I recently dusted off my sailing trip packing list for a bareboat charter trip to Key West. We’ve picked up more than a few packing tips over the years.
This list assumes you are heading to a warm, tropical destination such as the caribbean.
You probably have heard, but if it’s your first time, it’s a good idea to bring a duffel bag as your luggage. Space is at a premium on board, and you’ll be thankful you don’t have to find a place to store hard luggage.
There are some items on this list that you would have to go through airline checked luggage. If you are carry on only, plan to buy those items in country, leave them at home, or consolidate so only 1 bag needs to be checked amongst the crew.
Here is what to bring on a sailing trip – the obvious, and maybe not so obvious. I’ve made a few specific recommendations with our affiliate links where I think the brand matters!
Clothing & personal sailing packing list items
- Swimwear / swimsuits – you don’t need one for every day, but they don’t take up much space!
- Long-sleeved cover ups – there will be a point each day where it may be difficult to re-apply sunscreen. It’s usually because you are wet – rain, sweat, dripping from a recent dip, etc. Having a couple of these sun shirts is a great idea to keep you protected from sunburn. For the guys, Florence Marine X – John John Florence’s new brand – puts out a great SPF hooded shirt
- T-shirts/tank tops
- Sarongs for the ladies
- Dad hats for the guys
- Lightweight rain coat or windbreaker – we usually encounter a squall or two and someone still has to drive the boat! These aren’t bad either for a nighttime dinghy ride into the wind.
- Sweater – it can feel chilly at night at times
- Theme night – we usually pick one night to dress up and have some fun: Luau Night, Dinner with the Captain (think Master and Commander), etc.
- Polarized sunglasses – all the crew should bring polarized shares. They are helpful to read the water and see potential obstructions. My favorite brand recently is Electric – the Knoxville Sport model is a perfect everyday pair. Get them in Blue Polarized Pro for your boat trip.
- Snorkel & mask – I highly recommend bringing your own. Snorkeling gear is usually available from the charter company, but it gets a lot of use. The quality is not usually great either. Spend the money and invest in your own. I learned to scuba dive in 2008, and I am still using the same snorkel/mask. They will last you for years if taken care of. Another reason to bring your own is that, due to Covid, some charter companies are no longer providing masks (although you can still get fins from them).
- Fins – if you have them and have space, bring them. Otherwise, the fins from the charter company will usually be just fine.
- Walking/hiking shoes – these are usually the pair I wear on the airplane.
- Flip flops
- Water shoes – optional, but they can be helpful. For example, jumping in the water to beach your dinghy.
- Boat shoes – you definitely do not need these. I think most people that wear boat shoes have never been on a boat. I’m always barefoot when we are on the sailboat.
- Quick dry towels – most charter companies don’t provide beach towels, so plan to bring your own. Since they might get multiple uses every day, we like quick dry options. This type of towel also won’t take up as much space in your bag.
- Sunscreen lotion – if you can find it, bring a reef friendly option. Reef Safe Sunscreen is a bit more expensive, but it’s worth it to help protect the reefs.
- Personal toiletries – toothbrush, toothpaste, lip balm, deodorant, shampoo/conditioner (the boat will not come stocked with this), etc.
- Electronic chargers
Things to bring for the crew
- First-aid kit – your yacht will have one, but we’ve found it can be helpful to bring some supplemental items. Sometimes the boat kit is incomplete
- Dramamine for seasickness, extra band aids, neosporin, aloe, etc.
- Cash – it’s a great idea to have a couple hundred bucks for each person. You’ll need it for purchases such as mooring ball fees, trash pickup fees, and some restaurants might be cash only.
- Extra zip lock bags of various sizes
- Board game, playing cards, or dominoes – whatever the crew likes if games are your thing
- Floats – if you can rent them, we’d recommend just going that route. You can pack your own, but they take up space and are likely going to be thrown out at the end of the trip. I’ve taken a MONSTER float on a couple trips, but it always becomes way more work than it’s worth.
- Flashlight or headlamp – bring a headlamp if you have one, but if you need one, your smartphone flashlight will probably be fine for the boat. You might want a real flashlight if you plan to take the dinghy ashore for dinner and return after dark.
- Collapsible cooler – for those shore excursions or storing extra ice on the boat. For some destinations, you could also pack meat in dry ice to bring with you. I like the TOURIT coolers. It’s soft, so it can be packed or used as a carry on. They are also much more affordable than higher end coolers like Yeti or RTIC.
- Waterproof speaker – believe it or not, some sailboats don’t have external speakers that you can hear well while underway. You’ll want a waterproof, portable speaker so that you can also take your sailing tunes ashore.
- Reusable drink cups, such as Yetis (get them personalized for a great trip souvenir)
- Dry bag – you don’t need anything big, just something to fit phones in for a dinghy trip ashore. I’ve had a Sea to Summit dry bag for years – a 4L version should be perfect.
- Paracord (550 cord) – you will find some many uses for this: securing fishing poles, tying on flags, making croakies for your sunglasses. Lots of color options are available online.
- Spices – we always bring a basic assortment, salt and pepper at a minimum
- Hot sauce – I always pack some of my favorite all around hot sauce – Marie Sharp’s. In Texas, I can get it at the local supermarkets, but you can also pick it up online.
- Duct tape
- Charts and cruising guides
- Fishing licenses (check local regulations)
- Drone (optional) – you won’t regret it. I recently upgraded to the new DJI Air 2S. It is compact and takes stunning pictures – check out recent trips to the Exumas, Bahamas or Key West and the Dry Tortugas for some examples. I also post these pictures on our instagram profile.
- Chefs knife or knife sharpener (optional) – this might sound silly, but I usually pack a well-sharpened kitchen knife since we are usually checking luggage for our fishing gear. We do a lot of cooking and working with a dull knife is the worst (and also dangerous)!
- Projector (optional) – OK hear me out. Yes I know we are going on a boat trip to cut the cords and enjoy the islands. It is sooo much fun, however, to watch Master and Commander or another favorite sailing movie (Captain Ron perhaps?) on the boat. We don’t do it every night, but once or twice is fun! We hang up a sheet with duck tape and connect the projector via bluetooth to the boat’s sound system. Check out our projector setup on our recent Exumas trip.