The Sailing Packing List
Summer sailing season is on and you’re going on a sailing trip!
Good for you! Your life will never be the same ;). Especially if you have never been on a sailing trip before it can be difficult to figure out what to pack for a sailing trip. Preparation is key to make sure you, as well as the ocean, will have a good experience!
Here is a practical and ocean conscious sailing packing list to have you well prepared for your first sailing trip!
A few general sailing packing tips and considerations
- Pack for the destination you’re going to and the adventures you’re planning to have. The sailing packing list presented here focuses on the warm charter island hopping / coastal kind of sailing trip.
- Bring little. Chances are you’ll end up wearing the same things anyway. Storage space is worth gold on board. You won’t have much. If you can live without it, leave it at home. Especially on a summer sailing holiday, you need very little. Most days are spent in bikini and boardshorts.
- Check what sailing gear is provided on board so you don’t have to bring it: towels, sheets, 12-volt USB charger, dishing washing sponge etc. If it’s a rental boat there will be very few things on board.
First, I will present the sailing packing list for easy reference which you can use as a checklist. After the list, I provide some commentary on different items to help you figure out whether they may be necessary for you or not to pack for sailing, plus some more happy ocean sailing packing tips to be a real ocean, conscious warrior.
The Sailing Packing Check List
- 1 wind jacket
- 1 sweater
- 2 tee shirts
- 1 long-sleeved shirt (against the sun)
- 2 tank tops
- 2 fast drying shorts/board short
- 7 underwear
- 1 long pants
- Clothes to sleep in
- Some decent clothes for on shore
- Swimwear! x3
- A lycra for sun protection
- For girls: a sports bra/top for the adventure activities
- A sarong and/or coverup
- 1 pair of flip flops/sandals
- 1 pair of hiking/running shoes
- Water toys (for sure a Mask, snorkel & fins)
- 12V USB car charger unit
- Camera / Phone
- Charging cables
- Spare Camera Battery
Toiletries and sleeping
- All in 1 soap/shampoo/conditioner
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, and toothpicks
- Hair ties and clips
- A washing glove/ cloth /sponge
- Menstruation cup
- Seasickness pills/wristband
- Personal medicine/glasses/contact lenses
Paperwork & money
- Valid Passport (and visa if necessary)
- Debit card
- Credit card
- Crew Insurance
Food, Drinks, Cleaning
- Water bottle
- Water filtration solution
- Reusable & Produce Bags
- Reusable Straw
- Dishwashing & Cleaning basics
- Favourite foods & herbs
Can be handy & cool
- A Headlamp
- Your country flag
- A notebook and pen
- A sewing kit
- A pocket knife
- A little music speaker
Notes on the Sailing Packing List
The considerations on a few of the items listed above.
Duffel bag Unless it’s a huge catamaran, a boat does not have storage room for a hard suitcase. A waterproof duffel bag is ideal; you can fold it into a small size. A 50- to 70-liter duffel bag is a good size. The smaller, the smarter you will pack. For years I have been travelling with this 70L AquaPac Duffel bag. Simple, light, and strong.
Day pack A 20- to 25-liter waterproof day backpack is nice for day hikes and shopping. It’s also helpful in dinghy rides from the boat to shore to keep things dry, or for swimming to the boat if there’s no dinghy around;). I use the 20l Aquapac backpack.
Storage bags/ Shopping Bags Chances are you will only have one small cupboard or drawer to store your stuff. It’s helpful to have different coloured (non-crispy/noisy) bags to be able to easily find what you need. There are also easy to DIY from an old t-shirt. You can also use these bags for shopping.
Summer sailing holidays are predominantly spent in bikinis and board shorts. Bring a few of those. Stretchy, fast drying and breathable fabrics are comfortable. We can look like hippies on board but bring something presentable to wear for on shore out of respect to the local communities. A long sleeve shirt is nice as protection from the sun. Usually, it’s hot in the sleeping cabins. Bring boxer shorts and a shirt or top for sleeping. Don’t forget a cap (to protect your face from the sun).
A sarong and/or coverup easy to pop on when coming out of the water and protect from the sun.
Shoes don’t have to be sailing-specific shoes. On every island you touch shore, you will find places to explore and hills to climb on all sorts of soils. Good multi-purpose trail/running shoes allow for island exploration. I use my multi-purpose trail running shoes for sailing, walking, running, dancing, and everything. They do the job just fine. Just keep in mind that your shoes are very likely to get wet and salty. On deck, you have to be careful with black soles. They can leave marks on the deck.
Some captains have a barefoot policy. Nice for leisure sailing, it keeps the boat clean, and if you’re a passenger you’ll be fine. I prefer wearing shoes because I go around boats like a monkey and have stupidly sprained my ankles a few times too often.
Cap A cap is a must. A hat leash is Neptune’s greatest invention. This is a clipper between your cap and t-shirt, which, in my case, has prevented my cap from going into the sea for about 283 times.
Sunglasses Polarised sunglasses are favourable at sea to view deeper, sharper and clearer. You can better see the dolphins swimming underwater at the bow. A neck cord prevents your sunglasses from going overboard.
Bandana A multi-purpose headband/scarf/bandana thingy to protect your head to keep the hair out of your face in the wind.
SUPS, Hammocks, snorkeling gear, floating devices can all greatly add to the experience! Bring it if you have it or check the second-hand marketplace. Locally this stuff is expensive and/or imported low ocean-friendly shipped from China. Lots of this toys are out there already and often only used for one summer sailing holiday. See what you can re-use. If you want to bring surf or kite gear, check if there is space for that on board.
Film & photography – Memories are certainly best captured with your mind, at the moment—but capturing the adventure with a camera can also create nice memories to look back on later and to excite others about the ocean! Smartphones do the job these days. Protect the gear well. Electronics are not made for life on the sea. You only need one wave and hatch not properly closed to have your phone or camera ruined. Also, on boats it easily becomes humid and salty, so you better protect it. Buying a new phone takes as much energy as recharging and operating a smartphone for an entire decade. The second-hand marketplace has affordable water-proof cases.
Music brings happiness. Bring your Phone with some sweet playlists downloaded, cable to connect the music machine to the speakers. Also, bring earphones or headphones, so you don’t disturb the other crew if there are in chill or siesta modus.
Charging Usually charging phones and tablets is not a problem. You need a 12V USB charger for that. These are popular on board so it can be helpful to bring your own. Don’t forget the charging cable. Label them so it doesn’t get mixed up with other cables. Charter boats usually only have 12Volt charging possibilities.
Universal adapter Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas have different power outlets. Bring a universal adapter if you change continents so you can plug in everywhere on land. It’s not easy to find these things in harbour towns.
Towels and bed linen are usually present. Not always, check this or bring a towel and pillow cover/sheet and/or sleeping bag. I use my sarong for drying and sleeping situations.
Earplugs Good earplugs can help to dampen the noises on the boat. Be sure to only wear them when appropriate.
Soap and shampoo Whatever shampoo, soap or shampoo product you bring on board, remember that it all drains straight out to the sea. Choose biodegradable. A simple soap/shampoo bar or multifunctional soap is a responsible solution. You can also wash your clothes with that. Learn about the shampoo challenges and plastic free soap & shampoo solutions.
Washing unit A sponge or washing glove is handy to give yourself a quick wash. Baby wipes are often recommended and can surely be useful for you, but not for the environment. Opt for biodegradable ones.
Tooth care Bring a (bamboo) toothbrush, paste or powder, and toothpicks (in many places in the Mediterranean and Caribbean they are individually wrapped in plastic). Btw, Rinsing with seawater is a really good mouthwash.
Hair ties and clips Bring something to tie up your hair. Otherwise, your hair will be all over the place and it can be dangerous with making sailing maneuvers.
For casual coastal sailing holidays, you do not need to worry about seasickness. If crew or passengers feel bad, the next port or anchorage is close. If the plan is to make larger distances then you may want to bring something for seasickness. Seasickness remedies are available in pill, plaster, and wristband form. Scopolamine is the ingredient that many find to work best, but comes with some side effects so be aware of the dosage. You can read and learn more about preparing and dealing with seasickness in book Ocean Nomad.
Food / Drinks / Cleaning
If you rent a boat as a group, it comes with the very basics. Together you’d have to source things like dishwashing liquid, a sponge, toilet paper (never to be thrown in a toilet on board), shampoo. Coordinate with fellow holidaymakers who brings what. A huge difference can be made by arriving prepared for a minimal waste shopping experience. In the Mediterranean and Caribbean, popular sailing holiday places, the corner shops in most cases do not have plastic-free regulations in place (yet). Instead of taking things as they come, help to shape as they go, and show up with some reusables. Think about a bag, water filtration solutions, food produce bags, a reusable straw, a reusable cup (especially if you like a Greek frappé on the go).
By taking some (ocean-friendly) dishwashing liquid, a sponge and/or cleaning cloth from home, this will prevent you for having one to buy new locally which generally comes with lots of plastic wrapping and non-ocean-friendly ingredients. Most dish washing liquid brand contain harmful ingredients for the ocean (phosphate, Chlorine, Artificial fragrance). Bring ocean-friendly dishwashing liquid.
On the average summer sailing trip, food and the food costs are shared as a group. Everyone can have a say in what’s being provisioned. Try not to be too complicated for your fellow crew, so if you have particular tastes you really can’t do without for a week, bring some goods of your own / buy it yourself.
If you’re obsessed with tea or herbs/spices (like me), consider bringing some of that. This way you don’t have to buy the triple plastic wrapped tea bags or herb pots. Also, if you are gluten intolerant, vegetarian or vegan, prepare or bring something from the food department if you think this might be an issue. I personally travel with a mix of seeds. It gives me superpowers. For short-term holidays I wouldn’t bother.
Paperwork & money
Passport Obvious but easy to forget. Some countries require 90 to 180 days’ validity on arrival. Check if your passport is still valid long enough. I’ve met numerous people who had to fly home to renew and could cancel their adventure!
Money Bring cash in the local currency and an extra credit card. ATMs could be far, often don’t work, are empty, or swallow your card. It’s good to have a back-up.
Insurance Be personally insured. Check if your insurance has sailing coverage. I recommend TopSail insurance for sailing crew as travel insurance. Safety wing is an affordable medical coverage insurance for nomads. They also cover sailing travels, including long distances.
Can be handy & cool
Head torch A head torch is handy for reading, coming back from the shore at night, getting up in the night without waking anyone up. It’s great to have a head torch with a red ‘night watch’ option—bright white lights affect your sleep rhythm, and blinds you and fellow crew.
Your country flag (small–max 30cm x 20cm). Bear in mind official flag regulations.
What NOT to bring
- Too much!
- A hard suitcase. There is no storage space for that.
- Too many (warm) clothes. You’ll end up wearing the same things anyway. No winter clothes needed for Mediterranean summer sailing and Caribbean sailing.
- Too many shoes. You’ll be mostly barefoot on the boat (some captains demand wearing shoes).
- Too many creams and oily cosmetic products.
- Expensive jewelry with emotional attachment. Very easy to lose!
- Hairdryers and electric razors (most boats only have 12-volt charging possibilities)
- Your surfboard, mountain bike and sea scooter (without asking captain in advance).
- A return ticket ;-). Make sailing a lifestyle.
Being well-equipped and prepared allows you to create positive change in many ways. We can do more than simply packing light, compactly and purposefully for our own sake. Our greatest and most exciting individual power: the power of choice! To a large degree, we can choose what to eat, drink, wear, believe, say, do, create, and buy. Each choice comes with its consequences, good or bad. Do your best to make whatever choice you make a good one for you and the ocean! Not sure what the best choice is? Ask questions, research, explore, and find out! How can you pack smart, on a budget while minimising your carbon footprint, your trash trail, and the number of chemicals polluting the environment and your body? What can you choose to be the best for your health, your wallet, and for the world that you call your playground? Here is some food for thought on actions you can take to make the packing challenge more affordable and better for the environment
Offshore sailing packing list
Packing for a long-term Ocean Nomads sailing adventure? Then check out the offshore sailing packing list I created for crossing oceans and longer journeys. You can find the extensive sailing packing list and considerations in book Ocean Nomad. This offshore sailing packing list includes information about lifejackets, personal safety and sailing gear, gloves, pocket knives, visas, vaccinations, onward travel proof, and more tips on how to make a difference for a healthier ocean. Or download the simple and quick offshore sailing packing list checklist (free).
Wish you a splashtastic sailing experience! Let me know in the comments what you have found to be super useful on your trip and what you wish you had taken.
As always, opinions are my own. No organisation or brand is paying me to write this or mention them in this sailing packing list. What drives me is saving the ocean. Sometimes links contain affiliate links. If you’re looking to purchase something, huge thanks if you purchase it via this website (but try to find it locally first! ). At no extra cost to you, orders and bookings through this website give me a tiny piece of the pie that help me keep investigating, exploring and creating content about on ocean action and solutions! The information presented here is not a substitute for specific training or experience. When going into the outdoors it is your responsibility to have the proper knowledge, experience, and equipment to travel safely. Here are more ways to support ocean awareness and action. Splashthanks!