Enticing Gifts and Gadgets for Sailors

While the keep-it-simple-sailor philosophy underlies our selection process, we do stumble upon products that, although far from necessary, fulfill their primary mission: incite an urge to splurge. If you have a sailor on your gift list who seems attracted to gadgets, bags, and cool apparel, here are three of our testers favorites.

Earth, Wind, and Water

Each foul-weather garment was subject to a series of rigorous tests designed to measure resistance to the elements, breathability, wearability, reflectivity, functionality, and abrasion resistance.

Look for UV protection, fit, impact resistance

The ideal pair of sunglasses will vary among individuals. Fair-eyed people, for example, often prefer darker lenses. Our list of must-haves include UV protection, polarization, impact-resistant lenses, and good fit.

Marine Dock Carts Field Test 2007

The three hand trucks-Roleez Folding-Wheel, Sea Bowld, and Dock Dolly-were nearly identical, with telescoping handles and flip-up bases. The four others-the Roleez Sports Caddy, Pack N Roll, Wonder Wheeler, and the Foldit-ran the gamut from a very compact, crate-style cart (Pack N Roll) to the large, workhorse Foldit dock cart. Testers considered each rolling carts performance on and off the dock. They also loaded onto the carts items that are often carried to and from the boat-a 12-volt battery, cooler filled with food, and a duffel bag of clothes. Testers also noted how easily each was stowed and how much room it took up.

Sailing Gear for Kids

Whether your mini crewmembers are bound for a weekend family cruise or summer sailing camp, equipping them with the right gear will ensure their days on the water are safer and more fun for everyone. PS editors have put together a list of our favorite, must-have kids products for summer sailing. Some of the items are kid-sized versions of adult products that were top performers in our past lab and long-term tests, and we can vouch for their quality, performance, and durability. Others are products that have survived kid torture testing for at least one season and have earned two thumbs-up.

Womens Sailing Shoe Test Update

Boat decks are mazes of toe-stubbing hardware and slippery surfaces, making foot protection a key component to a sailors kit. Over the years, Practical Sailor tested has tested boat shoes, sea boots, and sailing sandals. For this update, we focused on the latest womens kicks from the top performers in past marine footwear tests: Helly Hansen, Harken, and Columbia Sportswear. The new shoes were the Helly Hydro Power 3, Helly Hydro Moc, and Columbia Outpost Hybrid. We also re-tested the top picks from the 2007 test, the Teva Sunkosi and Helly Hydro Power original, to see how theyre holding up after three years of on-deck duty.

Boat Bags: Watershed, SealLine Dominate; West a Best Buy

Many of the gear and duffel bags labeled 'waterproof' in the marine catalogs failed our tests. However, after examining 26 models, we did find a few truly dry bags.

Mens Foul-Weather Gear Update

Practical Sailor recently tested the first line of foul-weather gear released by Massachusetts-based Bluestorm. The three mens bibs-and-jacket sets are named appropriately for the general areas they are designed for use in: the lightweight Latitude 33, medium-weight Latitude 48, and heavy-duty Latitude 61. The sailing jackets and bibs were tested for wind- and water-resistance, fit and comfort, design, construction quality, warmth, design and fit of hood, design and construction of zippers, and reflectivity. Small, innovative details that Bluestorm incorporated into its foulies include the triple-closure system for jacket storm flaps and recessed Velcro fasteners. All sets have excellent hood design, and testers found the jackets to be supple, highly breathable, and comfortable, if a bit pricey.

Foulie Gear for Your Feet: Socks from SealSkinz

In our continuing effort to stay warm and dry this winter, testers took a look at a few pairs of waterproof socks from SealSkinz, the maker of cold-weather gloves recommended in the November 2008 issue. Protecting feet from the elements typically involves trudging on deck in a pair of clunky, heavy boots. Waterproof socks, however, mean you can stick to your favorite deck shoes-or sandals for that matter-and still have your feet warm and dry. Testers tried out two styles of SealSkinz waterproof socks (all-season and over-the-calf lengths) as well as the companys WaterBlocker sock. The SealSkinz socks have three layers: A nylon/Lycra spandex outer layer offers durability and flexibility, while the inner layer is knit from a wicking material, and the mid-layer is a Moisture Vapor Transportation membrane designed to keep water out. The WaterBlockers have the same weight, construction, and materials as the other socks, but they have the added benefit of an in-cuff seal intended to keep water out.

Marine Watches

Casio's Sea Pathfinder 40 gets top honors for functionality, readability, and price - but it's not for the slim-wristed. Higher-quality watches lack some functions we like.

The Ins and Outs of Aftermarket Bowsprits for Light-air Sails

A salty Kiwi named Ross Norgrove once said that the most important tool for the owner of a wooden yawl adorned with a bowsprit is a sharp ax. To some degree, his witty comment holds true for contemporary sailors contemplating a mini-bowsprit.