The in's and out's of layering clothing for sailing.

When it comes to clothing in the sailing world, there are too many options to choose and not enough time. The key factor, regardless of what you choose and wear, is layers. Layering allows you to dress for the various conditions that you may meet on the water.

Now everyone may not agree with the layering system or think it works and that’s fine. We here at Fogh Marine believe in the layering system and encourage you to use it when sailing and/or for other water activities.

I for one never used to be a huge fan of layers as it always felt too bulky to me but one cold day sailing on a J24 changed my mind. The day started sunny and warm so I donned a tank top, a flannel long sleeve button up and jeans with a softshell jacket. As Mother Nature usually does, she changed the weather and it became overcast, windy, and rainy. I threw on a thermal long sleeve shirt under my flannel top, a fleece toque, a pair of Gill Keelboat Racer trousers and a Gill Keelboat Racer jacket on top of my softshell. Quick enough, I was a happy camper again thanks to my layers; which I was able to adjust as the conditions changed. Aside from the seasickness, I was warm and dry, thus making my time on the water that day way more enjoyable.

Moral of the story: do not fear the layers…and be prepared.

There are many benefits to layering for sailing. Layers help keep you warm and dry while protecting you from the wind and rain. They also help keep you cool and comfortable on those hot summer days while protecting you from powerful UV rays. Layering essentially allows you to tailor your clothing based on the sailing conditions you’re faced with, the season(s) you’re sailing in and the location you’re sailing in.

Layers can be broken down into three basic categories: 

1. Base Layer

The purpose of this layer is to help keep your core warm and dry

How? By wicking away any perspiration or moisture from your body

Thus, your base layer should be some sort of material that is quick drying. The quicker your base layer dries, after wicking away the moisture, the faster your core will be dry and warm.

For those hotter summer days when you just need to wear something to protect your skin from the harsh summer rays, a base layer with level UV50+ protection is key. Most rash guards have this level of protection and can help protect your skin from sunburns.

Qualities of a base layer: quick drying, UV50+, breathable

What to wear: Rash guards, Hydrophobic Tops & Pants, Shorts, Technical Shirts, Socks 

Zhik Spandex Top Mens    Gill Hydrophobe Pant



                Zhik Spandex Top                                            Gill Hydrophobe Trousers 

2. Mid Layer

Also known as the warmth layer

The purpose of this layer is to help insulate your body and absorb moisture moving away from the base layer

The great thing about mid-layers is that they can be taken off or put on quickly as conditions change

For those warmer days it may not be a necessary layer but on those cold days, it is definitely a must

Qualities of a mid-layer: breathable, microfleece, quick dry

What to wear: Wetsuits, Fleece Sweater, Softshell Jackets, Toques  

Gill Race Collection Midlayer Softshell

Helly Hansen Womens Crew Midlayer Jacket           

            Gill Race Softshell Smock                      Helly Hansen Crew Midlayer Jacket Wmns

3. Outer Layer

This is your shell

The purpose of this layer is to help keep out water and protect you from the wind

Myth: the bigger the jacket or the fancier the jacket or the more expensive the jacket, the warmer it keeps you

Not necessarily. Why? Because your jacket is your shell and your shell is literally like a shield that protects you from the outer elements like water and wind. It does not mean that it will keep your core 100% warm and dry if you just wear the jacket. You’ve got to layer. The outside is about protecting the inside that helps keep you dry and warm. They work together to help keep the heat in and the moisture out.

In addition to protecting you from the elements, most outer shells come with safety features that help keep you visible to others. For example, most jackets come with multiple reflective patches and/or fluorescent hoods.

Qualities of an outer shell: waterproof/water resistant, windproof, breathable

What to wear: Smocks/Splash Tops, Jackets, Pants/Trousers (waist or farmer john)

Zhik AROShell Smock

Gill Women's Coastal Racer Jacket

                      Zhik AROShell Smock                             Gill Women's Coastal Racer Jacket

The key to these layers is that they all need to be BREATHABLE. Let me repeat. BREATHABLE. The breathability of each layer allows for the perspiration or moisture to move from the base layer to the outer layer. Remember the base layer helps wick away the perspiration or moisture that your body produces while being active and it needs somewhere to go. Thus the breathability from the mid and outer layers helps that moisture escape. All the layers work together to keep you warm and dry. Therefore if one layer is not breathable the whole system is ineffective.

Every level of sailing and the different types of boats in the sailing world can help influence the type of layering one uses and the layering options at each level. For example, racers may prefer lightweight, less cumbersome outer shells, like the Gill Race Collection Waterproof Jacket or the Musto MPX Race Jacket, while cruisers may prefer heavier, more substantial outer shells, like the Gill OS22 Jacket or Musto BR1 Jacket. Here are some examples of layering systems for different classes:

Example of a layering system for dinghy sailors (Laser, Opti, 420, 29er, 49er, i14):

Base Layer: Rashguard and/or Hydrophic Top

Mid-Layer: Wetsuit, Hiking Pants

Outer Layer: Smock

Example of a layering system for small boat sailors (Melges 20, J/70, Etchells):

Base Layer: Technical shirt and/or Hydrophobic Top

Mid-Layer: Fleece, Softshell Jacket

Outer Layer: Smock, Trousers

Example of a layering system for big boat sailors (Beneteau 36.7, J/105):

Base Layer: Technical Shirt

Mid Layer: Fleece sweater

Outer Layer: Jacket, Trousers

Hopefully, this guide helps with the decision-making progress when picking your gear! The less you think about your clothing and the more comfortable you are, the better able you are to perform on the water, concentrate on what you’re doing, and enjoy having fun. The less you think “I’m freezing cold” or “I’m so sunburnt” the more you will enjoy your time on the water.

Any Fogh Marine employee would be happy to help you assemble your layering system for the up coming season and/or answer any questions you may have.

Layering Pictograph


Tags: Clothing, Sailing Gear, Gill, Musto, Zhik, Baser Layer, Mid Layer, Outer Layer, Gul, Helly Hansen, Layering

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