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What to Wear Guide for Fall Sailing

The Official West Coast Sailing Apparel Guide for Fall Sailing

As the days get shorter and the air temperatures cooler, the gear needed to stay dry and comfortable on the water changes. Whether you are a seasoned cold weather sailor or someone looking to extend your sailing season into the cooler shoulder seasons, check out our Fall Sailing Guide for recommended gear and layering tips to help you make the most of your time on the water.

Fall Sailing Gear Checklist:

Gear You Might Already Have:

Waterproof Spray Top

A waterproof Spray Top (sometimes called a smock top or splash top) is a versatile piece of sailing gear that works well in Fall sailing conditions. These tops typically have water resistant gaskets at neck, waist and cuff and are cut so that insulating layers can be worn underneath. Whereas in the Summer or in warm conditions you might wear a spray top over a rash guard, as conditions get colder it's common to see sailors wear them over a neoprene wetsuit or other thermal layers. The waterproof fabric helps block wind and spray, while the wetsuit or thermal layers help keep you warm underneath. Wear with a pair of spray pants (see below) for full head to toe protection, or with just a wetsuit in calmer conditions.

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Recommended Spray Tops:

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Side Note: A heavy weight thermal top works great in this application too!

Rooster and Gill make tops that blend some of the water and wind resistance of a spray top with the warmth of a thermal top. Typically these are not fully waterproof (with a few exceptions) as they do not offer the same level of waterproof fabric or seals at the wrist and neck, but are a great option for dinghy sailors as they provide a lot of warmth in one piece while allowing full mobility. A great option to consider! We like the Rooster Aquafleece range as well as the Gill Thermoshield Top.

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Waterproof Spray Pants

Like a spray top, Spray Pants (sometimes called salopettes or trousers) are waterproof and provide protection from wind and spray. The most common style is a full length waterproof pant that is chest height and has shoulder straps. It's common to see sailor wear a pair of spray pants over a wetsuit or other insulating layers, skipping the stray top when conditions are calm and to help regulate temperature.

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Recommended Spray Pants

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Neoprene Wetsuit

While it is not uncommon to see sailors using either a wetsuit or drysuit in the winter season, these pieces of gear are not recommended as your first purchase due to their lack of versatility and price. Both items are typically worn in the coldest of conditions and do not perform well for high school sailors on hot days. However, if you already own one of these pieces of gear they can come in handy on certain days. Sailing wetsuits are typically 3-5mm and come in a range of cuts. Most are reinforced at the knees and allow good flexibility. Sailing drysuits often have integrated booties and a front zipper.

Ronstan Skiff Suit

Recommended Wetsuits

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Cold Weather Gloves

If you already sail in the summer, chances are you have a pair of basic, short finger sailing gloves. While some sailors choose to wear these in colder weather, most prefer something that offers additional warmth and protection. A good cold weather sailing glove is a full glove (meaning all fingers are protected), made from a thermal material such as neoprene, and still has good grip. Every sailors tolerance for cold is different, but a good pair of warm gloves will go a long way in helping you stay comfortable and performing your best on the water.

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Recommended Cold Weather Gloves

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Warm Hat

Wearing a warm hat on a cool day is common advice for any activity, and no different for sailing! The key for being on the water is to wear a hat made of wool or other synthetic material that will keep you warm even when wet. Many 'sailing specific' hats (those made by sailing apparel companies) even repel water or float. There are lots of options and exact choice is up to the preference of each sailor so we try to carry many different hats.

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Recommended Warm Hats

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Thermal Socks

As water temperatues drop, adding a pair of thermal socks to your sailing boots is often a great way to remain comfortable. .

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Recommended Thermal Socks

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Insulating Layers

This is the one piece of gear that is least sailing specific, yet very important. Most new sailors will find something in their closet that performs well for insulation on the water. There are however a few basic points to keep in mind. Good layering starts with a good base layer, which should be lightweight and made of a natural or synthetic fiber that wicks moisture away from the skin. Mid-layers can range in thickness according to weather and should again be made of wicking natural or synthetic fibers (such as wool or fleece). It is very important that sailors avoid cotton while on the water, as cotton will loose all of its insulating properties once wet.

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Recommended Insulating Layers

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Life Jacket

In case you don't already own one, a comfortable, well fitting life jacket is a must for spending time on the water, no matter the season. This is the most import piece of gear for any sailor. Sailing specific life jackets allow a full range of arm movement and should be sleek across the upper torso. We carry a range of life jackets at multiple price points for both adult and junior sailors.

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Sailing Boots

Sailing boots should be made of neoprene or rubber and provide some ankle support in addition to insulating the foot. Footwear for the high school or college sailor should have a durable sole, be lightweight and be designed to get wet. Thankfully, we make it easy to find a pair of boots that have these features with great options from Gill, Zhik, and Rooster.

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When in doubt, ask for advice!

The staff at West Coast Sailing has years of experience sailing in many conditions and talks to sailors around the world every day. We can certainly recommend specific gear for your conditions, boat type, or general sailing venue. This is meant to be a guide for what we commonly recommend, but is not an exhaustive list. Talking with other local sailors about what works and what does not work is also a great way to build your sailing kit.

Reach out to our team anytime by calling or texting 1-503-285-5536 or sending an email to info@westcoastsailing.net

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