What to Wear Guide for Spring Sailing

Gear up for Spring sailing with the experts at West Coast Sailing!

Spring is a great time of the year to get out on the water. Depending on where you are sailing, this might be bright sunny days with a brisk breeze, cloudy days with rain, or something in between. The key to gearing up for Spring sailing is proper layering and being prepared for changing conditions. It is often too warm for a drysuit but too cold for your typically summer sailing kit, so pieces like smock tops and waterproof trousers, wetsuits, thermal layers, and warm gloves will help you dress for the conditions and stay comfortable on the water. Below is our checklist for spring sailing which includes a list of recommended gear you might consider for the sailing season. 

Spring Sailing Gear Checklist

Life Jacket

A comfortable, well fitting life jacket is a must for spending time on the water, no matter the season. Sailing specific life jackets allow a full range of arm movement and should be sleek across the upper torso. Youth or scholastic sailors should consider USCG approved life jackets while some adult sailors prefer buoyancy aids (not Coast Guard approved). We carry a range of life jackets at multiple price points for both adult and junior sailors.


Our top picks: Zhik USCG Approved Life Jacket, Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket, and Rooster Side Zip Buoyancy Aid

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Waterproof Spray Top

Many dinghy sailors wear a spray top which is both waterproof and windproof. Sailing tops typically have water resistant gaskets at neck, waist and cuff and are cut so that insulating layers can be worn underneath. The waterproof material can be sticky against the skin in warm weather, so it's a smart idea to wear your spray top over a rash guard or UV technical shirt to improve breathability and to keep you comfortable in warm weather or over an insulating layer in colder conditions. It's not uncommon to see spray gear worn over a wetsuit as well, particularly for wet boats like the Laser or RS Aero.


Our top picks: Gill Pro Top, Ronstan Regatta Smock, and Rooster Aquafleece Top

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Waterproof Spray Pants

Sailing pants should be waterproof and windproof and cover the sailor from the ankle to chest. Pants should not be excessively baggy and should be comfortable to wear when standing up as well as crouched. The classic 'salopette' is a full length waterproof pant that is chest height and has shoulder straps. This is the most common type of spray pant used by dinghy sailors looking for wind and spray protection. We love the Gill Pro Salopette, which is available in both men's and women's versions and pairs great with any of the spray tops recommended above.


Our top picks: Gill Pro Salopettes, Rooster Hi Fit Trousers, and Zhik Aroshell Salopettes

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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 dinghy saukirs should have a durable sole, be lightweight and be designed to get wet so that you can launch your boat off a beach. Thankfully, we make it easy to find a pair of boots that have these features with great options from Gill, Zhik, and Rooster.


Our top picks: Rooster All Purpose Boots, Gill Aero Side Zip Boots, and Zhik High Cut Boot 270

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Gloves & Hat

Sailing gloves are typically made from leather, or synthetic leather, and help keep hands warm as well as provide extra grip for holding ropes all day. We offer a range of gloves from Gill, Zhik, and Rooster in both short finger (all finger tips open) and full finger (middle three fingers enclosed) styles. A popular alternative is rubber dipped gardening gloves such the Atlas brand. Sailors should also consider a nice wool or fleece hat for colder sailing days, as much body heat can be lost without one. A regular cap is great for warm, sunny days.


Our top picks: Rooster Combi GloveGill Three Season Glove, and Gill Championship Glove.

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Our top picks: Rooster SuperTherm Beanie, Gill Regatta Cap, Rooster Aquafleece Neck Gaiter

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Skiff Suit or Neoprene Pants

While it is not uncommon to see sailors using a drysuit or heavy wetsuit n the winter season, look for something lighter and with more layering flexibility for the spring season. For core and leg protection, check out a neoprene Skiff Suit, which is essentially a sleeveless wetsuit. We have a number of options that are great for Spring and Fall sailing. If you already own a warm thermal top, a pair of neoprene wetsuit pants can offer great leg protection and warmth against cold water. Which one works best depends on the boat you're sailing and the other gear you may already own.


Our top picks: Zhik Microfleece X Skiffsuit, Rooster Thermaflex Long John and Ronstan Skiff Suit

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Our top picks: Rooster ThermaFlex Leggings, and SEA Neoprene Skiff Pants

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Thermal Top & Leggings

A solid set of base layers makes it easy to adjust your kit for changing conditions. 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.


Our top picks: Zhik Hydrophobic Fleece Top, Gill Hydrophobe Top, and Ronstan Thermal Top

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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

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