The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Q&A: Foul Weather Gear

Question [edited for brevity]: I did a quick search on your site, but didn’t find anything discussing foul weather gear. I’ve researched all lines and all levels of gear—West Marine, Gill, Henri Lloyd. I’d like to think this stuff may last me 10 to 15 years with proper care and avoiding snags anywhere on the boat. We’re planning several trips along the U.S. east coast this year and one to Bermuda.

Answer: We are actually in the market for new gear as I write this: the tape on the inside seams of our old stuff has detached and there are areas of chafe on the exterior; however, even though our gear looks disreputable, it’s not leaking…yet. But we don’t want to get out there and then have it start to leak, so we’ll replace it this spring.

Which Brand?

In the past we’ve been through a number of different brands of offshore foul weather gear. For the last set we settled on Musto HPX Ocean. Yes, the price tag really hurt, but we found it to be the most comfortable and effective of any we’ve tried so far:

  • a hood that protects but doesn’t interfere with movement or visual field
  • zippers that work (more on that later)
  • adjustment buckles in the right place
  • completely and utterly waterproof (even after 5 years of hard use)
  • good breathability

Benefits of Gore-Tex

Good breathability is an important issue considering the type of sailing we do. Sure, fishermen in the north get away with wearing cheap non-breathing foul weather gear, but they keep physically active when out on the working deck and then, when they stop working, they go below where it’s warm and dry. (Plus, they’re way tougher than we are!)

With our open cockpit, we end up sitting out there in the cold and wet for hours, with an occasional interlude of frantic physical activity followed by more sitting in the cold. Without the breathability of Gore-Tex, we would get sweaty during sailwork and then sit and get hypothermic in between. So, for our use, the benefits justify the price tag of the HPX Ocean level of gear.

Lighter Gear

For the use you describe, I would think you could get away with lighter, cheaper gear; however, with Musto that may not work: the crew on our Arctic trip this summer had MPX gear (their normal sailing territory matches yours). The jacket zippers kept getting caught, and there is nothing that brings on seasickness faster than being stuck below with the boat thrashing around, while you’re getting hotter and hotter fighting your foul weather gear jacket zipper, which is jammed halfway up.

We know all about it—we had Henry Lloyd gear a number of years ago that did that (Team One Newport replaced the first set without question when we complained, but the second set was just as bad, so we put up with it until they wore out).

Note that Keith, the Musto guy from Landfall Navigation, says they sell a lot of MPX gear and they haven’t had any problems with the zippers, though he admits it does take a certain technique to get them to work right.

Longevity, or Not

The bad news is that we only get about 5 years out of a set of foul weather gear, whatever the brand. Now, that’s 5 years of extremely hard use, but still, at the price that’s just not acceptable. (Note that Keith was surprised that our gear only lasts 5 years. I guess we’re really hard on the stuff!)

We’ll report once we’ve test driven this next set of Musto HPX gear.

Anybody out there have first hand experience of a better option for foul weather gear? Please leave a comment.

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I’d vote for the Musto Ocean suits in HPX as well. On our research boat we had two HPX suits for the skipper and mate (well, we lived in them) and 6 suits for the volunteers in MPX (different sizes). Our HPX ones lasted for around 5 years of virtually daily use before they had to go – once they start to leak, there’s not much point in trying to do anything with them. But up until then they had been fantastic, and were very hard wearing.

The MPX suits were nothing like as good, and considering they got less use weren’t as good value. They ripped quite easily, and the hoods were very poor – I had to stitch the tensioning cord back in to every one of them. Fine for occasional use, but not for serious stuff.

I bought a new Ocean suit a couple of years ago at a bargain price (last years colours – as if I care) despite the fact it’s in a strange silver shade which makes me look like a renegade from the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. I’m otherwise very happy with it – except for the hand pockets on the jacket, which have diagonal zips designed to ensure you lose everything in them – if Musto haven’t gone back to the old patch pockets – then they should!

Best wishes



I vote musto HPX also. I’ve had mine for 10 years, five years of light use and five of moderate. Their end of life is coming but of all the gear I have, my musto suit is what I recommend the most.

Sigurdur Jonsson

Good day

We have had overall bad experience with the Musto MPX gear. Especially the pants don´t last very long until the seams start leaking. This is a shame because they have nice design and are comfortable to wear.

But I´m always looking for a simpler jacket. A “HPX-grade” smock/anorak type jacket but with perhaps only one small pocket on one of the sleeves, no bulky pockets on the front. And as few seams as possible on the jacket. Really like some of the simple fishermans smocks but breathable…

All the best // Siggi

Jerry Levy

I don’t have enough dollars to vote for top-of-the line Mustos. A high quality and less expensive breathable alternative is Guy Cotton’s offshore foul weather gear made out of “dremtech’. I bought my suit years ago, though, and don’t know what prices are now. They used to have a US outlet in New Bedford.

I will say, though, that having a breathable foul weather suit IS worth the extra money.

james peto

We too would vote for Musto HPX, however we find that the hood is not so good when wearing glasses.
We also have insulated suits bought in Norway( everybody going on the sea uses them) which are the best value ever, indestructible, warm and if you do fall in provide an element of flotation ALL for about 1300Nkr. Makes Musto very expensive in comparison.
Weven wore these with just a sweat shirt under whilst saling in Svalbard.

Svein Lamark

Hi Phyllis,
My wife has a Musto MPX and she says it is good. She sailed around Nordaustlandet with it. I have a ca 12 year old HPX. It is much stronger and thicker in the clothing. I think it will still last for many years. The problem with the HPX is to get rid of your humidity because the clothing is so haevy. After many hours in the cockpit i feel wet. It helps a lot with some layers of wool under the HPX. Yeasterday we sailed into Hammerfest (worlds northen most town) and I asked the locals what type of underwear they used. They said the new type of wool with a thin layer of polyester or polyproylene was the best. It transports out humidity fast and dryes quickly. Producers i found in Hammerfest were Devold and Dovre. Both wellknown among fishermen in The Barents sea. I will try this new underwear because i think good underwear is the key to comfort. Some go for syntetic underwear. It works, but it smells. During the winter of 2005 i traveled around on Svalbard wih locals. The locals refused to enter open huts known to forengers because they used syntetic underwear. I tried the open hut in Brucebyen. It has a terrible smell. I will not have that smell in my yacht. Finally good booths are important. If your foots are dry and warm it is not so bad.

Svein Lamark

Hi Phyllis, I think you can hope for more than 5 years of lasting time with your HPX, even if you use it harder than other do. The clothing is so strong that it is almost impossible to destroy it. I wonder if the layer on the knees are kevlar or twaron ? Good maintainence is important to make it last. Salt will block the gore-tex humidity transport ability. HPX has several layers. When you get salt between the layers, the gore-tex will be the looser against the stronger outer skinn. So HPX needs to be washed in freshwater more than other onelayer gore-tex. This is The Achilles of HPX. But it easy to solve when you know it.
I am using the Dubarry boots. I always buy 3 pairs so that a pair can rest for two days when in use. If the boots start to smell, I fill them with freshwater and let them stay over night. Next day I dry them with warm air. Then they are good again. I am now into pair number 9. I will not think of the cost. That will ruin my day.

Lane Finley

Hi Phyllis,
It is too bad that Musto does not make women sizes in HPX. At least we cannot find any women’s sizes.

Geir Ove

If you sail places where HPX is needed, then a female cut dress, is not what you are looking for,
It needs to have room for wool and air under it. then you can go anywhere.
i sail the north sea, but HPX is to stiff, so i use MPX, and also a HH dress for costal sailing,

Geir Ove

Yes. If anyone is short, than a tailor-made one , will be best ?
you need to have room underneath and def. not to tight, There is always a “but”


I’m a rather tall woman, sailing where HPX is necessary, and would love if the could make a female cut. Not to look slim if that’s what Geir Ove is thinking of, but there are escpecially too much cloth around the shoulders, which are simply impractical and annoying. I’d suggest Geir Ove wore female cut gear for a season ..:-)

And when sailing far, fresh water use is at issue. I’ve found it hard to keep the HPX as fresh as recommended when making crossings, and thereby the HPX last shorter. But good to know through these postings, there probably are no better option.


Hello and thanks for good advice. I’m also in the market for new foul weather gear and am at the stage of procrastinating before spending the bucks on HPX. Just one suggestion for those who are experiencing their zippers getting stuck: try lubricating them. You can use candlewax, just stroke the end of a candle gently over both sides of the open zip a few times and you should notice an improvement in operation. A slightly softer wax works better, but one doesn’t always have that kind of stuff lying around. I’m using archer’s stringwax from my sewing kit where it serves double duty as lube for sewing thread. Stringwax is fairly inexpensive and is readily available from all stores that sell archery gear.

Svein Lamark

Hi Phyllis,
Maybee we are a bit snobbish choosing the expensive HPX with so many problems. I bought new Spinlocks the other day and for the salesman it was an important argument that the crew would look much more professional with Spinlocks. As a young man I fished several years in The Barents Sea and 5 winters off Lofoten. I always used Helly Hansen PVC oilskin and Viking Neptun boots and wool underwear. It worked perfectly. The gear is cheap and comes in all kind of sizes. The Neptun boots were wonderful because my foots were always dry and warm. When my HPX is gone I will go back to Helly Hansen, but I will keep my Spinlock and the modern wool underwear.


Agree with Svein.
After more than 130 000nm I find myself suiting up in fisherman oilies with natural fibers (wool) under. Inexpensive, light weight, compact, easy on/off, waterproof, easy to ventilate. Wrap a small towel around neck and wear a peaked cap under hood. Metal snaps need to be maintained (oiled). Duct tape comes in handy during fire hose conditions on the foredeck.
Guests very pleased to be able to borrow my expensive, hardly used, Henry Loyds.

John Harries

Hi Svein and Rikki,
I think that whether or not you will be happy with fisherman’s PVC gear is a lot more about the person wearing it than the gear. I burn a pretty high thermostat and tend to get overheated and sweaty very quickly when I exert myself. I can remember way back in the seventies the most popular foul weather gear of the time was made from heavy PVC by Line-7. On the boats I raced on some crew members thought it was great since it was absolutely waterproof and a big step forward at the time. I hated the stuff because within 5 minutes of starting a sail change I was soaking underneath it from my own perspiration. That was bad enough in the mid-latitudes, but up north it would be dangerous because of the danger of hypothermia.

Bottom line, it depends on you, not the gear.


Large and loose. Jacket slips off as soon as I’m under the protection of the sprayhood which also means it never comes below decks. Important what you wear underneath. Wool next to skin is paramount. I agree as well that it is an aquired taste that demands a certain technique.

Ray Dunn

Great info! Not really having any experience with off-shore sailing, I’ve been hesitant to spend big money on an article of clothing that I may only use once or twice/year, then find out later that just a bit more would afford me something that wouldn’t leak after a few short hours of constant cold rain. I’ve never noticed the smell from sweaty synthetic under-layers, but coming from a cycling/triathlon background, I’ve probably just been experiencing olfactory fatigue! I’ll keep that advice in mind when shopping for wool layers in the near future. Thank you, all!


Ray Dunn

I was wondering if you guys ever considered re-habbing old garments through the manufacturer. I looked it up and Musto provides it as a service that seems to have some sort of guarantee. The more I thought about how these things are made, the more I realized it made sense, especially given the investment.

Carolyn Shearlock

On the zippers, try some stuff called ZipCare, available from Amazon and many outdoorsy stores (we first found out about it from a high-end tent manufacturer when we returned our tent for zipper work) — relatively cheap (a little over $5). Haven’t used it in an extreme conditions as you’re in, but we had huge problems with wet suits and even day packs (that we often in the dinghy) freezing up from salt deposits. The ZipCare does wonders and the neat thing is that it does NOT attract dirt and crud like wax will.

Svein Lamark

Hi Phyllis
There is an interesting new development of foul weather gear going on i Europe to day. The producer Regatta has made a new gear for fishermen that is now becomming popular. The new gear is named Regatta Fisherman. The growing popularity is connecting to two tragic accidents in Ireland and Norway where the fishermen with this new gear survived and those with other gear did not. Look at ,choose the UK flag for english, go to professional and look on regatta fisherman. You can even find some movies there. I have not tried this gear, but the fishermen I have spoken to says it is comfortable to use and keeps them warm and dry. The norwegian fishermans assosiation has bought 2500 sets to their members and several insurance companys are also subsidising members. The marked price is less then 350 USD so I intend to try one.

Paul Mills


I want to put in a vote for Gill. I have a set of their Atlantic waterproofs, of which I like many design features – not least the handwarmer pockets on the trousers as well as jacket. A couple of weeks ago I noticed the trousers were starting to leak, after 3 years use. So, I emailed asking for their position on this. Gill came back instantly, saying send them to us freepost for evaluation. I asked how long, as I needed them back asap and they replied 7-10 days, but mark urgent and we will do our best…. . Five working days later a new pair have arrived in the post, with an apology for any inconvenience = Paul Mills is a customer for life!

Well done Gill 🙂

Torbjørn Mannsåker

I just want to give a not so short but general comment on dressing for cold weather. In short… dress in layers. Several thin layers beats the hell out of a few thick ones both in terms og mobility when moving around on deck, and in terms of keeping you warm during hours on watch in the cold.

Firstly on my background. I am Norwegian and am used to less then ideal conditions for doing most things outdoorsy. I sail, kayak, mountain climb, country ski and backcountry alpine ski (ie. climb 1000 meters, sit down in the snow and eat Kvikk Lunsj (chocolate bar most Norwegians have a near religious relationship with) and the ski down again).

Normally we think base, mid and shell layers when getting dressed. The base is whatever touches your skin. The base layer will get damp/sweaty/wet almost whatever you do really only depending on your body. I, like john, has a high general body temperature and I get real sweaty if I start to move around. But, with wool this is ok as it does not get cold like cotton or the different Syntetic base layers. Some (most?) of you are going to think “but wool itches!” which is true for a lot of the older woolen stuff, but a lot of what is coming out now have wool qualities where this is a minor problem. I would strongly recommend using woolen boxer shorts as well! Devoid makes some that are really good.

Mid-layer is primarily where the bulk of insulation is. And can be whatever you prefer except cotton that should in general be shied away from. Again wool is in my opinion by far the best option, but fleece and down jackets have their merits as well.

The shell layer is responsible for keeping whatever is on the outside on the outside. And keeping warm air on the inside, and in the case of membrane clothing letting moisture out. The shell layer is what most people focus on when getting foul weather gear. It is important but you will get cold if you don’t have proper base and mid layers.

You can’t really dress for everything at the same time. If you want to be dry, warm and not sweaty you can be that while stationary under the dodger while on lookout with a set amount of clothing, but if you then go and spend 30 minutes wrestling with a main you are going to become sweaty no matter how well your outer (shell) layer breaths. I am near religious when it comes to take of some layers before planned wrestling sessions. If unplanned I get sweaty and will have to change afterwards if I will be sitting around for long. Usually with wool you will stay warm even if wet.

Then a couple of top tips,
– don’t wear cotton. When it gets wet it gets cold, and takes forever to dry up. It also goes smelly
– Syntetic base layers are good for high intensity activity cross country skiing, running etc. for sailing (unless on a racing boat…) it is overkill. And starts smelling even faster than cotton.
– wear wool!
– dress for what you are doing. If you are planning a sail change. Go down below and strip of one base layer. Then go down below and put on a layer again!
– buy several thin layers so you can easily regulate you temperature so you stay warm, but don’t start sweating. Then you can also change if you get wet.
– get a good quality cap. Mostly you get cold through your head.
– get a mesh base layer. I know. This sounds sketchy, but woolen mesh base layers trap a lot of air and are amazing for insulation. They dry very quickly, and will very become your favorite base layer!

We Norwegians have a saying. “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!”. Dressing we’ll starts with the base layer!

Torbjørn (currently eating pizza in shorts in Cape Verdes!)

John Harries

Hi Torbjørn,

All great advice. You will find our thinking is very much the same voiced in several different posts in the achieves. And I can’t tell you the number of times I have made my crew crazy with that quote!

The only thing that you recommend that we have not yet tried and adopted is a wool mesh layer. Wool yes, always, mesh, not yet. Now we will have to try that, thanks!


I am surprised that the best of the weather jackets are not universally outfitted with a neoprene neck. A wave in the face – not that that would ever happen – would definitely find its way down into the base layers.

Am I missing something?

Marc Dacey

Many of the better foulie jackets have flaps that secure practically up to the eyes. Throw in a securable hood and some kind of goggles and even a bucket of sea water to the face is unlikely to do more than dampen an inch of cheek. What you are describing is, however, available in an immersion suit, which is basically overalls sealed with neoprene at neck, wrists and ankles. In all but survival or polar conditions, however, these would be very warm to work in, and while a foredecker would favour them, they are too hot for most deck work. I have both a Gill OS/1 and a “lighter” OS/2 jacket and Musto bib overalls and seaboots. I can work in these down to slightly below zero C with fleece tops, but even the lighter jacket (which is not really that light) gets shed over 15C as it’s too hot save for squalls.

John Harries

Hi Steve,

As Marc says, the really good stuff is pretty waterproof around the neck, at least when the hood is up. That said, if you are really going to get firehosed, say on the bow, you are right, some water will get in. That’s why say Open 60 sailors tend to wear full on dry suits. The trouble is that they are both slow to don (the open 60 guys just stay in them for long periods) and pretty uncomfortable.


Wondering how the Musto gear has stood up to the last few years, 2012-2017? Any new recommendations? thanks.

John Harries

Hi Karen,

Our Must gear is still going strong with no signs of deterioration. That said, due to me breaking a leg and another health issue, we have not used it very aggressively in the last 5 years.


I know it is an old thread but let me share my first impression of Musto HPX jacket. A few days ago I received it along with the HPX trousers that I ordered online. I also ordered the GTX salopettes mid layer, since I am planning a delivery of my own yacht from the Baltic to the Black Sea in the beginning of April next year.

I have a problem with the zipper start on the jacket. Actually I find it very difficult to the extent of impossible (1 successful attempt of more than 10) to insert the zipper right edge into the sliders on the left side in a way that makes it possible pulling of the zipper on. I tried many times and got frustrated thinking that I am doing it wrong. Though zipping on a jacket should not require special skills.

I am planning to return the jacket and to exchange with an HPX smock. It most probably will be more problematic to put on and take out but at least I will not have this zipper problem. In the past I did own a Musto MPX and I had the same difficulties though I always managed after some seconds to start the zipper. It is really a nuisance and I wonder whether any of you experienced the same problem especially with the new models.

John Harries

Hi Rumen,

Well that’s disappointing to hear, but as we say in the post above, we have had the same sorts of experiences with both Henry Lloyde and Musto.

Our current HPX jackets are reasonably good in this regard, but they are 5 years old, so perhaps Musto have changed zippers.

Either way, really not acceptable for gear that costs as much as a an older second hand car!

Sounds to me like your idea of going with a smock is smart, although I share your donning concerns.


Thanks John,

It seems that quality goes down even with premium brands. I asked my wife to put on the jacket and zip it and she managed better than me but not without difficulties. I remember how awkward I felt when fiddling with reluctant zipper on my MPX jacket while my crew waits patiently in the cockpit to step on my watch.

Bastiaan Arends

Hi, seen this article was written in 2012, it looks we’re due an update on how you faired with your latest set of HPX gear!

May I note that there’s now a new player on the block, North Sails Performance, designed by no other than.. Nigel Musto. To soon to see any long term testing on it yet, but looking promising in it’s DNA.

Best wishes,


John Harries

Hi Mastiaan,

The HPX has done great and is still going strong.

That said, we will be looking at lighter gear from our new boat, although we will keep the HPX for spring and fall. Will write about that selection in due course.