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How to Choose Offshore and Rubber Sailing Boots

Offshore and Rubber sailing boots provide three main performance features for your comfort and safety: Dryness Warmth Grip When choosing offshore or rubber boots, start by identifying the type of sailing you are doing.  Are you day sailing in fair weather and cooler temperatures where you need dry and warm feet.  Is your sailing taking place poor weather, in cool to cold conditions, sailing overnight and up to long passage making where you need the most from a boots performance features?  […]

Offshore and Rubber sailing boots provide three main performance features for your comfort and safety:

offshore sailing boots

  1. Dryness
  2. Warmth
  3. Grip

When choosing offshore or rubber boots, start by identifying the type of sailing you are doing.  Are you day sailing in fair weather and cooler temperatures where you need dry and warm feet.  Is your sailing taking place poor weather, in cool to cold conditions, sailing overnight and up to long passage making where you need the most from a boots performance features?  What does the majority of your sailing consist of?

The following scenarios broadly categorize boots by their intended uses:

  • Casual rain boot on the boat and on land: Short rubber boots
  • Day sailing in warm to cool temperatures and fair to poor weather: Tall rubber boots
  • Day sailing to offshore passage making, in cool to cold temperatures, and fair to bad weather: Breathable offshore boots
  • Day sailing to offshore passage making, in cold temperatures, and poor to bad weather: Neoprene offshore boots

The explanation of offshore and sailing boot features in this article will give you a more detailed understanding of the options and how they can be chosen to best fit your sailing needs.

Materials

Rubber

Rubber boots are made of either natural rubber (distilled from the sap of rubber trees in the tropics) or PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) and are 100% waterproof, but not breathable.  Natural rubber boots will wear longer, be more flexible, provide better grip to the deck, and not stiffen appreciably in cold weather; but come with a higher price tag than PVC on average.  PVC is a less expensive material, keeping the price of a boot down while giving up just a bit of comfort, durability, and performance.  Some boots are made with a compound consisting of a blend of PVC and rubber which lends them the performance advantages of natural rubber with the cost savings of PVC.

Foam PU

A few boots available in Europe use a Foam PU (Polyurethane) material which is waterproof, flexible and comfortable, but will sometimes deteriorate rapidly when exposed to certain chemicals and/or stored in too warm of conditions.  When rinsed after use and stored in a cool, dry place, this is a well-performing boot material.  Unlike rubber and PVC boots, Foam PU have a bit of inherent insulation similar to wetsuit material (neoprene).

Leather

Both Nubuck and Full Grain Leather are used in sailing boots.  Nubuck (made from Top-Grain leather) is sanded or buffed on the grain side or outside to achieve a suede-like finish.  It offers excellent resistance to wear and has an increased strength, thickness and softness as opposed to traditional top-grain leather.  Full Grain Leather is made from the strongest and most durable part of the hide of an animal, and will have a smooth finish, and retains less moisture from prolonged exposure than do all other natural leathers.  Both are ideal choices for sailing boots as they are robust, resistant to wear, and breathable.  The leather in offshore sailing boots will be bonded to a microporous membrane like Gore-Tex making them waterproof and breathable.

Neoprene

Neoprene is used in the upper of boots and generally lines the inside of a rubber boot foot.  While the material is waterproof, warm, soft, flexible, and provides padding; it is like boots made of rubber in that neoprene boots are not breathable and moisture can build up inside the boot.

Synthetic

Polyester and nylon materials are fast-drying, breathable, and abrasion resistant; and are used in the upper boot construction and incorporate a waterproof and breathable membrane like Gore-Tex.  They are incorporated into rubber and/or leather boots to provide additional performance and comfort.  Synthetics are the materials of choice for boot gaiters too.

Grip

offshore sailing boot grip

The soles of offshore and rubber sailing boots are made of many different kinds of natural and synthetic rubber compounds but focus less on the materials and more on the actual grip.  Generally speaking, the softer the material in the sole the more it will grip.  Conversely, the softer the rubber and faster they may wear out.  Also, the more channels in the sole the more water that moves out from under the sole, providing better contact with the deck.  Soles with a medium softness offer a balance of good grip and durability.

Insulation

Just like foul weather gear, offshore and rubber sailing boots primarily keep the water out, and do not necessarily keep you warm.  Many boots do offer inherent insulation, but all boots require you to choose the right socks for the conditions.  This is particularly critical in cold weather.  It also allows your boots to function well across a range of temperatures by varying the thickness of socks you wear underneath.

Typically, if you’re wearing sailing boots in poor weather it’s cool to cold out.  Even in the tropics, sailing in the rain on a sunless day can thoroughly chill you.  The cooler the temperatures and the longer the duration of your sailing, the more insulation you will need.  Determine what the majority of your sailing conditions will be and choose accordingly.  Sailing boots are either uninsulated, lightly insulated or heavily insulated.

Rubber Boots

Rubber or PVC boots are uninsulated and add no warmth.  Warmth will be a factor of what socks you wear and their thickness.  These types of boots will require more and thicker socks to keep your feet warm as compared to breathable and neoprene boots.

Neoprene Constructed Boots

Boots made with neoprene can offer the most inherent insulation of any boot – from medium to heavily insulated.  Boots made with neoprene use between 5 – 10mm thick.  The thicker the neoprene, the more insulation factor.  Thick insulated socks and boots made with neoprene can keep you warm in some very frigid conditions.

Breathable Boots

Breathable boots often have light insulation from a synthetic lining.  With these, both the boot and your choice of socks are contributing to keeping your feet warm.  Although not as inherently warm as a neoprene boot, breathable boots can obtain high insulation factor with proper socks, and less in warmer conditions.

Breathability

breathable offshore boots

 

Boots made with microporous waterproof and breathable membranes like Gore-Tex allow the moisture (sweat) in the boot to travel from inside the boot, through the membrane as a water vapor and finally to the outside of the boot.  The expelling of moisture is driven by the relative difference in temperature and moisture on the inside of the boot as compared to the environment outside the boot.  Warm moisture migrates to the cooler outside of the boot.  On dry days, moisture additionally migrates from the moist inside of the boot to the outside due to the relatively lower moisture environment on the exterior of the boot.

 

Breathable boots, as long as you are wearing wicking socks, will continuously allow moisture to escape through the material of the boot.  When wearing boots for extended periods, or day after day, your feet will be noticeably drier and warmer.

Non-breathable boots (rubber, PVC, and neoprene) are waterproof but have no way to get the moisture out.  If you are exerting yourself and your feet perspire that moisture will stay stuck in the boot until you can take them off and dry them, and change socks.

Fit

Your feet, ankles, and legs are constantly straining on a pitching and heeling boat.  Ensuring you have well-fitting boots goes a long way to preventing cold and achy feet.  When trying on boots make sure you do so with the socks you intend to wear onboard – this may be a thin, medium or thick pair or any combination thereof.

Is there sufficient room in the toe-box or are your toes cramped?  Make sure your toes are free to wiggle and there is not forward or side pressure.  Is the footbed comfortably supporting your foot and arch?  Most boots do not provide significant arch support, so if you require more support you may need to replace the existing footbed with an orthotic insert of your choosing.  If this is the case try them on with your insert.  Next, does the heel cup allow some up and down heel movement, but at the same time support your heel without too much side-to-side foot movement?  Lastly, is the boots upper wide enough for your leg/calf to comfortably fit, or also not being too wide and difficult to get your foul weather gear trousers over?

Overall, you do not want the boot to fit tight in any area, as this can restrict blood flow and lead to cold and cramped feet.  If you will be wearing your boots primarily in cold conditions you may need to go up a size to accommodate your thicker socks and prevent a tight fit.

Socks

Socks provide abrasion resistance, wick moisture away from your skin (and out of the boot if your boots are breathable), and help keep your feet warm.  Never wear cotton socks as they absorb water and lead to damp and cold feet.  Synthetic socks do a good job of wicking moisture and providing insulation, but they do not deal well with a buildup of moisture in the boot.  Even breathable boots only expel moisture at a certain rate.

When feet perspire, moisture builds up in the boot and leaves feet wet until the moisture is expelled.  Merino wool is the best solution.  First, Merino wool is so fine that it does not itch.  It not only wicks moisture, and provides excellent insulation, but it also has the ability to temporarily absorb moisture when it is nowhere else for the moisture to go.  So when extreme moisture builds up in your boots, Merino will do the best job of maintaining warm and dry feet.

In extreme weather, seas and cold you may opt to wear a very thin sock liner designed to primarily wick moisture away from your foot, then a medium or thick sock over top for warmth (and continued moisture wicking).  The key to warm feet is to keep moisture away from the surface of your skin.

Height

For limited protection reduced weight and bulk, a shorter boot is best for casual use.  Typically, a tall boot will always provide the best protection.  This is achieved by maximizing the overlap between your foul weather gear trousers (worn over and cinch down around the boot) and the length of the boot.  Water may rush or migrate up the inside of your trousers a bit in poor weather and sea conditions, but if your boot is high enough water won’t make it up and into your boots.

Gaiters

offshore sailing boot with gaiter

Zhik Seaboot With Gaiter

Consider boots with gaiters if you are doing extensive offshore passage making.  When sailing in severe weather and seas, having a gaiter can be the best way to keep water out of your boots. Gaiters provide yet another barrier for keeping sea water from making its way up the inside of your foul weather gear trousers and into your boots.  They act as an initial barrier to rushing water on deck or temporarily standing water in the cockpit.  Gaiters divert upward rushing water from asserting water pressure directly on your cinched trouser cuffs.  Any water that does enters the gaiter will run down and exit through drains belt into the bottom.

To use them put on your foulie trousers, then your boots (with built-in gaiter).  Roll the gaiter down the boot and out of the way.  Next, put your trouser leg down and cinch it closed around the bottom of the boot’s upper.  Now pull the gaiter fully up and other the bottom of your trousers and cinch is securely at its top.

When you do not need the extra protection of the gaiter, you can simply wear them pulled up on your boots with your foulie trouser legs over the top of them.

Drying Boots

It is very difficult to dry out wet boots while onboard during inclement weather.  If they do get wet and you need to continue wearing them, change your socks as often as possible. If your boots are breathable, the more you wear them the more moisture will escape from the boot (which is driven in part by the heat from your feet).  When you are not wearing your sodden boots remove the foot liner to aid drying.  Stuffing a bone-dry cotton rag/towel (newspaper is good too) it will transfer much of the moisture out of the boot.

Maintenance

The life of your offshore or rubber sailing boots depends on proper care. Periodically rinse leather boots with fresh water, clean and condition them.  Ensure they completely dry inside and out, and store in a cool and dry place.

Rubber boots only require a fresh water rinse, time to dry, and a cool and dry place for storage.

Shop our Breathable Offshore Boots or Rubber Boots for Sailing.

Coastal Sailing Foul Weather Gear Explained

Coastal sailing presents a unique set of conditions. Here you will learn about what coastal sailing foul weather gear is designed for in terms of the type of sailing and the type of weather conditions it will withstand. Coastal Sailing Weather Conditions: Generally speaking, coastal sailing foul weather gear is designed to be worn for days at a time while providing you protection and comfort. It is ideal for short to medium distance passage making, and overnight distance racing and cruising. Not as […]

Coastal sailing presents a unique set of conditions. Here you will learn about what coastal sailing foul weather gear is designed for in terms of the type of sailing and the type of weather conditions it will withstand.

Coastal Sailing Weather Conditions:

Generally speaking, coastal sailing foul weather gear is designed to be worn for days at a time while providing you protection and comfort. It is ideal for short to medium distance passage making, and overnight distance racing and cruising. Not as heavy duty as offshore or ocean gear, coastal gear can often be worn comfortably while sailing in inshore conditions as well.

  • Rain: light to medium, with occasional heavy down pours
  • Seas: Light to medium, with occasional heavy seas
  • Wind: light to moderate, with occasional strong winds
  • Duration: Up to a few days of continuous wear.

Features of Coastal Foul Weather Gear:

The two pieces of foul weather gear you will want to invest in are a jacket and a pair of bibs or trousers. These items should be fully waterproof and breathable. In sailing, your comfort depends on your gear’s ability to keep you dry by keeping water out, and transporting moisture (sweat) out. Typically coastal gear is designed from a two layer laminate, waterproof, breathable, that’s the most dominant. The other material, a microporous three-layer, like a GORE-TEX product, is more durable and breathable, but at a higher cost.

coastal sailing foul weather gear features

There are key features you will want to look for in your gear.

  • Hoods: Adjustable fluorescent colored hoods with reflective tapes.  The more adjustments on the hood the better.
  • Collars: Medium height collars (typically reach ears or slightly higher) with Velcro adjustable front storm flaps.
  • Cut/Fit: Extra room in the cut to allow for ease of movement and for varied thicknesses of layers worn underneath for warmth.
  • Fabrics: Fully waterproof and breathable. Either 2 layer coated, or 3 layer laminated.
  • Closures: Double storm wrist cuffs, 2 way entry zipper with Velcro storm flap
  • Trousers: Mid to High cut chest, ankle closures, reinforced seat and knees

How to Choose

In choosing a coastal jacket and trousers, it’s first important to know what the majority of your sailing is so that you can make a choice between features and fabric. The scenarios are: A. Someone who’s doing coastal sailing but also doing some offshore sailing with a little bit of short to medium passage-making. or B. Someone who gets a coastal jacket but also does a lot of inshore, isn’t really doing offshore, therefore doesn’t need as much protection. Styles within the coastal sailing foul weather gear category will lend themselves to either of these needs.

Coastal sailors who do more on the offshore or distance side of things will want more durable materials, a more adjustable hood or higher collar, and perhaps hand-warmer pockets.

Those sailing mostly coastal, inshore and short distances might prefer jackets with less structure to the hood, a shorter collar and slightly less bulk from pockets, as too much protection can be uncomfortable.

Don’t forget…

Base and Mid Layers:

With proper layering under your foul weather gear you will be comfortable through a few days of sailing in less than ideal weather.  Wicking under layers will be your everyday attire in bad weather.  Use base and mid layers to maintain a comfortable body temperature by adding or removing layers.  The key to long duration comfort will be your under layer’s ability to transport (wick) moisture (sweat) from the surface of your skin to your foul weather gear where it can be move out through the waterproof/breathable fabric.

Avoid wearing any cotton clothes; they hold moisture like a sponge and chill you.  Even unworn cotton clothes can become ‘damp’ when exposed to sea air.

Gloves & Boots for Coastal Sailing:

Be sure to match your gloves and boots to the type of coastal sailing you may be doing.  For shorter periods of sailing, non breathable boots may suffice.  For longer passages breathable boots will do a much better job keeping your feet dry and warm.  No cotton socks.  Merino wool ensures sustained warmth and moisture-wicking.  Pack two pairs.  If wearing insulated gloves, one pair for shorter trips is okay, but having a second pair to alternate between will give gloves more time to dry out between watches.  Cold hands are weak hands.

Read the Full Guide to Foul Weather Gear to learn more.

Shop Men’s Coastal and Women’s Coastal foul weather gear at APS.

 

Personal Packing List for Offshore Racing | Expert Advice

Customer Service team member, Andrew, tells us what’s in his gear bag for a distance ocean race. Offshore racing is one of my favorite ways to compete in this great sport, and it’s even better when you end up somewhere tropical. We field dozens of calls and questions for ordering offshore gear here at APS, especially during the warmer months. As someone who’s had the pleasure of sailing Annapolis to Newport, Annapolis to Bermuda and Newport to Bermuda, I thought I would […]

Customer Service team member, Andrew, tells us what’s in his gear bag for a distance ocean race.

Offshore racing is one of my favorite ways to compete in this great sport, and it’s even better when you end up somewhere tropical. We field dozens of calls and questions for ordering offshore gear here at APS, especially during the warmer months. As someone who’s had the pleasure of sailing Annapolis to Newport, Annapolis to Bermuda and Newport to Bermuda, I thought I would share with you all my offshore favorites and the things I never leave the dock without.

Packing List

*4-5 day race, warm climate, not including the clothes on your back worn to the first day of racing

  1. Dry bag
  2. (2) Tech shirts
  3. (1) Pair quick dry shorts
  4. (2) Pairs of underwear
  5. (1) Set of Base layers – leggings/top
  6. Pullover or fleece, mid weight
  7. (1) Pair Wool Socks
  8. Offshore boots & Sailing shoes
  9. Gore-Tex Socks
  10. (2) Pairs of gloves
  11. Headlamp
  12. Hat/Sunglasses
  13. Sunscreen and other minor toiletries (ear plugs, tooth brush, lip balm, Gold Bond)
  14. Fouiles
  15. Inflatable PFD/ Re-Arm Kit/ Harness / Tether

The Bag

For starters, most racing boats will be weight and space sensitive. Captains will typically put a cap on the amount you can bring by limiting your bag size. Generally speaking, you’re safe in the 20 – 35 liter range. The Gill Waterproof Backpack is a great choice. It’s not completely necessary to have a dry bag as it will be stored, but you are on a boat, so it doesn’t hurt. If you go for water resistant bag, a dry case like the Musto Waterproof Tablet Case is just enough to store the essentials (wallet, keys, phone etc.).

Tech Shirt

It’s important to remember when you’re ocean racing you could face a range of temperatures from day to night. But when you’re sailing to Bermuda in June, it’s a pretty safe bet to say you’re going to be in the sun and it’s going to be hot. I prefer a long sleeve tech shirt like this Musto UV Fast Dry Long Sleeve T-Shirt. Following the number one apparel rule on the water of no cotton, this UPF 40 quick dry shirt offers protection from the sun and the heat. This particular Musto version has an anti-bacterial treatment to prevent odor – important when you’re sharing a very small space with 8 other ripe dudes for 5 days. Good rule of thumb for a race that distance is 2 tech shirts.

Shorts

Same rules apply for shorts. Look for lightweight, quick dry options. No cotton! The Gill UV Tec Shorts are a great option and even have UPF 50+ protection. Throw those bad boys on over of some Patagonia Capilene Daily Boxer Briefs and you’ll be good to go. One pair of shorts will usually suffice, but 2 pairs of underwear is a must.

Baselayer

For the cooler night watch, you’ll want to pack some type of baselayer. Merino wool or Capilene and again, no cotton. A nice midweight like Patagonia Capilene Midweight Pants or Patagonia Cap Midweight Crew Shirt should be warm enough for a summer race. You’ll want to squeeze in a midlayer top too, just in case the nights are especially chilly. Henri Lloyd Force Layer Top or Helly Hansen VTR 1/2 Zip Long Sleeve Shirt are both lightweight and extremely packable. I never sail a race without a pair of Smartwool Light Insulated Socks on board.  Warm dry comfortable feet at night, will keep you in the game. If it’s looking like a potentially stormy or wet race, grab an extra pair of socks, and be prepared to be spending a lot more time in baselayers and foulies than your tech shirts.

Hands and Toes

There are a few footwear options for an offshore race. Rocky Gore-Tex Socks are great for when you don’t want to wear your offshore boots but want to keep your feet dry, my personal preference. Just pair them with a normal wicking sock and a sailing sport shoe. When you the “you know what” really hits the fan on deck though, you’ll want a boot. The Zhik ZK Seaboot 800 with Gaiter – ideal for when you want t to be glued to the deck with warm dry feet.

Hands are equally as important as your feet. Make sure you stash two pairs of gloves. My personal favorites are the Atlas Thermal Fit Gloves. You’ll be glad when you have a spare dry pair stashed away when one pair is soaking wet.

 

ODDS AND ENDS

Head

Another must have offshore – a head Lamp – Tikka Plus 2 Headlamp. Whether rummaging around below decks at night, or doing a sail change on the bow, a little illumination is a huge life saver.

You’ll want a good hat. Gill Technical Wide Brimmed Hat has a wide brim to keep the sun off your face and neck and is also quick drying and UPF rated. When my bald head doesn’t have a hat on it, you better believe I’m covered in Z-Blok Sunscreen. Don’t forget your other light toiletries- only the essentials. Toothbrush, ear plugs, camping towel or shammy. Throw in the baby wipes and Gold Bond and you can’t go wrong.

 

OUT OF THE BAG

These items are either on your body or hanging in the gear closet- no need trying to stuff a full set of foulies in that 20 liter bag.

Safety

I have the Spinlock Deckvest 5D Hammar, which is hydro static, meaning it is water pressure activated. This avoids accidental inflation, when taking a wave to the face while sail changing.  It also comes as a moisture activated firing Spinlock Deckvest 5D Pro Sensor.

As for tether,  I prefer the 2 clip cow hitch, so I can always stay clipped in while moving around obstacles. Try the Wichard Proline Y-Tether 2m Elastic 1m Straight 3 Clips.

Re arm kit, no-brainer.  Why would you not? For use with the Spinlock 5D Hammar use this Spinlock Deckvest Hammar Re-arm Kit.

Keeping a knife on your person is paramount. I use the Leatherman Skeletool. With a removable pocket clip and sheath its easy to keep at hand. Easily opened with one hand, a great choice weather you’re up on the bow or back trimming.

Foulies

Musto MPX foulies are a no brainer for me. Easily my favorite gear behind my Rocky Socks, you won’t catch me offshore in anything else. The Musto MPX Gore Tex Trousers and Musto MPX Gore-Tex Offshore Jacket are ruggedly waterproof.  A thicker membrane is used in the MPX material, allowing it to stand up to prolonged periods of water exposure and weather. High collar, hi-vis hood, hand warmer pockets, adjustable double wrist cuffs and a placement to attach lifejacket are just a few of the details that make this jacket number 1 for offshore sailing. The real standout of the MPX is the breathability. When it’s hot and humid the last thing you want is to feel like you’re wearing a trash bag.