The Ultimate Sailing Packing List

what to pack for a sailing trip
Photo credit: Sherry Wernicke

If you are fortunate enough to vacation on a sailboat with your family and friends, you will need sailing gear. The boat is likely to life jackets, but will there be foul weather gear that fits you and the kids? If you’re headed out on an offshore sailing, you could be out to sea for days with no shopping mall in sight. Friends of ours have been sailing alone and with kids for more 30 years. They created this carefully curated sailing packing list.

The Ultimate Sailing Packing List

We spent a glorious week sailing with friends in the British Virgin Islands. It was one of those rare perfect vacations when you never need to implement plan B. Flights arrived on time. The weather was warm, but never hot or humid. The water had the most amazing shades of blue I’ve ever see. Winds were warm and facilitated sailing. Everyone got along swimmingly.

While fate seemed to work in our favor, so did coming on board well-prepared for any situation. That was due to the decades of sailing experience of our friends and knowing what to pack, from waterproof outerwear to moisture-wicking base layers, food to games.

The best advice we got was to NOT bring anything we would worry about losing or getting wet or damaged and to pack casual clothes only. Even at the nicer restaurants in port, people wore shorts. Seriously, this is one time to not overpack. Pack for layering — taking off layers as the sun grows warm and adding them as the evening chill sets in.

Read More: The Best Luxury Travel Gifts

what to pack for a sailing trip
Pack shorts, sunglasses head guards, mesh bags, and hats. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke

Gear for a 7-Day Sail

For a seven-day sail, we each packed one duffel bag for our sailing apparel and personal items and one for our Pack for a Purpose items and everything else. Leave the wheeled suitcases home on this trip. You need flexibility in storage on the boat; hard cases and wheels are more difficult to store.

How much you take will depend on the length of your sailing adventure. You probably won’t be washing any clothes, so take enough to last the trip. You will have access to washers and dryers at many ports, but why spend precious vacation time doing laundry? We rinsed out clothes as need and hung them to dry on the safety lines along the side of the boat.

A Note about Electronics Aboard

We had several wifi purchase options on board and went for the full package at $40 per day. It actually worked quite well. There is limited ability to charge electronics, so kids can’t go “overboard” playing games. That’s why you’ll want to pack some old fashioned board games and a deck of cards.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Portable chargers are the key to staying charged up onboard. I always made sure mine were charged first and ready to go.

packing list for a sailing trip
Pack light! There isn’t much room for stowing bags on a sailboat. Photo credit: Sherry Wernicke

How Much Money Do I Need?

Most every place we stopped accepted credit cards, but we also brought $600 in cash and the BVI takes US dollars.

What Supplies Will be Aboard?

The sailboat should be equipped with basic supplies such as life jackets, snorkeling masks and fins, towels, and kitchen appliances/utensils. Some will even have neoprene wetsuits and drysuits. But check with the company when you book.

If the boat comes with a crew, food and water should also be included. However, if you have chartered a sailboat to sail yourself, look for a grocery store close to the harbor where you can buy fresh food and plenty of water.

If you don’t see a sailing regatta or months-long coastal sailing in your future, you likely don’t need to invest top-notch sailing gear from Zhik, Helly Hansen or Ronstan. But you will want clothes and outerwear that will keep you dry, warm and comfortable.

Sailing Packing List

Men’s, Women’s and Children’s Sailing Clothing

  • Long sleeve shirts, preferably with sunscreen built-in
  • PJ’s
  • Underwear
  • Bathing suits
  • Rash guards, short and long-sleeved
  • Shorts/skorts
  • Easy to wash hiking pants like these from Columbia
  • Fleece jacket for cold weather
  • Spray top or smock for keeping dry during inflatable dinghy rides to shore.
  • T-shirts in a breathable fabric
  • Headwear for cold weather and sun protection, including at least 1 that ties
  • Casual dress-up outfits for dinners
  • Flip flops
  • Sailing boots or sneakers with non-slip soles. Sperry Topsiders are the classic choice!
  • Packable rain coat or sailing jacket
  • Foul weather gear
  • Sunglasses, several pairs with a head guard
  • Water-resistant sports watch
  • Costume jewelry

Toiletries

  • Sunscreen
  • After sun lotion
  • Lip balm
  • Soap
  • Skin care products
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Shampoo/conditioner/styling products
  • Shower cap
  • Hair ties/clips
  • Nail clipper and file
  • Make up
  • Brush
  • Hair dryer (if you must)
  • Whatever other items you need, such as contact solution and extra contacts

Health Care Items

  • Prescription meds
  • Benadryl
  • Aspirin/Aleve/Advil
  • Dramamine
  • Antacids
  • Pepto-Bismol
  • Allergy Medicine
  • Aloe
  • Calamine Lotion/Anti-itch spray
  • Eye flush solution
  • Bandaids
  • Liquid Band-Aid
  • Cold Medicine
  • First Aid Kit
  • Bug repellant
  • Tweezers

Sundries

  • Garbage bags
  • Ziploc bags
  • Wipes
  • Aluminum foil
  • Clothes pins
  • Small laundry detergent
  • Duct tape

Food

  • Coffee and filters
  • Splenda
  • Cereal bars
  • Snacks
  • Foul weather jacket and salopette (overall pants)
  • Neoprene long sleeve top
  • Rental documents
  • Sailing Guides and Maps
  • Rope
  • Bungies
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Swim goggles
  • Snorkeling mask
  • Mesh bag for snorkeling gear
  • Sailing gloves
  • Flashlight on a rope
  • Headlamp
  • Coral and fish book for identification
  • Underwater camera (We like this waterproof GoPro Hero8)

Miscellaneous

  • Plastic laundry bags – 1 per person
  • Take ashore bag/backpack
  • Nylon travel wallet
  • Copy of your passport; don’t keep with passport
  • Driver’s License (you may rent a car)
  • Health Insurance Card
  • List of emergency contacts
  • Cell phones/chargers
  • Computers/chargers
  • Board games/cards
  • Books/magazines/Kindle
  • Power pack – we like this one from Anker
what to pack for a sailing trip
Another glorious sunset in paradise. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke

Be sure to check the weather forecast before you go, so you know if you need to bring more long sleeve shirts or tank tops. Have an amazing time!

5 responses


  1. Thank you for this list. It’s very helpful

  2. Splenda seems like a really strange thing to list since it contains no calories or nutritional value. Why not sugar?

  3. so helpful. thanks for sharing.

  4. I’m glad you talked about sailing trips and what to take to one! Recently, my wife and I decided it’d be fun to take the kids on a boat trip. We’re very excited about our next vacation, so we’ll be sure to read and follow your packing tips! Thanks for the advice on what type of toiletries to take on a boat tour!

  5. Thanks for the great list! One thing that would be a great addition is to say to pack reef-safe sunscreen.

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