Keeping your legs and lower half dry onboard requires a good pair of sailing trousers in all seasons. Marsali Taylor picks out 11 of the best women’s waterproof trousers and salopettes for sailing.
Whether it’s a quick pair of pull on trousers to keep your legs dry from splashing waves on a sunny day, or full waterproofs for rain and strong wind conditions, there are now women’s sailing trousers specifically designed for female sailors to suit all seasons.
For relaxed summer daysails a pair of waterproof trousers to quickly pull over your jeans or shorts will be sufficient. For longer days on the water or racing, you’ll want to look for sailing trousers made of tougher fabrics with reinforced knees and seat, that can be worn with thermal leggings underneath on chillier days. For heavy conditions, offshore and ocean racing, there are now high-spec salopettes in women’s styles packed with features to keep you properly warm and dry for extended periods on deck.
Frequent hot drinks are important for crew warmth and morale, while staying hydrated is key for avoiding seasickness, particularly on warmer, breezy days when exertion levels may be higher. I know from my own experience that often women avoid drinks because of the hassle of removing their lifejacket, oilskin jacket, and mid-layer jacket for every heads visit. Trousers or salopettes with a drop-seat can solve that problem.
And of course, women sailors are a different shape. Men’s salopettes that fit my hips would need a foot of length taken off from the legs. I wanted sailing trousers designed for women.
What to look for in women’s sailing trousers
We looked for trousers that are waterproof, windproof, breathable, with articulated knees for ease of movement, and robustly constructed with reinforced knees, seat and back leg hems, and sealed seams.
Features to look for include adjustable straps and waist, and a pocket is handy for the days when you don’t need to wear a big jacket on top.
Personally, I like sailing trousers in a nice, bright colour, but absolutely not “womanly” pink or powder blue. Finally, I wanted an easy way of getting to the heads.
If you live near a chandler, do take the chance to go and try things on, particularly the bib/salopettes; you may find you have to compromise on fit in a way you wouldn’t even consider if you were buying a new pair of jeans.
Bear in mind that the manufacturer’s warranty may be voided if you make any alterations yourself, such as shortening trouser legs to fit.
Best women’s sailing trousers: pull-on style
Highlander Waterproof Packaway Trousers
Starting at the most basic of the budget end, Highlander makes waterproof pack-away trousers that could be a quick solution for otherwise clement conditions, maybe to avoid splashes in a dinghy tender. They’re advertised as windproof, waterproof and breathable, and are thin enough to pack into a small carrybag.
They have an adjustable elasticated waist and an ankle fastening. There are no pockets, just access slits, and one reviewer commented that these gape when you’re sitting, which would let water in.
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Regatta Women’s Highton Waterproof Overtrousers
Regatta also offers a pair of basic women’s over-trousers, which are advertised as waterproof, windproof, breathable, stretch unlined trousers. The seams are taped, they have a zip front waist, part-elasticated waistband and a zip at the ankles.
There are two zipped pockets and they are available in two colours: navy and black. The buyer feedback is generally positive, though several reviewers have mentioned they found the trousers slightly long in the leg – however, Regatta do offer three leg lengths.
The material is 100% polyester stretch fabric. For only £2 difference in price, these seem to be a more durable option than the Highlander ones.
Donhobo Women’s Walking Waterproof Trousers
Slightly more sophisticated are donhobo’s Women’s Walking Waterproof Trousers, thermal fleece lined. These are advertised as suitable for skiing, snow, hiking and fishing, and could make another good option for going ashore in colder conditions.
They come in several colours, and are advertised as windproof, waterproof and breathable.
The shape is similar to a slim-legged pair of jeans, though some wearers have commented that they are a snug fit, so maybe worth sizing up.
The Donhobo trousers have a zip front waist and elasticated back waist. The knees are reinforced and there are several zipped pockets. An inner fleece layer will make them warm; but be warned that it’s flammable, so be careful near the stove.
Rohan’s Women’s Ventus Overtrousers
At the top end of the simple waterproof trousers market, I tried on Rohan’s Women’s Ventus Overtrousers. Their three-layer fabric means water should run off, and they’re windproof and breathable.
They have a two-way outer-leg zip, a comfortably soft elasticated waist with adjustable cord and – a clever touch – a cold-hands release button for the waist cord.
There’s an outer hang-up loop at the back waist, and a little clip at the foot to clip the trouser hem to shoelaces. The knees are reinforced, though they don’t have pockets, and come only in Carbon colour.
I tried these on over jeans and found them a most wonderfully comfortable fit – but then at £150 they really should be.
Musto BR1 Hi-back Trousers
Specifically designed for sailing, Musto’s BR1 Hi-back trousers are waterproof, windproof and breathable; there’s a zip front opening, an elasticated back waist with belt loops, and zipped pocket access.
The seat and hems are reinforced, but not the knees. There’s a higher back, for warmth, which should prevent gaping between your trousers and jacket even if you prefer a waist-high style.
The description says they are ‘made to deliver outstanding protection in torrential rain’, which may not be quite the same as keeping you dry when you catch a wave on the foredeck.
They come in black only, and though they’re advertised under ‘women’, they seem to be unisex, which generally means designed for men.
Several buyers commented on the excessive length of the legs, and one also found them baggily wide.
Helly Hansen HP Foil Pant
Helly Hansen also makes a pair of waist-high sailing specific trousers, with 2-ply fabric, sealed seams and a mesh lining. Both the seat and knees are reinforced, and the knees are articulated.
They have a front fly, adjustable waist and belt loops, but the waist is described as ‘low cut’ for freedom of movement – depending on your body shape this may be more comfortable, or may mean that upper layers can come untucked.
There are cargo hand pockets and the trousers come only in black. The sizes range up to XXL.
The Helly Hansen HP Foil Pants are also offered as a ‘bib’ or salopette style, generally with a long front zip access and differing heights of front and back.
Gill Women’s Coastal Trousers OS3
I found only two pairs of waterproof trousers with a drop-seat facility, the Gill and Helly Hansen Offshore bibs.
Gill’s women’s coastal trousers are salopettes with 2-layer fabric protection. There’s a zip-front access, and they’re cut slightly lower than most pairs, so the adjustable straps are longer, and so may slide down your shoulder.
The knees and seat are reinforced, and there’s a fastening at the ankle. Graphite is the only colour available, they’re made in women’s sizes up to 20, but there’s no variation in leg length.
Best women’s sailing salopettes
Helly Hansen Salt Coastal Bib for Women
Helly Hansen‘s Salt Coastal Bib for Women has a two-layer construction with a quick-drying inner mesh and sealed seams. It’s windproof, waterproof and breathable. The two-way front zip has a stormflap and inside gusset, and the seat and knees are reinforced.
The cargo pocket has a turnover top held by a piece of velcro. The waist, shoulder straps and hems are adjustable, but I felt, trying them on, that when you pulled the back waist in, you also flattened the front. The underarms are elasticated.
There’s a reflective panel on the front chest. The sizes go from XS to XL. Two colours are available: ebony or red.
Gill OS2 Offshore Women’s Trousers
Gill OS2 Offshore Women’s Trousers are higher-cut than their coastal trousers, and advertise an advanced waterproof and breathable finish, and fully taped seams.
They have a two-way zip, adjustable braces with a clip fastening (so that you don’t need to keep readjusting) and ankle fasteners. The back waist and underarms are elasticated for a snug fit.
There’s a cargo pocket on the front with a D-ring for tools, and hand-warmer pockets. There’s a drop-seat facility, which got a special mention from one reviewer thanks to its covered zip along the top of the seat reinforcement with an internal waterproof gusset.
They come in black only and they’re made in women’s sizes up to 18, but there’s no variation in leg length.
Helly Hansen Skagen Offshore trousers
Helly Hansen’s Skagen Offshore Women’s Bib has a two-layer fabric with mesh lining and sealed seams. The seat and knees are articulated and fully reinforced. The waist, shoulder straps and hems are velcro-adjusted, and there’s a two-way front zipper.
There’s a zipped cargo pocket on one side, a mesh one on the other and two little under-bust pockets for keys. Like the Gill Offshore trousers, these have a drop-seat feature and a covered zip around the hips.
The only colour is ebony, and they come in XS, S, M and L, so up to a size 16/18.
Musto Women’s MPX Gore-Tex Pro Offshore Trousers
Musto’s Women’s MPX Gore-Tex Pro Offshore Trousers are designed for serious sailing and tough conditions. The three-layer fabric is waterproof , windproof and breathable. The knees and seat are reinforced and articulated for ease of movement, and the back hems of the legs are also reinforced.
The shoulders, back waist and ankles are adjustable. The underarms are elasticated for a snug fit. There are two fleece-lined hand-warmer pockets and a loop for attaching your multi-tool.
They come in red or black, sizes go only up to 16 (a neat 16, according to one buyer, who had to change hers for a men’s medium) with no variation in leg length.
As with the BR1 trousers, the photos and spec of these is very similar to the men’s offshore trousers, with no mention of women-specific features.
Reviews of these were generally good, but there were a couple of comments about trouser length and how long they remained waterproof.
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