41 Essentials You’ll Be Glad to Have on Your Sailing Packing List

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Ariel view of sailing catamaran in blue water with swimmer beside it

You’re going on a sailing trip! Of course, we think this is a fantastic way to spend a vacation – the beaches, saltwater in your hair, and wind in your face will melt the stress away.

But what if you don’t know what to pack? Don’t stress. We’re seasoned sailors here to help!

First, think about the clothes you need for an average vacation. Now consider that you’ll be on a boat with limited space. You’ll want to take the bare minimum but still plan for several situations and types of weather.

With our sailing packing list, you’ll be ready for any adventure on the water! We’ve included everything from the best sailing clothes to the handiest personal gear, so you’ll be prepared to relax and enjoy your trip.


Clothes for Sailing Trip

If you’re sailing in the tropics, make sure your clothing is lightweight and quick-drying. These features will allow you to stay cool in warm climates while protecting you from the sun. Remember, even these climates can still be cool at night.

woman standing on bow of catamaran in sailing clothes

Below are the clothing items you’ll need for most tropic or mild sailing climates.

  1. TANK TOPS OR TEES. Opt for tees and tanks that are synthetic material or a synthetic blend. 100% cotton is the enemy onboard a boat – it’s not breathable and takes forever to dry if it gets wet.
  2. LONG SLEEVE UPF 50+ TEE. Pack one long-sleeve sun-protective tee for hot days in the sun. These are made of a synthetic material that is ultra-lightweight and will save on sunscreen.
  3. BATHING SUITS. 2-3 bathing suits will be enough, but you can go a little crazier here if you want since they don’t take up much space.
  4. SWIM LEGGINGS. We are fans of UPF swim leggings since they are versatile for hanging on the boat, going ashore, or taking a dip!
  5. COVERUP. Bring a coverup you can easily throw over your bathing suit. UPF 50+ options are even better. We like these from Coolibar.
  6. LIGHTWEIGHT PANTS. These are nice for cooler nights on the deck. Some versions have a zip-off pant to be convertible to shorts.
  7. QUICK-DRY SHORTS. Most workout shorts are made of quick-dry synthetics. They’re also easy to move around in, making them ideal for hot temps and adventures!
  8. QUICK-DRY UNDERWEAR. Invest in quick-dry underwear for tropical climates, as cotton underwear will be incredibly uncomfortable. Many synthetic underwear options in the outdoor clothing market boast moisture-wicking and odor control features. Here are some options at REI for women and men. Ladies, opt for a sports bra when you aren’t wearing a swimsuit or another quick-dry option.
  9. RAIN JACKET. A lightweight waterproof jacket or poncho for rain showers. Opt for something that packs small, and it’ll be easy to carry in your day pack.
  10. LIGHTWEIGHT JACKET OR PULLOVER. You will most likely need a light jacket, shawl, or pullover for cooler nights. Layer this on top of your daytime clothes on deck, use it to sleep in if the boat is chilly, or for walking around town at night. You want this item to be warm but not too bulky.
  11. CASUAL OUTFIT. You’ll probably want at least one casual outfit for a night out. A button-down for men with casual shorts and a casual dress or maxi skirt for ladies is fine for coastal restaurants and bars.

We’ve included some options for the above items if you need some ideas.

READ NEXT: For more information and a deeper dive on this topic, you can also check out our post on What to Wear Sailing: The Best Clothing for Comfort on a Boat.

Sailing Trip Accessories

Clothes aren’t the only essential items for your trip. Some of the most crucial pieces for protection and comfort are your accessories.

Below are some sailing must-haves you’ll need and tips on features to look for to get the most out of your accessories.

Waterproof bag, sun protective hat, sunglasses, sailing pants, bandana
Accessories for a sailing trip – waterproof crossbody bag, wide-brim UPF hat, polarized sunglasses, UPF bandana, waterproof pants
  1. WATERPROOF DAY BAG. Bring a backpack or crossbody bag to pack your essentials when you go ashore. These fully submersible waterproof bags from Booe are great for keeping your valuables safely with you at all times.
  2. SUNGLASSES. Make sure they have polarized lenses, good coverage, and UV protection. Our favorite brands are Maui Jim and Costa Sunglasses for the best protection on the water. Don’t forget a sunglass retainer to keep your sunglasses from falling in the drink!
  3. BANDANA OR BUFF. A lightweight scarf, bandana, or buff will protect your skin from the sun and sea spray if you’re not wearing a hat. You can also wear it around your neck or up around your face for sun protection. Opt for a UPF version such as the ones linked below.
  4. WIDE-BRIMMED HAT. Best for staying cool and covered from the sun. If you’re worried about packing, a lot of brands make a folding packable version. We linked our favorite wide-brim UPF hat from Tilley and one of our favorite brands for easy packing below.
  5. SAILING GLOVES. (Optional) If your role on the sailing vessel is an active one, you might need to bring sailing gloves. Check with your host before packing them. The half-finger options are most comfortable in tropical climates.
  6. FOULIES. (Optional) Foulies are foul-weather gear for sailing. Depending on your sailing trip, your host may ask you to bring a waterproof coat and pants.

Below are a few of our favorite accessory styles and brands for ultimate water and sun protection.


Boat Shoes

I can’t say enough about how important it is to have the right shoes on a boat!

Boats are tricky places to navigate. They are full of small, tight spaces, with many changes in levels and things sticking out on the deck. Here are a few features you need for safety and comfort on your feet.

  • Non-marking rubber soles (to avoid scuffing the deck)
  • Closed-toed
  • Good grip on the soles
  • Water-resistance or waterproof
boat shoes

Here are our suggestions for what footwear to include on your trip’s packing list.

  1. WATER-RESISTANT SANDALS OR SHOES. You’ll need one pair of water-resistant or waterproof closed-toe sandals or shoes for moving around onboard. As mentioned above, make sure these have non-marking rubber soles.
  2. FLIP FLOPS. These are great for going ashore or pairing with a casual outfit for a night out. We try to find flip-flops that still have good traction and are non-marking. I personally like Olukai’s options that are shown below.

Here are a few waterproof or water-resistant options with some of the features mentioned above.


Personal Care Items

When packing toiletries and other personal items, try to be as minimal as possible to save space both in your bag and onboard. Try bringing just the basics for makeup and skincare items. Also, space in the head (or bathroom) is minimal so keep this in mind.

This list assumes you are already packing your usual travel items, such as toothpaste and deodorant. These are items you want to add specifically for a sailing vacation. Some also help with comfort aboard and packing small for boat life!

various personal care sailing travel items scattered across the floor
Personal care items for a sailing trip – packing cubes (compatible), microfiber towel, refillable travel containers by Cadence, body wipes, tinted moisturizer, sunscreen, stain bar, quality clothespins
  1. SUNSCREEN. You’ll want at least SPF 30. Try a reef-safe brand like Think Sport or Raw Essentials. The Raw Essentials tinted moisturizer is the perfect makeup and sun protection combination.
  2. FIRST AID. Sailboats usually have some form of a first aid kit, but it’s wise to stock up on your go-to medications, bandaids, and an ointment for minor cuts and scrapes.
  3. LIP BALM. Don’t forget to protect the delicate skin on your lips! Aim for a lip balm with SPF 15 or higher.
  4. CADENCE CAPSULES. These tiny travel capsules by Cadence are one of our favorite ways to minimize your personal care items when packing. They’re magnetic, leakproof, and incredibly durable. They’re even customizable! You can use these for all kinds of travel or activities on the go. Truly our favorite product for travel packing hacks!
  5. BODY WIPES. On a sailboat, you might not be showering as often as you used to, and when you do, it might be on the back of the boat. If you don’t have an opportunity to rinse off, body wipes are great for freshening up.
  6. BUG REPELLANT. On nights where the wind is light, you might need a bug repellant. For a natural repellant, try cocoa butter.
  7. EARPLUGS. If you’ve never slept on a sailboat before, sometimes the noises can take some getting used to. Whether it’s the water lapping at the sugar scoop (it’s louder than you might think) or the rigging shuttering in high winds – it’s not the norm for most of us. Pack a pair of earplugs to ensure you aren’t sleep-deprived during your trip.
  8. WATER BOTTLE. If you’re in a salty, humid environment, you’ll be drinking a lot of water. It’s convenient to have your own water bottle that you enjoy drinking from for the length of your trip. If you are traveling with a few people on board, it also helps identify your drink. Pro tip – bring a carabiner for attaching the bottle to your bag when going ashore.
  9. MOTION SICKNESS MEDICATION. (Optional) If you think you might get seasick, better safe than sorry. If you tend to get slightly seasick, you can also try ginger snaps or a ginger root supplement.
  10. TRAVEL PACKING CUBES. These are key to compacting your items to pack into a small duffel bag or backpack. They’re also great for keeping your things organized while on the boat. Boat lockers or wardrobes aren’t always easy or functional for unpacking your clothing. We like these small cubes that are numbered – they even come with instructions on how to use them to maximize packing space.
  11. CLOTHESPINS. There might be a few clothespins to hang swimsuits and towels out to dry. But most often, the clothespins on charters are low-quality and could be rusty, causing you to lose or damage your clothes. I cannot recommend these clothespins enough! They will remain rust-free and will not allow your clothes to escape if the wind picks up. Bring more than you think you’ll need. They go fast!
  12. QUICK-DRY TOWELS. Most charters will have bath towels, but they might not have a beach towel. Microfiber towels can roll down to a small size for travel or land excursions from the boat. They will also dry quickly.
  13. DETERGENT & STAIN REMOVER. Pack a small amount of detergent for hand-washing swimsuits, underwear, or anything else as needed. Our favorite is the Sport Detergent from the Laundress, but any gentle detergent will work. You can put a small amount in the travel capsules listed above, and it will barely take up any room. We like to throw in a small stain bar such as the one here. (Note: both products are eco-friendly)

Below are some products mentioned above that we use and love on board a boat.

09/26/2022 09:15 pm GMT

Electronics

Access to power on the water is quite different from on land. Here are a few items to help with keeping your electronics charged, as well as some wireless things that are good to have.

electronics for a sailing trip - headlamp, battery pack, wireless ear buds
Electronics for a sailing trip – waterproof headlamp, wireless ear buds, portable battery pack
  1. PORTABLE POWER BANK. You will probably be running off DC power when you aren’t at the dock on a sailboat. When you hear DC power, think of the cigarette lighter outlet in your car. Considering the number of electronics everyone uses these days, everyone might not have enough charging ports. Power banks are great for charging phones, tablets, headphones, and anything you might need when outlets aren’t available. A large power bank with multiple ports will allow you to charge up many things at once.
  2. WIRELESS HEADPHONES. These are great for listening to music or podcasts onboard, and you won’t get your cord caught on any parts of the boat! Headphones are fabulous at bedtime to drown out any outside noise or keep the noise down for other crew members.
  3. HEADLAMP. A headlamp is helpful to have when you’re moving around on the boat at night or taking evening dinghy rides. It frees up space in your luggage by eliminating the need for a flashlight or bulky lantern. It’s easier to use on a boat because it leaves your hands free for safety. Opt for a headlamp with night mode and water resistance features.
  4. TRAVEL ADAPTER. (Optional) Check with your host or charter company to confirm the type of AC power available on the boat. When you hear AC power, think of the regular outlet in your home. Boats are built worldwide (and most catamarans are built outside the U.S.), so don’t assume the sailboat has 120V power.

Here are a few of the items we recommend for electronics. Most specifically, we love the portable battery pack below.


Other Items

Here are a few optional items to include on your sailing trip checklist. These items are lovely if you want a little more convenience or entertainment on your trip.

Items for a sailing trip - binoculars, lights, hammock, snorkel mask
Other items for a sailing trip – binoculars, inflatable solar light, folding bags, hammock, snorkel mask
  1. SMALL FOLDABLE BAGS. These bags are great for throwing in your daypack and take up hardly any room. Perfect if you decide to grab supplies, snacks, or anything else while onshore.
  2. BINOCULARS. Most boats will have a pair on board, but it can be nice to have your own. Depending on your role on the boat, you might want an extra set for navigating or just exploring and spotting marine life.
  3. INFLATABLE SOLAR LIGHT. These lights inflate so you can pack them flat. Hang them in the cockpit at night for a nice ambiance or light up an evening on the beach. Bonus – they float!
  4. HAMMOCK. These are fun for a day lounging on the boat. You can usually attach a hammock from the bow to the mast. You might also want to set it up for a day at the beach! These pack down small, so they don’t take up much space.
  5. SNORKEL MASK. Most charters will have a snorkel mask and fins. However, if you have the room, it can be nice to bring your own mask that you know fits, and (let’s be honest) several people haven’t spit inside.

Here are a few ideas and some of our favorite brands from the above mentioned items.


What Not to Bring

Before you head off to start preparing for your trip, here are a few things to avoid packing. These items can be uncomfortable in a marine environment or don’t hold up well.

  • Cotton clothing doesn’t breathe well and can be a pain to dry in a humid environment. However, cotton blended with a synthetic material should be fine.
  • Heels are hard to walk in on a sailboat. Getting in and out of a dingy can also be problematic.
  • Fine jewelry can be ruined in a marine environment. Dress up with affordable beaded jewelry or water-resistant jewelry (as long as you rinse it) on your sailing trip.
  • Delicate fabrics such as suede, silk, or cashmere are better left at home. Leather can also be ruined in a humid, salty environment.
  • Electronics will be necessary to some extent on your sailing trip. We recommend you avoid bringing nice laptops or DSLR cameras unless needed, or you are prepared to protect them from the salty water and air.
  • Hairdryers and hot irons aren’t needed on a sailboat since they require a lot of power to operate. Embrace your natural hair!

Final Thoughts on Preparing for a Sailing Trip

Getting ready for a sailing vacation or charter can be tricky – but with the packing tips above, you’ll have no problem finding the items needed for a holiday on the water.

The items on this trip packing list will help you enjoy your vacation without being weighed down by heavy luggage. They’ll also hold up to the marine environment and keep you comfortable so you can just kick back and enjoy a fantastic sailing trip!


Want more lists of boat gear for your liveaboard life?

View our guide for lists of essential sailboat gear, galley must-haves, what to wear sailing, and more.


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