People are always asking me “what sailing gear do I need to start sailing?”. Well, I’m here to tell you not much! Your sense of adventure and desire to get out on the water will be your biggest asset. As for sailing gear, that can all be added and upgraded later! Just get out there as much as possible.

I’ve put together some thoughts and ideas on what type of gear you need to get out sailing. You’ll see that it is pretty basic and probably all things that you own already. If not, I’ve provided some low-cost ideas on where you can get them. This is just your personal gear, not safety gear or technical gear. I will create other posts to cover those details. Open up the closet and have fun out there!

The Basics

Honestly, you do not need fancy sailing gear to get out sailing! Like many other things, you can spend a lifetime planning, researching and looking things up, only to waste time (and money) and you could have spent that time out sailing! So, here are a few personal must-haves for you to wear on a boat and some affordable options on how to get them.

Hat & Sunglasses: alright tapping into my mom side here, but it is important for you to be safe on the water, and in this case I am talking about sun-safe! I actually buy new sunglasses every summer to protect my eyes. I also have a wide-brimmed hat, but honestly my head is so small that I just tuck my ears into my baseball hat anyway (lol, sad I know! But handy in this case!). Make sure your sunglasses are anti-glare and UV protecting. I personally buy Oakley with Prizm Polarized lenses. My current pair is the Custom Split Shot, but I wouldn’t recommend this style as the leash didn’t really work for me and the ends of the ear pieces catch my hair all the time.

Shoes, Sandals or Boots: So for shoes I just wear runners. I actually wear Salomon Speedcross 5 Trail Runners as I find the tread works great on the boat. Any type of runners that you find comfortable will do though. No need to buy fancy boat shoes when starting out. For the summer I wear Keen sandals, and I used to always wear Teva sandals. Anything that is 3-strap and will stay put works great. No flip-flops!

Shorts & Pants: again, whatever you find light, comfortable and potentially quick-drying, is great. I buy most of my shorts at MEC or our local shops here in Nelson BC. To tell you the truth, I’m still looking for that perfect pair of shorts for day sailing so if you have some you love please comment below! As for pants, I tend to wear leggings often, or I do have a pair of fancy hiking pants that I wear from time to time depending on the weather. Again, I’m not picky. If it’s raining, I’m in my rain pants with a warm base layer. If it’s sunny, or hot, I’m most likely in shorts. Don’t overthink it! A good all around comfortable-to-move-in pair of pants is great. Pockets are also a bonus! Especially if they are big enough for your phone so you can take pics of your adventure 😉

Gloves: you’ll notice I did not call this section “Sailing Gloves”. I actually often buy work gloves from Marks! I have 3 pairs of Gill sailing gloves, and they just don’t seem to last. Work gloves are a fraction of the price and they are comfortable for me, so I just go with that. It is hard to find summer-rated work gloves though. So I have Gill summer sailing gloves (open finger) and then I use Marks work gloves for cooler, or wet, sailing.

Other Items

I will write up a specific Christmas list of goodies for you, but some other things to consider for a day on the water include:

Rain Gear: for your rain gear you just need some basic waterproof pants and an outer shell. I would avoid the old school yellow plastic suit from Canadian Tire, but if that’s all you have for the moment, wear it! It’s more important to get out there than to worry about forking out a fortune. Trust me, you can do that fixing up your boat! Again I tend to keep an eye on MEC and grab basics when they are on sale. If you’re looking for more technical info on foul weather gear, check out my gear review post.

Sweaters: I use fleece or wool sweaters if I’m out in the cold. Doesn’t have to be anything high-tech, just something to keep you warm. If you have an outer rain shell keeping you dry, this layer will keep you warm. I will also bring spares on the boat for guests who may not realize how much cooler it is on the water (I take them out of the clothing donation bag when my husband clears out his closet). Don’t forget to get some good base layers.


I don’t want your start sailing journey to be complicated or full of barriers. Basically if you can dress like you are spending an afternoon hiking in a mountain, you’ll be set for the water! Keep yourself protected from the sun, keep you feet sticking to the ground (aka boat), keep yourself warm & dry, and you are off to the races! Keep it simple and get out there! As you can see, even though I’ve been sailing my whole life, I am still on the search for comfortable sailing gear to wear. But that doesn’t stop me from getting out! I might not look like a professional sailor, but I’ve got a huge smile on my face anyway!

Happy sailing my friend!


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