First time on a yacht: what should you pack?

First time on a yacht: what should you pack?

Should you stick to regular outdoor clothing or invest in specialised sailing gear? What practical things should you take on your first sailing trip?

Newcomers to sailing are often put off by the fact they overestimate the costs involved, find the booking process complicated, or think they need specialised sailing gear. It's a lot more inexpensive and simpler than you think. Today we'll be taking a look at clothing, shoes and other essential pieces of kit. 

You don't need sailing clothing

It's only worth buying special yachting apparel if you sail several times a year or venture into the more challenging conditions of offshore waters. Then you'll be glad to have functional clothing with a membrane that can withstand moisture, cold and especially salt. Salt can destroy clothing at record speed. 

But for a summer holiday in the Mediterranean, you can do with the functional and sports clothing you probably already have at home. At most, you should get yourself a good windbreaker or raincoat for cold weather or for serious sailing in windy conditions. But definitely forget about jeans and jeggings — the wind blows right through them, they easily get soaked through so you'll get cold and they are heavy.

For voyages in spring and autumn, outdoor clothing with a permeable membrane and reasonable water resistance will do the trick. Just rummage through your wardrobe or go to a sporting goods store. Female sailors have an advantage here, as there are a number of waterproof and windproof outdoor leggings and riding pants available on the market. Also, you can never go wrong with a wetsuit.     

YACHTING.COM TIP: Read our comprehensive to guide to yachting apparel for inshore and offshore sailing. Learn how to choose materials and layer clothing whether you're going on a relaxing summer sailing vacation, an action-packed voyage in the autumn, or an adventure in icy waters.  

Clothes hanging in the sun and drying on the deck of a fishing boat.

What do sailors wear on their feet?

First of all, they wear shoes with light soles that don't make smudges. The last thing you want to do before handing back your boat is scrubbing the deck on your knees. Footwear should be quick-drying or even waterproof. But definitely with a closed and adequately protected toe, because there are a surprising number of things you can stub your toe on when you're on a boat.   

For summer sailing, canvas trainers will suffice. Just test them at home beforehand to make sure they don't slip in the wet (the ultimate test is on a wet pedestrian crossing).

For a voyage in the spring and autumn, you'll appreciate some neoprene shoes/boots or even just a pair of wellies from home. These don't have to be made specifically for sailing. 

For rough conditions, you'll want to get pro sailing boots that are waterproof and insulate. There are a number of manufacturers out there. For example, Dubarry, Chatham, Sperry and Musto, or Baltic and Crewsaver, which we mention in our article on life jackets.

Legs of a girl in white sneakers sitting on a yacht enjoying the sunset

Keep the sails and yourself safe in the sun

The sun not only takes a toll on your sails, but also on your skin. Count on the fact that the surrounding water reflects the sun's rays, even when you're hidden beneath a bimini. Wear a hat or headscarf as much as possible to avoid sunstroke ruining your holiday. Sunglasses are practically mandatory for every crew member and we recommend you get a cord or strap to keep them firmly attached — they have a nasty habit of falling off or being blown out to sea. SPF 50 is a pretty safe bet if you use enough cream, reapply it throughout the day, and to all exposed areas. Prefer water-resistant products that protect you from both UVB and UVA rays (see the packaging for information). It's also a good idea to choose those labelled reef-safe or otherwise certified as free from substances that harm coral reefs and aquatic life (you want to make sure you have something left to discover next season while snorkelling).       

YACHTING.COM TIP: Avoid spray-on sunscreens. The wind will blow them all over the place and they can leave stains on the deck. You really don't want to lose part of your security deposit over something as silly as that. No matter what, we always recommend taking out deposit insurance anyway — it will save you money and give you peace of mind.

Detail of sunglasses on a boat at sunset.

Bungees cords, ziplock bags and other items 

We've devoted an entire article to the gear experienced sailors take on board. Here are a few more tips:

  • Don't splash out on expensive waterproof cases and backpacks. Ziplock bags work just as well and come in both document and laptop sizes. 
  • No more tripping over shoes. Wrap a bungee cord around the seat, line or wherever you can, and simply slide your shoes under it.
  • A magic cleaning sponge from the drugstore removes marks from upholstery, whether you or a previous crew made it. 
  • You won't have to wear it around the harbour, but on board a bum bag is invaluable for storing your smartphone, snacks and water bottle. You won't forget to drink (which actually happens a lot) or have to head below deck whilst heeling.
  • A Bluetooth speaker will play your tunes on deck while your smartphone remains safely in the cabin. Fancy a soundtrack to your voyage? Simply secure the speaker with a bungee cord. 

YACHTING.COM TIP: If you want to know more. For example, what documents should you have, or how much food or money to take? Read our complete guide — Sailing essentials: don't forget to pack these things.

Packing of vegetables, greens and nuts in a zipper closure on a white background

Now you know how to pack. Let's find the right boat for you!

FAQ Sailing clothing and gear