28 February 2024

Top tips
What to pack on long distance sailing

By Paul Knox-Johnston Sales & Marketing Manager

Sailing across a vast ocean can be the experience of a lifetime, but it’s a journey that requires careful consideration.  Planning your departure points, route, timing and making sure your boat is ready, takes time.  Whether it’s a transatlantic crossing, a transpacific crossing, or any other ocean crossing, you’ll have a long list of things to think about and might find yourself leaving packing your personal kit to the last minute.

Aside from ensuring you have the essential safety gear, especially your life jacket, the golden rule to follow when packing for an ocean crossing is: pack light. This may seem daunting when you’ll experience the extremes of weather from the doldrums to the roaring forties, but with a bit of organisation and a soft dry bag to minimise taking up cabin space, it can be done.

The list below is our guide on the key items to pack for your ocean crossing:

1. Foul weather gear for extremities

The most significant kit to include is offshore waterproofs (a jacket and salopettes or a full drysuit). Ideally, take at least two sets in case one becomes completely soaked or damaged.

2. Thermal base layers

It is handy to pack a couple of sets of tops and bottoms that can be interchangeable in case they get wet. Natural fibres like Merino wool or similar are essential in keeping you warm.

3. Fleece and full mid-layer

Pack a fleece for the cooler nights, along with a warm, long-sleeved top and trousers.  Make sure you have spares for when these inevitably get wet

4. Warm weather gear

It can still get chilly, even once you hit the warmer climes. Pack a couple of shorts and t-shirts, but you may still be reaching for that fleece or those thermal layers even when in the Caribbean!

5. Socks

Never underestimate the comfort of your feet!  They can make or break your sailing experience. Packing thick socks for freezing temperatures as well as light socks for warmer climes will keep you comfortable and blister free on your sailing expedition. Consider investing in waterproof socks, like Sealskinz socks, which are 100% water-resistant, windproof, and breathable.

6. Underwear

It goes without saying; packing enough sets of underwear to keep you comfortable is a necessity!

7. Sailing hats

It is best to include both woolly/extreme cold hats (such as Sealskinz Waterproof Extreme Cold Weather Hat), and head gear for hot weather (caps or wide brimmed UV hats). You may even want to consider packing two of each, in case of escapees during windy moments!

8. Sailing gloves

Pack a couple of pairs of sailing gloves to keep your hands warm, comfortable and protected at all times.  Make sure you choose a pair that allows ample movement so you can get all the jobs done on deck.

9. Footwear

Take sailing boots to keep your feet warm and dry, and soft soled deck shoes or sailing trainers for fairer weather.

10. Sunglasses and sun cream

Glare off the water can seriously damage your eyes, so make sure you invest in polarised, UV blocking sunglasses, ideally with a strap to prevent them from taking a swim!  Don’t forget the sun cream as well for when you reach sunnier shores.  It’s also worth investing in a good quality protective cream or balm to stop windburn and chafing, and take lots of lip salve.

11. Sleeping bag and pillow

Ensure you choose a warm but ultra-light sleeping bag and pillow that can pack away easily but still keep you warm in cold temperatures.

12. Travel towel and wash kit

A lightweight micro fibre, quick dry towel will free up vital packing space, and toiletries should be kept to a minimum too.  Don’t forget biodegradable laundry liquid so you can give your clothes a wash

13. Casual wear

Don’t forget clothes for when you embark at your destination; both for exploring during the day, and for evenings out after all that hard work.

For all sailing trips, you should also remember to pack phones, charging leads, relevant medication and a mini first aid kit with items that you know you’ll need and which the boat’s first aid kit might not contain.  A torch (ideally a head torch) will also come in useful, especially if it also has a red light so as not to damage your night vision when hunting for that extra fleece down below.

And finally, don’t forget your passport – a small but very important bit of kit!


For a list of must-have items for your boat safety kit, our sister company Haven Knox-Johnston have put together this short guide.

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