Buying Guide for Foul Weather Gear
There's so much that goes into consideration when choosing foul-weather gear for your next boating voyage. Which fabrics are more protective and comfortable? What should you wear underneath your protective garments? Which type of gear suits the activity you'll be pursuing? While choosing wet weather gear according to prices is appealing, purchasing them according to their quality is too important to ignore.
With the correct gear, you can be sure that it will provide comfort, protect you throughout your trip and last you years. In this foul weather gear buying guide, we'll explore everything you need to know to make the right purchasing choices.
Understanding Foul Weather Gear
Before we move on to choosing foul-weather gear and the different considerations, you need to understand what it is and what you would use it for to determine whether now is the correct time to purchase a set.
What Is Foul Weather Gear?
Foul-weather gear is a type of clothing you wear to remain dry in extreme weather conditions while boating and still maintain ease of movement. Its main function is water management — it protects the body by keeping water from external factors out and moving any moisture accumulated from within the gear, like sweat, outside.
These waterproof functions and breathability are all due to the incorporation of high-tech fabrics that regulate heat and release moisture when pursuing high-energy activities. There are various types of foul-weather gear for sailing, such as trousers, jackets and boots that have these same capabilities.
When to Purchase Foul Weather Gear
As the name suggests, it's best to purchase this gear if you know you plan to sail during foul weather, which typically entails long exposure to rain, wind and seas. Depending on how intense the weather is, you'll want to purchase gear that can withstand the intensity you encounter.
If you already have gear and want to know when's a good time to replace your gear, here are five signs it's time to replace your foul-weather gear:
- Water leakage: Have you noticed water has started to get through your wet weather gear? This probably means it's been used too long and accumulated some damage.
- Rips and tears: If your gear has rips or tears, be aware that rain may enter your suit more easily, providing you with less protection.
- Loss of high-visibility features: Over time, your foul-weather gear will incur scuffs and ingrained dirt that may dull the brightness of your jacket and potentially put your safety at risk.
- Broken fastenings and zips: If you're sailing with a wet weather jacket that keeps falling open due to a broken zip, you may get soaked easily and risk getting sick on your trip.
- Loose elastic: The elastic on your gear is designed to fit you appropriately so that it can keep rain out. If your current gear has loose elastics, it's probably time to get new protective garments.
Key Features of Foul Weather Gear
Foul-weather gear has particular features that make it suitable for protection against the elements. To ensure your comfort and protection, these garments must be waterproof, breathable, flexible, well-fitting and roomy enough to allow space for under layers. Here, we’ll talk about the various materials and features your foul-weather gear should have so you purchase the most effective sailing clothes.
Waterproofing and Water Resistance
Many might say that waterproof and water-resistant have the same meaning of being unaffected by water and resisting water passage, although they do have their distinct differences. While waterproof material can incorporate breathable fabric to push water out and prevent water from getting in, water-resistant material has limited resistance to water.
Basically, water-resistant foul-weather gear may be insufficient and you'll want to make sure you choose a set that is waterproof instead. Here are a few effective fabrics you can check for when choosing foul-weather gear based on your preference.
There are four common materials, which all include varying levels of durability, waterproofing and breathability:
- Polyvinyl-chloride (PVC): PVC is a durable coating that is lightweight and resistant to abrasion. Gear with this material is inexpensive, although it is very waterproof and less breathable, making it uncomfortable when sweat builds up inside the suit.
- Nylon: This coating is a less expensive alternative to PVC gear that offers more breathability. Still, the fabric is more water-resistant than waterproof.
- Polyurethane: Similar to nylon, polyurethane is more breathable and flexible than PVC, however, it is less durable and may delaminate over time.
- Neoprene: With enhanced durability and flexibility, neoprene-coating gear is among the most expensive and heaviest foul-weather clothing.
Breathable fabric is material with microscopic pores small enough to block external water forces from getting in and large enough for water vapor molecules from inside to move out. When looking for waterproof foul-weather gear, make sure that it contains breathable fabrics or coating when you're going on a high-activity voyage so you can avoid feeling too cold, hot, clammy or sticky.
Laminated Micro-Porous Fabrics
You'll usually find these fabrics on more expensive wet-weather gear because it is among the most durable and breathable. The fabric contains a breathable membrane sandwiched between an outer layer to protect it and then coated with a silicone-based coating or another type of durable water repellent (DWR).
Good foul-weather gear consists of an insulation layer that separates your warm skin from the cold air and retains your body heat to minimize the effect of the cold air on your body. When sailing in harsh and colder temperatures, this feature can be particularly effective. Keep an eye out for insulated sailing gloves, caps and boots when choosing foul-weather gear.
Key Components of Foul Weather Gear
Now that we've covered the types of material to look out for when purchasing protective garments for your voyage, let's talk about the essential pieces of clothing you'll want to buy:
- Jackets: Your foul-weather jacket will be your biggest source of protection and comfort, so take your time to select a suitable fit. The first thing you should check, other than being breathable and waterproof, is that it accommodates enough space for an underlayer. It should also be long enough to cover your entire neck and bottom and have working zips and seals to prevent water from getting in.
- Trousers: When choosing trousers, make sure it has closures at the cuffs so you can tighten them around your boots. Purchasing one with reinforced patches at your bottom and knees can also be beneficial.
- Bibs: Bibs are an excellent alternative to trousers that help you ensure water stays out of your pants. Some even come with zippered fronts and drop seats, allowing you to heed nature's call with ease.
- Base layers: Should you wear layers under your foul-weather gear? Absolutely! Just make sure to avoid wearing jeans or other cotton clothing that can absorb moisture.
- Boots: Always buy foul-weather boots that are slightly bigger than your actual size to accommodate a pair of thick woolen socks.
- Sailing gloves: As we've mentioned before, make sure to purchase insulated sailing gloves to ensure your hands stay warm. Your wet-weather gloves should also have good grip, protection and wrist straps.
Types and Categories of Foul Weather Gear
Depending on the type of sailing you plan to do, there are five main categories of foul-weather gear. It's essential to choose the appropriate gear so that you can sail with comfort and have peace of mind that your garments will protect you through the rain. Let's take a look at what each type of wet weather gear offers.
This gear is typically suitable for the most extreme of extreme weather conditions you can go sailing in. If you're going on a prolonged voyage in sustained harsh climates, the ocean foul-weather gear has the capability to withstand these conditions on numerous occasions. You'll find that these protective garments are more expensive than others due to their high-quality fabrics like laminated microporous materials.
Some worthwhile foul-weather gear features of this wet weather garments include:
- High collar for increased protection
- Up to a three-layer outer layer made from waterproof, windproof and breathable fabric
- Sealed and abrasion-resistant seams
- Longer back for lower back and seat protection
- Adjustable outer and inner seals
- Reflectors for glow-in-the-dark capabilities
- Noncorroding zippers with double storm flaps
Do you plan to spend weeks at sea in extreme climates? Offshore foul-weather gear is an excellent option for top-notch protection, cruising and long-distance racing. With effective functionality and extra features such as being highly durable, breathable and heavyweight, the garment's hood, collar, storm flap and seals prevent water from penetrating any opening.
You'll find that the more expensive offshore foul-weather gear can protect the wearer from abrasion from sailing winches or deck gear. These protective garments come with various exciting features like:
- High-performance, heavy-duty fabrics
- Reflective tape and high-visibility colors
- Wrist seals
- Tall, adjustable collars
- Integrated safety harness
- Reinforced knees and seats
- Heavy-duty zippers with storm flaps
Coastal and Day Boating Gear
Coastal foul-weather gear is perfect for those spontaneous day trips or multi-day cruises spent in rough climate conditions. These garments, while less tough than the offshore version, offer great mileage, value and exquisite comfort. If you plan to pursue medium-range passages, the breathable coastal-class gear can be a suitable and less expensive alternative to offshore gear.
Some factors that contribute to its comfort and protection include multi-layer construction, functional hood and collar systems and numerous pockets. Here's a look at a few other key features that make up the coastal foul-weather gear:
- Medium-weight waterproof fabrics that offer durability
- Some are also breathable
- Reflective tape for increased visibility
- Reinforced knees and seats
- Noncorroding, heavy-duty zippers with storm flaps
- Fleece-lined collars and hand warmer pockets
Are you a sailor who is particularly active in cold and wet seasons? Perhaps you like to participate in buoy racing? Performance gear, also known as dinghy gear, is a protective garment you can use in extremely wet conditions or even if the water completely immerses you. As a dinghy or buoy racer, you'll need protective garments that can help you maintain maximum mobility and offer you tight closures to keep water out. Performance gear helps you attain all of this with lightweight fabrics for comfortability included.
There are generally two kinds of performance gear you can purchase, which is either a shell worn over a fleece or rash guard or a neoprene wetsuit. This protective clothing is usually on the expensive side, although completely worth it when you consider its exceptional features, some of which include:
- Stretchy lightweight fabrics that enhance comfort and mobility
- Unlined fabric to ensure there is no insulation while staying waterproof
- Options for breathability
- Adjustable seals at the wrists, waist and neck to prevent leakage
- Elastic or adjustable waist seal
- Reinforced high-abrasion areas
- Adjustable seals or ankle closures
Most rain-resistant garments started out with the use of welded PVC material or a similar plastic sheet. While many sailors use nylon or polyester-based gear with waterproof capabilities, PVC gear is still among the most popular foul-weather fishing gear around due to its slick exterior. Fishermen love PVC fishing gear because it's easier to clean after a long day of angling and offers great durability when you opt for the heavyweight PVC version.
It's also the least expensive option if you need a short-term solution or only go fishing in wet conditions on occasion. For increased comfort, some of the more expensive versions offer polyester or cotton base fabric. Foul-weather fishing gear offers some exciting features to enjoy, including:
- Heat-welded seams for complete waterproof protection.
- Increased suit life span due to reversible bibs.
- Fewer outside pockets to reduce snagging on crab pots and other fishing gear.
- Non-breathable PVC fabric to prevent stains and promote easy cleaning.
Important Considerations While Shopping
As we near the end of this foul-weather gear buying guide, we want to leave you with a few tips and advice to ensure you have the best sailing experience. Ask yourself the following question when searching for the most effective protective clothing:
- Does it have pockets?
- Does your foul-weather clothing include zippers?
- Is it breathable?
- Does it have seals or drawstrings on the jacket, pants and gloves to protect your body against the elements?
- How does it layer?
- How effective is the durability of the gear?
- Does it fit and is it comfortable?
Purchase Foul Weather Gear From Fawcett Boat Supplies
As a final point of advice, we recommend choosing protective garments with waterproofing and durability. At Fawcett Boat Supplies, we offer a wide selection of foul-weather gear to keep you protected whether you're sailing, cruising or fishing. Fawcett Boat Supplies has been around since 1948 and we've remained dedicated to providing boaters with the resources they need to set sail with confidence.