Gear Review – Base Layers

So, further to my blog on foul weather gear, I mentioned that I would follow up with a base layer gear review.

First we need to establish our wish list:

  • warm
  • breathable
  • low stink factor (since I’ll be wearing them a few times over the trip)
  • wicking
  • proper fit

Let’s look at the main fabrics used. The following information was retrieved from rei.com:

Synthetic Fabrics

One of the most common synthetic fabrics used for base layers is polyester. However, you may also find a combination of nylon, rayon or polypropelene. Synthetics have a bit of a spandex feel which give you a nice snug fit.

  • Super dry: Synthetics excel at wicking and dissipating sweat, so they give you the driest feel of any type of fabric.
  • Durable: No base layer is invincible; if you’re looking for your most durable option, though, then synthetics are your best bet.
  • Odor retention: Some synthetics add a finish that inhibits the buildup of odor-causing bacteria, which helps. If you’ll be going multiple days between washes, it helps to have some tolerance for stinkiness.

5/5 wicking             4/5 durability            3/5 odor- resistant

Merino Wool 

Merino wool is soft and has ultrafine fibers and is nothing like older wool clothing and blankets. Wool can also be blended with other fabrics, like spandex to enhance fit and flexibility. Merino wool has the following characteristics:

  • Wicks well: Some moisture in wool is retained in its core, which won’t chill you, but wool will not feel quite as dry as a synthetic fabric. It will also take longer to dry when it gets wet.
  • Breathable: That moisture in the core of its fibers releases when temps heat up, which can offer a little bit of cooling in warm weather.
  • Moderately durable: Wear it under other layers and enjoy a long and happy life together; as a standalone top under heavy pack straps, it won’t last as long because the constant rubbing can wear through the fabric. You can also opt for a base layer that blends synthetic and wool for increased durability.
  • Odor free: Even if you don’t believe wool fanatics who report endless days of sweaty wear without a discouraging whiff, it’s absolutely true that wool is highly resistant (and naturally resistant) to odor-causing bacteria.

4/5 wicking            3/5 durability             5/5 odor-resistant


Silk is an ideal fabric for low-key activities like an easygoing fall hike or an evening concert outdoors. Silk has the following characteristics:

  • Moderate wicking: If you don’t push your heart rate out of your target zone, you should be fine; some silk underwear has an added finish to improve wicking.
  • Suppleness: Invariably available as a lightweight option, silk slips easily under other layers; the flipside is that it’s not especially durable.
  • Odor retention: Silk is not naturally odor resistant, so it needs to be laundered every time your wear it.

2/5 wicking              2/5 durability               2/5 odor-resistant

Based on the above information, for my purposes I will be looking at Merino Wool or a Synthetic blend base layer.  Base layers are generally classified as follows:

  • Lightweight: Moderate to cool temps.
  • Midweight: Cold temps.
  • Heavyweight: Below-freezing temps.

It is also a great idea to wear several layers and adjust as needed. Most sailors wear a heavyweight or midweight base followed by a fleece. Then your foul weather gear. One of the principal goals is to remain dry. If you get wet from rain, spray or sweat, it will not take long for you to get cold.

What are the options?

Here are some options that I will be looking into:


Smartwool seems to be a crowd pleaser and there are many options for the weight (heavy to light). This newer wool fabric is soft, wicks well and is odor-resistant. A typical warm base layer shirt will be about $110 while a pair of warm pants will be about $100. I tend to prefer a crew neck shirt as opposed to a zip up, but you can definitely get a full zip up to your chin. Smartwool seems to age well and should last you for several seasons.

Under Armour

The Under Armour HeatGear line is a midweight line and there are several different styles of tops and pants. Their HeatGear line is synthetic (92% polyester & 8% elastane for fit) so it will last and maintain it’s shape. However, even with their anti-odor technology, you will be ripe after a few wears.  Their UA Base line is for aggressive cold and is their heavyweight line. It is also a synthetic blend of 95% polyester & 5% elastane. Prices vary depending on styles.

Helly Hansen

HH has a few options for base layers. The HH Lifa Merino line is their heavyweight base layer option. Their lightweight option is their HH Lifa Active line. HH has been creating base layers for athletes for quite some time now so their Lifa technology is on point. For my trip, I envision having a good lightweight and heavyweight option for layering and different weather conditions I may encounter.

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC)

I enjoy MEC products so I decided to include them in this review. MEC offers a Merino wool base layer line which would be your heavyweight option for warmth. They also offer a few different synthetic options ranging from lightweight to medium weight. Again, it will depend on style, fit, comfort and what you need the gear to do for you.


I hope this review has helped you navigate the various base layer fabrics and options available to you. The best way to determine what is right for you is to try on several different options to look for best fit and determine what you need for your specific activity (sailing, skiing, hiking, etc.).

Fair winds,

Captain Penny


Evenson, Laura. How to Choose Base Layers. Retrieved from: https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/underwear.html.

Page photo credit: Photo retrieved from http://www.surfingthewaveoffashion.com/2013/07/sailing-with-musto.html.

Gear Review – Duffel Bags & Packing Cubes

Next gear review: duffel bags & packing cubes!

Just as your foul weather gear selection is important, so is the bag that you use to transport everything. When I was living on a boat in Georgian Bay I used to drag around a hockey bag of all my things. Ridiculous! It was huge, impractical and way too bulky and awkward for me.

There have been many advancements in the functionality and fabrics used for duffel bags and luggage since the days when I dragged around my hockey bag. Again, I need to make my wish list to know what to look for:

  • large enough for foulies & boots
  • large zipper for access to entire bag
  • waterproof (ideal, but not mandatory)
  • laundry section (ideal, but not mandatory)
  • backpack straps
  • tough fabric (for rips, tears and throwing around)
  • bright colour (again, not mandatory, but ideal for standing out and quick airport pick ups)
  • straps or places to hook on extras (with carabiner or rope)

Here are some well-known options for me to explore further:

SealLine – Boundary Portage Pack


On first glance I love the colours, the straps, the waterproofness, and the size variations of the bags. However, I do not like that they are top access as I’d rather not have to pull everything out of the bag to access the pair of socks I need at the bottom.

However, SealLine do have some great dry packs for SUP and kayak trips and a good chart bag as well.

Zip Duffel
This duffel bag is not necessarily what I am looking for to pack up SealLine_Zip_75L_duffel-660x373_grandemy gear, however this would make a great grab bag as it is fully weatherproof and can be submersed (if you don’t know what that is, sign up for a course!).

In Nelson you can find these bags at Valhalla Pure Outfitters.

The North Face – Base Camp Duffel


I am loving the size and colour of this duffel (it comes in other bright colours too). It also has a large top zipper for full bag access and the backpack straps as well as a luggage strap. It is built with solid materials and the zippers are weather sealed. It also has an interior mesh pocket which can be used for laundry. This duffel also has really great reviews on The North Face site so it seems to be a crowd pleaser.

Approx price: $210.00

Musto – Waterproof Dry Carryall 65L


This bag is large, watertight and does not have any zippers. It uses heat sealed seems for waterproofing and it uses a fold top instead of zippers for closure. There are several straps and also a viewing window so that you can easily see inside the bag to locate things. The reviews on this product on the Musto site are evenly split with concerns about the material not being tough enough.

Approx price: $200.00

Helly Hansen – HH Classic Duffel Bag


Once again, Helly Hansen makes a great product for sailors at a good price. This bag comes in several colours, sizes and has backpack straps. It has a waterproof main zipper with access to the entire bag, several straps on the outside to connect extra things to and an external compartment that can be used for laundry or storing wet items. Reviews from the HH site are favourable for this bag.

Approx price: $150.00

Osprey – Transporter 130


This looks like a great bag. Large, bright colours, various handles, full zipper to access items inside and straps for backpacking or luggage carrying. The material is “tough as nails” according to Osprey and there is an overlapping zipper to protect your items from the elements (ie weatherproof). There is also an internal mesh pouch for extra segregated storage. I love the Osprey backpack that we currently use at our house.

Approx price: $220.00

Patagonia – Black Hole Duffel


This is a great looking duffel bag and the price is great for what you get. There are several colour options, thick comfortable straps (backpack and luggage), extra handles and daisy chains (loops) for attachments and a large top zipper opening to view all contents inside. The duffel is weatherproof with a padded base to protect contents. It also includes an internal compression system (ie straps) to help you compress your items. Furthermore, when not in use the entire duffel packs down inside itself into a small package (bonus).

In Nelson you can find this duffel at Snowpack.

Approx price: $140.00


So, there are several options out there depending on what you are looking for. To suit my needs I think that either the Helly Hansen Classic Duffel Bag, the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel or the Osprey Transporter will meet my needs. I just need to figure out how much to pack and get the right size (thinking 70L or 90L). There are several stores in Nelson where you can check out some of these duffel bags yourself including ROAM, Valhalla Pure Outfitters and Snowpack.

Packing Cubes


Packing cubes are a pretty simple thing to pick up and they are very helpful for keeping your gear organized within your bag. Locally, Snowpack, ROAM and Valhalla Pure Outfitters have several options on hand and they would probably be happy to order in any different sizes you may need.

For my purposes I will use 3 large cubes, 2 medium cubes and probably 2-3 small cubes. I also plan to bring along a mesh wash bag and a toiletry organizer for toothbrush, Tylenol, etc. The cubes will need to have mesh viewing windows so I can see what I packed in each and they will need to be breathable.

Final Thoughts…

Overall I am really excited about the various options that are available. I am looking for something large enough to fit everything, but easy enough to throw on my back. I am not looking for a wheeled duffel as I do not like wheeled luggage on boats (possibility of scratches or dents, but that’s my preference). I will keep you posted on which one I buy and why!

Stay tuned.

Captain Penny

Page Photo Credit: Photo retrieved from https://www.hellyhansen.com/en_ca/.

Gear Review – Foul Weather Gear

REBLOG from Summer 2018:

As I prep for my upcoming trip this summer, I am realizing that my old foul weather gear is just not up to the challenge. I donated my Offshore Mustang Survival suit many years ago as it had become stiff and was never really made for the female physique (it was from the early 90s).

As I research new foul weather gear, there have been some major advancements. Not only in functionality, but the materials themselves have improved tremendously. The first thing that I need to look at is what am I expecting of my gear? So, here’s my wish list:

  • waterproof
  • windproof
  • breathable
  • pockets/storage
  • hood/rain cover
  • visibility – colour, reflectors, etc.
  • compatibility with my PFDs, safety harness, MOB light, etc.
  • ease of movement
  • overall comfort & fit (thinking of bathroom breaks and long hours spent sitting or standing staring at the compass and radar… glamorous. I know. Shhh don’t tell the rest of the crew. They think we’ll be sipping Mi Tais and playing with dolphins the whole time!)

Notice anything important that is missing? Warmth. Yup. No mention of that. That is because my base layers will be responsible for that. That’s a whole other blog post and gear review…

I wrote this post from a women’s perspective as we have a slightly longer wish-list for our foul weather gear (in my opinion) than men, but my reviews and comments are also valid for any men looking for new gear. You just have a few more choices 😉

The main players

From my research so far, there are only a few players in the field of sailing foul weather gear. The main ones are Mustang, Gill, Musto and Helly Hansen.


To start off, there are no female specific offshore suits that I can find. So that’s a big negative for me.

The other glaring issue for me, is that all of their gear is black! Yes that looks very sexy, but I’m more concerned with being seen and making it home to my family if I fall off the boat, than looking “hot” in all black.

Finally, I have leveraged my sailing community for input on Mustang foul weather gear and it was not overly favourable. It seems that Mustang is moving to capture the commercial market and not overly interested in all purpose sailors. Mustang is, however, still a leader in the Canadian market for life jackets and PFDs – yet again another post to follow.


Alright, so Gill has two female jackets to offer: OS1 Womens Jacket (Offshore) and OS2 Womens Jacket (Coastal). They are bright red, have reflectors, lots of pockets, good hoods, waterproof, hand-warmer pockets (bonus!), among a few other perks. So far so good.

That’s about where it ends. There are no female specific pants for offshore cruising so no drop seat for my head time, which is a negative. The less time you spend below fighting with your gear the better. Trust me.

The lack of selection is also a bit concerning as the price of foul weather gear is very high so you have to make sure that what works for you will work for the life of your investment. That being said, it is important to try many options before you buy. You may end up with a Gill Jacket and Mustang pants. Who knows. If it works for you, get it.

Overall I don’t think Gill is my best foul weather gear option, but it’s not out of the running yet.


This particular brand was recently brought to my attention as I’m not overly familiar with Musto, but I do know a few people who use their gear. They have a great women’s offshore set – the MPX GORE-TEX® Offshore Jacket and MPX GORE-TEX® Offshore Trousers.


The jacket boasts a lot of great features including: 3-layer GORE-TEX® Pro laminate for high performance breathability, waterproof and windproof protection, articulated elbows and underarms for freedom of movement, fleece-lined collar for comfort and warmth, fluorescent GORE-TEX® hood with peak (fully waterproof), 2 handwarmer pockets, 2 cargo pockets to store essentials, life jacket attachment points allow you to take off your jacket and life jacket together (awesome), and photoluminescent reflectors glow in the dark to keep you visible at night, to name a few.

The ability to have your life jacket attached to the jacket is a great feature as this enables you to set your life jacket straps and then leave them as is when you take off your jacket. This decreases the chance of having your life jacket straps too tight or too lose and decreases the number of adjustments you need to make every time you take your jacket on and off.

The pants are made for prolonged offshore sailing. These trousers have adjustable straps and back waist adjustment for a comfort fit. It has CORDURA® reinforcement patches on the seat, knees, back hems to prevent abrasion, and a detachable tool pouch adds storage space. The downside is that the pants do not appear to have an easy head access zipper. Boo.

Overall, the Musto women’s gear is a strong contender for me.

Helly Hansen

HH has definitely asserted itself as a leader in the world of sailing foul weather gear. Imagine my excitement when I checked off female offshore sailing gear and found 6 jacket options! Now 3 of the jackets are considered unisex, but at least they list them as options for me on their website. There are also 3 different pant options.

The Ægir series is built for professional ocean sailors and is Norse mythology for god of the “sea”. Most items in the collection come in red, white or black (red being my choice). The Ægir Ocean Jacket would be the full-on foul weather jacket to go with, but I think the extra long length would drive me a bit crazy (I don’t like long jackets around my thighs). The next logical step up from there is the Ægir Race Jacket and Ægir Race Salopette (French word for an overall type of pant).


Ægir Race Jacket

Here are some of the features of the jacket: waterproof, 4 ply fabric construction, fully seam sealed, waterproof, high collar, fleece collar, adjustable hood, double storm flap, adjustable double cuffs, adjustable waist, Solas (safety of life at sea) reflective, hand warmer pockets, chest pockets and articulated sleeves.

That’s a lot of goodies! Overall it checks all of the boxes for me, but what do the reviews have to say? Well, there is an overwhelmingly positive response for this product on the HH website and within the sailing community.

Ægir Race Salopette

Here are some of the features of the pants: waterproof, 3 ply fabric construction, fully seam sealed, waterproof, seat and knee reinforcements, breathable softshell top, two way front zip, adjustable waist, thigh cargo pockets and adjustable leg openings.

Once again, a great list of attributes, but it is this key phrase in the description that seals the deal for me: Especially developed for women’s convenience is the drop seat construction with a fully waterproof YKK® Aquaseal® zipper. Head visits made easy! Brilliant. Again, the reviews on the HH site were very positive for these pants.


Overall, choosing the right foul weather gear takes time, research and some trial and error. Try not to let the price affect your choice as this is an investment and you want to make sure you have the right gear to keep you safe and warm.

Once you get over the sticker shock, you’ll have a great time seeing what works for you!

Captain Penny

Is this not what I should be wearing for the trip!? 😉

Page Photo Credit: Nicole Speckmaier, Geminis Dream, VanIsle 360 International Yacht Race 2017

Sailing Weather Apps

Looking for some weather apps to help with your sailing adventures? Well, here are a few weather apps that I have started playing with recently…



Over 50,000 Weather Stations worldwide, which provide you with real time wind data. Nelson and Kootenay Lake are included in their data (although it seems to be off sometimes), but it provides a good idea of what you’ll be dealing with out on the Lake. There appears to only be one weather station reporting in the area so the quality and accuracy of the wind forecasting is lacking, however that seems to be an issue in the Kootenays in general. The coastal forecasting through SailFlow appears to be more accurate with about 15 weather stations reporting trends and supplying data.


Weather Bug

The WeatherBug app is a must-have! You get a lot of information with this app, especially considering that it is free. The information provided includes wind direction and speed, air quality advisories and UV rays, closest lightning strike withing 30 minutes, and radar maps of rain and cloud coverage. There are several maps that you can look at for precipitation and incoming weather. The wind meter also seems to be fairly accurate and the forecasting appears to be a bit better than some of the other apps I have used.



According to their website, the SailGrib app will provide you with Marine Weather forecasts, you can calculate tides, download of purchase marine charts, optimize your routes using the weather routing module, or just enjoy sailing towards your destination with the AIS and NMEA modules. Now, all that being said, they do not offer any reporting for the Kootenays on their free app. I did not purchase the $55.00 app to see if it has more information for the Interior. It may. If you have this app please let me know!



The AccuWeather app looks and performs much the same as the Weather Network app. However, I only downloaded and used the free version so perhaps the paid version offers more options. I am not thinking it is really worth having both apps on your device. If I had to chose, I would probably go with the Weather Network as the AccuWeather app kept thinking I was located in Slocan Park and not Nelson.



So this is another popular app in the sailing world and once again it does not provide any data for the Kootenays. It is primarily for coastal cruising. However, if you decide to venture out on the Coast this would be a handy app to have on your devices. It is free, but you will have to register and set up an account with them. There seems to be a lot of weather stations available, so I would assume it has good accuracy.



There are also several websites that you can use to keep an eye on the weather. One of my favourites for the Kootenays is TMTV.net. They have created a website that pulls together various resources for us to find in one place and use to make an educated decision about the upcoming weather.  The links to the airport and highway cams are also nice as you can then take a real time look at the clouds and figure out what is headed your way.

Another great website for information is Passageweather.com. Again this is a very popular website among sailors as it provides various types of maps for you to use (wind and waves, sea temperatures, precipitation, etc.). This site provides coastal weather information, so again not particularly useful for the Interior, but it is still a great resource to help you learn how to properly read these maps for future trips.


Overall, using several resources to compile your weather data is your best bet. Take the various pieces that are provided to you and fit them together to make your assessments on where you are wanting to go and what the weather will look like on your way there. Have fun exploring!


Captain Penny


Sail Nelson is proud to host a free safe boating community event for all community members on May 25, 2019! Come out and learn how to be safe around and on the water! Our partners are eager to share their knowledge and information with you to help you have a fun and safe summer. Learn more about this event at Nelson Safe Water & Boating Event 2019!!

Why did I plan this event? 

This cause is near and dear to my heart as a safe boating educator. I am passionate about having fun and going on adventures, but I also always try to be prepared. Far too often I meet people who have not prepared and who have found themselves in precarious situations. I have had some close calls myself out on the water, some of which keep me up at night, and eventually I will share them in another post. For now, I will settle with doing my part to provide our community with more information.

My motivations…

I have had a lifelong dream of opening my own sailing school. I think this is because of the boating education I received as a youngster. I have always enjoyed school and the fact that I got to go to sailing “school” (albeit in the summer) was just awesome to me. Then, I became an instructor and people actually paid me to take them sailing. Are you kidding me? This was the best deal going.

After 15 years of solid teaching I decided that I should probably get myself a real job and put my dream of running a sailing school on hold (what was I thinking?). Well, clearly that didn’t cut it for me as here we are. I have relocated my family to Nelson BC and have been able to pursue and grow my passion by founding Sail Nelson!

The next big ticket on my bucket list was creating a free safe water and boating event for the community. Who are we kidding? I want to create THE safe water and boating event! The one that everyone wants to be a part of… the type of event people write on their kitchen calendars and remind their kids about when they tuck them in at night — ok I might be pushing it here, but you get the idea!


And so, the first Nelson Safe Water & Boating Event is planned for May 25 2019 and I am SO excited! Now I just need the community to show up… details.