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There’s an old saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong gear for the conditions. This still rings true to this day: protecting yourself on the water means choosing the right sailing gear for what you’re doing and whatever conditions you expect to face.

Out on the water, we face some of the harshest elements known to man. As a sailor, you need to protect yourself from the sun, spray, sweat, extreme temperatures, and unpredictable waves. Unfortunately, there’s no one piece of gear that does it all — you need to choose the right sailing jacket for your chosen activity and wear multiple layers that work together to keep you protected.

Layering really matters

If you plan on spending any amount of time on the water, it’s important that you understand the basics of layering different materials. There is a wide range of different products that you can use to layer up while on the water and all of them broadly fit into one of these categories: baselayers, midlayers, and outer shell jackets.

Choosing a new piece of sailing gear should be exciting, not a chore. While it’s easy to become overwhelmed with choices, it all boils down to knowing your needs, deciding on a budget, and understanding the basics of what each layer should do. Let’s get started from the bottom layer and work our way out.


How to choose a baselayer for sailing

When you’re out on the water, it’s vital to keep your body temperature regulated to avoid exhaustion, overheating, or hypothermia. A moisture-wicking insulative baselayer is a skin-layer garment designed to help manage your body temperature, keep your skin dry, and keep you comfortable for longer. 

Thermal baselayer garments are designed to wick moisture away from the skin. During times of intense activity, the body sweats to effectively manage temperature which needs to be drawn away and expelled back into the atmosphere. Once this activity ends there is a danger for the layers of clothing you are wearing to be very damp. This becomes a big problem as moist skin loses warmth far quicker than dry skin, therefore,  it is important to have an efficient base layer to transport moisture away from the skin and towards the outer shell. Baselayers are considered essential gear to have in your kit bag and become a regular item in many weather conditions when inshore, coastal and offshore sailing.

For days when the weather warms up, a UV protective baselayer takes the place of a thermal baselayer and is vital part of your sailing equipment. During warm and sunny conditions, protection from the suns UV rays is very important to prevent burns, dehydration and overheating. Similar to thermal baselayers, UV protective tops allow for moisture that is expelled by your body to be drawn away from the skin to keep you dry and cool. Baselayers are considered essential gear to have in your kit bag and become a regular item in many weather conditions when inshore, coastal and offshore sailing.


How to Choose a Midlayer Sailing Jacket

Once you’ve got your baselayer sorted, the next step is to think about your midlayers. An insulative and breathable midlayer sailing garment is designed to trap warm dry air, while also expelling the excess water vapour that has been transferred off the baselayer.

Midlayer yachting garments come in a few different designs and materials, each with its own purpose and function. These versatile jackets are also a popular choice as a general-purpose, casual jacket in relaxed settings.

Midlayers tend to be more varied than baselayers in features and design, so here are the basic differences within the Zhik midlayer range:

Fleece jackets: these are lightweight and warm, making them suitable for moderate conditions where they can be worn as either a midlayer or top layer. These are relaxed fitting, comfortable and look stylish when worn casually.

Cell jackets: these are wind-proof midlayers that provide outstanding insulation in harsh conditions, or modest protection on their own in moderate conditions. Cell insulated jackets can also be worn casually with their slim fit technical styling and adaptable features.

Three-layer softshell jackets: these are designed for flexibility, versatility and manoeuvrability while on the water. These jackets provide protection for high-output endeavours incorporating high stretch and form fitting features for greater aero efficiency, freedom of movement and easy layering.


How to Choose an Outer Shell Sailing Jacket

Once you've sorted out your baselayer and midlayer, the next step is to choose an appropriate outer layer or 'shell' jacket. This is the layer that most people think of when they talk about sailing jackets — sometimes calling them yachting jackets, wet weather jackets, or sailing spray jackets.

The outer waterproof shell jacket is your main barrier from the elements. It should be designed to block water and wind from the outside while expelling all water vapour that gathers inside. Above all, a shell jacket should be tough, versatile and rise to meet the challenges of the environment you use it in.

An outer shell is where you'll find lots of variation and multiple choices depending on your chosen activity, level of advancement, and budget. Within the Zhik range of shell jackets, the general rule is that the higher the number, the more extreme the weather conditions would be for that jacket to be suited. Here is an overview of each of the key shell jacket ranges:

Zhik Inshore and Lifestyle Sailing Range

Zhik INS100™ Jacket: our entry-level but extremely capable waterproof jacket. It provides critical protection against the elements while looking great on the street.

Zhik INS200™ Jacket: a streamlined design with all the features required for high-activity inshore and moderate coastal sailing, whilst also providing protection and style in daily life.

Zhik Coastal Sailing Range

Zhik CST500™ Jacket: a high-performance coastal sailing jacket, purpose-built to provide lightweight protection in a range of conditions. Perfect for short-haul and overnight crossings, or high-performance sports boat racing.

Zhik Offshore Sailing Range

Zhik OFS700™ Jacket: a highly breathable and durable 2-layer shell for offshore racing, coastal sailing and cruising. Fully seam-taped and critically reinforced for protection, it will shield you when the conditions turn bad.

Zhik OFS800™ Jacket: an offshore range developed and refined with the world’s leading offshore sailors, built to meet the high demand of serious offshore sailing. Unrivalled breathability, supreme waterproofness and enhanced waterproof durability.

Zhik OFS900™ Jacket: designed for the wildest of conditions with all the protection you could want. This jacket range represents the pinnacle of ocean racing gear and features Zhik’s latest patent-pending innovations.

Choose the right sailing jacket for your needs

At Zhik, we make gear that helps you to stay safe, protected from the elements and comfortable from calm to the most extreme conditions. Now that you know about the different layers of sailing jackets and how each performs, it is very important to be able to know what technology and elements go into creating a sailing jacket to make them waterproof, durable and able to withstand the many miles and hours out on the water. Along with this, the different ranges of sailing jackets have many different safety, comfort and protection features which are specifically designed for the type of sailing that you are undertaking. To determine how you should choose the perfect sailing jacket you can take a deep dive into the many ranges of technical sailing jackets that Zhik offers.