Laser Sailing Clothing

Occasionally I get asked by newer Laser sailors what I typically wear while Laser sailing.  So here are the elements of my wardrobe followed by the conditions I’d wear them in.  I’m pictured above in my Summer Laser sailing attire.


Hat I always wear a hat with a brim to keep the sun off my face.  It does make it harder to look up at tell-tales, but it focuses my vision and makes it a more deliberate action.  And because I don’t have that much hair on my head, I need it for the sun protection there as well.  It also helps keep some heat in on the cooler days and absorbs sweat to keep it out of my eyes on the hot days.  I have a 3mm line to tie the hat to my life jacket to keep me from loosing it.

Polarized Sunglasses For many years I sailed without sunglasses and only a hat.  I never realized how strained my eyes were on sunny days, particularly from the glare bouncing off the bright white deck in front of me.  Once I started wearing polarized sunglasses I’ve never gone back.  The first thing I did when I bought a nice pair of sunglasses was drill a hole in the side of them so I could securely tie them to my hat, that is tied to my lifejacket, to ensure I didn’t loose them.

Pinny I wear a white pinny over my life jacket.  In the hot summer weather, the white color keeps the sun from heating up the dark life jacket and keeps me cooler.  It can also be kept wet for a little bit of evaporative cooling.

Life Jacket A sailing or paddling life jacket is a must for Laser sailing.  These life jackets are cut high on the waist so that sitting and crouching are comfortable without the life jacket riding up.  A couple extra pockets are nice for stashing extra gear (blog post on that coming soon).

Dinghy Boots I’m currently using the Ronstan Zip Up Boot which are good all-around boots – warm in the cooler days and warm on the hotter days… and that’s led me to start looking for some lighter boots that are lighter in color, with lighter materials that dry a little quicker.  I have at times gone barefoot while summer sailing and carried sandals on the boat for when I arrived ashore, but there’s too great of risk of stubbing a toe while racing and having it take my mind off sailing, so I wear the same footwear year-round.

Sailing Gloves I prefer 3-finger gloves because of the way I hold the line, but any glove will do.  Even though I have cleats on my boat, most of the time I’m holding the mainsheet, so good gloves of any kind are a must.

Sailing Shorts Not a must-have for Laser sailing with hiking pants, but I like to wear them mostly because the light grey color reflects the sun to keep it from heating up the darker colored hiking shorts I wear under it.  Having two layers helps keeps cool and they to keep abrasion from wearing down the more expensive hiking pants on the non-skid deck.  These are also versatile for sailing other kinds of boats. My favorite are the Camet Hobart Extreme.

Light Rash Guard This white rash guard keeps the sun off my arms.  In the summer heat, keeping it wet keeps me cool as it evaporates off.  (example)

Thermal Rash Guard Like the light rash guard to keep the sun off, the thermal rash guard is great for the cool early spring and late fall days where a little extra warmth is needed.  This rash guard is 2-3mm neoprene in the chest.  I have the SEA Thermospan top and while used underneath spray top it generally keeps me warm, the thermal part is only in the chest and my arms are the first thing to get cold, particularly sitting around between races.  There is a trade-off between warmth and freedom of movement and this one strikes a pretty good balance.

Short Hiking Pants The Airprene Hiking Pants by SEA have perforated neoprene allowing air/water to easily reach the skin to keep cool without over heating on a warm day.  I prefer the waist shorts because I don’t like wearing any more clothing across my chest than absolutely necessary.  Since I only spend very short periods of time on my knees, I don’t feel the need for the kneepads as they can get uncomfortable behind the knees when crouched down – which I do a lot more of on a Laser.

Tall Hiking Pants I have a set of 3/4 hikers that are a bit heavier and warmer than the short hiking pants that I have now.  These use to by my full-time hiking pants, but I’ve found I prefer the short pants in the summer and thus mostly only wear these in the cool conditions in the early spring and late fall. (example)

Spray Top/Dinghy Smock A must-have for Laser sailing in anything but the nicest conditions.  I like to stick with a light color so that I have protection when it’s cool and wet, but doesn’t get too hot when the sun comes out.

Thermal Pants Most sailors who spend a lot of time in cooler conditions wear thermal pants.  Like the thermal top, these pants provide warmth when wet.  Hiking pants can be worn over them or in the case of the Zhik products integrated into them.  Since I only sail in those conditions a few times a year in the early spring and late fall, I use bib pants instead.  While they are a little bulkier, they at least keep the wind off to keep me warmer.  For me they are also a better bang for the buck as I can use them while crewing on offshore boats as well.  (Skin-tight thermal pants would not go over well on an offshore boat as a fashion statement).

What do I wear in the various conditions?

All Conditions:

  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Life Jacket
  • Sailing Gloves
  • Dinghy Boots
  • Pinny

Early Spring/Late Fall when the air & water temperature are both in the high 50’s to low 60’s

  • Thermal Rash Guard
  • Tall Hiking Pants
  • Bibs
  • Spray Top

Spring/Fall when the air temperature is in the 70-80 or in warmer conditions when it’s windy or raining

  • Light Rash Guard
  • Spray Top
  • Short Hiking Pants
  • Sailing Shorts

Summer when the air temperature is 80+

  • Light Rash Guard
  • Short Hiking Pants
  • Sailing Shorts
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