Sailing during wintery conditions can be a challenging but rewarding experience. Many sailors participate in what they call “frostbite” races, which are a great way to get a feel for the experience and to test your skills if you plan to sail long-term in the cold. To properly prepare for these races or sailing excursions, it is important to have the right gear to keep you warm and protected from the elements.
One of the most important pieces of gear for cold weather sailing is a drysuit or wetsuit. A drysuit offers 100% waterproof protection and is fully submersible, sealing around the wrists and neck to keep you dry on the inside. This type of suit is ideal for the coldest conditions, as it allows you to layer up underneath for added warmth. Wetsuits, on the other hand, are generally cheaper than drysuits and are designed for getting wet. However, some brands of wetsuits can be used to keep you warm, especially if they are thicker. The choice between a drysuit and a wetsuit will depend on your personal preferences and the conditions you will be sailing in.
In addition to a drysuit or wetsuit, it is also important to wear base layers to supplement your outer layer. These base layers help keep your core body temperature stable and can be made of natural or synthetic materials that wick moisture away from your skin. For colder temperatures, fleece or wool materials are ideal. Avoid cotton, as it loses its efficiency of keeping warm when it gets wet.
Another great option for keeping warm on the top half of your body is a thermal top. These are similar to wetsuits but only cover the top half of your body. Thermal tops provide the same benefits as a full wetsuit but allow for more freedom of movement. They also trap a minimal amount of moisture to the skin to keep an insulating effect. Wearing a base layer underneath a thermal top on cold days can also help.
Heavy-duty gloves are also essential for cold weather sailing. These gloves provide protection for your hands from wear and tear and should be waterproof and breathable. It’s important to find gloves that are not too bulky, but provide enough warmth. It’s also a good idea to have a backup pair of gloves, such as wool socks, that can breathe while you move around.
A thermal hat is also essential for keeping your head warm and protected. Thermal sailing hats have a few layers to retain your body heat and the outer layer should be waterproof. A plain sock cap can also be worn if your adventure will not be as wet.
Thermal socks are another important piece of gear for cold weather sailing. These socks are usually heavy-duty and a few millimeters thick, keeping your feet dry and warm. It’s also a good idea to bring a few pairs of wool socks on board as a backup.
Sailing boots are a must-have for any sailor, regardless of the time of year. These boots are usually light, comfortable to walk in, and have great traction even in wet conditions. They should also have some sort of strap that can be tied around your leg or ankle to keep water or cold out. If you can’t find a good sailing boot that you like, you can always look for ones that are similar to hiking boots, as long as they are not bulky and are waterproof.
Finally, a life jacket is an essential piece of gear for any sailor. It’s important to find one that is comfortable and fits well, so that you can wear it for long periods of time. Look for a life jacket that has a variety of features such as a whistle, a strobe light, a harness, and a pocket or clip to hold your favorite sailing knife.