Lycra, neoprene, goretex, fleece... Brands and textile engineers compete in ingenuity to offer the sailor innovative technologies that are as diverse as possible, all in the search for comfort. But in the middle of a wide range of products, with constantly changing ranges, how can you find your way around, how can you be sure you are buying the right product to get the most out of your sport while enjoying it? Picksea, the specialist in equipment for nautical leisure activities, helps you to understand the technologies and materials currently on the market and gives you its best advice on how to equip yourself!
Before any purchase, it is necessary to determine whether your sport takes place ON WATER or IN WATER as well as its intensity (occasional or regular); in either case, your expectations will be different.
Sports in the water (kayak, paddle, bodyboard, dinghy, skiff)
For sports in water, the goal is to preserve as much body heat as possible while being wet.
Wearing neoprene or lycra meets this purpose. Short or long sleeves depending on the season, these stretchy clothes, to be effective, must be worn close to the body. They adjust to your body shape while giving you great freedom of movement. Some materials are also anti UV, very useful to protect you from the sun and the reflection of sun in the water. Here is the list of materials available on the market, from the least protective to the most protective:
- Lycra / Elastane / Spandex Lycra : all these materials have the same characteristics, Lycra being a registered brand of the company Dupont de Nemours.
- Titanium Lined Lycra
- Warm Lycra Lining / Hydrophobic Fleece
Neoprene gives you better buoyancy. Even if it is not 100% waterproof, neoprene has thermoregulatory properties, which increase with thickness. Indeed, this insulating material allows the water that penetrates to keep your body temperature, isolating you from the cold. Highly resistant to sea water, neoprene guarantees the longevity of your clothing. To get the most out of it, remember to rinse your clothes in fresh water after each use.
Depending on the weather conditions, we can add :
- a waterproof top like a DINGHY pea jacket or a AROSHELL to face the cold and protect from the wind,
- or a DRY SUIT, the most effective way to stay dry and warm while in the water.
Sports on the water (sailing, fishing, cruising...)
For sports practised ON the water, the advice is to add layers (ideally 3), to face with rough weather conditions, or 2 layers (remove the intermediate layer) when conditions are warmer.
1- Role of the 1st layer: EVACUATE TRANSPIRATION AND STAY DRY
In first layer clothing, technical underwear is recommended. Worn directly on the skin, it must be comfortable, soft to touch and allow sweat to drain away from the skin to keep you dry during exercise. Also, when choosing your underwear, choose breathable, stretchy and practical fabrics with antibacterial treatment to prevent the smell from spreading (Bodyfresh or silver ion technologies).
--> 2 possibilities are available: synthetic fabrics (polyamide, polyester, elastane, polypropylene, ...), or natural fabrics such as merino wool. How do you make the right choice?
- Merino wool, the most expensive of all, has many advantages: light and breathable, it naturally absorbs smells and protects you effectively against the cold while remaining soft. The only disadvantage is that it is slightly less resistant than synthetic fibres over time. Cotton sould be avoided because it retains humidity.
- Synthetics are stronger and dry faster than merino wool. Combined, they provide you with maximum comfort. For example, a polyester mix (strong, warm and fast drying) with elastane (stretchy) gives you an effective first layer. Additional advantage: some fabrics are treated against the growth of bacteria and therefore smells.
PICKSEA ADVICE : in order to preserve the properties of a 1st layer garment, it is essential to wear a breathable piece in the 2nd and 3rd layers.
2- As an intermediate or mid-layer: HEATING OBJECTIVE
Classified by price and increasing efficiency, here are the materials and technologies available on the market :
- Fleece or micro fleece depending on the weight of the polyester (also called Polartec or Arctec by some manufacturers), which is lighter and dries faster than a classic jumper. Treated against pilling (antipilling).
- Softshell : generally wind and water-repellent outer fabric with fleece lining. Provides initial protection against the cold and intermittent rain.
- Primaloft : technology offering superior thermal and insulating performance in addition to being waterproof.
- Windstopper or Gore Tex are windproof and breathable fabrics bonded with a textile lining.
PICKSEA ADVICE : in choosing a 2nd layer garment make sure to give priority to:
- tightening at the waist and wrists for optimum thermal isolation
- a cut close to the body to avoid unnecessary draughts or too much air to be heated
- chin protection to prevent irritation caused by the zipper slider.
See our second technical layers
3- The shell: TO PROTECT YOU FROM THE WEATHER
2 qualities are essential in response to this purpose: waterproofness AND breathability (i.e. allowing perspiration to escape during intense efforts) while remaining comfortable. Several fabrics and technologies are the perfect answer. But here again, adapting the product to your sailing program remains the key. There are 2 possibilities:
- a coated fabric + lining for lower range jackets (durability of about 5 years)
- a coated fabric + membrane + lining: the top of the market wich will allow you to be equipped for 10 years.
Whichever option you choose, here are the features that make the quality of each fabric:
- The outer fabric, to acquire its waterproof properties, receives a water-repellent polymer treatment called DWR (Durable Water Repellent). This treatment is applied to the outer layer of the fabric so that the water repels on the surface. The more layers of coating are applied, the greater the fabric's impermeability and abrasion resistance will be. The challenge for brands is therefore to preserve the breathability of the fabric in any case; some technologies meet this double challenge. You will find products with the following names on the market:
- 1 layer coating (BR1, Salt, Force 1...)
- 2-layer coating (BR2, Ultimate, Force 2 and 3, Skagen)
- PVC or PU coating (Technologies Hybridpro +, Dremtech +....) make the fabric 100% waterproof and abrasion resistant, while preserving its breathable qualities. These highly technical fabrics are intended more for professional use.
- Inserted between the outer fabric and the lining, where it exists, the intermediate membrane, known as microporous membrane such as Gore-tex , Sympa-tex, or MP+ technologies for example, is ideal for intensive sailing or long stays at sea. These membranes have the advantage of being both waterproof AND breathable. Indeed, they are composed of billions of nano-pores per cm2, 20,000 times smaller than a drop of water (making them waterproof) but 500 to 700 times larger than a water molecule (allowing perspiration to escape)!
- The inner lining, independent or laminated, makes the garment more flexible and comfortable. It can be in mesht, jersey or fleece and guarantees protection against cold and humidity.
A few elements, which guarantee waterproofness, should be taken into account when choosing a 3rd layer garment, in particular the welded seams and cuffs with neoprene inner sleeves.
PICKSEA ADVICE: To preserve the longevity of your clothes, Picksea recommends that you rinse them with fresh water after each use. Washing at low temperature (30°C, delicate fabrics) without softener, followed by air drying (forgot the tumble drying as it may alter the coating layer) is recommended.
See our categories offshore jackets and our tutorial : choose the best offshore jacket.
WHAT ABOUT ACCESSORIES?
As with clothing, accessories (gloves, hats, hoods ...) should be chosen according to their specific use:
- Need for protection against rope friction? use mittens or gloves
- Need for waterproofness and heat? choose polar fleece gloves and hats with a neoprene headband to ensure waterproofness.
- Need for heat only? prefer merino wool or fleece
See our categories boat gloves or hats and caps.
And if this tutorial does not answer ALL your questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to help you in your choice of equipment.