Having the essential sailing gear when going out on the water, whether it’s a quick afternoon sail, a weekend sail, or a sailing trip, is crucial for having a good time and being absolutely safe. Over the years I’ve learned that having certain sailing gear provides me with a feeling of comfort because I know I’ll be ready for almost every obstacle I confront.
While there is some sailing gear that is more aimed at health and safety (aka safety gear), there are other items that are just plain useful when you need them. This list certainly doesn’t cover all of the sailing gear essentials you might need when out on the water, but they’re most definitely my favorite boat gear whenever I go out.
Without further chatter and in no particular order, here’s my list of the top essential sailing gear you’ll need year-round.
Essential Sailing Gear for Any Sailing Adventure
1. Waterproof Duffel Bag
Being out on a sailboat means you’re going to get wet, but that doesn’t mean the rest of your sailing gear you bring on-board should also get wet. That’s why I always bring a waterproof duffel bag whenever I set out to sail. Since you’ll need to bring on-board a few essential sailing gear items anyway, it’s arguably the best first investment.
I personally own a Marchway Floating Waterproof Bag, which is arguably the most popular waterproof bag when going sailing, kayaking, rafting, camping, and more outdoor activities. It’s an amazing addition to your sailing gear essentials since it’s easily able to hold all of your items due to it coming in sizes ranging from 10-40 liters.
The best part about owning a Marchway waterproof bag is that it floats, so in case your bag goes overboard you’ll know it won’t be sinking any time soon. On top of that, it comes in a variety of colors that’ll help you spot it out on the water in case it gets away from your sailboat.
2. Knife with Marlinspike
There are times when you’ll need to quickly cut loose a sheet or untie an exceptionally tight knot. These moments can be crucial for ensuring the safety of your crew and sailboat, so having a high-quality sailing knife with a marlinspike is definitely one of the most essential sailing gear you’ll want to have on you.
There are a vast number of sailing knives with marlinspikes out there, however, the ones produced by Myerchin are quite exceptional in terms of quality and variety. Whenever I’m out sailing, I always carry with me the Myerchin Sailors Tool Linerlock Silver since it has just what I need to be quick and effective when in need of a knife.
Not only is this particular Myerchin knife high-quality and exceptionally durable, but it also has a stainless steel serrated blade which comes in handy when having to cut a line fast. It also has a nice heavy weight to it so you know its able to handle a bit of abuse. Definitely a good choice among your sailing gear essentials.
3. Solar-Powered Watch with Compass and Barometer
It would be impossible for me to be able to count the number of times I needed to quickly check the compass and barometer while out sailing. Whether I’m in the saloon reviewing where we are and where we’re going or keeping my sailing log up-to-date, there’s nothing better than having a watch that gives you the exact information you need.
There are a lot of fancy and expensive watches on the market for sailors, but most of them are less functional and more fashionable. If you’re looking for a sailing watch that you’ll never need to replace, you’ll definitely want to check out the Casio Pathfinder Multi-Sensor Multi-Function Sports Watch.
This sailing watch has it all and definitely fits the category among the other sailing essentials. Apart from being extremely durable due to its stainless-steel design, but it also has a built-in compass, altimeter, barometer, and thermometer! The Pathfinder is also 100% solar-powered and can run without light for 6 whole months, so it’ll never need a replaced battery and always have a full charge. Hands down the best watch I’ve ever owned.
4. LED Headlamp
Whether you’re out on the deck at night keeping an eye out or simply relaxing inside to catch up on a book, having a headlamp is a nice little addition to anyone’s sailing gear essentials. Being able to see quick and easy in the darkness can be a lifesaver when out sailing at night or anchoring overnight somewhere.
There are a bunch of fancy, high-functioning, blinding headlamps out on the market that can be a bit too much at times. However, I personally like simple but quality products so I keep a Black Diamond Storm Headlamp handy when out sailing and during other outdoor activities.
The Black Diamond Storm Headlamp is simple and has everything you’ll ever need. This headlamp is waterproof and can be immersed in water for up to 1.5 minutes. It also can be easily set to a number of lighting modes, including full strength in proximity and distance modes, dimming, strobe, red, green and blue night-vision, and lock mode. If you’re looking to not overcomplicate things, check out this headlamp.
5. Polarized Sunglasses
Having a good pair of sailing sunglasses is among the sailing essentials you’ll need since you’ll likely have sun rays shooting at you in all directions. From the reflection off the water and the deck and directly from the sun, getting yourself a good pair of polarized sunglasses is a fantastic investment.
For the longest time, I’ve always purchased Polaroid polarized sunglasses because they look great and are high-quality. The issue I always had is that they pinched my nose, so I ended up trying out Oakley Fives Squared Rectangular Polarized Sunglasses and haven’t looked back since.
These Oakley polarized sunglasses are perfect for sailing because they encompass the entirety of your eyes and have a comfortable but secure feel. They’re also extremely durable, 100% UV protectant, and made in the USA, all at an affordable price. These sunglasses will last you a long time and look great!
6. Quick-Dry Deck Shoes
When you’re on the deck of a sailboat, there can be a lot of water splashing around and movement going on which is when you want stability the most so to avoid falling over or even going overboard. For these reasons, investing in some high-quality, long-lasting deck shoes among your other sailing clothing is great for any sailor’s year-round gear.
When it comes to sailing shoes, you want to make sure the sole can grip the deck well during wet and dry conditions while also being able to dry quickly. That’s why I always wear Poseidon Water Shoes by Mohem. These shoes not only check off the requirements as a good piece of safety gear, but they’re very comfortable and breathable.
These shoes by Mohem have some other features that not all deck shoes have. For one, they’re extremely flexible without being damaged so you can take them almost anywhere. Also, they’re so lightweight and flexible that you get the feeling your walking around barefoot on deck, so you’ll for sure feel safe and secure on the deck while out sailing.
7. Padded Gloves
Have you ever been holding onto a rope as hard as you can just to have it rip right through your grasp and burn your skin to no end? I don’t know about you, but this has happened to me plenty of times until I decided to invest in some high-quality sailing gloves. By adding gloves to your essential sailing gear, you’ll easily avoid one of the more common injuries while out sailing.
I cannot stress enough the importance of having good sailing gloves, especially since it’s a relatively inexpensive purchase. The WindRider Pro Sailing Gloves fit the bill perfectly regarding price, quality, and durability. It’s difficult to find sailing gloves with these qualities, so it’s really a no-brainer in my opinion.
The WindRider sailing gloves are extremely breathable and are able to dry exceptionally fast after getting completely drenched. They’re also quite versatile, so you’ll be able to use them in a number of other watersports including kayaking and wakeboarding. On top of that, they’re great for men, women, and children since they come in a number of sizes and are available in 3/4 or full-finger form.
8. Handheld GPS
Every sailor should know how to properly use a map and compass to figure out where they are and where they’re going. While there’s no replacement for this skill and it should always be practiced, it doesn’t hurt to have a handheld GPS to guarantee your position, speed, and other important metrics.
Being able to quickly locate where you and your crew are is crucial, which is why I always keep handy a Garmin Floating Handheld GPS. Just knowing I have this on me brings me at ease since it’s essentially the ground truth for knowing our position and speed wherever we are, just in case.
This Garmin handheld GPS also comes with a color display that illustrates where you are on a worldwide map. It’s also able to connect to my smartphone and other Bluetooth so I can track all of our metrics over time, including position, speed, heart rate, and temperature. If you’re sailing without a handheld GPS, I highly suggest picking one up before your next adventure.
9. Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)
It goes without saying that you want to be 100% ready for the most dangerous situations when out sailing, even if they might seem highly unlikely. In the case of a dire situation, you want a guarantee that you’ll be found when out on the water so investing in a PLB is worthwhile. That’s why getting a PLB is one of the more important sailing gear essentials.
Maybe it’s because I used to work for an insurance company back in the day, but I like to cover the “black swan” events whenever possible. That’s why I always have on me the ResQLink Buoyant Personal Locator Beacon by ACR. If you’re in an emergency situation and you need assistance ASAP, this little device can save your life making it an essential piece of safety gear.
This PLB is exactly what you’ll need when calling for help. While some PLBs require a monthly or annual subscription to work properly, this one doesn’t. If you need to contact Search and Rescue, all you have to do is flip it open, stick the antenna up, and press the button to activate. It’s also the world’s smallest PLB, so it’s easy to take with you anywhere you go.
10. Foul Weather Gear
There’s nothing like going out in the sunny, warm weather sailing with a calm, steady breeze. Sadly, sailing in paradise weather doesn’t happen all of the time, which is why it’s important to have proper foul weather gear when having to deal with strong winds, stubborn rain, and generally cold weather.
Ensuring your and your crew’s safety is the top priority when out on a sailboat, which is why you’ll often find foul weather gear and other safety gear like Navis Marine’s Rain Suit Sailing Jacket and Bib Pants. Navis Marine is one of the most trusted brands when it comes to foul weather gear, which means a lot when you need it the most.
This jacket and bib pants by Navis Marine come in a number of sizes and are an excellent choice for any crew member. They have a number of fantastic safety features including a strong nylon outer Seratex shell, fleece-lined hand warming pockets, and reflective patches. On top of all of that, they’re also 100% waterproof and windproof so you’ll easily be able to stay warm and dry in rainy or cold weather.
11. Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
Ensuring that everyone on your sailboat is safe and secure is a top priority, so investing in the proper safety gear and sailing gear essentials is of the utmost importance. When out on the water, you’ll want to make sure you have a personal flotation device (aka a life jacket) in case you have a man overboard. Having properly fitted PFDs or life jackets is definitely a required piece of boat gear.
When looking at a PFD or a life jacket, there is virtually an unlimited amount to choose from. I personally like a PFD that I can wear sailing without covering too much of my body in case it’s warm out. That’s the reason I own an Eyson Highly Visible PFD. This is a fantastic PFD since it’s lightweight and comfortable, it has a whistle and 3M reflective strips, it automatically inflates once in the water, and it’s reusable.
12. Safety Harness
If the weather’s getting rough and you need to ensure you won’t be going overboard, you’ll need a safety harness to keep yourself attached to your sailboat. You never know when you’ll need a safety harness (not to be confused with life jackets), so it’s a good idea to always have one handy at a moment’s notice among your other safety gear.
Sailing harnesses can come in all shapes and sizes, but this is an essential sailing gear item that’s fairly standard across the board. One of the highest quality sailing harnesses you can own is the Mustang Survival Sailing Life Vest with Sailing Harness. It has everything you’ll ever need in a safety harness, including a life vest, bright reflective tape, high-strength nylon webbing, and US Coast Guard approved. It’s also able to fit many sizes and comes at an affordable price.