Best kit for sailing in Scotland

Narwhal Expedition’s Katherine Knight gives the low down on her six items of must have gear for sailing in Scotland.

"Based on my experiences sailing the Scottish west coast, these are my top six items of kit that became my go to items. I think I wore or used each of these pretty much everyday and now would definitely not cast off without any of them for a Scottish sailing adventure."

Dry feet and funky pink patterns :)

Dry feet and funky pink patterns :)

Wellies - Aah, the joy of of warm, cosy, dry feet! Waterproof boots have to make it to the top of my list both for on the boat and shore use. A pair that are warm and comfortable is a must. You need to like wearing them as you are likely to wear them a lot. You may want more than one pair, firstly to switch if a pair gets wet. Alternatively one for the boat with sailing designed grip and one for ashore with a more mud orientated grip. They don’t have to be sailing branded boots. I have Muck Boots which have an insulated sole and neoprene upper so they are nice and warm. Also they are also pink and so fit my ‘like wearing them’ criteria. 

Waterproofs - Again you are going to wear these a lot so you may as well pick ones that are comfortable and that you like. I found the best solution was a combination of a mid weight shore type jacket and the all in one floatation suit detailed below. I found that this worked better for me than heavy weight sailing waterproofs or a sailing drysuit which felt bulky for exploring ashore but still weren’t as warm as the floatation suit when sailing.


Floatation suit - Probably my biggest revelation as far as sailing gear goes and it isn’t even designed for sailing. These are waterproof all in one suits, the sort that you might picture fishermen wearing. Mine was advertised as seen in American extreme fishing reality TV show Deadliest Catch”. They incorporate a layer of neoprene, making them warmer and more wind proof than standard sailing waterproofs. The neoprene also provides a degree of floatation should you fall in the water, however this is not the same as the floatation provided by a lifejacket which I would recommend should still be worn and fits easily over the top. The bulky fit and blue and fluro yellow colour scheme may not make them the most flattering outfit to been seen on Cowes high street in but I can say that mine rapidly became my favourite bit of kit. Warm enough that I could wear normal clothes below deck and then put the suit on for on-deck work without the need for adding any extra layers. They seem to be the standard issue for the local fish farm, harbour workers and commercial fishermen which says something for their functionality and protection from the elements. They come either as an all in one suit, or as a jacket and trousers. I love the all in one as it is really easy to put on and off, you don’t have to worry where you have left your trousers and there is no gap for cold air to sneak in. Even better they are a fraction of the cost of sailing specific waterproofs. 

Dry bag rucsac - My dry bag with rucsac type straps is my go to handbag. It contains all of my handbag necessities, phone, wallet, sunglasses, camera, VHF radio, mini flares, personal locator beacon and lip gloss. The trip ashore in the dinghy is always a a scary time for valued personal electronics so the dry bag gives me piece of mind that an accidental slip, or a really heavy rain shower won’t ruin my stuff. Rucsac drybags are available for a similar price as an everyday rucsac.  

Waterproof hat - OK, so we have covered boots and handbags, what else does every adventurous girl, or guy, need? Accessories! Hats make it to the top of my accessories list, narrowly edging out waterproof mittens. I have always thought that if I can’t feel the rain landing on my head then I can kid myself I’m not getting wet. Therefore a waterproof hat is capable of transforming my world.Especially when I don’t want to miss out on a whale sighting because I am hidden inside my hood. I also think that since accessories are such useful bits of kit and take up so little room that it is fine to have multiples of them. These are the four waterproof ahts that make it onto my favourites list: 

Tilley hat in a rare sunshade funtion

Tilley hat in a rare sunshade funtion

  1. Waterproof cap - looks just like a baseball cap but made of waterproof fabric, awesome. 
  2. Tilley hat - a waxed wide brimmed hat that keeps rain (and sun) off your face. Also works well with a midge net over the top.
  3. Musto sowester - I love the old school style and functionality with a modern material twist. No water down the back of your neck and a dry ponytail, bonus.
  4. Gill waterproof hat - this hat is insulated and complete with ear flaps so is my favourite choice when it gets a bit chillier. Mine has been saved by it’s chin strap on numerous occasions.

Dry trousers - These are absolutely great for wading ashore from the dinghy. They are similar to a drysuit that you might wear for dinghy sailing but are comprised of just the trousers part with integral socks. Enabling you to hop out in knee deep water, bring the boat ashore, then pop them off and still have dry feet and trousers. I combine them with a pair of sandals for the wading part, then leave the sandals in the dinghy and change into my hiking boots. They are most readily available designed for kayaking. 


I hope you enjoyed an insight into my personal favourite gear. You may find that similar things work for you, but gear choice is a personal thing and part of the fun of adventuring is figuring out what works best for you. What’s your favourite bit of cold weather sailing gear? Drop a comment in the box below.