Packing List For A Tropical Sailing Trip

The first sailing trip I ever took was for 3 days/2 nights in The Whitsundays, Australia, while last week I spent 7 days/7 nights sailing through the British Virgin Islands.

Since packing for a sailing trip is different from packing for a backpacking trip or a typical week-in-a-hotel vacation, I thought I’d share a few tips with you…

White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, BVI's.

White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, BVI’s.

Firstly, make sure the bag you use to pack your things in is a soft, collapsible bag (think a duffel bag or backpack, not a suitcase). Your bedroom or “cabin” on the boat will be tiny, and you will have very little storage space. This is why bringing a soft bag that you can easily collapse and stow away is best.

When it comes to clothes, sailing tends to be really casual.

I lived in my bathing suit and cover ups during the day, and then threw on some shorts or a skirt and a top for dinner. Maxi dresses are always favourites of mine as well, as you can easily dress them up or down. One thing I didn’t bring with me on my last sailing vacation, but wish I had, was a comfortable pair of pants to lounge around in. Even though temperatures only dropped to 23-25 degrees celsius (73-77 fahrenheit) in the evenings, because you’re on a boat out in open water, there’s always going to be a breeze. That’s why it’s nice to have a pair of comfy pants and a hoodie/sweater you can throw on if you want to sit outside in the evenings, but find the wind a little chilly.

When it comes to shoes/purses/accessories, keep it simple.

Flip-flops/sandals will be what you’ll wear during the day, and usually the night too. I wouldn’t bother bringing heels, wedges or dress shoes of any kind. Chances are, if you’re going to be eating out at night for dinner, the bar/restaurant you’ll dine in will be right on the beach! Not to mention the fact that you’ll need to get in a little dinghy boat to motor yourself from your anchored sailboat in the ocean to the island anyway. Boats + beaches + heels = trouble. I wore a nice pair of Michael Kors flip-flops out to dinner all the time on my last trip, and my attire never felt inappropriate. Flats would also be a nicer, alternative option to flip-flops if you did decide to dine out somewhere a bit fancier.

For a purse, I used a small crossbody bag the whole time and it worked out perfectly. Don’t bring a large purse, it will just get in your way and take up unnecessary room. You’ll also want to bring a beach bag for your towel, sunglasses, sunscreen, water bottle, book, etc. when you decide to head ashore for the day, though.

For accessories, I mostly only wore a simple pair of stud earrings. I brought several different bracelets/necklaces/rings as well as a watch, but I found they mostly just got in my way. I was also worried about wearing my watch in case it accidentally got wet or I fell out of the dinghy boat (which never happened, thankfully). The only time I wore jewellery was when we went out for dinner, and in those cases I wore a simple chain necklace and maybe a silver bracelet. Nothing fancy.
Bringing a hat of some sort is also nice, since it doubles as sun protection (just make sure to have it tight to your head when sailing, otherwise it will blow off!).

Below is a list of what I would bring on a one-week sailing trip…

  • 2-3 bathing suits
  • 2-3 beach cover-ups
  • 2 maxi dresses
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 1 pair of pants (jeans or something comfy)
  • 1 skirt
  • 7 tank-tops/t-shirts
  • 1-2 nicer shirts
  • 1 light cardigan
  • 1 warmer hoodie/sweater
  • 2-3 pairs of socks
  • 7 pairs of underwear
  • 1-2 bras
  • 1 pair of pj’s
  • 1 pair of flip-flops
  • 1 pair of flats
  • 1 small crossbody purse
  • 1 beach bag/tote
  • minimal jewellery (1-2 necklaces, 1-2 bracelets, earrings)
  • a hat (I like those big, floppy ones with a wide brim)

Like I said before, sailing is very casual. A t-shirt and shorts is good enough to get you through most days, and even most nights.

Whatever you do, don’t overpack! I can’t stress enough how little space you’ll likely have on your boat (and in your cabin as well as your bathroom). Don’t bring tons of clothes or toiletries, as you’ll just end up with nowhere to put them. Bringing lots of make-up also isn’t necessary. I spent most days make-up free, only putting on some mascara and bronzer/blush when we’d go out for dinner.

On my first sailing trip I took in Australia, there was a girl on our boat who only brought a very small backpack with her. In 3 days/2 nights she only wore; 2 bathing suits, 1 pair of shorts, 2 t-shirts, 1 hoodie, and a pair of pj’s. Seriously. That’s it.

When it comes to sailing, less is more.

Sailing in The Whitsundays, Australia. 2012.

Sailing in The Whitsundays, Australia. 2012.

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