Layering is key when sailing. You have to have the right number and type of layers to be comfortable, right down to your skivvies. None of that will matter much though if it gets soaked in a squall or from hiking out while splashing through cold waves. In your sailing clothing kit bag, you need a good waterproof layer. The top layer keeps the other layers dry so they work properly. So what should you choose?
Waterproof layers come in many forms but usually, you’re going to choose a top, and a bottom. In some cases in really cold conditions you might choose a single piece drysuit, but personally, I don’t want to sail anywhere that would be required! We are also going to skip neoprene in this discussion because neoprene is not really considered a waterproof layer, although some would argue that the newest stuff out there is just as good.
Your top is either going to be either a coat, with seals at the edges, a high collar, and hood or it might be a spray top, also with seals at the wrist, waist, and neck, but more form fitting and will be a pullover. Coats are more common on bigger boats where you might be wearing it or might not, depending on the weather and the sea state. Spray Tops are more common for dinghy sailors who just get wet because they are in a dinghy so you aren’t in and out of it as much. See our post on Waterproof Tops for specifics.
The bottom of your waterproof ensemble will usually fall into one of two categories. Either you’re going to wear some sort of overall (called by several different names like salopettes, hi-fit trousers, or bibs) or you’re going to opt for a more casual waterproof trouser. In either case, they should be reinforced at the knees so they can take some abuse on deck and have pockets enough for your liking. If you opt for the waterproof trousers, make sure your top more than covers the top of the trousers. No fun is had with a wet backside all day because water got in there!
Finally, your footwear is important as well. There are many options when it comes to footwear. From trainers that let the water pass through them to calf high waterproof boots. You are most likely going to wind up with some sort of high-top boot, ensuring that the top of the boot is covered generously by your trousers. Your trousers should have a gather at the bottom. Either just a full one or one on the inside with a sort of lining to prevent water from backing up into your pants. This should cover your boots.
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