How to Pack Light for Your Boating Adventures

There is never a reason to pack a big suitcase for a boat trip. Boats have such limited storage and even living space, the last thing you need aboard is a bag of clothes taking up the bit of room have you to move around. Plus, the extra weight adds strain to the boat’s engines, making them burn more fuel to use more power to get the same speed. Most times boating adventures take place during milder weather which means you can do more with less and still pack light. And if you plan right for the variation in temperature, activities, and weather and water conditions, you’ll be amazed at how nimble you can pack, while still covering all the bases.

Pack Light
packing light means you’ll have more room to move about, and the lighter weight means the boat will be more nimble.

Dress for the Occasion

Before you even worry about clothes, make sure you have the correct gear and accessories for your day.

A day wakeboarding and picnicking on a sandbar requires a completely different wardrobe than a weekend on a yacht or an offshore fishing trip. Whether this means fishing gear and sturdy shoes that won’t slip; or a wakeboard vest, a pair of boardshorts and a custom playlist, we recommend you start here, with the essentials.

Bring the Right Sun Protection

Whatever the season or activity, protecting yourself from UV rays is a must. 

And this doesn’t just include sunblock, sunglasses and headwear. Makeup, facial and body lotions and clothing are all available with UV protection give you a reprieve from the hours you’ll spend out in the sun. On the perfect day on your boat, the coolness off the wind and water often make you forget the sun is beating down on you all. Board the boat with your first sun protection already applied, and be sure to reapply throughout the day. And bring aloe and aspirin/ibuprofen, both comforting essentials for someone who gets too much sun.

Windbreaker for the Win

Without adding the bulk of a sweatshirt, a windbreaker is versatile and easily packable.

As the day winds down and the sun gets lower, so do the temps, and even in the height of summer you’ll get chilly onboard. On fishing boats you’ll probably start off early wearing these layers and put ‘em back on at the end of the day. It can hold in your heat while doing its namesake task of keeping the breeze off your body. Being waterproof or at least water-resistant, they’ll dry quickly too, so that late-afternoon spray doesn’t soak into your clothes and make you cold.

Be Smart with Your Shoes

Be sure you have comfortable shoes with grip if you’re expecting adverse conditions or spending a lot of time standing on deck.

Flip flops are a fun summer staple, but they’re not always the best on deck. If you know you’re going to hop off the boat at some point, they’re lightweight and easy enough to pack, slide them into your bag. But solid shoes are a must for fishing, sailing or doing any other work or activity on deck while the boat is in motion. Unless you’re on a luxury yachting vacation — in this case you’re likely to leave your shoes the second you come aboard.

Pack Light
Packing smart doesn’t mean packing everything. Mixing separates saves space and serves a variety of conditions.

Mix and Match

Choose comfortable clothes that are easy to wear so you can focus on your boating experience.

If you’re on an overnight or longer-term trip, no matter what the boat size, the storage space is going to be less than at home. Choosing swimsuits, tops, bottoms and outer layers that trade out depending on the activity or temperature are a must, and just a couple of each can combine to create many outfits. And when it comes to fabrics, avoid those that wrinkle easily, and fabrics that air-dry easily, like nylon and polyester. 

Just the Essentials

Bring your toiletries, but scale them down for the occasion.

We’re not suggesting you can’t enjoy the same products you do at home when on a day or overnight trip, but please take travel size! On most recreational boats, bathroom (head) space is at a bare minimum, and often so is the water supply. Products like shampoo/conditioner in one or face/body wash can multitask and keep grooming time and storage space down. When it comes to medications to have more than you need, like on any trip. And consider some anti-nausea medication if you’re not sure how you’ll react to being on the water. The sea might get choppier than you remember.

Entertainment Gear

Let the trip serve as the entertainment, and leave some creature comforts at home.

Most boats have their own entertainment systems onboard, but if you’re planning on docking and going to a spot for lunch or lounging, just bring a small speaker that packs a punch, rather than adding a big boombox you won’t use on the boat. That space can be used to bring other items for the day such as travel-sized games, snacks and a sheet for the beach (packs so much smaller than a bunch of towels). If the kids can’t leave the tablets and game systems at home, we always recommend packing them and their chargers in waterproof cases or dry bags whenever they’re not in use. Same with your smartphone! These bags are really affordable and come in all different sizes.

Traveling light is part of the fun of boating life. While you don’t need much, by packing ahead and packing smart, you’ll have everything you need on hand at close reach, and nothing that you don’t, leaving you to enjoy every minute on your boat whether you’re angling, entertaining or even just cruising.  Be sure to seize those boating dreams. If you’re not already in the perfect boat, or you still need to buy a boat, we have incredible resources at Boats For Sale. Check our boat listings to get a feel for what’s available right now, then view our Resources section for more tips and guides, and our Services section to learn about our suite of assistance, like a cash offer, boat financing and insurance. Boats For Sale was created for boaters, by boaters, and our mission is to be sure you’re always 100% satisfied when you’re out on the water.