What to Pack for a Sailing Trip.

What to Pack for a Sailing Trip

Written by Zuzana Prochazka
September 30, 2023

Last Updated on October 3, 2023 by Boatsetter Team

Packing the right gear and clothing for a sailing trip can make the difference between a great and miserable outing. Believe it or not, not all sailing is created equal. So before you start packing, ask yourself these three key questions:

  1. What kind of sailboat will I be on?
  2. Where will I be sailing? What time of year?
  3. How long do I plan on being out for?

An afternoon of racing under sail in a warm climate will necessitate mostly light clothes and maybe a pair of sailing gloves while spending a week offshore in higher latitudes will require foul weather gear and extra safety items.

When sailing on a small open boat, you’ll need loads of sunscreen and a jacket while overnighting on a large sailboat with a cabin, you’ll be exposed to the elements much less. When you’re a guest, your boat host may provide life jackets, food/water, and bedding, but when you’re responsible for the boat, you may need to bring your own navigation tools, flashlights, and a way to charge devices.

Is your head reeling? Don’t you worry. Here are some pro packing tips for your upcoming sailing voyage.

Post summary:

  • Clothing checklist
  • Personal accessories checklist
  • Safety gear checklist
  • Extras

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Sailing clothing.

  • Layers– Light, quick-drying inner layers like fleeces will serve you well but avoid cotton that doesn’t dry quickly. Waterproof jackets of varying weights for outerwear offer the most options for the conditions you’ll face.
  • Full coverage clothing to prevent sunburn– You don’t need SPF-rated garments, but lightweight nylon shirts with long sleeves or rash guards may save your skin, especially in the tropics.
  • Hats– Full-brimmed hats or at least a ball cap are easy to pack. Bring a lanyard to keep it on your head in a breeze.
  • Footwear– Non-slip and non-marking shoes that can dry quickly are best so anything from flip-flops to full sailing boots may be appropriate.
  • Gloves– Pack either sailing gloves for boats with small thin lines that can dig into hands or warm gloves for cold weather sailing.
  • Change of clothes– Bring extra wear in case you get doused.

Pro tip: Pack light, there’s usually little room on a sailboat, even a large one. Don’t bring a roller bag but rather, opt for a soft-sided duffel bag that can be stowed easily and won’t damage surfaces.

Personal accessories

Sailing accessories.

  • Sunglasses– Glare from the water and sails can be brutal. Bring an extra pair and a lanyard in case they’re knocked off your face.
  • Prescription glasses (or contacts)– Pack an extra pair if either gets lost.
  • Prescription & over-the-counter medication including seasickness meds– Bring enough for the duration of the trip.
  • Sunscreen and lip balm– You can’t feel the developing sunburn when sailing in a brisk breeze so apply early and often.
  • Toiletries– If you’ll be aboard overnight or for an extended time, bring a toothbrush, soap, etc.
  • Towel– This is always useful if you get wet or just want to lay out on deck.
  • Dry bag– Bring a small one for your phone, wallet, and keys to keep your essentials dry and safe.
  • Charging cable– Most boats will have a way to charge your devices, but you may need a 12V adapter.
  • Reusable water bottle– Always bring a water bottle as it’s easy to become dehydrated, and skip the single-use plastics.

Safety gear

Sailing safety gear.

  • Lifejacket or personal floatation device (PFD) with a harness/tether– If you have your own, pack it. Otherwise, ask the captain.
  • Waterproof flashlight or headlamp– Bring your own for overnighting.
  • Sailing knife or multitool– These are great to keep in your pocket for emergencies or fixes.
  • Personal locator beacon (PLB)– Bring it if you have one but this is usually not required of beginner sailors.
  • Binoculars– These are great for keeping watch and finding distant markers.

Pro tip: If this is your first sailing trip, consider renting a sailboat with a captain. Boatsetter’s captain network is made of local experts carrying USCG-certified licenses.


Boating books.

  • Bluetooth speaker– Music is a must always. Bring your music but ask the captain before playing.
  • Nautical charts and weather apps– You can download both onto your phone to keep up with where you are and what the weather is doing. (Not sure where to start? Read this: Top 10 Best Marine Weather Apps for Boaters)
  • A Luci Light– This small, waterproof, inflatable light is great for evenings in the cockpit and packs down small so it takes up little room in your bag.
  • Snacks– Granola, protein bars, and jerky! Nuts and fruit are great. But, avoid chocolate. It will probably melt. (With food, the more the merrier so make sure to read 9 Best Boating Snacks and Tips for Cooking on a Boat)
  • Books or an e-reader– You’ll probably have little or no connectivity, so bring along unplugged entertainment for long voyages or lazy afternoons with a good book.

Pro tip: Print this blog post to use as your checklist! Or, copy/paste it onto a Word document and edit it to your needs.

The advantage of renting a sailboat on Boatsetter is when in doubt, you can message the boat owner with your questions. You can also browse the Boatsetter blog for more on Sailing.

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