What to wear boating: Essential clothing guide for a day on the water

If you go by the glossy brochures, ads and videos, you’ll know that all you need to wear boating is a swimming costume and a tube of factor 50, right? Wrong.

For as any seasoned boater will tell you, the weather can be a fickle friend, liable to change its mind at any given moment.

And that means we have some important decisions to make in terms of what to wear boating before we head off into the great blue yonder.

Starting from the top and working down, here’s our selection of the best boating apparel you need to ensure you don’t get caught out… come rain or shine.

Planning a sailing adventure? Check out our sister title Yachting World’s guide to what to wear sailing or what to wear dinghy sailing.

What to wear boating


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Musto Unisex Essential Fast Dry Crew Cap

Produced by one of boating’s best known brands, here’s a boating hat that does everything it says on the tin and more, for not only is it unisex and fast drying it also offers protection from the rays – and as every boater knows, there’s a lot of UV out there.

Our Musto cap has a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) of 40 and we can certainly verify its fast drying capabilities. Another excellent point is that it has a clip to attach it to your collar which substantially increases the cap’s chances of survival should it fly off on a high speed run.

Buy it now on Amazon

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Decathlon Floating Polarised Sunglasses

Decathlon is unusual amongst retailers in that it develops many of its own products. That includes these polarized sunglasses which the company’s designers have created especially for nautical activities. Accordingly, they float and have category 3 polarised lenses which give 100% UV protection and filter out unwanted glare from the ocean’s surface.

The glasses’ head-hugging design means they stay put when the going gets rough, but if you demand more then the stems are drilled to accept a retaining strap. Offered in three colourways, there’s even a neat feature on Decathlon’s website that uses your computer’s camera to allow you to try them on (in a virtual kind of way) before you buy!

Buy it now on Decathlon


Trespass Unisex Qikpac Packaway Jacket

Proving you don’t have to spend a small fortune for a quality boating jacket is this smart outer layer from Trespass. Apart from being waterproof and looking the part, the best thing about the Qikpac Packaway jacket is that it rolls up and stows into its own, and equally fashionable, little pouch – a useful plus point as space is invariably at a premium on all but the largest boats.

The jacket has a hood and colour-coordinated lining and zippers, including zips to the side pockets, and is fully machine washable. Crafted from 100% Polymide Pu Coating, the Qikpac Packaway jacket comes in a total of seven colours and is offered in sizes ranging from S to XXL.

Buy it now on Amazon


Dubarry Greystown Down Gilet

Gilets are an ideal choice for a climate like ours that’s often too warm for a jacket but too chilly for just a shirt. So given that’s it’s an important choice we’ve opted here for quality products from a high end brand.

Based in the heart of Galway, Dubarry of Ireland began operations in 1937 as a cooperative making footwear. Many will know the brand’s fine sailing boots, which the firm has been producing since the 1970s. However, today the Dubarry portfolio has expanded and now includes a range of luxury clothing, including gilets for men and women.

For him we’ve selected the Graystown Down Gilet, which Dubarry describes as a serious seasonal essential, and with its 70% down, 30% feather filling, fleece lining and faux suede leather collar and trim, we’d add sumptuous to that description too.

Buy it now on dubarry.com


Dubarry Redbarn Performance Gilet

Equally luxurious is our women’s choice, the Redbarn Performance Gilet. Available in a single colour, Pesto, this gilet is great for active days at sea as it features separate stretchy side panels which allow greater freedom of movement.

Buy it now on dubarry.com

Helly Hansen Ocean Quick Dry polo shirt

Even when it’s fine and dry there’s a chance the spray will get you, so we’re going not just for a polo shirt, but a quick dry polo shirt. Our brand of choice here is Helly Hansen, which offers a great selection of polos for men and women in a range of colours and sizes.

The men’s polo – the Ocean Quick Dry – is rated at UPF 50 and is made from soft polyester which has been recycled from reusable plastics which otherwise would have ended up in the ocean.

Buy it now on hellyhansen.com

Helly Hansen Siren Quick Dry polo shirt

The women’s version has a stretchy 100% polymide shell and is rated at UPF 40.

Buy it now on hellyhansen.com

Sealskinz Waterproof Extreme Weather Gloves

There’s nothing worse than wet cold hands, especially when you’ve got to manage a boat or have seawater soaked ropes to throw. So we’ve gone for a pair of high end, extreme weather, fully waterproof gloves from Sealskinz.

These heavy duty hand warmers have a lot to offer; they’re soft and durable, the anti-slip liner won’t accidentally pull out, there’s a PU wiper on the thumb and Velcro fastening on the extended cuffs.

The palm is 100% leather with the remainder of the outer layer being a mix of polyester and elastane. Inside, the insulation is an inviting padding of super cosy PrimaLoft Gold.

Buy it now via gooutdoors.co.uk

Jack Wolfskin Men’s Activate Light Zip Off Pants

Long trousers or shorts? It’s a question we often find ourselves asking on those typically British days when the weather can swing one way or the other. But today there’s an answer: zip-off leg pants.

In fact, this form of trouser has been around for some time and while it’s a clever idea up until now many of the products on offer haven’t been exactly stylish, it’s as if they couldn’t make their minds up whether they wanted to be short or long.

However, that’s not the case now and there’s plenty of choices out there which look great whether the full leg is in place or not.

We’ve chosen two models. For him, it’s Jack Wolfskin’s Activate Light Zip Off Pants, which feature soft shell, super lightweight, breathable and flexible fabric. They’ve also got zip-up pockets to keep your goodies safe.

Buy it now on Amazon

Mountain Warehouse Explorer Women’s Zip Off Trousers

For her, we’ve selected Mountain Warehouse Explorer Quick Drying Pants, which come in a range of cool shades and whose elastane material includes UV protection.

Buy it now on Amazon

Natural World slip on boat shoes

While deck shoes remain the footwear of choice for many boaters, there’s no limit to the type and style of shoes spotted clomping around marinas.

Once in a while, along comes a brand which really tries something different; take a bow Natural World, a Spanish shoemaker which produces a wide range of what they describe as Eco Friendly and/or Vegan footwear.

Among its environmental credentials, Natural World cites Coffee Ground shoes, an absence of dangerous substances and a commitment to ethical trade. We’re not quite sure what vegan shoes are, but we presume their tongues steer well clear of meat!

For boaters the key attributes are likely to be the cool lived-in-look of their canvas uppers and the non-marking soles. The shoes come in a massive range of colours, some of which are dazzlingly outrageous, and there’s plenty of styles to choose from – we’ve opted for Old Gazelles for him and Eco Vegan Trendy Canvas slip ons for her.

Buy the Natural World Men’s Old Gazelle slip ons via Amazon

Buy the Natural World Women’s Eco Vegan Trendy Canvas slip ons via Amazon

Still looking for what to wear boating? Head to Amazon’s dedicated boating page for more marine products.


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