Gear Guide for Beginner Sailors and Enthusiasts

By: Equipment

Deciding to sail means you will embark on an adventure that will last a lifetime. It will change your family dynamic, and you will soon embrace the lifestyle.  If you’re just starting out, having the right gear is essential. Here’s a detailed guide to help you and your family select the best sailing gear to start your sailing adventures. Each recommendation comes with possible uses and the type of conditions they are suitable for, catering to both novice sailors and sailing enthusiasts.

When choosing your sailing gear, consider the specific weather conditions of your sailing area, your family’s preferences, and the intended use of the gear. By investing in high-quality gear from reputable brands, you and your family can enjoy the sailing lifestyle safely and comfortably.

1. Sailing Jackets:

Why you need it:

  • Lightweight jackets: Perfect for sunny days and mild weather, providing protection against light rain and wind.
  • Insulated jackets: Suitable for colder days, offering warmth and protection against wind and rain.
  • Versatile jackets: Ideal for everyday wear and occasional sailing, providing a balance of style and functionality.

PARTNER SPOTLIGHT:
Florence Marine X: A light packable jacket is a good option when you have limited space but may potentially need a jacket when conditions change.  The Florence Marine X parachute ultralight packable jacket is the perfect choice for travel.

OTHER GREAT CHOICES:

  • Gill Marine: Gill offers a wide range of sailing jackets suitable for various weather conditions. Look for their lightweight jackets for mild weather and insulated options for colder days. The Pilot Jacket is ideal for the beginner sailor as it is light, protects against the wind, and can double as a rain jacket when you have to go into the office. 
  • Helly Hansen: Helly Hansen provides waterproof and windproof jackets that are ideal for rougher waters and colder climates. However, their Crew jacket is a great lightweight jacket for daysails and as a mid-layer piece of sailing attire. 

2. Sailing Hats:

Why you need it:

  • Wide-brimmed hats: Offer maximum sun protection for your face, ears, and neck, making them perfect for sunny days.
  • Breathable hats: Keep your head cool in warm weather, preventing overheating during prolonged periods on the water.

PARTNER SPOTLIGHT:

Brist/American Sailing Hats: American Sailing has partnered with Brist to craft unique designs to meet the demands and personalities of sailors — from our ripstop Racer’s Hat to our Fair Winds Hat — there’s something for everyone. Protect yourself with the latest from American Sailing.

OTHER GREAT CHOICES:

  • Columbia: A packable hat is ideal when you want sun protection to travel with you. This hat offers UPF 30 protection, and it looks good.

3. Sailing Gloves:

Why you need it:

  • Full-finger gloves: Provide full hand protection and are suitable for colder weather, offering warmth and grip.
  • Fingerless gloves: Offer dexterity for delicate tasks while protecting your palms and the back of your hands, ideal for warm weather sailing.

PARTNER SPOTLIGHT:

Zhik: For high performance sailing, the Elite Gloves, made from Amara ® fabrics with PU paneling, provides unrivalled levels of abrasion resistance. The unique gecko style silicon palm provides exceptional grip for maneuverability in the wet, and moulded impact protection protects your knuckles. It’s the ultimate high-performance glove for yachting and dingy sailing.

OTHER GREAT CHOICES:

  • Gill Marine: Gill provides sailing gloves with reinforced palms for durability and improved grip, making them suitable for various sailing maneuvers. These long-finger gloves have plenty of palm protection and an index finger cutout to aid in using mobile devices. 
  • West Marine: West Marine offers a variety of gloves designed specifically for marine use, ensuring a comfortable grip and protection against blisters. Their short-finger gloves have a comfortable stretch nylon coupled with a reinforced suede that makes them effective and comfortable.

4. Sailing Shoes:

Why you need it:

  • Non-marking rubber-soled shoes: Provide excellent grip on wet surfaces, preventing slips and falls on the boat deck.
  • Quick-drying shoes: Ideal for water activities, allowing your feet to stay dry and comfortable during and after sailing.

PARTNER SPOTLIGHT:

Zhik: These sailing shoes are designed for different conditions, ensuring excellent traction and support on wet decks.  The Zhik Fuse is a sailing shoe that doesn’t mind getting wet and will hold well against the deck in serious sailing conditions. They drain fast and look good. 

OTHER GREAT CHOICES:

  • Columbia: Columbia offers versatile sailing shoes suitable for different weather conditions, providing grip and comfort during sailing activities. Their Drainmaker IV Water Shoe is perfect for everyday use and for getting shocked while on the water.  The shoe is light, grips tights, and feels dry even when wet.
  • Helly Hansen: The Skagen F-1 Offshore is a hybrid shoe looks great and is an ideal shoe for a high-performance racer as well as a new sailor. Quick drying, non-marking sole and lightweight make these a great shoe option. 

5. Sailing Bags:

Why you need it:

  • Dry bags: Keep your valuables, electronics, and spare clothing dry and safe, protecting them from water splashes and rain.
  • Gear bags: Provide ample storage space for all your sailing gear, allowing you to keep everything organized and easily accessible during your sailing trips.

PARTNER SPOTLIGHT:

Ronstan: The Dry Roll Top Crew bag is big, water-tight, and versatile. This is your dry bag and your travel bag. Outside pockets are easy to access, and it is rugged enough for a long trip but lightweight for a daysail.

OTHER GREAT CHOICES:

  • West Marine: West Marine provides a variety of sailing bags designed specifically for marine use, offering practical features for sailors such as waterproof compartments and durable materials.  They make the best, most affordable bag available. Their Clear Dry Bags can be found for less than $20 and can be used to carry valuables when they need to stay dry or groceries when you forget a bag at the market.
  • Gill Marine: The Voyager Duffel is the piece of sailing equipment that you didn’t know you needed. I use mine to put all electronic devices in before we set sail.  It keeps them all dry, and nobody can check emails during our sailing day!  Durable and has enough capacity to fit the essentials for any day sail.

6. Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs):

Why you need it:

  • Life jackets: Ensure that every family member wears a properly fitted life jacket while on the boat, providing essential buoyancy and safety in case of emergencies.
  • Inflatable PFDs: Offer comfort and freedom of movement, making them suitable for activities like kayaking and paddleboarding in addition to sailing.

PARTNER SPOTLIGHT:

Spinlock: Spinlock is a leader in PFD technology and offers some of the best options on the market. Their new Foil PFD is sleek, with a low profile cut for comfort and a front zip for easy wear. This model has two front pockets and coated materials to reduce water absorption. 

OTHER GREAT CHOICES:

  • Gill Marine: Gill offers a range of Coast Guard-approved side zip PFD that fits well and you can depend on to keep you buoyant in the event that you go into the water. This PFD has shoulder and waist adjustments. that make for a comfortable fit. 
  • West Marine: West Marine has a large number of PFDs to choose from, and your best prices will most likely come from this large retailer. Their Sail Medalists are affordable and highly effective for beginning sailors and water enthusiasts.

New equipment and gear are not imperative to enjoy sailing, but they can make the new experiences more comfortable. Safety equipment is essential, so the proper PFD and gloves should be considered. Other gear that make for a great adventure and upgraded experiences can include binoculars, rigging knives (get one with a marlin spike to help with stubborn knots!), GPS devices like the Garmin In-Reach Mini, a great pair of shades, and towels/blankets like the cool ones from our friends at Nomadix.

Like most sports, the gear options are truly endless and also super addictive, so have fun with it, make it your own, and soon you’ll find a sailing style that’s truly your own.

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