Personal Gear & Apparel

Bags Fit for Life at Sea

Like flares and life jackets, abandon-ship bags are purchased and outfitted with the hope theyll never be needed. Designed to store and protect emergency supplies-and to keep them readily available-ditch bags allow sailors to supplement the often paltry supplies stored in life rafts.

The Sailor’s Boot Dryer

I like the outdoors. I sail year-round, and I can endure as much heat and cold as my passions demand. But whether it is summer or winter, I just can't abide cold, wet feet. There is something about damp socks that chills me through. If my feet are warm, Im warm.

Cold-Weather Gloves

In freezing temperatures we field-tested 12 pairs of cold-weather gloves from different sports to see which ones keep hands warmest, yet still offer a bit of dexterity.

Mailport: 12/06

MARINE INSURANCE REDUXI have been reading with much interest your articles about marine insurance this year (April and May 2006).

Practical Sailor’s 2011 Gear of the Year Picks

Each year, as the fall boat shows—and the deals that come with them—appear on the horizon, we pore over the numerous products we’ve reviewed in the previous 12 months to select the cream of the crop for our Editor’s Choice awards. We hope the list will help readers better navigate any boat-show or end-of-season shopping. This year, we picked from the Best Choice products evaluated in the September 2010 through August 2011 issues. The 2011 GOTY roster includes an electric outboard, some stout bullet blocks, electric marine toilets, bilge pumps, chafe gear, and marine maintenance products like bottom paint.

Mens Foulie Faceoff

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.

The ODEO Laser Flare

Like winning lottery tickets and accurate head shots during the zombie apocalypse, visual distress signals are one of those things you just can't have too many of. To meet safety and legal carry requirements, most sailors have handheld, pyrotechnic flares onboard, but these have some drawbacks. Pyrotechnic flares generate molten slag that can injure a user if not handled properly; they have a short burn time (less than 3 minutes for U.S. Coast Guard-approved flares); and can be used only once. Also, they have a 42-month service life, so replacing them can add up, and they are made of hard-to-dispose-of hazardous materials.

Fish Storage: Its in the Bag

If you like trolling while you sail, and youre good at it, youll inevitably land some fish too big for the cooler or ice box. Heres a powerboat-oriented product that might save you the trouble of spilling blood, and guts on your nice clean deck, just so you can put that oversized striper, wahoo, or mahi on ice. Enter insulated fish bags. We looked at three bags capable of holding a fish weighing 50 pounds, plus ice.

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.

Mailport: 04/09

I read with interest your evaluation of first aid kits, which wrapped up with the final installment in the December 2008 issue. Id like to add a couple of points: Weekend, cruising, and bluewater sailors should invest in a good up-to-date first aid and CPR course. It is as important as a functional bilge pump. The responsible sailor can outfit a substantial and superior first-aid kit for much less money than a commercially available kit. The kit should be appropriate for the expected duration a victim will need treatment prior to evacuation. Most commercial kits contain a lot of fluff and are unnecessarily redundant-a lot of Band-Aids. I stress to distance sailors stocking a few prescription items and aggressive treatment for seasickness, beyond Bonine. I favor a solid medical text such as "A Comprehensive Guide to Marine Medicine," by Dr. Erick Weiss and Dr. Michael Jacobs, or "Medicine for Mountaineering and other Wilderness Activities," by James Wilkerson. The latter is available from Mountaineer Books. Both texts give guidance on stocking kits appropriate for your boat. Remember, the victim may be the captain or medical officer, and a novice may be the one rendering treatment. A medical guide is an invaluable resource.

The Pros and Cons of Leaving Your Mast Up for Winter

If you are like us, you may feel strangely guilty about leaving a mast up during winter storage. In our case, it is probably those old wooden spar days calling. Ideally, wooden spars need to come down and be sheltered and coddled at regular intervals. Aluminum masts really don't, and the sky is actually a decent place to store them.