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What to wear sailing – essential guide and packing list

A sailing holiday offers luxury surroundings, delicious food, stunning views and the peace and privacy to really relax and unwind. But what should you wear sailing? Read on…

What to wear for sailing holiday

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It’s hardly surprising that sailing holidays are growing in popularity right now. You can choose from a wide selection of luxury sailing holidays, family sailing holidays or sailing holidays for singles. You might even consider chartering a yacht for a small group of family or friends.

I really could have used a sailing packing list when we went sailing in Croatia.  While researching my trip I found there were quite a few things I hadn’t considered and thought any readers planning a yacht holiday might find a post on what to wear sailing useful.

So, if you’re thinking of booking a sailing holiday this summer, this packing list will help you get organised. It includes tips on what to wear, sailing gear to take with you and a few extras that you might not have thought of. I’ve included a free printable which you can download at the end of this post which will help you too.

yacht sailing holiday in the MediterraneanSailing in Menorca

What to wear sailing in summer

What to wear sailing depends a lot on the weather and time of year. As our trip is in July and we’ll be sailing in the Adriatic the weather is likely to be warm and sunny. I’ll be checking the forecast shortly beforehand.

This post covers what you’ll need to pack if your trip is to the Caribbean or in southern Europe during summer. The weather should be warm and temperate. I’ve sailed quite a few times in the English Channel and even in summer it can be cold and choppy. What to wear sailing in cold weather is a whole different story. Think foul weather gear and thermal base layers – that’s for another post.

If your sailing holiday is between May and September, you won’t need to pack much in the way of specialist sailing clothes. You certainly don’t need to rush out and buy a special outfit for sailing, because you’ll probably have most of what you need already.

What to wear on-board

Choose lightweight casual sailing clothes for on-board attire like t-shirts, shorts and leggings. It’s also a good idea to pack a few light layers in case of cooler weather, and a fleece, especially if you’re sailing at the start or end of the season and for evenings.

You don’t need to buy a specialist sailing jacket unless you’re planning to do a lot of sailing in the future, but it’s a good idea to take a wind and waterproof jacket on board with you. A hood is useful too but make sure it’s adjustable so as not to affect visability. If you do want to invest in a good sailing jacket, brands to look out for include Tribord, Musto and Gill.

Your sailboat will provide life jackets.

Sailing outfit - woman in jacket and visorWhat to wear sailing

Gill sailing gloves are a good investment to protect your hands from developing calluses. They’ll also guard against rope burn if you’re going to be hands-on and learning how to sail during your trip.

You’ll need a hat or cap to help protect your hair from the drying effects of the wind, sun and sea water. A sunhat with a strap is less likely to blow off your head if it gets squally.

Polarised sunglasses are a must and a glasses lanyard to keep them from flying off into the ocean on a gusty day will save you losing a loved pair of shades and having to fork out for a new pair in the next port.

Finally, don’t forget to pack 2-3 swimsuits or bikinis so that you’re ready to take a dip in the ocean or jump on a paddle board. Check with your yacht company if snorkelling equipment is provided.

Footwear – what shoes to wear sailing

You don’t need to rush out and buy sailing shoes if you don’t want to, but you will need to take some closed toe, non-slip shoes for safety on board. Deck shoes or sports shoes are ideal but any shoes you wear on board should have a rubber bottom that is light in colour – dark rubber soles can mark the deck and the cost of any damage deducted from your rental deposit.

I use my Superga pumps which also double up as comfy shoes for day exursions, walking and cycling.

If you do decide to buy specialist sailing footwear, the best sailing shoes brands include Dubarry, Chatham, Sperry and Musto deck shoes.

sailing shoes - what to wear sailing

Day shoes will need to be removed before you board the boat to stop any gravel or dirt scratching the deck. You may want some flip-flops which are handy to slip into when you board or just go barefoot while the boat is in harbour.

Teva sandals are also a good option and I love my Teva Zymic Sandals which are perfect for sightseeing and are waterproof. Shoes are often left in a basket by the gangway to change in/out of when boarding and disembarking.


For evenings you might want to pack a couple of smarter non sailing outfits if you head to shore and eat in a restaurant. Linen pants and a top work well but evenings are cooler on the coast so have an extra layer to hand like a denim jacket or wrap. Generally the sailing community is pretty laid back and casual.

For daytime shore excursions it’s a good idea to pack a pair of walking shoes or trainers so that you explore in comfort. These can double up for use on deck if they have light coloured soles.

Sailing Holiday Croatia

What to wear sailing

So, what to wear sailing for one week?  I would suggest the following packing list of sailing. Scroll down to download the free printable packing list.

  • 3 pairs of shorts
  • 9 t-shirts / vest tops / tops
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 1 fleece
  • 1 waterproof, windproof jacket
  • 2 long sleeved shirts
  • 1 pair of linen pants
  • 2 dresses
  • 3 swimming costumes / bikinis
  • 1 cap and/or hat with a strap
  • sunglasses plus lanyard
  • underwear
  • nightwear
  • deck shoes
  • flip flops
  • shoes for shore excursions
  • sailing gloves

Medication and Toiletries

As well as knowing what to wear sailing there are other important things to pack in the way of gear and essentials.

There should be a first aid kit provided on your yacht, but you might want to pack insect repellent and antihistamine cream or gel for insect bites, alongside your usual toiletries and any regular medication.

Travel sickness bands or pills can also be useful to have on hand, although you’re unlikely to need them. Any regular medication should also be packed.

When you’re considering what to wear sailing don’t forget to protect your skin. Sun protection with a good SPF is vital to protect your skin from the sun’s rays, but make sure that it is ‘reef safe’ so that it won’t damage aquatic life. I recommend Altruist reef-safe sunscreen which is excellent value for money and comes in factors 15, 30 and 50. You should also take a lip balm with sunscreen and after-sun which will help to moisturise your skin.

Insect or mosquito repellent is a good idea if you’re prone to bites as you’ll be near the water in the evenings.

Pack toiletries including toothbrush and toothpaste and any make-up. I keep the mini hotel toiletry bottles and decant my favourite products into them to save space. Ensure your toiletries are ocean friendly. Wet wipes are handy too but ensure they’re biodegradable and eco-friendly. Don’t forget a space-saving hanging toiletry bag to put it all in.

  • Reef-safe SPF
  • Aftersun
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • First aid kit
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Seasickness bands or tablets
  • Regular medication
  • Toiletries including toothbrush/paste
  • Make-up
  • Tissues
  • Wet wipes (biodegradable)
  • Clothes pegs
  • Zip-lock bags

Boats in MenorcaHarbourside in Menorca

Gear and gadgets

You may need a 12v car charger for charging phones etc on board – check with the yacht company beforehand. If not, you’ll need the right travel adapter to allow you to use appliances and charge electricals on-board.

A waterproof phone case will protect your phone from water damage and also let you take some cool underwater photos.

A dry bag can be useful for protecting your gear when you’re getting a dinghy to shore to explore secluded coves. Dinghy rides can be notoriously wet.

A reusable water bottle is really useful for taking safe drinking water with you when you head to shore. It also means you can avoid buying single-use plastic bottles. I love my Hydro Flask – the neck is big enough to fit ice cubes into and the flask keeps liquid cold for hours no matter how hot the weather is.

You may need to take beach towels for sunbathing on deck, as they’re not always provided. I’ll be taking my quick-drying towel which folds up into a small neat pouch and takes up very little space. Tesalateoffer some fun designs which you can see in my review of their quick-drying beach towel.

You’ll need a daypack to hold all this for your shore excursions.

Appliances like hairdryers won’t always work due to the boat’s low voltage. Pack a travel hairdryer – these are specially designed to work on lower voltages and some are dual voltage for different countries. even better, let your hair dry naturally for a beach hair look.

  • 12v car charger or power bank
  • Travel adaptors
  • Travel hairdryer
  • Waterproof phone case
  • Dry bag
  • Water flask
  • Quick drying beach towel
  • Binoculars
  • Camera gear / GoPro / charging cables / SD cards
  • Daypack
  • Pack of cards

>>> Read more Croatia Northern Explorer itinerary and review


Obviously you’ll need to take your passports and booking information, and don’t leave home without your travel insurance to protect you and your trip.

If you’re planning to drive during your holiday, you’ll need to take your driving licence with you. Don’t forget to check if you need any other documentation such as an International Driving Permit. Remember to bring your sailing log and certificates along if you’ll be sailing the yacht yourself.

Cala Galdana - what to see in MenorcaWhat to wear sailing in Menorca

One final tip

Once you’ve picked out everything you need for your sailing holiday, pack it all up in a good backpack or soft holdall. These are much easier than hard suitcases to stow and will save valuable space in your cabin. Packing cubes are also useful for keeping clothes organised. Check out my review of the best backpacks for travel.

I hope this helps you decide what to wear sailing and gives you the heads up on what to pack. Dig out your nautical stripes, download your free printable packing list and pin this post for later.

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What to wear for sailing holiday