Are Sailing Base Layers Necessary?

There is a lot of stuff you’re going to be recommended to buy when you start sailing. You’ll need to get legally-mandated safety equipment, tools to handle whatever comes your way, navigation gear, etc. Another thing you’ll hear a lot about are sailing base layers. 

Sailing base layers are a base layer of clothing that can keep you warm and dry. 

Are they really necessary, though? Well, that depends. We’re going to go over two types of situations so you can get an idea of whether or not you need sailing base layers. 

Do You Need Sailing Base Layers on Rivers and Lakes?

If you’re sailing on a river or a lake, we’ll be completely honest, you don’t need base layers. Base layers are mainly there as a way to protect you. If you’re sailing around fishing, exploring, or just enjoying a cruise on a river or a smaller body of water, you don’t need nearly as much protection. 

First, you’re highly unlikely to be sailing in those areas during any adverse weather conditions. So, it doesn’t make much sense to worry about hypothermia. 

Second, if you do decide to go sailing during a colder period, and you get wet, you’re typically going to be just minutes away from land and some sort of public space. You can get help fairly quickly. 

That’s not to say they can’t come in handy on colder days, though. Just staying comfortable is well worth the investment. 

Do You Need Sailing Base Layers for Offshore Sailing?

When you’re offshore sailing, you’re sailing miles away from shore on the open ocean. The ocean is much colder than any lake you’ve been in when you get that far out, and the temperature can plummet at night. At nighttime, it can be like sitting in a refrigerator all day. You do not want to be wearing summertime street clothes. 

Also, if you fall in, or a wave soaks you, you’ll want something that can dry quickly so you can still have clothes if you didn’t pack any spares. Sailing base layers are typically designed to be either waterproof or fast drying. 

When you’re in this sort of sailing situation, you’re also a long way away from help. If you suddenly need to get to shore because the temperature is just too low, you might have an hour or two of sailing before you even get close to a dock. By the time you get there, you can be suffering from severe hypothermia. 

Because of those reasons, base layers should be a standard piece of equipment for any offshore sailor, and they can even come in handy if you’re more an in-shore sailor just because of how fast hypothermia can set in on the ocean. 

It’s Situational

As you can see, it more or less depends on the type of sailing you’re doing. Anytime you’re going far out on the ocean, you 100% need base layers. If you’re just taking your sailboat up and down a river, that’s a different story, and you can be a bit less cautious.

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