

  1. The importance of dressing appropriately for a trip on a sailboat
  2. Hot and cold weather outfit suggestions
  3. Tips to make your next sailing trip a good one

We’re not going to lie, you can never go wrong with white and blue stripes! But beyond that, let’s begin!


Dressing for a Sailboat Trip: Why Your Choice of Clothes Matters

boat steering girl

Comfort is key, as the saying goes. When it comes to sailing, however, comfort is not the only factor that should be considered. 

When out on the wide open waters, it is important to be prepared for any occasion or temperature. Depending on where you will be sailing, it might be necessary to take an extra set of clothes that can be put on if the weather suddenly changes. 

When out on the open waters, it is important to be prepared for any occasion or temperature.

Clothing should not be bulky, as wearing a bulky jacket or top along with a life jacket is not ideal and can cause you much discomfort. While we’re not saying you should wear skimpy tops, clothing should be lightweight, and preferably waterproof. 

Dressing for your trip should be planned in advance, and choosing the right clothes can help make your sailing trip much more comfortable and enjoyable. 

What To Wear on a Sailboat: Hot and Cold Weather Options

While many people think that you should dress for the weather, it is a better idea to dress for the water. You are, after all, in the open, and exposure to the harsh sunlight and cool breeze can be pretty uncomfortable. 

Here are a few clever ideas on how to dress for when you go out on a sailboat.

While many people think that you should dress for the weather, it is a better idea to dress for the water.

1. Hot or Warm Weather

Sailing in summer is the best, and what better way to beat the heat than to escape out onto the water on a sailboat with your friends?

Here is an idea of what you should wear:

  • Shorts and a t-shirt or leggings
  • Comfortable shoes with a rubber sole
  • A hat and sunblock

A few extras you can pack for your trip include a lightweight jacket in case the weather changes and a pair of fleece pants if you are going to be sailing into the night to enjoy the stars.

Do not be fooled by what you see on TV and in the movies. Heels are not an appropriate choice of footwear for a sailing trip, no matter how glamorous you think the experience might be. 

2. Cold or Cool Weather

Winter doesn’t mean you can’t go sailing. While the weather might be dismal, a trip on the water might be just the thing to chase those winter blues away.

Dressing for a sailing trip in winter might be challenging, but thankfully we have a few tips that can make choosing your outfit a breeze.

Here’s what to wear when the weather is cool and breezy:

  • A thermal shirt with leggings or fleece pants
  • A beanie and sunblock (yes, you can even get burned in winter, so slather that sunblock on)
  • A life jacket
  • Comfortable sneakers or boots with a rubber sole 

Add a warmer jacket and scarf into your bag, and maybe throw in a blanket for extra warmth. Watching the stars from the deck of a sailboat is simply magical, but this can quickly become an unpleasant and uncomfortable experience if you are cold and underprepared. 

Top Tips for a Great Sailing Trip

If you’ve never been out on the open water on a sailboat and don’t know what to expect, don’t worry. We have put together a short but useful list of the very best tips that can make your sailing trip a happy one. 

1. Always pop a pair of sunglasses in your bag

Come Summer or Winter, the glare of the sun’s reflection on the water can cause a bit of discomfort. Protecting your sensitive eyes is just as, if not more, important as protecting your skin from the harmful effects of the sun. So make sure you don’t forget your sunglasses! 

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2. Choose practical over pretty

Movies, magazines, and social media have skewed the image of what sailing actually is. And people are often shown wearing tight, skimpy outfits with high heels and lots of jewelry.

If your boat isn’t leaving the dock, then, by all means, wear your dress or suit with some heels! But if you’re actually going to use the boat, don’t be silly. Conditions out on the water warrant a different choice of clothes, so choose practicality over pretty. 

3. Sunblock, sunblock, sunblock

We know we mentioned sunblock in our section above, but it is such an important factor that we feel the need to reiterate it. Just as the sun reflecting off the water causes discomfort for your eyes, this same glare can cause a nasty sunburn as the surface of the water causes UV rays to bounce and reflect. Use a high-factor SPF that will protect your skin. and don’t forget about Chapstick or lip protection. 

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4. Learn the difference between lightweight and bulky

When we say lightweight, we are not suggesting that you wear a thin cotton top or cardigan. Lightweight refers to the jacket’s ability to be warm but not heavy or constricting, and these jackets are generally made using down in the lining and are semi-waterproof.

Discard that wool jacket and choose a lightweight parka or anorak for extra warmth while out on the water. 

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Just as you would choose an outfit for work or any other event, choosing the appropriate outfit for sailing is important! With a focus on lightweight yet comfortable clothing, you should not just rock up on the boat wearing jeans and a hoodie.

Dressing appropriately will ensure that you are warm, comfortable, and protected from the elements. Hopefully, the guide we have put together above will help you choose the best outfit for your next sailing trip.

Bon Voyage!