Who says boating has to stop just because the weather turns cold?
We boaters are a hearty crew, and many of us enjoy a brisk boat ride or fishing trip way into winter.
However, there are some factors to consider when it comes to foul weather and winter boating. Namely, the type of gear you should be wearing to protect yourself from the elements.
Brace for Falling Barometers: Foul Weather Gear to Stay Warm and Dry
Whether you’re going sailing, offshore saltwater fishing or boating along inland bays, lakes and rivers, you can find foul weather gear for everything from extreme and extended-use needs to lightweight rain gear. Foul weather gear is typically classified into the following categories:
- Offshore — Extended time in the most extreme climates and conditions
- Coastal — Continuous use in rough weather
- Lightweight — Everyday use in moderate climates or light rain
- Fishing and Rain — Everyday wear for fishing and chances of rain
- Dinghy — Very wet conditions and the possibility of going overboard, such as in sailing skiffs and beach cats
Quality Characteristics of Great Foul Weather Gear
Waterproof fabrics are a must when boating in foul weather. Fabrics like Gore-Tex and eVent offer breathability while being windproof and waterproof. eVent takes the technology a step further with innovative microporous membranes that work to wick sweat away. Both are great choices for foul weather gear.
Durable and heavy-duty
Along with Gore-Tex and eVent, Neoprene (think: wetsuits) is a popular choice in foul weather gear construction. It’s flexible, thin and lightweight while providing warmth and water-resistance. Foul weather gear made with neoprene includes pants, dry suits (meant to be worn as a layer), jackets, pants and sailing gloves.
You want your foul weather gear to be warm, but breathability is a must as well. Breathable fabrics like Gore-Tex work to vent sweat away from your body, which in turn helps to keep you warm.
Heavy-duty, corrosion-resistant zippers
There’s nothing like the spray of sea salt to corrode metal zippers faster than you can say “Ahoy.” Foul weather gear is designed with heavy-duty plastic zippers and pulls.
Cordura fabrics are often used to reinforce the knees or elbows of heavy-duty boating pants and jackets. It’s durable, water-repellent and resistant to tears and abrasions.
Inside wrist closures and wristbands on gloves
Wearing gloves is all well and good, but if water just drips down inside, it defeats their purpose. Four weather gloves sport closures on the inside to keep water out.
Fleece is your best friend when it comes to foul weather and winter boating clothing. Hats, gloves and boots usually have a layer of fleece to keep you nice and warm. Some jackets even have a fleece lining.
A welded seam means that the two pieces are, in a sense, “melted together” (rather than placing one on top of the other and sewing with a needle as in traditional clothing construction). This creates a super strong bond to keep out wind and water, as well as prevents chafing from traditional seams rubbing against your skin.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is widely used in the construction of foul weather gear. It’s lightweight, durable, waterproof and abrasion-resistant. The only drawback is that it allows condensation and perspiration to collect between the skin and clothing (which can be uncomfortable).
Polyurethane (PU) is a rubber polymer coating that’s also used in foul weather gear. It’s lighter, more flexible and more breathable than PVC, but it’s less durable and doesn’t repel water as well.
Popular Foul Weather Gear Brands
If you’re new to boating in foul weather, you may be unsure of where to start in your search for foul weather gear. This list, while certainly not all-inclusive, can give you an idea of some of the best foul weather brands available. I’ve found that some ski apparel is functional for foul weather gear, as it’s usually waterproof and durable. So if you’re a skier, you may already have some items (think: bibs, gloves and heavy-duty jackets).
Gill makes lightweight trousers, jackets with fleece lining and high-cut collars with cushioned face guards. Other Gill foul weather gear includes hats, life jackets, dry bags, fishing gloves, sailing gloves and full-face hoods. In fact, it’s smart to invest in a pair of both long finger sailing gloves (check price on Amazon) and short finger sailing gloves (check price on Amazon).
Helly Hansen gear is popular with the sailing crowd, but it’s equally suited for other types of boating or fishing. Jackets feature double cuffs with seals, YKK Aquaguard water-resistant zippers, Polartec fleece lining and innovative H2Flow Technology that regulates your temperature to keep you warm without overheating. Diving in foul weather? Check out their blind-stitched and 3mm glued neoprene wetsuits.
North Face isn’t just for the mountains. Boaters can also benefit from the innovative designs and styles of foul weather gear. Jackets are made of heavy-weight Gore-Tex and feature abrasion-resistant elbow patches and double center front storm flaps with snap closures.
Patagonia is another brand I’ve always associated with mountains and hiking. With a lineup of waterproof rain jackets and shells, Gore-Tex and H2NO fabric and zippered pockets, it’s one that I’ll be checking out for future foul weather gear purchases.
Famous for fishing apparel, Pelagic offers a full line of foul weather gear that includes fleece jackets, waterproof bibs, sunglasses (don’t forget eye protection) and lightweight jackets.
Sperry has been famous for boating shoes since 1935. But they’ve gone far beyond the classic tan color and leather laces your grandfather used to wear. The 7 SEAS Sport Boat Shoe (check prices on Amazon) is a sneaker-inspired creation with “Beastly Traction.” It has non-marking rubber outsoles with Razor-Cut Wave-Siping for extreme traction on wet decks. Hydrophobic mesh uppers shed water and OmniVent construction allows your feet to breathe. Sperry sells a wide range of foul weather boat shoes as well as saltwater duck boots and rain boots.
Stormr uses VAPR Tech (Variable-Stretch Advanced Performance Raingear) technology in their foul weather gear. It’s a comfortable and lightweight alternative to their rugged neoprene line. Features include high stretch panels, all-weather protection and a lightweight shell.
Foul Weather Apparel
If it’s a piece of clothing, it’s likely available in foul weather form. Here’s a list of common apparel and gear you may need for your foul weather fishing and boating adventures.
- Heavy Duty/Waterproof Jackets with rollaway hoods
- Windbreakers and lightweight jackets for rain
- Sea Boots with soft soles and heels to prevent scuffs on the deck of the boat
- Long and Short-Finger Sailing Gloves
- Hats with fleece lining
- Sunglasses with retainers and goggles
- Bibs, Salopettes and Trousers with waterproof PVC coating
- Dry Bag — If you’re around water, you need a dry bag.
How to Protect Your Foul Weather Gear
Even though it’s designed for rough and rugged use, foul weather gear requires a bit of care to keep it protected and performing as expected.
Nikwax TX. Direct Waterproofing
Even though your foul weather gear comes from the factory with a Durable Water Repellency (DWR) coating, it can wear away over time. Nikwax TX. Direct Wash-In Waterproofing (check price on Amazon) works to improve and protect that water resistance factor. It’s available for gloves, leather, softshell jackets, footwear, backpacks and lots of other items.
Nikwax Tech Wash
Nikwax Tech Wash (check price on Amazon) safely cleans and revitalizes your foul weather gear without stripping the waterproof finishes. Best of all, it can be used in a washing machine.
Hopefully this has given you some insight into the types of foul weather gear you’ll need for whatever type of boating you do. Sail (or power) on!
Sandy Allen is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Virginia. Her specialties range from hotels, islands and yacht charters to theme parks and family fun. She enjoys boating, snorkeling and jet-skiing along the waterways of Virginia, Florida and North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Follow her adventures at Somewhere in the Sand.