What to Pack For a Sailing Adventure

Often this seemingly straightforward question can completely befuddle an aspiring sailor.


Many of us are now so used to packing for a short break or holiday that it seems alien to struggle when heading off on a sailing adventure. So, many things that onshore are essentials, on board are just irrelevant when heading to sea, especially for a hands-on sailing trip. When at sea the weather is the driving factor and on a single trip you may encounter everything from blazing sun to torrential rain and everything in between, warm sunny days and chilly night watches, fashion is not a factor, it is all about practical, lightweight and functional. 

The Sailing “Key Wardrobe Pieces”

Your sailing packing doesn’t need to be high-end or expensive, it does need to keep you warm or cool, dry and comfortable and fit into an unfeasibly small space preferably stowed in a waterproof bag. In the words of glossy coffee table magazines and their how-to-pack articles, a few “key wardrobe pieces” will be the staples of your packing and no, they will not colour coordinate or need artful accessories. But they will take you from day to night and then the next day and next night and probably the following day and night after that as well. 

When at sea you very quickly realise it is NOT going to be a problem if you wear the same thing again and again and again ….. 

You will be focusing on your incredible surroundings and the clear night sky full of stars, the dolphins playing on the bow or concentrating on mastering the art of trimming or helming and chatting with your crew mates over a well-earned steaming mug of hot chocolate at the end of your watch. You will be thankful that you packed light but right, without loads of clutter to confuse. Satisfied sleep comes easily, when tired at the end of a watch and it is time to snuggle into your sleeping bag and there are no choices to make, you only have 3 t-shirts with you, and they are all the same and the one you are wearing is only 4 days on and still dry.

My suggested KEY WARDROBE pieces for a 2- 3 week trip:

- Foul weather gear - many people have their own ‘foulies’ for use in bad weather – if you do NOT have suitable waterproof outer and salopettes, contact us so we can arrange to have these on board for you.

- Sailing Boots (Good hiking boots also work if you don’t have those) and deck shoes – Crocs are fantastic in every situation on deck and below deck on shore and even out clubbing J

- Sunglasses (Cheap as they may go overboard)

- Sun cream (even out of summer season)

- Wash bag & Towel (ideally a quick drying, travel towel)

- Headtorch (Red Light Preferable)

- Good sleeping bag & travel pillow ( I suggest an inflatable camping pillow) Avoid ‘down’ sleeping bags which will get damp – look for a marine or outdoor sleeping bag with man-made fibre. You can also put a regular camping sleeping bag, inside a waterproof / Gortex ‘bivvy’ bag as an alternative.

- 5 pairs of socks minimum – Merino wool is best

- 2x Merino Thermal underwear

- 2 other thin long-sleeved tops (Running or Hiking clothing is perfect) – even on ‘hot’ legs, we recommend long sleeves as protection against the sun.

- 2x Hiking Trousers & Shorts

- 2x Fleece

- Body Warmer (the extra night-time layer)

- Woolly hat (Cheap as it may go overboard)

- Wide brimmed hat.

- 1 set of street clothes to wear in port (Keep in a plastic bag)

- Soft kit bag, ideally a dry bag for easy storage...no suitcases!

- USB powerbank for charging items such as a phone/ camera, but note these are generally not waterproof and are carried at your own risk

- Personal Sailing Logbook (if you have one)

Good High-Factor Sunscreen Goes a Long Way

In the words of Baz Luhrman’s ‘Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen’, BTW I totally love that song and often try to live by Baz’s random monologue of rules. Good high-factor sunscreen is top priority for your packing at sea and don’t forget to apply it even on seemingly cloudy days. Any of you who know me will know I shunned convention, as a 50 something, I heard Baz say DO something every day that scares you and sailed around the world in crocs….. I rest my case. Hx

Ready to pack your bags and head out on an unforgettable sailing trip? Discover our sailing adventures here.