Be prepared for all weather with functional boating clothing.
Finally enjoying your favourite pastime again. You feel the sun on your face, the wind in your hair, and can taste the salt on your lips. But such perfect sailing conditions are not always a reality. As a sailor you have to be flexible. Because after all, you don't want to freeze or get wet with heavy swell, rain and wind. The saying "There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing" is nowhere more true than in water sports.
Typical oilskins are subdivided into two types of clothing: Coastal and Offshore. More information about the differences between Coastal & Offshore sailing clothing can be found in our sailing clothing guide. Which sailing clothing is the right one for you depends on a number of very different things. 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!
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.
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. 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 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!
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
Kneel down and move 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. Adjustment options of sailing jackets & sailing trousers
Good sailing clothing should always be adjustable to fit your 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 tucked in the neck and when the hood 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. These include 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. Well-known manufacturers often offer extra 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.
High-quality sailing clothing is only as good as what you wear underneath. You should never wear jeans under your oilskin, because not only are they not breathable, but their coarse seams and rivets will ruin the inner mesh on sailing trousers. Go for high-quality functional underwear that absorbs sweat and carries it away to the outside and a warming fleece or softshell middle layer. You can find out everything about the different layers of sailing clothing in our sailing clothing guide.
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 soles, which are made of flexible or natural rubber. This 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.