Best Sailing Shirts: 6 Technical Tops for Protection
Whether you’re on a dinghy or a racing foil, every boater needs specialized clothing to face the elements. Here are half a dozen of the best sailing shirts that combine technical performance and style for serious sailors.
Best sailing shirts: 6 technical tops to protect yourself on the water
A sailing day never begins or ends on the water. From prep time at the marina to socializing around sunsets, boat life makes days exposed to the elements.
Quality clothing is your best line of defense against the heat, cold and harmful UV rays inherent in our sport.
Good sailing apparel starts with a good technical shirt, usually one that combines traditional fabrics with synthetic materials to achieve the ultimate blend of comfort, durability and performance.
We scanned the market to identify six of the best sailing shirts for various conditions. Here’s how to find the best sailing apparel in half a dozen common categories.
The Best Sailing Shirts Have These Features
The fabric and the tailoring are the two most important components of any well-designed garment.
100% cotton is not a good choice for performance sportswear, but when mixed with synthetic materials, such as spandex or polyester, the resulting materials are ideal for outdoor use.
Cotton blends that incorporate synthetic materials, such as spandex and elastane, also enhance freedom of movement, an essential function for active sports.
Anything with merino wool is also worth checking out. Like other wools, super fine merino yarns retain warmth even when wet, but remain soft and more comfortable even after the toughest uses.
The seam is as important as the fabric. Darts and gussets that create articulated sleeves, armpits and shoulders increase range of motion. Flat seams reduce chafing.
Of course, sun protection is an integral part of all the best sailing shirts. Any area of skin that you can cover with UV protective clothing means there are far fewer chemicals to brush on. Check out these top sailor shirt picks.
6 of the Best Sailing Shirts on the Market
Gill UV Tech Hooded Shirt
Best Sailing Shirt Hoodie
For complete protection, it’s hard to go wrong with a long sleeve hoodie. The main thing is to find a fabric that is light and very UV resistant.
Using 100% polyester, the Gill UV Tech Hoody achieves a UPF rating of 50+. This means that only 2% (1/50th) or less of the sun’s ultraviolet rays can penetrate. UPF 50+ is the highest sun protection rating in the apparel industry.
The balaclava provides extra protection for vulnerable areas of the neck, ears and scalp.
Technical sewing features, such as flat seams and thumb loops, add to the comfort and performance of this versatile shirt.
- Highest possible UPF rating.
- Integrated hoodie for extra protection.
- 100% quick-drying polyester.
- Non-retractable and lightweight.
- Polyester tends to retain body odor.
- Not as breathable as cotton blends.
- Not biodegradable.
Buy from West Marine
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Tilley NW16 Tech Airflo Shirt
Best Button Up Sailing Shirt
For a more traditional style, take a look at the Tilley NW16 Tech Airflo Shirt. It has the appeal of a casual button down shirt with the performance of a technical shirt. And it’s made in Canada by the makers of some of the finest sun hats available, the venerable Tilley Endurables.
The UPF rating of this shirt ranges from 35 to 40 depending on the color of the fabric. But either score is high enough to be considered good sun protection.
Technical features include roll-up sleeves with velcro fasteners, double chest pockets and a zipped pocket.
The nylon/polyester blend is breathable, soft and wrinkle-resistant for years of washing and wearing comfort.
- Suitable for on the water or around the yacht club.
- Back pleats provide greater freedom of movement and a slim fit.
- Quick-drying synthetic blend.
- The blue version is only UPF 35.
- Not a specialized sailing shirt, but more of a casual shirt with technical features.
Buy from Tilley
Helly Hansen Merino Lightweight T-Shirt
Best Short Sleeve Sailing Shirt
Even the hottest days can get a little chilly when you combine wind and water. This is where an insulated short sleeve shirt excels.
The Helly Hansen Merino Lightweight T-Shirt achieves a wide thermal range by incorporating fine merino wool with Helly Hansen’s exclusive Lifa technology.
While this top is probably a little warm for those flat days, when the wind picks up or you need a sheer base layer for spring and fall sailing, the short sleeve t-shirt gives you a little respite but will still give you goosebumps when a cold wind sets in.
Merino is also an excellent choice for base layer fabric because it does not retain body odor.
- Wide thermal range.
- Wears like a tee but insulates like a base layer.
- Merino resists pilling of the fabric after washing.
- Lightly insulated fabric may be too warm on hot days.
- Short sleeves provide minimal sun protection.
Red Performance Long Sleeve Top
Best Sailing Shirt Midlayer
A versatile midlayer is essential for extending your boating through the shoulder seasons. The Performance Long Sleeve Top from Red Paddle Co will keep you on the water when other captains head home and hearth.
Red is a UK-based paddleboard manufacturer whose clothing line is perfectly adaptable to sailing.
We love this quick-drying top for its relaxed fit and versatility as a mid-layer or top layer.
Flat seams and stretch fabric ensure comfort, and technical details such as fold-down wrist guards with thumb loops and zipped turtleneck increase thermal range.
- Lightweight long sleeve pullover is suitable for mid layer or top layer.
- Made of a quick-drying synthetic blend.
- Good windproof properties.
- Not a sail specific manufacturer.
- The chest pocket is a bit small.
Gill Pro Rash Shirt
Best sailing shirt for a rash guard
A rashguard can be one of the best sailing shirts you can own. Worn alone, it blocks UV rays. Worn as a base layer, it reduces wetsuit chafing. It works over a bikini top or next to your skin to protect you from biting organisms while snorkeling or snorkeling. It even provides minimal warmth when paired with other layers.
Think of a flare shirt, or flare guard, as a second skin. This form-fitting top will withstand abuse from the elements, so you don’t have to.
The Gill Pro Rash Shirt offers UPF 50+ sun protection, and the long sleeves and high collar protect vulnerable neck and arm areas.
- Highest possible UV protection index (UPF 50+).
- A versatile garment to use as a base or to wear alone as lycra.
- 4-way stretch fabric for mobility.
- Some may find it too tight.
- Reviewers reported sizing issues.
Buy from West Marine
Musto Foil Sunblock Impact Top
Best sailing shirt for hardcore racers
Competitive sailing is not without bumps and bruises. That’s why Musto developed the Foil Sunblock Impact Top.
This is rash guard with built-in padding in the shoulders, elbows and forearms, areas that are prone to rig impact.
Developed for high speed foil boat sailors, anyone who sails aggressively can potentially benefit from the removable D30 pads. D30 is a flexible thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) that changes its molecular structure on impact to instantly harden and cushion the blow.
As a bonus, the Impact top also has a UPF rating of 50+, protecting you from both swinging arrows and sunburn, whichever comes first.
- Advanced technical shirt with impact resistant pads.
- Form-fitting top that can be worn alone or as a base layer.
- Maximum UV protection.
- Too technical for the everyday sailor.
- High price.
Buy from Musto
Good reading Best sailing shirts: 6 technical tops to protect yourself on the water.?
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