Winter sailing attire

I am sailing on the Great Lakes during the winter for the first time as Mate. Part of my duties will be to stand on the end of the boom during unloading, so being outside in excess of four hours. I am mostly concerned about buying warm socks/underwear/ long johns. What brands do you recommend for temperatures that reach below -20°F?

If your standing outside for long hours I highly recommend a mustang or other brand work suit. An insulated hat with a brim and neck gaiter too.


I work aboard the USCGC HEALY in the high latitudes of the Arctic, just recently 84* degrees north. Many of us wear the following while working on deck and on the ice floes for 12hrs a day.

Under Armor cold gear thermals- Layer 1
Polartech long Jon- Layer 2
Carhartt insulated bib- Layer 3
Mustang float coat or appropriate PFD
Work gloves are another matter, no one has invented gloves that can endure the bitter cold as long.
However, Carhartt has some great two layer gloves that work pretty well in the arctic conditions.
Disposable hand warmers work fine, and great to stuff in the pockets and even the socks. Remember to dress in layers! Avoid cotton!!
1.Base layer: Your long underwear needs to keep your skin as dry as possible.
2.Middle layer: Your fleece or jacket needs to hang onto as much body heat as possible.
3.Outer layer: Your rain gear needs to protect you from rain and wind.


Awesome! Thank you

I was taught it was important to open your outer clothing during exertion to keep sweat from wrecking the insulating properties of the inner layers. This was a few generations of clothing ago but I suspect it’s still good advice. It certainly worked for me in my cold winter of '76 in Passadumkeag ME, with -20F every day, -30F not unusual, and one morning of -45F.

Also that as long as it still hurts it’s not frozen. When it stops hurting pay sharp attention. Be aware of that white waxy look. And be physically extremely gentle with frozen parts while thawing.

The people at McMurdo Station in the fifties invented a breathing mask filled with steel wool that captured exhaled heat and used it to temper the incoming air. They were working in temps of -60F and lower, IIRC.


Can’t go wrong with wool. Ullfrotte is a solid choice, but is expensive.

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This right here… this was the best purchase I ever made when I was working in really cold weather as a mate. They made McMurdo bearable on one of the Deep Freeze runs I did long ago. If you go with these and decent thermals, you really can’t go wrong the rest of the way… oh, and good warm gloves too.


FYI, noticed some outerwear low prices at while looking for gloves.

This is good advice, but what do you call it in English? Wool terrycloth? I’ve never even heard of the stuff outside of Norway, but it’s absolutely amazing. The 600 gram variety kept me warm on the Russo-Norwegian border, which is quite a feat, and it’s also pretty tolerant to sweat. The only downside is that it’s pretty hard to clean without ruining it.