What to Wear on a Boat



Sailing on a ship requires extensive preparation. In addition to understanding its components and how to operate it, people must also know what to wear on a boat. Although there are no strict regulations, having the right attire is important for safety. 

What to Wear on a Boat

Key Considerations for What to Wear on a Boat

Boaters should assess their situation before deciding on clothing. The conditions can influence what their ideal boat outfits look like. 


Boating lets passengers enjoy the sunshine and ocean. They can participate in ship-spotting, birdwatching and sunbathing. These activities entail lounging on the deck with minimal water exposure. 

People should plan accordingly for any water-related activities. Water conducts body heat away around 25 times quicker than air of the same temperature. Those who are sailing, fishing or swimming should have appropriate attire. 


Sailing through a body of water in warm weather means dressing in breathable fabric. Water reflects sunlight and UV rays, which exposes the human body to excessive heat and radiation. Even boats with roofing are vulnerable to sunlight.

Cold-weather sailing warrants warmer clothing. People with a low tolerance for cooler temperatures must bundle up more than they would on land. A person shivering ashore will be freezing on the water. 

Sailing Distance and Time

Ship enthusiasts should assess how far they will sail from shore and how long they’ll be out before deciding what to wear on a boat. It’s imperative to bring what’s needed. 

A quick lake trip is more forgiving than sailing the high seas. The average cargo ship spends 10 to 30 days on the water. It could be even longer based on the destination. 

What Should You Wear on a Boat?

What a person wears on a boat is up to personal preference. However, here are some suggestions on what to dress in or bring before leaving shore. 

Life Jacket

Life jackets are personal floatation devices that can help with water-related emergencies. They are designed to turn a person face up to avoid drowning. People wearing them will float until help arrives. 

Life jackets are likely available when renting a boat or taking a cruise. Communicate and ask when unsure. 

Long Sleeves

People wear various items on a boat, from dresses to tank tops. Sailors wear oilskin to combat foul weather while at sea. Whatever the clothing, it’s important to have long sleeves. This protects the upper body from getting sunburned or splashed.

Cold-weather sailing calls for layered clothing. Boaters should start with a thinner material that can handle sweat and a heavier layer to provide warmth. They can top things off with a rain jacket. 

Waterproof Pants

The lower part of the body is more likely to get splashed when on a boat, so boaters should wear waterproof pants. Their durability should last a person the whole trip, keeping the legs as dry as possible.

Most waterproof pants are a little heavy and warm for summer use. Lightweight versions are ideal since the fabric dries quicker and feels easier to move in. 

Sun Hat

A hat is a stylish way to protect the head.  A visor is adequate when relaxing on a boat and keeps hair in place. Wide-brimmed floppy hats are often favorites as they can provide sufficient sun protection while keeping things casual.

Strong winds may blow loose-fitting hats off. Boaters should choose an option that will stay securely on their heads. Look for options with strings or ribbons that allow you to tie the hat in place.

Water Shoes

Footwear is also prone to getting wet, and having wet socks or feet is downright uncomfortable. Water can also damage sneakers. Thus, boating enthusiasts should opt for water shoes instead. They should have a good grip to remove excess water and prevent slips. 

Slippers and sandals are also reasonable picks when staying on a boat. However, most fabric-based options may not handle excessive water exposure. Pick flip-flops to be ready for any water-related adventure. 


People can skip the bathing suits if they aren’t submerging themselves in the water. However, someone interested in diving, snorkeling or other activities should bring a swimsuit. A rashguard and swim bottoms are must-haves.

Others may prefer more revealing swimsuits, like bikinis. Wearing a coverup can minimize direct sun exposure.


Sunscreen is undoubtedly one of the most important things to wear on a boat. Too much sun exposure is dangerous for the skin. Since people can’t control how much sunlight they get when on the water, the next best thing is to add protection. 

People should apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF values of at least 15, but higher protection levels are better. They should use this on every body part, especially the exposed portions. Reapply after swimming or sweating.

A woman on a canoe

Factors to Look at With Boat Outfits

Fabric and wearability are important factors for boat outfits. Potential exposure to rain and ocean water means the clothing should be at least water-resistant, if not waterproof. Moisture-wicking and breathable fabrics like polyester, nylon and mesh are good for summertime and can remove sweat while providing comfort.

Wearability is also important, as some people may feel uncomfortable in too many layers. They may take off their life jackets and rain jackets when there’s calmer weather and if they’re staying on the deck. There are also many options for colorful and well-designed clothing that provide style and protection. 

Packing What to Wear on a Boat Trip

Boaters should keep all items in a waterproof bag, which can keep clothes dry even when exposed to liquids, ensuring they’re dry and ready. Space on a boat is limited, so it’s important to pack light. Some people may wear their swimsuits under their clothes to save space.

People should change into dry clothes if they’re dripping wet at the end of the boat trip. They should transfer the wet ones into the waterproof bag to contain leaks, squeezing them dry beforehand. 

Prepare for Boat Attire

Understanding what to wear on a boat can seem complex at first, but it’s actually one of the more straightforward aspects of a sailing trip to prepare for. Boaters should focus on waterproof materials and comfort when on the waters. Once that’s settled, they can enjoy the endless blue. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Should Be Considered When Dressing for a Boat Trip?

Boating enthusiasts should consider their activities and the temperatures. Sailing distance and time can also play a big part since they can only access the clothes they bring with them. 

What Are the Essentials to Wear on a Boat?

The main essentials are a life jacket, long sleeves, waterproof pants, sun hat, water shoes, swimsuit and sunscreen. Take only what’s needed to prevent overpacking.

What’s the Ideal Fabric for Boat Attire?

The ideal fabric for boat outfits should be waterproof to withstand exposure. Moisture-wicking fabrics are also important to combat sweating from the heat. 

Are Boat Outfits Difficult to Wear?

Boat outfits can still be stylish and easy to wear while being practical. Certain articles of clothing, like life jackets and rain jackets, can be removed when appropriate. There are also many options for colorful and well-designed clothes. 

How Should Boating Clothes Be Packed?

Boating clothes should be stored in a waterproof bag to ensure everything is dry when changing on deck. It can also prevent leaks caused by wet contents.

Jack Shaw

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