Sailing waterproofs needn’t break the bank. YM put seven sets of inshore and coastal oilskins under £350 to the test
Let’s be honest: while we might think we need sailing waterproofs that can fend off the fiercest ocean storm, in reality, most of us choose to sail in the warmer months.
If a nasty forecast is coming our way, we’re more likely to be found holed up in the nearest harbour or pub than plugging to windward into the teeth of gale.
So if you are a coastal cruising sailor, you may decide that inshore waterproofs will do what you need for most of the time, keeping the worst of the weather out without being too bulky or too hard on the wallet.
We’ve chosen sets of oilskins that all come in at under £350 for the jacket and trousers together.
If you’re after something more heavyweight, we’ve done a full group test of offshore waterproofs too.
The good news is that there’s plenty of choice out there, and it’s a segment of the market that’s seeing lots of innovation as manufacturers compete to stay a step ahead.
Because it’s not long since only top-end sailing waterproofs were breathable, with entry-level sets being impermeably sweaty.
The sets we tested were all breathable, utilising own-brand fabric rather than branded cloth like Gore Tex.
We’ve included minimum waterproof ratings (the water pressure the fabric can withstand in millimetres) though most claim to exceed this.
As soon as the jackets arrived in our office, it was clear the suits fitted roughly into one of two categories.
Some were fairly substantial garments including many of the features you’d expect to see on offshore waterproofs, while others had taken a more minimalist approach, giving some protection while keeping things lightweight and simple.
Personal taste will dictate which you prefer.
HOW WE TESTED THE WATERPROOFS
We picked a range of the latest coastal waterproofs on the market, lined them up and compared the details and features we did and didn’t like.
Then we looked at the fabric used and the overall feel and quality of the garment; the hood and collar; internal and external pockets and handwarmers; zips and closures; lining and fit adjustment, cuffs and seals.
We also tested both men’s and women’s versions of each suit where available.
It was then time to go sailing and we spent time wearing each of the suits to get a feel for the fit and articulation offered, as being able to move freely without feeling encumbered is an important factor.
We wore lifejackets over the top so we could see if the pockets were still accessible and played around with the hoods, collars and cuffs to find out how easy and effective all of the features were to use.
Finally, we donned grey t-shirts under the waterproofs to show any damp spots effectively and then poured a large bucket of water from a metre above the wearers’ heads while hosing down from the front, behind, in the face and around the cuffs.
We’ve been using them out on the water over the start of the season to give us more of an idea of how they hold up in the real world.
Longevity over a few seasons’ use was the only factor we couldn’t test.
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Jacket £175; Salopettes £175
Musto’s BR1 inshore jacket and salopettes were the most lightweight design on test, reflecting the fact that this is very much an inshore rather than coastal jacket, selected in order to come in under the price point.
Despite this, it is an extremely comfortable and well-made jacket that should be plenty for day sailing in anything but awful conditions.
Other than fit, the men’s and women’s jacket and salopettes both offer the same features.
With no external storm flap, the jacket has a waterproof zip and internal storm flap, which kept water out.
A fleece-lined mid-height collar contains a roll-away hood with a small peak, volume adjustment and side adjusters. We liked the hi-vis yellow detail on the collar.
There are just two external pockets with zip closures and fleece handwarmer linings.
The single cuffs are adjustable but lack inner cuffs. Inside, it was good to see two zipped chest pockets for keeping phone and keys, and the jacket and hood has a simple mesh liner.
There is drawstring adjustment at the hem but not around the waist.
These felt solid.
A chunky two-way YKK zip closure at the front has a large inner gusset to keep water out and there is good reinforcement on the knees, seat and around the heel of the trousers.
The ankles have Velcro strap closures, the waist is adjustable and the shoulder straps are fabric covered, elasticated with Velcro adjustment.
The salopettes have one generously sized cargo pocket on the thigh and there’s a strap to secure a knife pouch.
Our water test showed that the jacket let in some water around the neck and cuffs, but this is perhaps to be expected on such a lightweight jacket.
The suit afforded a good degree of movement and flex and was shorter in the body than others, giving it a modern appearance but perhaps slightly less protection.
With fewer features than some of the others, this set offered little bulk.
These would make very good summer sailing waterproofs.
Technology: Musto BR1
External pockets: 2 handwarmers
Internal pockets: 2 zipped
Lining: Nylon & mesh
Women’s version: Yes
Jacket £185; Salopettes £150
It might not be the first name that springs to mind for yachting waterproofs but Gul have been making wetsuits, dinghy gear and waterproofs for years.
Their Vigo Coastal jacket and salopettes represent the top of the line for their yachting kit and are well worth a look.
Without breaking the bank, this suit punches above its weight with the number of features it includes, representing a serious set of sailing waterproofs.
Gul’s GCX2 waterproof and breathable fabric has a soft feel to it.
With more traditional styling that other suits, the red and navy colour is nicely understated.
The jacket has an easy fit that left room for an extra layer or two underneath. It closes with a two-way zip and an outer storm flap, as well as a chin guard over the top of the zip and wider storm flap at the top to seal the collar.
It has two large cargo pockets with fleece-lined handwarmer pockets behind, and additional waterproof-zipped pockets above these.
There is an elasticated hem adjuster and reflective patches on the shoulders and chest.
It is one of the few jackets to feature lifejacket loops either side of the zip.
Inside, we liked the warm brushed mesh liner.
For a coastal jacket, the fleece collar is high and warm, with a roll-away hi-vis peaked hood inside zipped stowage.
The sleeves has double cuffs with an inner rubberised cuff to seal.
The women’s salopettes have a drop-seat design to make calls of nature easier, while the men’s have a two-way zip protected by a Velcro storm flap.
Both sets of trousers have a nylon lining and a zipped inner pocket, as well as two large thigh cargo pockets.
The ankles close with a narrow Velcro fastening, shoulder straps elastic with Velcro fastening.
We liked the amount of space the jacket has and the articulated sleeves for easier movement.
In the water test, only a small amount got in through the neck and none through the cuffs.
It has a great level of detailing and felt like a serious sailing jacket that would stand up to most weather.
Some of the stitching appeared slightly weak though.
External pockets: 3, plus handwarmers
Internal pockets: 2
Lining: Brushed mesh
Women’s version: Dropseat
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HENRI LLOYD WAVE
Jacket £169; Salopettes £125
Henri Lloyd have produced a simple but solid set of oilskins that don’t have extraneous features but will keep the worst of the weather out.
Using a heavier fabric than some of the others but with only two external handwarmer pockets, it’s great if you want to be waterproof without the fuss of a big jacket.
A conservatively styled jacket, the Wave includes a photo-luminescent reflective chest patch, lifejacket loops either side of the zip and a hi-vis hood.
The hood has a stiffened peak but is sadly only adjustable at the sides.
The collar was one of the highest on test with lovely thick fleece that kept the cool spring breeze at bay.
The zip is covered with a decent storm flap and the hem has an adjustable draw cord.
The cuffs sealed well with an internal rubberised cuff and an adjustable outer cuff.
The handwarmer pockets are closed with waterproof zips but do not have drainage.
Inside, there is a single chest pocket with Velcro closure, so we felt it was lacking in the number of pockets.
It has a nylon taffeta lining and allows a good range of movement.
The Wave Hi Fit salopettes were heavier and felt tougher than other salopettes on test, but were some of the most basic in terms of features.
The zip doesn’t have a storm flap but has a good gusset inside.
They are well reinforced on the knees, seat and around ankles; the latter have good wide Velcro closure.
The waist is elasticated but not adjustable.
These were the only trousers to have elastic shoulder straps with the old-fashioned sliding buckles, which now seem rather fiddly to adjust.
There’s no cargo pocket on the leg.
If you’re not fussed about the details, these trousers have very little to go wrong and will probably last very well.
These sailing waterproofs provided the good balance of a well-fitting suit that still has enough space to move and add layers underneath.
It would have been nice to see a few more pockets.
In the water test, there was minimal ingress at the neck and no leaks at the wrist.
This set was comparable to the Musto suit for features but tailored to a higher level of protection with heavier construction.
External pockets: 2 zipped
Internal pockets: 1 Velcro
Women’s version: Yes
Jacket £79.99; Salopettes £69.99
French brand Decathlon have been steadily increasing their presence in the UK with their ubiquitous blue and white stores springing up around the country.
They offer equipment for virtually every sport under the sun, all developed in house.
They don’t sell through normal chandlers though, so aren’t the first name to come to mind for sailing gear.
Despite this, they have developed an impressive range of sailing kit under the Tribord brand.
These waterproofs look and feel the part and have clearly been very well thought through.
The jacket comes with in distinctly different men’s and women’s versions.
The styling is different, but the key features are all the same.
There is also an insulated ‘parka’ version of the jacket on offer.
The jacket is made of solid-feeling fabric and has a large reinforcement patch over the seat.
A plastic zip is covered by a good storm flap and there are two large cargo pockets, with two zipped handwarmer pockets above them on the chest; sadly these weren’t very accessible when wearing a lifejacket.
The collar comes level with the ears and has a cosy fleece lining as well as providing stowage for a same-colour peaked hood (contrast colour for women’s).
The hood is three-way adjustable for the peak, volume and sides.
Double cuffs did a good job of keeping water out, though the rubberised inner ones felt slightly cheap.
Inside, the jacket was lined with mesh and had two zipped pockets.
The trousers were made of the same fabric, with fabric-covered Velcro straps.
This was the only set to have chest handwarmer pockets on men’s and women’s – a great feature.
The women’s were drop seat but didn’t have an adjustable waist.
The men’s had Velcro adjustment straps on the back.
Ankle cuff closures gave a good adjustment.
These oilskins stood up well to the water test, only letting in a small amount of water through the neck and cuffs.
For a set of sailing waterproofs that cost half as much as anything else on test, these felt remarkably good quality with all the features you’d want, with only a few details giving the game away, like lining and wrist seal fabrics.
Technology: Dual-layer hydrophilic fabric
Waterproof: 10,000mm ext pocket 2, plus zipped handwarmers
Internal pockets: 2 zipped
Lining: Nylon & mesh
Women’s version: Yes
Jacket £175; Salopettes £130
Designed as the entry point to Gill’s technical offshore waterproofs, the OS3 range uses many of the features developed for the more high-end oilskins, but in a package that is less bulky and more affordable.
The styling has been updated for 2018 but you won’t look ostentatious in these understated waterproofs.
They are made with Gill’s OS3 two-layer fabric.
Men’s and women’s jackets were virtually the same, just with slight differences in fit and in the colours on offer.
A double storm flap protects the zip with a wider patch to cover the chin and seal the collar.
The high- cut collar is fleece lined, into which the hood rolls.
This is hi-vis and lined with nylon and is adjustable at the sides and on the top for volume.
Outer cuffs protect adjustable inner rubberised cuffs.
Inside, the jacket is nylon lined but with some patches of mesh for ventilation, and there is one zipped internal pocket.
While the jacket has no external chest pockets, it does have large cargo pockets and fleecy handwarmer pockets behind.
These don’t have zips or Velcro, which means you can’t store anything in them, but we liked the fact that there’s nothing to chafe cold and wet hands when using them.
There is no waist adjustment but there is an adjustable elastic hem.
The salopettes are the same for men and women, with no drop-seat option – you’ll need the next model up – but have different fits.
The trousers are reinforced on the knees and seat but not at the heel, and the ankle closures have a buckle to give some purchase for the Velcro strap.
It’s a shame these didn’t have pockets.
The waist is elasticated at the back but not adjustable.
These felt very well made and the jacket offered all of the features we would expect.
The salopettes were disappointing in their simplicity but it does make them less bulky.
We found the fit to be slightly short in the women’s sizes which limited movement a little, so perhaps take a size up.
In the water test, a little water got in through the collar and cuffs but performed relatively well.
Technology: OS3 2-layer fabric
External pockets: 2, plus 2 handwarmers
Internal pockets: 1 zipped
Lining: Nylon & mesh
Women’s version: Yes
**Best on test: Runner up**
Jacket £175; Salopettes £159
A relatively new Australian brand that set about creating high-performance clothing, Zhik comes from a sports background.
The jacket and salopettes are its entry-level waterproofs and follow Musto’s minimalist approach, albeit with a slightly heavier fabric and a few features for comfort.
It’s a well-fitted suit of oilskins that looks modern and feel great to wear.
Zhik claims its fabric has been developed to remain waterproof and breathable for much longer than other similar fabrics.
The jacket is well fitted and has good long sleeves so the cuffs don’t ride up.
It lacks reflective patches and the hood is the same colour as the jacket – the plus side is that you could wear this ashore without looking like a washed-up mariner.
The hood has a stiff peak and is adjustable on top and at the sides.
It rolls neatly up and rather than sitting inside a pocket, the collar has a narrow flap that Velcros over the hood to keep it secure.
The hood also has a warm microfibre lining.
The mid-height collar has microfibre lining too, as do the zipped handwarmer pockets, which are the only external pockets.
Inside, the jacket has a soft mesh lining for some warmth and one small zipped pocket for a phone.
The single outer storm flap closes with Velcro patches, making it easier to undo than one continuous strip.
The hem has an elastic draw cord.
The jacket has a single cuff but the inside face has rubberised material for a good seal.
A modern fit makes these more stylish.
The neoprene shoulder straps thread straight into the front of the salopettes where they’re held on both sides by internal Velcro.
The nylon lining in the legs helps the trousers slide on and there are two good cargo thigh pockets.
These unisex salopettes have good reinforcement on the heel, knees and seat.
These were popular sailing waterproofs on the test for the fit, styling and movement.
The wrist was only moderately sealed and the neck let in a small amount of water.
The fabric was perfectly waterproof but the outer material seemed more absorbent then others, rather than making the water bead up and run off.
These are excellent waterproofs that will cope well with moderate conditions.
Technology: 2-layer fabric
External pockets: 2 handwarmers
Internal pockets: 1 zipped
Lining: Warm mesh
Women’s version: Jacket yes, salopettes no
**BEST ON TEST**
Jacket £170; Salopettes £140
A set of oilskins that aims for full protection despite being lighter weight, the Helly Hansen Pier outfit has the greatest range of features of the jackets tested.
As well as Scandinavian styling, HH have created a good all-round jacket.
Men’s and women’s come in different styles and fits but do not include a drop seat.
With a fairly high microfleece-lined collar, long body and waist, and hem adjustment, the Pier jacket gave protection without restricting movement.
The hood is hi-vis yellow, rolls away into the collar, has a mesh liner and has adjustment at the sides and back.
The double cuff kept water out, as did the storm flap over the zip, and there are reflective patches on the sleeves but not the shoulders or hood.
This is the best jacket for pockets, with two main cargo pockets and fleece-lined handwarmer pockets behind, and another pair of handwarmer pockets on the chest.
The single internal zipped pocket is accessed at the top rather than the side
– more secure but harder to access.
The soft mesh liner felt cosy but did snag on the Velcro when taking it off.
Reinforcement was good on the seat and elbows.
The Pier 2 salopettes are a little more basic than the jacket, offering a single cargo pocket on the thigh and an elasticated waist but with no adjustment.
The body of the salopettes is high and the shoulder straps elastic, securing back on to themselves with Velcro.
Reinforcement on knees and seat felt tough, the ankles closed with Velcro but aren’t reinforced.
The two-way zip (also on the jacket) is covered by a storm flap.
The Pier jacket and Pier 2 salopettes performed well in the water test.
No water got in past the inner cuffs and only the smallest amount got in through the neck.
They gave a good range of movement and fitted nicely without acres of spare fabric.
With a good range of features, some decent safety points and solid protection, this was our favourite.
It would have been nice to see handwarmer pockets and an adjustable waist on the salopettes for the perfect outfit.
A rugged all-round, all-weather jacket at a fair price.
Technology: Helly Tech Performance 2-layer fabric
External pockets:2, plus 4 handwarmers
Internal pockets: 1
Women’s version: Yes
Even with a budget of £350, there are some remarkably good sets of oilskins on the market.
Different brands have focused on different kinds of waterproofs at this price point: Musto and Zhik have gone more lightweight; Henri Lloyd sit in the middle with heavier construction but minimalist design; Gill, Tribord, Helly Hansen and Gull have gone for pared-down versions of their offshore kit.
It’s up to you to pick what’s important to you, although for inshore and coastal sailing, we liked the suits that had at least some cargo pockets and some handwarmer pockets.
On this score, the Helly Hansen, Gill, Gul and Tribord did very well.
What to look for
All the suits used own-brand fabric, all made to be waterproof and breathable, and all use fully taped seams.
Have a look at the fabrics waterproof rating – this will have an impact on how prolonged a soaking you can endure before you feel damp.
The big surprise from our test was how well Decathlon did with its Tribord 500 jacket.
If the brands were not marked on the clothes, it would be very difficult to tell that this one is half the price of the others.
We think this brand will be making waves in the sector if it’s longevity is up to scratch.
We liked the Musto a lot and it would be a great set of waterproofs for the summer, but for our money, Helly Hansen ticked the most boxes: lightweight and stylish, robust waterproofing, excellent protection, plenty of pockets and performed well in the water test.
Its only weak spot was the rather basic salopettes.
Finally, it was a close call for the runner-up position.
The Gill, Gul, Henri Lloyd and Zhik suits were all in strong contention.
Surprisingly effective seals and a few nice details made them a pleasure to wear.
Gill’s sailing waterproofs were solid and had a good level of features that put it just ahead of Henri Lloyd.
With thanks to Inspiration Marine for providing their Hanse 388 as Yachting Monthly’s test base for this article.
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