The very best of today’s technical clothing is extremely good and will keep you warm and dry in all but the most extreme conditions imaginable.
The massive choice of sailing jackets – and wildly varying price points – can be bewildering even for the most experienced sailors. This can make figuring out the best sailing jacket for your specific needs a daunting task. Of course, this is an easy problem to solve if you simply throw money at it.
However, for most people would mean spending far more than is necessary and at the high end some of the pricing is eye watering.
In any case, if the only sailing jacket you have is truly top-notch one you’re likely to wear it out in conditions that lower spec garments would handle with no problem. And it may not be as comfortable in ordinary weather as cheaper alternatives.
My Gill OS1 sailing jacket, for instance, is great for cold and properly wet night watches, but the extra-high collar can feel claustrophobic in lesser conditions.
For many people it’s therefore a better option to start with a coastal or inshore specification sailing jacket and then add a high-spec offshore one when it’s needed.
There are two key exceptions to this. Firstly, those who race offshore, where the weight and bulk of kit needs to be kept to a minimum. Equally delivery crew will often be at sea in conditions that keep all but a handful of cruising yachts in port.
How to choose the best sailing jacket
How can you identify the best sailing jackets? All have some features in common, including articulated arms for ease of movement, reinforcement in the lower back panel, handwarmer pockets, a quick-dry fabric lined collar and effective cuff seals.
All the key brands have become very good at the attention to detail at the design stage that’s needed for these elements to work well.
One important aspect that’s not often fully understood is the differences in fabric types.
Less expensive garments usually employ a two-layer outer material, which require a separate inner lining. This can make the sailing jacket more awkward to put on and take off, and adds to the bulk in your kit bag.
Three layer fabrics don’t need an inner lining and from a comfort perspective are therefore preferable to two-layer options. They also tend to dry a lot faster.
This puts to bed the old idea that a heavy sailing jacket automatically offers better protection.
7 of the best sailing jackets available right now
Zhik INS300 and INS200
There’s a lot to be said for a choosing the best inshore jacket you can find. It will be lightweight, comfortable to wear, very easy to move around in and is likely to see a lot of use.
Zhik’s INS200 and 300 series are arguably the most carefully designed of all. Both are made of an impressive three-layer fabric with taped seams and have a sculpted fit that minimises excess material.
The men’s INS300 also has a lined collar and reflective detailing that will help locate the wearer at night.
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Gill OS3 Coastal Jacket
Gill’s latest lightweight OS3 fabrics use a fundamentally more sustainable material than the long-running industry standard durable water repellant (DWR) coatings.
These have been used for decades to improve waterproofing are are what makes the water bead off a new jacket.
However, DWR finishes are typically based on fluoropolymers that have toxic by-products which persist in the environment.
Instead, Gill’s OS3 range uses a plant-based finish the performs the same function as the DWR coating.
The OS3 jacket is made of a two-layer fabric with a non-absorbent, quick drying lining.
It has a high-visibility hood, adjustable cuffs with PU inner seals, an internal storm guard and is available in men’s and women’s fits.
Musto Sardinia Jacket 2.0
This is an economic and very lightweight option that’s ideal for daysailing in summer.
It uses the same two-layer BR1 fabric Musto uses for its full-specification BR1 inshore jacket, and has a detachable hood, plus four pockets, including an inner chest pocket that gives valuables some protection from the wet.
On the downside, there are no hand-warmer pockets, the collar is not fleece lined and there’s no inner cuff seal.
Nevertheless it packs super-small, is comfortable and doesn’t restrict movement.
You won’t need anything better for many decent summer days and it can be worn ashore as well.
Decathlon Triboard Sailing Jacket Offshore 900
This French company develops and retails its own brand products, but doesn’t change its ranges unnecessarily merely to suit the whims of fashion.
The result is well thought-through long-lasting gear at very competitive prices.
This is the firm’s top-specification offshore jacket, made from a three-layer fabric with four times the waterproofing rating of typical inshore products.
It also has a high collar, adjustable hood with rigid visor, double sleeve seals and two hand warmer pockets.
In addition there are two cargo pockets and a further secure and drier pocket under the storm flap.
Musto BR2 Coastal Jacket
This is an ideal mid-range jacket from one of the big name manufacturers.
The two-layer fabric has a significantly higher level of water resistance than inshore products.
The articulated cut ensures freedom of movement and there’s a double storm flap, fluorescent hood and high fleece-lined collar.
There are also fleece hand warmer pockets, plus two cargo pockets, an internal zipped pocket and a sunglasses pocket.
Reflective detailing shows up clearly at night and there are double waterproof cuffs.
Helly Hansen Aegir Race Jacket
This range was developed with serious ocean racing in mind, with considerable input at the design stage from professional sailors, including the Mapfre team in the last edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.
The Aegir Race Jacket is a premium choice for deep water races that last several days, such as the Rolex Fastnet Race and the Newport-Bermuda.
Smaller pockets and zippers compared to the standard Aegir products create a sleek and light design that makes it easy to move around.
A four-layer fabric with a very high level of waterproofing is used and attention to detail is excellent.
Gill OS1 Ocean Smock
Smocks work much better than jackets for really serious work.
Granted, they are not as easy to put on or take off, but the neck seal and lack of a front zip means they are intrinsically far more waterproof.
A further advantage is that, unlike a big and heavy jacket, they don’t restrict movement.
Gill’s OS1 also has all the key elements you would expect in a serious ocean specification jacket.
These include a high lined collar, first class hood, hand warmer pockets and reinforced bottom section.
It also benefits from neoprene cuff and waist seals to keep the water out in properly testing conditions.
Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated sailing page for more marine products.
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