Choosing a new set of foul-weather gear is not a decision most sailors take lightly. With mid-range gear priced around $500 for a jacket and bibbed trousers, it isn't a small investment. Knowing what specific brands have to offer-and what to look for-is key to making a sound purchase, and to ensuring youll be warm and dry aboard.
At the very least, foul-weather gear must be warm, dry, and comfortable. It also should be easy to adjust and fasten, which means zippers, Velcro, buckles, and pull cords must function without a hitch-and do so repeatedly, thousands of times. But what makes the ideal foulie set? Here are our criteria for top-notch gear. Foulie jackets and bibs/trousers should be made of durable material resistant to abrasion and marine elements, especially sun, salt water, and the unforgiving hardware and rough surfaces found aboard most sailboats.
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.
Hard-core dinghy sailors affectionately refer to their drysuit as the bag, and until recently, its been an appropriate, descriptive nickname. But in our last look at drysuit technology, we recognized the contribution to comfort made by breathable fabrics that do a great job of keeping water on the outside and still allow water vapor to migrate across the semi-permeable barrier. In past testing, we liked Gills drysuit and Ocean Rodeos Soul suit.
Whether you want to cruise the higher latitudes or extend your sailing season this winter, youll need to think about clothing. Over the years, Practical Sailor has published a number of tests and reports on garments that we can count on to keep us warm when the wind chill dips toward freezing. In this report, well take a broader look at the essentials, focusing on the first principles; under layers, accessories, how to wear them, and what materials stay dry.
Its no new revelation that the shape of a womans body is distinctly different from a mans, but until recently, most foul-weather gear makers seemingly ignored the fact. It was difficult for women sailors to find a jacket and bibs that fit well because the options were limited to mens designs. But the times, they are a changing, and now, women sailors can choose from an array of quality foulie gear tailored for their bodies, with tapered waistlines, more narrow shoulders, and less boxy cuts.
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