09 May Get ready for sailing season! Part 2: Sailing bag essentials
Sailing season is finally here! Time to pull out the sailing gear and get your sailing bag ready to go. We’ve already covered the top 5 items you need for safe sailing. Now let’s talk about the things you keep in your sail bag all season. Pack your bag with these go-to items and you’ll be ready to jump on a boat at the first opportunity. Here’s a checklist of the sailing bag essentials we take along for every sail.
Sunscreen always, every day! Skin cancer is a real risk for sailors, not to mention the aging effects of sun exposure. Remember that water and fiberglass decks reflect and amplify the sun’s strength. You’ll want a full-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays, with a minimum of SPF 30. Dermatologists also recommend that you look for the words “water resistant.” This tells you that the sunscreen will stay on wet or sweaty skin for a while before you need to reapply. Water resistance lasts either 40 or 80 minutes – check the label to be sure.
There are essentially two kinds of sunscreens: chemical (using ingredients like avobenzone, oxybenzone and octinoxate) or mineral (titanium dioxide or zinc oxide). There are pros and cons to both, but we strongly prefer mineral sunscreens. They have more natural ingredients vs. chemicals, are less likely to irritate sensitive skin, won’t stain your clothes like some chemicals can, and are safe for reefs and oceans (chemical sunscreen ingredients have been shown to contribute to coral bleaching). The biggest drawback to mineral sunscreens is that some can have a chalky appearance. Whichever you choose, apply early and often!
We like: A good fragrance-free option for the body is Alba Botanica Sport Mineral Sunscreen SPF 45. On the face, we like the lightweight LaRoche-Posay Anthelios Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen, which goes on effortlessly and doesn’t leave a chalky residue.
Pro tip: Don’t forget your lips! The skin on your lips is thinner, so they burn easily. We love the Coola Mineral LipLux SPF 30. Yes, it’s pricey for a lip balm, but it’s hard to find SPF 30 in a mineral-based formula. Plus, it comes in a range of sheer tints that provide a hint of color while protecting your lips.
Another of our sailing bag essentials is a good pair of sunglasses. On the water, the combination of direct and reflected light is much brighter than on land. You should look for frames that are lightweight and flexible, so they’re comfortable enough to wear all day. Polarized lenses are a must for cutting down on glare and making it easier to see puffs on the water. West Marine has a good in-depth article on all the things you should consider when selecting sunglasses for boating – including lens color and frame materials.
We like: Some of the most popular brands for sailors are Kaenon, Maui Jim and Oakley. Yes, they’re expensive, but they’re protecting your eyes! Gill and Hobie also offer several models that are highly rated and more affordable.
Pro tip: Always use a sunglass lanyard! It’s an inexpensive way to ensure you don’t gift your expensive sunnies to the gods of the deep (don’t ask us how we know).
⃞ Hat or visor
Continuing on the sun protection theme, a hat or visor will help protect your face from the sun – and keep you cool to boot. The bigger the brim, the better. For hot days, it’s good to have an absorbent inner band to keep sweat off your face.
We like: The Mount Gay Rum regatta hat is a sailor classic, but you have to participate in a Mount Gay-sponsored regatta to get one. An easier option is our 12° West Sport Hat and Visor. Both are made of high-quality wicking, breathable performance material – and they’re lower profile to better fit a woman’s head shape.
Pro tip: A handy accessory is a hat clip or leash. Clip it from the back of your hat to your shirt or PFD, and you’ll avoid the dreaded “hat overboard” drill.
⃞ Reusable water bottle
All that exposure to sun and wind makes hydration really important. And as sailors, we have a responsibility to protect the waters we love from becoming more polluted. A reusable water bottle is one of our sailing bag essentials and an easy way to reduce single-use plastic. We like the insulated versions that keep your beverage hot or cold up to 12 hours.
We like: We’ve tried every brand out there, and our top choice is Hydro Flask; Klean Kanteen and S’Well Bottle are also good options.
Pro tip: Wide mouth bottles are easier to add ice if (like us) you like your water really cold. Bonus – the larger bottles (25 oz or more) will keep an entire bottle of wine chilled for your apres-sail enjoyment.
For that shackle that won’t turn or the loose bolt on the gooseneck, a multitool can get you out of an inconvenient jam. You’ll still need a sailing knife for emergencies, but the multitool is a great workhorse for odd jobs around the boat.
We like: The Leatherman Wave Plus is our choice; it has 18 onboard tools and can be opened with one hand.
Pro tip: Most multi-tools are corrosion-resistant but not rustproof. After exposure to salt water, be sure to give your multitool a good fresh water rinse and let it dry thoroughly to prevent rust.
⃞ Sailing shoes
There are many times when flip-flops or bare feet just won’t cut it – after some broken toes and nasty gashes, we’re converts to wearing shoes when sailing. There are two very important factors in choosing shoes for sailing: they must have non-marking soles, and good grip on a wet deck. We prefer quick-drying fabric vs. leather, which can stay wet for hours.
We like: This is a tough category for women. Unfortunately Sperry stopped making the Sea Racer, which was (for our money) the best women’s sailing shoe around. We love the sticky grip and the cool street style look on the unisex Zhik ZKG, but some women find them too wide. Another option is the Helly Hansen Hydropower 4.
Pro tip: Be warned: many traditional “boat shoes” are more fashionable than functional. Test out the grip before buying!
⃞ Sailing gloves
For trimming sheets and hoisting halyards, gloves give you extra grip and protection. They also keep sun off your hands, helping prevent age spots. The type of glove you need depends on the kind of sailing you do. For a casual day sail, just about any brand of sailing glove will do. For racing, you’ll want a stickier glove, and we prefer the full finger kind (vs. fingerless) for better protection.
We like: Gill and Harken make good options. Our favorite is the Ronstan Sticky Race Glove for better grip and durability.
Pro tip: It’s always a good idea to keep a spare pair of gloves in your sailing bag, because *someone* always forgets theirs.
⃞ Mini first aid kit
There are an endless number of things on a boat to step on, bump into, or trip over. You’re bound to get a few “boat bites” so it’s a good idea to have a few first aid basics on hand. Fill a zip lock bag with some alcohol wipes, band-aids, pain reliever and motion sickness meds so they’ll be on hand if needed.
We like: Arnica cream is really helpful for bruises and muscle pain and a worthy addition to your first aid kit.
Pro tip: Instant cold packs are great for boat bumps and bruises and don’t require having ice on hand. The quicker you can ice a bump or bruise, the less swelling you’ll have.
⃞ Hair ties
Wind plays havoc with your hair. Keep it untangled and out of your face with hair ties or a headband.
We like: For hair ties, we go basic and cheap with Goody SlideProof Hair Tie Elastics. They hold without pulling and are comfortable enough to wear all day.
Pro tip: Thread a handful of hair ties onto a carabiner and throw it in your sailing bag at the beginning of the season – then you’re set for summer.
⃞ Sailing bag
Last but not least, you need a bag to carry everything in. It should be big enough to carry your essentials. but small enough to carry and stow easily. This is a really personal choice. Lots of sailors love duffel bags, but since we often cycle to the docks we prefer a backpack. It doesn’t need to be waterproof, but it should be water-resistant so your goods stay dry. Separate exterior pockets for smaller items like your wallet and phone are helpful to keep everything organized.
We like: We’ve used the Sea to Summit Flow 35L Drypack for several years and love it. It’s a waterproof backpack that fits everything you need for a day sail. We also like the Patagonia Black Hole 45L Duffel; it has shoulder straps to convert to a backpack and is pretty indestructible.
Pro tip: Open top bags (like the ubiquitous canvas boat bags) will spill everything when the boat heels. Choose a bag that has a zipper, drawstring or roll top to keep your gear contained.
With all this gear sorted at the beginning of the season, your sailing days will be easier and much more comfortable. Now what are you waiting for? Pack your bag with these sailing bag essentials, and let’s go sailing!
Note: We receive no compensation for any products included here. Linked products are ones we’ve used and liked; we make no guarantees as to their quality or performance – YMMV. Except for our own products, which we stand behind 100%!
Be sure to read the other posts in this series:
Get ready for sailing season! Part 1: Safety first
Get ready for sailing season! Part 3: What to wear sailing