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You’re going on a sailing trip! Of course, I 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. I’m a seasoned sailor here to help you through the process.
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 this sailing packing list, you’ll be ready for any adventure on the water! I’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.
Below are the clothing items you’ll need for most tropic or mild sailing climates.
- TANK TOPS OR TEES. Opt for tees and tanks made of synthetic material or a synthetic blend. Bamboo is also a good option. 100% cotton is the enemy onboard a boat – it can be heavy and takes forever to dry if it gets wet.
- 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.
- BATHING SUITS. Two to three bathing suits will be enough, but you can go a little crazy since they don’t take up much space.
- SWIM LEGGINGS. I’m a fan of UPF swim leggings since they are versatile for hanging on the boat, going ashore, or taking a dip! I recommend taking at least one pair.
- COVERUP. Bring a coverup you can easily throw over your bathing suit. UPF 50+ options are even better. I like these from Coolibar.
- LIGHTWEIGHT PANTS. These are nice for cooler nights on the deck. Some versions have a zip-off pant to convert to shorts.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 DAY BAG. Bring a dry bag 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.
- 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!
- 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. Make sure you have a UPF version!
- 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 sun hat. We linked our favorite wide-brim UPF hat from Tilley and one of our favorite brands for easy packing below.
- SAILING GLOVES. (Optional) If you’re taking an active role on the sailing vessel, you might need to bring sailing gloves. Check with your host or sailboat charter company before packing them. The half-finger options are most comfortable in tropical climates.
- 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. Helly Hansen makes great options for both of these.
Below are a few of our favorite accessory styles and brands for ultimate water and sun protection.
NOTE: You do need life jackets for your sailing trip, but if you are chartering a boat, these should be provided by the sailing charter.
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.
Here are our suggestions for what footwear to include on your trip’s packing list.
- WATER-RESISTANT SANDALS OR SHOES. You’ll need one pair of water-resistant or waterproof closed-toe sandals or water shoes for moving around onboard. As mentioned above, make sure these have non-marking rubber soles.
- 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 pack light 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- LIP BALM. Don’t forget to protect the delicate skin on your lips! Pack a lip balm with SPF 15 or higher.
- CADENCE CAPSULES. These tiny travel capsules by Cadence are one of my 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. They are truly my favorite product for travel packing hacks!
- BODY WIPES. On a sailboat, you might not be showering as often as you’re 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.
- BUG REPELLANT. On nights when the wind is light, you might need an insect repellant. For a natural repellant, try cocoa butter.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- TRAVEL PACKING CUBES. These are key to compacting your items 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 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.
- 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!
- QUICK-DRY TOWELS. Most charters will have bath towels, but they might not have beach towels. Microfiber towels can roll down to a small size for travel or land excursions from the boat. They will also dry quickly.
- DETERGENT & STAIN REMOVER. Pack a small amount of detergent for hand-washing swimsuits, underwear, or anything else as needed. A gentle sport detergent is our favorite choice. You can put a small amount in the travel capsules listed above, which take up minimal space. We like to throw in a small stain bar. (Note: this product is also eco-friendly)
Below are some products mentioned above that we use and love on board a boat.
PRO TIP: Use the Scrubba wash bag above for washing small loads of clothing or swimsuits. It takes up minimal space and allows you to pack less on your sailing vacation.
Personal Care Storage
As mentioned previously, there is minimal space for personal care items in the bathroom on a sailboat.
A hanging toiletry bag is a great way to organize and contain your items while underway or in a rolly anchorage.
My husband has lived out of this hanging toiletry bag for six years and traveled with it for even longer. The quality and durability are second to none!
Access to power on the water is quite different from on land. Here are a few items to help keep your electronics charged, as well as some wireless things that are good to have.
- PORTABLE POWER BANK. You will be running on 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, there may not be enough charging ports. Portable chargers are great for charging cell 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 many items at once.
- WIRELESS HEADPHONES. These are great for listening to music or podcasts onboard without risking cords getting caught on parts of the boat. Headphones are fabulous at bedtime to drown out any outside noise or drown out noise from other crew members. Alternatively, a waterproof Bluetooth speaker is great for days on the beach!
- HEADLAMP. A headlamp will help 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’s hands-free for safety. Bonus points if your headlamp has night mode and water resistance features.
- 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, I love the Anker portable battery pack below.
READ NEXT: Many items above are also featured in the sailing gift guide. Check it out for more ideas for what to pack on a sailing trip.
Here are a few optional items to include on your sailing trip checklist. These items are a good idea if you want a little more convenience or entertainment on your sailing holiday.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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, and don’t take up much space.
- SNORKEL MASK. Most charters will have a snorkel mask and fins. However, if you have the room, it’s 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 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, to say the least.
- Fine jewelry can be ruined in a marine environment. Dress up with affordable beaded jewelry or water-resistant jewelry (remember to rinse it) on your sailing trip.
- Delicate fabrics like 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. I recommend you avoid bringing your nice laptop or DSLR camera unless needed. Or be prepared to protect them from the salty water and air.
- Hairdryers and hot irons aren’t a good idea on a sailboat since they require lots of power. Embrace your natural hair!
Luggage for a Sailing Trip
Hard suitcases won’t store well on your sailboat charter.
Remember to pack in a duffle bag or other soft-sided suitcase that can be folded and stored in a wardrobe locker or under the cabin bed.
We’re big fans of this waterproof duffle bag from Sea to Summit. It even coverts to a backpack!
NOTE: The duffle above might be overkill for one sailing charter, but if you do a lot of adventure traveling, it’s worth the investment.
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 sailing holiday on the water.
The items on this trip packing list will help you enjoy your vacation without being weighed down by heavy luggage. These essentials 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 recommendations for boat gear?
View our lists of essential sailboat gear, galley must-haves, sailing clothing, and more.
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