From winter series to mid-season overnight races, having a decent mid-layer is an important part of layering your clothing for maximum warmth, plus allowing for bodily produced moisture to wick away from the skin. Let's look at 6 of the best mid-layer sailing jackets.

Many of you will be lucky enough to live in tropical climes where the word thermal is only associated with a way to keep your Mai Tai cold on the way to the beach. But for the rest of us a decent mid-layer sailing jacket is used in well over 50% of the season.

All-year-round sailing is now commonplace at all levels of the sport – and why not? With decent a mid-layer sailing jacket the “too cold for me” excuse sadly doesn’t work anymore, and many a rewarding day can be sailed in the off-season.

So what is important when shopping for a mid-layer sailing jacket? Well obviously they need to keep you warm. They need to be comfortable enough to operate the various physical tasks in sailing without building up a reservoir of perspiration, so more often than not the outer layer of the mid-layer jacket won’t be a full waterproof shell, to avoid the full greenhouse effect and help the mid-layer to wick the moisture away from the skin.

But that doesn’t mean that this type of sailing jacket can’t resist a small shower as they need to be up to that all-important impromptu visit to the club bar after sailing. Whilst on the latter, they do need a little style so as not to make you look like a poor homemade version of your local team’s mascot, or an amateur taxidermist’s experiment.

The mid-layer sailing jacket is almost the most versatile piece of the layer system. If it’s really cold you can add a multitude of thin thermal base layers below. For a midsummer overnight sail, the thermal layer can be left ashore with the mid-layer sailing jacket thrown on “to take the egde off”. So let’s take a look at what’s new and the best available options at the moment.

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6 of the best mid-layer sailing jackets

Musto LPX Primaloft Stretch Mid-Layer Jacket

Best all round mid-layer sailing jacket

Reasons to buy

– Warm with soft and stretchy shell
– Nice hood and neck closure when down
– Reflective seams on shoulder

Reasons to avoid

– Towards the top of price range

Musto really is a name to be trusted in the outdoor arena, especially sailing, and their LPX Primaloft Stretch Mid layer Jacket holds true to this. A really soft and warm mid layer, this is a wonderfully soft jacket for all occasions.

The slight stretchiness of this jacket really does help when you are performing the trickier tasks onboard, almost to the point you don’t even notice you are wearing it.

It feels really snug and the hood is a great touch to help you keep the chill out. It helps limit heat loss from the neck by acting as a scarf when you don’t have it up.

Very breathable material stops a thermal “fog” building up within the jacket. An extremely nice touch is the inclusion of some reflective seam detail on the shoulder, which doesn’t effect the comfort but does add an element of safety in case the worst happens.

Buy at Musto


Helly Hansen Men’s Arctic Ocean Hybrid Insulator Jacket

Kings of the thermal layer

Reasons to buy

– HH are one of the leaders in all activities thermal wear
– Good hood and neck detail
– Nice elastic minimal cuffs

Reasons to avoid

– Lack of shell on arms for waterproofing may be an issue

Helly Hansen have always been at the top when it comes to insulated and thermal technical clothing, their dominance in all outdoor extreme activities is well documented.

Luckily for us sailors, they share the knowledge that they have gathered from unparalleled experience in mountain exploration and general alpine activities.

As the name suggests, the Arctic Hybrid Insulator jacket is up to the task. It combines a lovely warm quilted body and hood with dense knitted arms, which offer more freedom of movement.

This top won’t look out of place in any environment, with a hip and a chest pocket to keep everything on you that you will need, whether afloat or around town.

Although this doesn’t look like it will withstand much water, it is showerproof due to a durable water repellent system. This is a great breathable mid layer option.


Henri Lloyd Maverick HL Mid-Layer Jacket

Worth a look

Reasons to buy

– Close association with top pro inshore teams
– Figure hugging

Reasons to avoid

– No shell so reduced waterproofing
– In no mans land between mid layer and fleece

Henri Lloyd are another well known sailing brand, with a close association with some of the worlds top Olympians for quite some time. The Mav HL Mid Jacket is the main offering from a limited range, but it’s a great technical warm option.

Rather than a waterproof shell, the Henri Lloyd offering is a very tight-weave fleece, which may withstand the very lightest of drizzle at best.

Stretchy and tight, this figure-hugger will adapt to every curve of your body, for utmost thermal protection, and is perfectly suited to a layering system beneath your foul weather gear.

Henri Lloyd also offers a version without the hood, to avoid congestion around the neck area when wearing with a jacket on top.

This is less a jacket and definitely more of a fleece – but is every bit a decent mid layer. It just lacks some of the ‘nipping out to the shops’ versatility.

Buy at Amazon


North Sails High Loft Smock

Great thermally but less bar appeal

Reasons to buy

– Great thermally
– All attention to performance

Reasons to avoid

– No shell so no waterproofness
– Not a fashion piece

Part of the North Sails performance sailing range is this High Loft Smock mid layer option. Norths have majored on performance, as the range name suggests, rather than versatility. Remember their attitude is the best for functionality.

So this smock is actually a very fluffy fleece, which is optimal for capturing a boundary of body heat in its midst.

They have done away with the soft shell featured in many mid-layer offerings, as they really want to get any moisture build up away from the skin,. Their exterior wet weather gear is so good that the focus has been on making a fantastic mid layer for sailing, and less about how it looks at the club bar whilst telling tales of conditions that will make your bones bend!

All the cuffs are made from lycra, to keep them in place and avoid any accidental sagging out from under the protection of the wet weather layer.

Another nice detail is the off-centre zip, which will limit the amount of congestion around the neck when layering up.

Buy at North Sails

Tribord Warm Sailing Jacket 100

Best mid-layer sailing jacket on a budget

Reasons to buy

– It’s the cheapest by quite a way
– It’s warm

Reasons to avoid

– No real-sailing specific development

Not everyone is in the position to be spending stacks of their hard earned cash on specific layering systems, and so a great budget alternative for a mid layer is the Tribord Warm Sailing jacket.

This may not boast the breathability of some of our other offerings, but essentially this jacket will do what is needed.

Its outer is waterproof, so it can be used as a straightforward inshore sailing jacket and as the no-nonsense name alludes to – it’s warm. So if the budget is limited or storage space is tight, then have a look at this jacket.

Helly Hansen Women’s Crew Hooded Mid-Layer Jacket

The best women’s specific mid-layer sailing jacket

Reasons to buy

– Designed with women in mind
– Good waterproofing
– Nice selection of colours

Reasons to avoid

– More jacket than mid-layer

Surprisingly there are not many offerings for women’s specific mid layer jackets on the market, with most manufacturers relying on their soft stretchy offerings to provide a unisex fit.

But the thermal layer kings at Helly Hansen do offer a nice range of women’s thermal clothing. This jacket is certainly more versatile than most, with a slightly better waterproof outer shell and a removable hood. The Helly Tech protection on this jacket also has a reason amount of breathability.

The polartec lining ensures great thermal properties, and the whole jacket is light enough than you can easily wear it under a more purposeful waterproof jacket.

With fleece-lined pockets for chilly fingers, this mid layer is perfectly suited for life afloat or ashore. It comes in a wide range of colours, all with the considered cut of a woman’s specific jacket.

4 more mid-layer sailing jackets we tested in 2017

As anyone who has been to Cowes during its famous annual regatta will know, specialised sailing clothing is not just for sailing – the pubs, clubs and restaurants are full of famous sailing brands. Midlayer jackets in particular have to perform superbly out on the water but also look stylish enough to use during the après-sail!

Sailing from Svalbard in the north to Morocco in the south, we asked our skippers at Rubicon3 to try four of the best midlayer jackets to determine which was a winner on both land and sea.

Helly Hansen Crew jacket

Helly Hansen Crew-best-mid-layer-sailing-jacket

There is no doubt that this is a very stylish jacket. Soft-shell always has a wonderfully comforting feel to it, aided here by a full fleece lining.

The pockets are nice and deep and it has both an inner and outer breast pocket.But while it’s great for casual use, as a genuine sailing jacket it struggled.

It doesn’t have a waterproof membrane and bizarrely its cuffs are cut too small to push big hands through.

Also its collar is cut so close to the neck that, when fully closed, it pushes into the Adam’s apple even with no other clothing on underneath it.

Ratings: Out at sea: 2.5/5 · In the pub: 4.5/5

Verdict: Comfortable and stylish but the neck and wrist cuffs were too small

Henri Lloyd Elite Therm

A proper mid-layer jacket designed to be worn under foulies: the Primaloft filling is superbly warm in cold conditions and the small, fleece lined collar means your outer layer sits easily on top.

It is breathable, so copes better than most with the stop-start exertions of sailing.

The outer shell is windproof and waterproof, but it feels less robust than some of the other jackets on test.

It’s not one for the après-sail: although it’s a quality finish, it isn’t a stylish cut.

Add it to your armoury for really cold weather sailing instead – it’s too good to be worn down the pub.

Ratings: Out at sea: 5/5 · In the pub: 2/5

Verdict: Really warm, but not the most robust design and not the first choice for après-sail.

Buy it now on

Musto Gore-Tex blouson

Musto gore-tex blouson mid-layer jacket

For the hardcore sailor, this is a very good choice with Gore-Tex and Arctec 240 fleece keeping you dry and well insulated.

We particularly liked its large collar, which gives lots of protection from the wind but left enough space at the front for other clothing.

We had three issues: the breast pocket was hard to access by a right handed person (why isn’t it on the left breast?); the hand pockets had no fleece lining which was missed in the cold; the fleece lining is loose in the sleeve and pushes out of the cuff when the hand comes through, meaning it gets wet and cold.

Ratings: Out at sea: 4/5 · In the pub: 3.5/5

Verdict: Expensive and with a few issues, but really effective at sea.

Buy it now on

Slam Winter Sailing jacket

Slam Flying mid-layer sailing Jacket

This jacket is a good all-rounder, being both functional on the water and smart enough to wear on shore. It has a warm fleece lining with an elasticated waistband for keeping draughts out.

The water-resistant outer shell is tough enough to withstand the trials and tribulations of the inshore regatta season and it has a quality feel to it. Unlike many of the jackets on test it also has a neatly hidden hood.

It’s a bit bulky for wearing under foulies, and isn’t warm enough for high latitude sailing, but for a weekend on the water to be worn over shorts when the wind picks up, it’s a great option.

Ratings: Out at sea: 3/5 · In the pub: 3.5/5

Verdict: A bit bulky but a good all-rounder and the hood is a useful extra.

Buy it now on Amazon

Bruce Jacobs is the co-founder of Rubicon3, an adventure sailing company that specialises in expeditions and voyages to some of the world’s more remote and exciting locations. From the heat of Africa to the wilds of Greenland and Svalbard, these routes are the ideal proving ground for testing sailing equipment.

Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated sailing page for more marine products.

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