You’ll bring too much clothing, especially if you’re planning tropical sailing. You might also bring the wrong kind. Offshore clothing is not the same as what you wear in the summer on land.
I brought too much. My husband brought almost nothing and still brought more than he wore. Once we had been out a week we were salty / sweaty and didn’t change clothes very often – our bodies were dirtier and saltier than the clothes! Once it got warm I mostly wore a bathing suit and an oversized shirt for sun protection (and a hat and sunglasses of course). Until we got to shore my shorts and tops were not that useful. My husband wore as little as possible, sometimes slipping on a pair of nylon shorts (thank goodness, or I wouldn’t have any pictures I could share!).
And women – if you’re not the type to wear skimpy two piece bathing suits, get some less skimpy ones for offshore anyway. Tankinis, dress-kinis, blousons, any of these work much better than your one piece slenderizers that take 10 minutes to pull on – when you’re not sweaty or wet. Save those for the marina pool, or toss ’em entirely. I know, I was a slender-tunic addict as well. The Shore Club mail-order tankinis are also good for the larger woman – comfortable, dry fast, buy the top and bottom separately … love ’em. You may want to remove excess padding to further speed drying times. Prana and Athleta have great separates for smaller folks.
For the North Pacific or other cool, wet sailing – more layers is better, but you still don’t need more than two or three pieces. Wear layers under the foulies – just as you’d expect. But make those layers polyester fleece, not cotton! Whenever you’ll be crossing cold or wet oceans you’ll be tempted to wear jeans and cotton sweatshirts. This is a bad idea. Leave your cotton at home – especially heavy materials like jeans and sweatshirts. Or put them in large zip locks and don’t take them out until you’re in harbor. These heavy cottons soak up salt and water and never dry. Synthetics don’t seem to soak up odors, sweat, moisture or salt – and when you do wash them they wash easily with very little water and dry quickly. The most comfortable, easy-to-maintain clothing I brought were the sports / camping items – those shirts and shorts that runners and backpackers use – light and synthetic. These work well for cruising.
What Clothing / Materials to bring
- Polyester fleece (“Polar fleece” is one brand) for staying warm, including blankets. Wool socks are fine, too. Get some great fleece pants and tops for under your foulies.
- Polyester, nylon, microfiber, for staying cool. The brands advertised as “quick-dry” or “technical” clothing usually are good, if expensive. Look for sales and remember you don’t need many pieces. PowerDry, Cool Max, Dri-FIT, tencel are some brand names. Silk works, too! I also like the “Swim Tees” or “Rash Guards“. They are comfortable, soft, cool, good in or out of water and also provide sun protection.
- For towels – microfiber or waffle-weave microfiber works well. For pets, try Soggy Doggy.
- NOT cotton!
Test Offshore Clothing Materials Before You Leave
If you are leaving for your first offshore trip, wash and hang-dry the clothes you are thinking of bringing. Notice the differences in drying times. Those with shorter drying times have a greater chance of drying before the next squall hits, and they generally will not get as sweaty when you wear them either. If you are thinking of buying more than one of an article or material, buy one and try washing and drying it by hand before you buy the second.
How much offshore clothing do I need?
This is what I’ll bring next time for a start in the North Pacific to Hawaii, three to four week trip (besides standard foul weather gear) with the first week chilly and wet:
- 2-3 long sleeve polyester/nylon shirts – preferably swim tee/rash guard types that are good in cold or hot weather and have high SPF factors
- fleece jacket and fleece vest (polyester fleece)
- 1 or 2 polyester fleece pants, draw-string type
- thin silk or long-underwear type for top and bottom base layer
- one top and bottom just for sleeping in during cold weather, so it doesn’t get sweaty
- 2-3 tops with or without sleeves made of polyester / nylon / technical clothing material. Here are some reasonably priced polyester shirts.
- 2-3 shorts or crops made of polyester / nylon / technical clothing material
- 2 two-piece quick dry bathing suits
- 5-8 wool or fleece socks (smartwool is really nice – look for sales and if you’re a woman don’t hesitate to check the men’s – sometimes they’re cheaper)
If your trip doesn’t have the cold/wet component you can reduce the number of socks, maybe even skip the long underwear. You also may only need 1 fleece pants and either fleece vest or jacket, not both. The thin light fleece jackets are great for cooler tropical evenings.
How to Store Clothing and Linens while offshore
Pack anything you won’t be using right away in zip locks especially extra sheets and shore clothes. Dryer cloths in an attractive NATURAL scent (To me Mrs Meyers seems less chemically-smelling than other brands) helps keep them dry and fresh-smelling as well.
In week three of our Pacific transit, when I pulled fresh, DRY, lavender-smelling sheets out and replaced the salty, damp sheets we had been sleeping on, there was much rejoicing! What a pleasant change that was. This time I’ll be tempted to bring a third set of sheets… but space limitations may quash that temptation. If we have the water maker we are planning to install I could wash the first set, but our limited water for our last trip prevented that.
Bringing the right type and amount of clothing will make your offshore trip much more pleasant. Learn from our mistakes – avoid the piles of damp jeans and sweatshirts that hung in our cabin for weeks. Good offshore clothing that helps you stay dry will also keep you warmer when the weather is cold, and less damp and itchy when the weather is hot. Start looking for those polyester / nylon pieces now whenever they’re on sale and put them away until you leave. But most of all, don’t bring too much – you won’t change clothes as often or wear as many clothes as you do on shore.