Sailing gear can cost $50 or $5000. Do not be overwhelmed! There are a few easy ways to ensure comfort while sailing in cold weather.  The easiest way to stay warm is to stay dry. This usually means wearing warm non-cotton layers under waterproof pants and tops.  For new sailors we recommend using clothing and rain gear that you already have.  Get a little experience sailing before investing too heavily in sailing specific clothing and gear.  Here are some tips from bottom to top.



Make sure you have either wool socks or neoprene socks on your feet, then wear a pair of neoprene or rubber boots. Neoprene or rubber dinghy boots will keep your feet warm and give you good grip on the boat.  For newer sailors, use an old pair of sneakers that you don't mind getting wet.  If it's really cold and wet, you can wrap plastic bags over your socks and then slip on your shoes.



Moving up the legs you want to either wear a base layer (fleece or wool) with water resistant spray pants, neoprene pants, wet suit bottoms, or a dry suit (for extreme conditions). Those are all materials that are still warm while they are wet.  Newer sailors can wear rain pants over a warm base layer to make sure that your bottom half stays dry and warm.  Water resistant snow pants are an option as well. 



On top you want to be wearing the same thing as on bottom.  Either fleece or wool base layers, neoprene, and a water-resistant layer to keep you dry and warm. A wet suit or a dry suit are options for more experienced sailors.  New sailors should use non-cotton base layers with a rain jacket.

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The last two things are your head and your hands. Most of your heat is lost from your head, if you're cold wear a hat! Neck gaiters help keep your neck and face warm in the wind.  One of the first things to get cold are your hands. Gloves dipped in rubber from the hardware store work great for providing warmth and grip.  In really cold conditions, waterproof gloves with an insulating layer are highly recommended. 

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Life jacket

The most important (and required) gear you wear is a life jacket.  Life jackets must be US Coast Guard Approved Type III and can not be modified in any way.  We recommend easily adjustable, sailing specific lifejackets with thin shoulder straps and a pocket in front.  For newer sailors we have extra life jackets you may use.  Life jackets must be worn at all times when on the water.  



Sunglasses (polarized) help see the wind on the water and protect eyes from UV.  Get a strap to keep sunglasses secured from falling into the water. Sailors should apply sunscreen, even on overcast days. Experienced sailors should get a waterproof watch with a countdown timer.  Attach a loud plastic whistle to your life jacket in case you need to get help. A duffel bag to carry all your gear and a towel to dry off are a must.


  • Neoprene is your best friend.
  • Wool and fleece are the way to go, cotton is rotten! 
  • Staying dry is staying warm, wear water resistant layers 

Don't let warm spring weather fool you, the water is cold. Make sure you are prepared and make sure you bring a towel and a dry set of clothes to change into after practice. Label everything with your name in case it is left at the Boathouse.  We have way too many boxes of lost and found items.

purchasing gear

If you're a returning sailor and plan to stick with it, it might be time to invest a bit more in a wetsuit and/or spray top that you will use for many more seasons to come. If you are a new sailor focus on warm head, hands, and feet.  Use cold weather base layers with water resistant outer layers to stay warm and dry.

Locally, we recommend Midwest Mountaineering for some great deals on neoprene boots and life jackets. Repair Lair also has deals on used gear and we have had some sailors find the perfect items there.

Online, we recommend the following two websites:

Annapolis Performance Sailing - They have a wide variety of gear and equipment as well as gear recommendations.  They offer a 20% discount to High School Sailors. 

West Coast Sailing – Another good source of sailing gear and equipment.  They offer a 15% High School Sailor discount.