Cold, heat, water, wind, UV rays…?

Clothing in Onion!

As in all outdoor activities, appropriate clothing must also be used for sailing. Comfort is an important aspect that must be treated with due care. And not just in winter. In fact, the specific clothing must be chosen with care even during the summer, when the glare of the sun’s rays amplified by the water, wind and splashes require adequate protection from UV rays at sea. Without considering that the temperature can change suddenly if the wind starts to blow and the sky is covered. Another important consideration concerns the water temperature, which is often poorly considered. Especially in early spring, the thermal gap between air and water temperatures can easily reach 16-18 degrees Celsius. This phenomenon particularly affects lakes, where night temperatures, which remain rigid even in spring, can prevent the water from warming up as the summer rapidly progresses. The type of activity planned also affects the clothing. For example, a quiet walk, with little wind and external reserves will drastically reduce the risk of capsizing. In this case, the best choice will be to equip yourself with streamlined equipment that favors comfort. Conversely, for a technical outing, internal reserves and full sail to push the boat to the limit, the probability of capsizing increases. Here then is that the outfit must be designed to facilitate the recovery of the right trim and resume navigation “on the fly”. So how do you deal with the most varied situations? Follow our little guide to compose with little expense, even using clothing easily available at home, a perfect “sailor’s wardrobe”. A few targeted purchases, with the right characteristics, for an excellent “onion effect” dressing.

The golden rule prescribes that the equipment is as versatile as possible. So let’s see how to correctly choose combinable elements and always wear, from time to time, the most suitable mix. Let’s explore the various “zones”…



If there is one truly indispensable accessory in every sailor’s wardrobe, it is the hat. It can be of different weight, material, model. But to be really suitable to take on a boat, it must always be able to remain glued to your head, in any situation. Therefore, hats with a sturdy front elastic band or those adjustable with a strap are preferable. Visor hats are comfortable on sunny days to keep out the glare, but they tend to blow away in the wind, so they should be worn with the drawstring tightly closed. The visor must never be excessively protruding or of the soft type, therefore with less wind resistance. In winter, if you want to protect your ears and neck, you can use a fleece hat. It is a strange model equipped with two adjustment drawstrings (one upper and one lower) and slips on with both drawstrings loosened. It can therefore take the form of a cylinder (to protect the neck/ears) or a cone, similar to a skier’s hat. Another useful garment is the neoprene hood designed for underwater activities. With a few euros you can buy one, certainly very light in weight (2-3 mm neoprene) and of a size that can be used over the classic cap: with this simple solution you can defend yourself well even from the most intense cold and rain . Another useful garment is the neoprene hood designed for underwater activities. With a few euros you can buy one, certainly very light in weight (2-3 mm neoprene) and of a size that can be used over the classic cap: with this simple solution you can defend yourself well even from the most intense cold and rain . Another useful garment is the neoprene hood designed for underwater activities. With a few euros you can buy one, certainly very light in weight (2-3 mm neoprene) and of a size that can be used over the classic cap: with this simple solution you can defend yourself well even from the most intense cold and rain .


Sunglasses are always necessary to protect the eyes from intense sunlight. In order not to lose them, it is absolutely advisable to equip them with the special ribbon that is fixed to the rods and passes behind the garment. There are all kinds of slings on the market, but we need floating ones. Regarding the color, the bright colors that stand out on the water are preferable. This will give us a better chance of recovery in case the glasses go overboard.

Outer layers

The outer layers have the important function of insulating us from the elements and bad weather. The level of comfort on the boat derives from their correct choice. Let’s see how to obtain maximum effectiveness from the barrier effect that they must produce.

The wetsuit

Among the outer garments, the wetsuit occupies the role of queen. There are really many types and it is sometimes not easy to extricate oneself in the choice. All wetsuits suitable for sailing should be soft to allow for large, comfortable movements. Before buying, it is imperative to try them on, taking care to check that you can easily stretch your arms and bend your knees. However, it is important that the suit adheres well to limit the passage of water inside it, in order to guarantee good thermal efficiency in the water. The reinforcements in the areas of greatest friction (such as on the knees) and the well-made seams are important. Useful on heavy wetsuits are the areas of tightly knitted titanium fabric on the shoulders in order to facilitate movement agility on board. Apart from some differently placed reinforcements, you can also choose a surf suit. It must always be a single piece with a zipper, not made up of 2 separate pieces like those for diving. The quality of the suit depends on the compound (which may contain variable percentages of titanium as an additive), the presence of reinforcements in the areas most subject to wear, finishes and seams. For a light weight wetsuit it is not essential to move towards top products, because its thickness is not such as to create problems of particular hindrance. For heavier wetsuits, on the other hand, a soft quality fabric gives the garment a fit that makes the difference. It is also a good rule to wear old swimming shorts or boxers over the wetsuit: these will act as a “sacrificial” fabric, protecting the wetsuit from repeated rubbing which,

Winter and mid-season wetsuits

When the temperature of the water (often underestimated) and/or the air requires it, a neoprene suit should be worn. This happens all the time except in the summer when moulting is usually not necessary. They exist of different quality and price, which vary according to the specific range of use for which they are produced. If you avoid the harshest winter days, you can only buy one wetsuit. It will have leg and long sleeve, differentiated thickness 3/4 mm (4 in correspondence of the chest). If you plan to take advantage of the boat even on cold days, or if you are in places with a harsher climate, the best choice is to buy two wetsuits: the 5 mm winter one and a mid-season one with long legs and short sleeves 3mm thick.


Drysuits are a separate category, particularly high performance and suitable for extreme temperatures. Due to their high level of protection they are also used for children who practice competitive sailing in the middle of winter. They are virtually fragile and their high cost justifies their purchase only for specific needs.

Summer wetsuits

Then there is a large assortment of wetsuits, i.e. light mid-thigh wetsuits with short sleeves, which can be profitably used in the summer. They have low cost, 2mm neoprene thickness, comfortable to wear. They can be used both alone and in combination with other outer/inner layer garments.

Dinghy shoes

If there are items that are considered a must on board, they are shoes and a hat. In the summer, an old pair of trainers is sufficient, but for the winter it is better to have neoprene booties. Both the 5 mm models with side zip (cold waters) and lighter moccasins are widespread, according to one’s needs. Neoprene is a fairly elastic material, so the size is not binding as for a normal shoe. When choosing, however, it is good to consider the thickness of the thermal socks (the mountain ones are excellent) that could be combined. There are specific models for sailing, which differ from the others because they have reinforcements on the instep which improve resistance to abrasion while we work on the straps.


Even the spray-top is one of the most important and most used garments. It is a jacket without zip that is put on over the head, with neoprene cuffs and collar, adjustable with Velcro. This type of jacket is not a normal k-way, because it protects against the wind in an excellent way and prevents water splashes from penetrating, therefore it can never be missing from your equipment. Some models have a front pocket with semi-watertight closure, very convenient for storing various items to have close at hand. The spray-top enormously improves the thermal properties of a suit (especially when wet), with a very low weight.


Gloves are often useful but not always necessary. They are needed for two reasons: to defend against the cold and to avoid abrasions caused by sheets. Those for the cold are heavy, neoprene, with full fingers. The anti-abrasion gloves, on the other hand, are lighter and almost always half-fingered, to maintain better sensitivity.

Inner layers

The inner layers have important thermal properties and are used under the wetsuit and spray-top, even in direct contact with the skin. They must be chosen in relation to the temperature and constitute an important variable, because in relation to the weight they contribute with a thermal efficiency higher than that of the outer layers. The main function is to guarantee a constant body temperature and limit sudden changes in temperature in any condition, even when wet. Breathability is also a parameter that has its importance for this category of garments.


Normal undershirts made of cotton, wool, silk or synthetic materials can be used. With short or long sleeves, but not tank tops, as long as they are close-fitting or in stretch fabrics. The immediately following layer must be made of lycra or other technical elastic materials because they make it easier to put on the wetsuit. The lycra shirts for sailing have a variable cost that depends on the weight. The lightest and cheapest, although valid, mainly perform a sliding function and are not very insulating (an aspect that must be taken into consideration when choosing the underlying intimate layer). The heavier lycra shirts have a greater barrier effect, despite a modest thickness. A good combination can include a classic undershirt, even in wool, with a lycra shirt worn over it.

Underwear and pants

It is advisable to prefer tight or elasticated boxers (advice also valid for women) to briefs, heavier than usual when it is colder. Over the boxers you can wear leggings/leggings/tights (this advice is also valid for men). The weight will vary in relation to the temperature. Both lycra and nylon are valid as materials, provided that the latter is heavy. For example, the 140 denier tights are excellent, cheap and easily available. It goes without saying that even the “discontinued” tights because they have ladders are excellent. You know the old trick of sealing the fabric in the hole area with a drop of clear nail polish, right?


Socks are needed if it’s cold. Both wool and synthetic with a tight knit, so as not to let water pass easily. Technical mountain socks in elastic fabric or non-slip home socks are ideal. Old wool socks are also excellent, especially if “swallowed”, because the felted stitches are thicker. If the thickness permits, two pairs of stockings can also be used or, if pantyhose is used, it is preferable to wear it after the stockings.