Best Winter Sailing Jackets

Best Winter Sailing Jackets | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

August 30, 2022

Keeping warm with a proper jacket on a sailboat is essential during the winter months—especially when you’re covered in frigid ocean spray.

The best winter sailing jackets are the BALEAF outdoor jacket, the 8 Fans wading jacket, the Helly-Hansen Salt Coastal jacket, the Helly-Hansen Salt Flag jacket, and the Helly-Hansen Roan Anorak jacket.

In this article, we’ll provide detailed reviews of five of the best winter sailing jackets on the market today. We’ll provide the best uses for each jacket, along with there to find one. Additionally, we’ll cover different types of winter jackets and their materials, along with the characteristics of a proper sailing jacket for cold weather.

We sourced specifications from each jacket’s manufacturer or distributor to ensure accuracy. Additionally, we drew from our experience using different types of jackets while sailing in cold weather.


Table of contents

Sailing Jacket Vs Winter Jacket

The simplest sailing jacket is a waterproof windbreaker, as it deflects the two biggest weather-related threats on the water. However, this isn’t enough for winter sailing, and a thicker jacket or additional layers are required for protection.

There are two primary kinds of winter sailing jackets. Over-jackets, which are designed to be the final layer of your protective clothing, and under-jackets, which are designed to be worn underneath waterproof foul weather gear that doesn’t provide insulation from temperature.

You have a lot more flexibility when choosing under-jackets, as they don’t have to be water and windproof. Over-jackets must be both water and windproof, as they won’t provide appreciable protection if they don’t deflect these things.

Which you choose depends on the other gear you're using and the harshness of the conditions in which you plan to sail. For New England winters, you’ll need a full dry suit and a thick insulating jacket underneath. You may also wear a jacket on top of your drysuit if the design permits it.

For Pacific winters, a decently-insulated waterproof outer jacket may be enough, provided conditions aren’t wet or windy enough for full foul-weather gear.

Are Canvas Jackets Good for Winter Sailing?

Canvas jackets, such as those made by well-known brands like Carhartt, can be useful for some kinds of winter sailing. They’re warm and durable and popular for dock work, repairs, and at anchor. However, these jackets aren’t water-resistant enough for use at sea.

Are Winter Sailing Jackets Waterproof?

Generally speaking, yes—winter sailing jackets are waterproof. Again, water is the biggest threat during cold weather. A 40 or 50-degree day can turn deadly if 50-degree water and wind get involved, as your chances of developing hypothermia when wet are much higher.

Heavy Winter Jacket Vs Layering

There’s some debate in the sailing community about layering versus pre-insulated jackets. This comes down to a matter of personal preference, but bear in mind that some layering will always be required.

Many sailors utilize a fleece or other warm insulated jacket underneath their waterproof gear. This provides an excellent level of warmth, and it’s more flexible than a single heavy coat. If you get hot, you can shed a layer—but you can’t shed your heavy waterproof jacket.

That said, heavier jackets tend to provide better mobility than several layers. Additionally, it’s much easier to remove a heavy jacket than two or three layers when you go below into a warm cabin.

Best Jackets for Winter Sailing

Choosing a winter sailing jacket can be tricky, especially if you’re on a budget. We found five of the best jackets for water resistance, insulation, and winter sailing activities. These jackets can be worn with or without foul weather gear, and they’re all well-made and highly rated.

1. BALEAF Windproof and Waterproof Outdoor Jacket

Here’s an excellent lightweight jacket that’s good for sailing in mild winter conditions. This BALEAF outdoor jacket is waterproof and windproof and makes a great outer layer or interior layer for wearing underneath a dry suit.

One of the chief advantages of this jacket is its lack of bulkiness. It fits well with or without layers, and it’s light enough to wear in addition to other foul weather gear. And given its waterproofing, this jacket works as an outer layer if conditions permit. It will protect you well against rain and light spray without the addition of foul weather gear.

The jacket is made of 100% polyester, which is a strong synthetic fabric with excellent water resistance. The material is laminated with an almost impermeable membrane and offers excellent 5000mm waterproofing. In addition to its waterproofing, it’s also highly breathable—which is essential when body heat can cause sweating on colder days.

The jacket is ideal for layering as well, which may be necessary due to its lack of insulation. That said, the jacket is loose enough to allow an additional layer or two without becoming too tight. It’s quite flexible and provides excellent mobility, which is due to its sports-centric design.

This jacket has six pockets, which include two standard hand pockets, inner pockets, a large back pocket, and a chest pocket. Additionally, it has a unique hood that is designed to stop rainwater from dripping in your face. The jacket is reflective, which is a big safety feature in the event of a man overboard scenario.

There are several colors available, including neon yellow, black, blue, teal, grey, orange, and pink. This jacket is easy to store, as it stuffs into its own back pocket for compact stowage aboard the boat or in your pack.

Best Uses:

This highly affordable waterproof jacket is a fantastic choice for mild winters and an excellent emergency jacket for storing in a cabin compartment.

2. 8 Fans Waterproof Wading Jacket

Here’s a jacket that begins to get serious about winter sailing. The 8 Fans wading jacket is an outer jacket that reaches the limits of weather conditions and is the last line of defense before dawning foul-weather gear. In areas where foul weather gear isn’t necessary, this jacket is more than sufficient.

What sets the 8 Fans jacket apart from others? For one, it’s designed specifically for boating and is highly popular with sailors, fishermen, and hunters in wet areas. It’s not just a rain jacket—it’s also a windbreaker and provides protection for your neck and face in addition to your torso.

The jacket features two large waterproof pockets with smaller, zip-up pockets on top. Additionally, it’s adjustable in multiple places, which helps provide a tight and water-resistant seal if the spray gets rough. This jacket is made with two-ply breathable synthetic fabric that’s completely waterproof and highly durable.

The jacket features pockets on the arm as well, which is useful for a phone, keys, or other items you want to keep close for access. Additionally, it features a waterproof front zipper for easy access and security. The cuffs are neoprene, and the hood is fully retractable and stows away for a cleaner, more comfortable fit.

This jacket isn’t insulated with fleece or any other wick-able material. Instead, it relies on its superb waterproofing and wind resistance. However, the thickness of the material makes it surprisingly warm without additional insulation. It’s big enough to wear with layers and allow unrestricted movement but light enough for easy and compact stowage.

Best Uses:

The 8 Fans wading jacket is a well-balanced and affordable coat for winter sailing in reasonable conditions, and it’ll protect you from spray and rain if you encounter some chop.

3. Helly-Hansen Salt Coastal Jacket

Here’s a top-quality jacket that’s designed specifically for sailing. This waterproof jacket made by Helly-Hansen is one of the best you can buy and is also trusted by thousands of sailors in all kinds of climates. If you’ve ever watched sailing videos on the internet, there’s a good chance you’ve seen one.

So, what sets the Helly-Hansen Salt Coastal Jacket apart from other waterproof gear? For one, it’s made for sailing—and features everything that decades of maritime experience have taught jacket designers. The material, size, cuffs, and neck protector are proof.

The front of the jacket features a reflective material, and the high-visibility colors are a major safety feature for both walking around on deck in rough weather and falling overboard. Additionally, the neon hood makes it even easier to spot the wearer in the water.

The hood itself shrouds an insulated neck and face cover, which any sailor will tell you is absolutely essential for cold and windy days. The neck is high, which prevents water from pooling in the back of the hood and running down the jacket.

This jacket is completely waterproof, yet it’s also breathable, thanks to Helly-Tech performance fabrics. The jacket is standard-fit, meaning it’s not too loose and not too tight. It can be worn over layers like fleece for warmth, and it provides excellent insulation and complete wind resistance with or without additional layering.

The Salt Coastal jacket is ideal for mild to heavy winter conditions and near-shore sailing. For example, this jacket works well for San Francisco Bay or Seattle during the winter but may not be suitable for Maine or British Columbia. It’s available in multiple sizes and classic red or turquoise blue.

Best Uses:

The Salt Coastal jacket is a true cold-weather sailing jacket and offers superior water, wind, and temperature protection for winter sailing.

4. Helly-Hansen Salt Flag Sailing Jacket

For milder conditions that still require serious sailing gear, the Helly-Hensen Salt Flag sailing jacket fits the bill. This jacket is more affordable than the Salt Coastal and ideal for brisk days where the conditions aren’t too perilous or cold.

The Salt Flag sailing jacket is more compact than most comparable jackets, and it still features the waterproof Polyamide construction of the higher-end Helly-Hensen models. Additionally, it comes with all the approved reflective surfaces and protection that you’d expect.

The basic features of this jacket fall in line with the requirements for winter sailing gear. It’s waterproof, not water-resistant—meaning it won’t get waterlogged like many jackets that aren’t specifically designed for sailing. It features HellyTech Performance fabrics which are also completely windproof but breathable.

This jacket is machine washable and comes with a warranty, though hardly anyone seems to use it due to the excellent quality of this jacket. For the price, it’s hard to beat the lightweight Helly-Hansen Salt Flag jacket for mild winter sailing.

Best Uses:

The Salt Flag jacket is ideal for semi-wet conditions and cold weather and works well with layers of warmer fabric.

5. Helly-Hansen Roan Waterproof Anorak Jacket

Wind and water are the two elements that a winter sailing jacket must repel—and warmth can be accomplished by the jacket itself or additional layers. If you’re sailing in a winter environment that’s between 35 and 60 degrees, the Helly-Hansen Roan Anorak jacket is a perfect choice.

This excellent jacket is made by the same company that produces other sailing jackets such as the Salt Flag and the Salt Coastal. As part of the company’s workwear line, this 100% waterproof and windproof pull-over jacket is comfortable and fits well.

The jacket features elastic sleeve cuffs to fit snugly around your wrists and keep the water out. Additionally, the adjustable hood is quick and easy to put on and eliminates the fumbling often associated with big collars and traditional sailing jackets.

It has one large chest pocket for a phone, notebook, or other items that also have to stay dry. It’s a pullover, but it features a long waterproof zipper to make it easy to take on and off. Additionally, the top half of the jacket is made with high-visibility yellow material, which makes spotting an overboard sailor easy in most conditions.

The jacket is 100% 230 g/m2 polyester, but it’s coated with a strong PVC layer to ensure durability, ease-of-cleaning, and, most importantly, waterproofing. All of the strong seams are waterproof as well, which ensures you won’t experience leakage between the arms and the chest.

Best Uses:

The Roan Anorak jacket is a fantastic casual winter sailing jacket for inland and coastal cruising on dry days.

Best Winter Sailing Jackets
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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