6 of the best smocks for sailing and other watersports

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Smocks may bring up the mental image of a weathered fisherman, stood quayside, clutching a pipe whilst telling tales that will bend your bones. But they are the preferred waterproof top of many a professional water sports enthusiast.

Whether you are sailing, paddling or just mucking about. From inshore to offshore, the smock is by far the most dependable and versatile waterproof top. Smocks are not just uniform for fishermen or school Art teachers (a selection of brushes peeping from top pocket).

Popular with dinghy sailors and offshore sailors alike, great for paddle boarding, kayaking and even handy on a mountain bike, the best smocks keep the outside out and keep the inside protected against the elements.

Every major sailing manufacturer now produces several smocks. But why? The big benefit of the smock v traditional waterproof sailing jacket is the lack of the zip on the entire front, which means the top will be more waterproof, but a little trickier to get on or off.

The seamless front panel is simpler to engineer than its zipped equivalent. This simple construction can be plain or have a nice handy Kangaroo-style pouch, which is perfect for storing useful items and snacks. The pouch often includes a side entry pocket for burying cold hands.

But not all smocks are the same – so let’s take a look at 6 of the best smocks on the market right now.

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6 of the best smocks

North Sails Southern Ocean Smock

Best sailing smock for offshore

Reasons to buy

+ The best for the worst conditions
+ Gore-Tex pro
+ Storm proof hood

Reasons to avoid

– A little overkill for most daily situations

North Sails wanted to enter the technical clothing market with no stone unturned. The Southern Ocean Smock is the culmination of the finest materials and the best in-field research. This smock is the pinnacle of protection and performance

The seams are tight and the seals effective. There are even protective and adjustable cuffs over the seals. A fantastic storm hood really protects the head from the worst the elements have to offer.

Considering the level of protection, this smock still offers great movement from within with its minimal bulk. A handy pocket on the front panel can storer your essentials, while the over-length skirt helps stop the water travelling up when the waves hit hard. There is plenty of room for a decent amount of sailing thermals underneath if you are playing in the cold ocean waters.

Buy the North Sails Southern Ocean Smock from NorthSails.com

Helly Hansen Aegir Race Sailing Light Smock 2.0

All-round no-nonsense sailing smock

Reasons to buy

+ Great neck and wrist seals
+ Not bulky
+ Versatile

Reasons to avoid

– Ocean racers will want a storm hood
– Not Gore-tex

Helly Hansen is a very reliable brand who are at the top of the game in a multitude of outdoor pursuits. The Aegir smock is a stripped down version of the full-on ocean smocks. Although it lacks the hood, the neck seal and the wrist seals are as good as you can get.

This top is more than capable of dealing with big conditions as long as you don’t mind getting your hair wet. It even has reflective tape on the arms and shoulders for better visibility.

The handy top-entry pocket on the chest provides room for essential items without being too bulky – never discount that impromptu action selfie from the wearer of this top – or preferably the sharing of their chocolate stash.

The wide adjustable neoprene waist is comfortable and extremely effective in limiting the impact of those waves that decide to defy gravity. All in all due to its stripped down essentials, this smock is as good on an ocean race as it is on a paddle board – it’s extremely adaptable.

Buy the Helly Hansen Aegir Smock from HellyHansen.com

Henri Lloyd M-Pro Sailing Smock 2.0

Classic all-round sailing smock

Reasons to buy

+ A favourite of many an Olympian
+ Breathable

Reasons to avoid

– Not Gore-tex
– Limited colour options

Henri Lloyd gives us the M-Pro Sailing Smock 2.0 which, like many of its competitors, features the classic smock/spray top style. I’m not sure what the M-Pro refers too – unless it’s to attract to teens who enjoy South Korean pop music.

This style of top doesn’t have quite the same levels of immersion defence as a latex-sealed smock. But the velcro cuff/zip neck enclosure does have a significant advantage when reducing humidity from within. Just open both to vent and assist cooling down after periods of intense action.

The arms also have velcro cuffs, which do a great job at keeping  water out (and letting body dew out when undone). The waist’s large neoprene band is also comfortable and effective. The pouch pocket – although not large – should be enough for most people’s nik-naks. It is closed with a waterproof zip – giving it all a very clean look.

Henri Lloyd has always been a dependable brand, both onboard and ashore. The 3-layer DRI PRO fabric system, combined with taped seams, means you won’t be disappointed with this extremely versatile and lightweight top.

Buy the Henri Lloyd M-Pro Smock from HenriLloyd.com

Musto Championship Aqua Top 2.0

Most versatile smock

Reasons to buy

+ Warm and cozy
+ Great for on water and warming ashore

Reasons to avoid

– Not fully watertight

The Musto Aqua top is somewhat of a hybrid.. is it a smock? Is it a fleece? Well its actually both and a very good example of each.

A lovely and warm fleece with a waterproof covering which is perfect for ashore and afloat. Envisaged as a top to throw on between races or periods of activity, it actually is pretty good to wear during, as although it’s not as waterproof as some of the best smocks, it really does put up a decent bit of water resistance.

The nice over-long fleece-lined funnel collar really does feel warm and comforting, and has cord adjustment to keep body heat in and the wetness out. The wide neoprene waist band is adjustable, as are the cuffs to really keep the chills at bay.

Again this is really versatile, especially for those cold days – especially if you are not intending to end up in the water. But all is not lost if you do – as it’s pretty quick drying.

Buy the Musto Championship Aqua Top from Musto.com


Rooster Lightweight Smock 2.5l

Best smock for dinghy sailing

Reasons to buy

+ Really lightweight and packable
+ Great fit and comfy
+ Multitude of uses

Reasons to avoid

 – Not an offshore smock

Don’t be embarrassed if you are unaware of Rooster and the good work they are doing. A relatively new and small company who are just starting to get the global recognition they deserve, with a solid history in competitive dinghy racing, they really know about the intricacies needed in performance.

This lightweight top is stripped down and only has the essentials. For example it doesn’t have a pocket, which isn’t a problem if you’re also wearing a buoyancy aid hat has one. But what it lacks is exactly where its strengths lay. Significantly less bulk makes it by far the most light, compact and easy bit of kit to have on you – just in case.

When that ‘incase you need it’ moment happens you won’t be disappointed. Easy to throw on and good at blocking out the worst of the elements, it’s surprising how effective a lightweight shield between you, and the wind and spray can be.

The elasticated collars and cuffs lack manual adjustment but still are comfortable and effective. All this means once you put this smock on, you are immediately back to the task in hand and not wasting time on getting the fit right.

This smock is great for any water activity, from sailing to paddling, foiling and soggy bike rides.

Buy the Rooster Lightweight Smock from roostersailing.com


Mustang Survival Taku Dry Top

Best smock for kayaking

Reasons to buy

+ Designed with paddlers in mind
+ Great for upper body movement

Reasons to avoid

 – Harder to find globally
– Maybe a little too sport specific

Mustang Survival covers all angles of waterborne actives. From workwear to leisure, they take the time to provide the best kit for all watersports. This smock is catered towards the paddle sport fans amongst us, who know that a nice breathable and flexible top is essential.

Great neck and wrist seals stop ingress and added cover for the seals keeps them protected. The waist seal has a wide adjustable neoprene band and the slightly over-length skirt adds to the water resistance.

A handy pouch on the front of the garment is fleece lined and has side access to keep the fingers warm. The other essentials you wish to carry will be secure in the zipped pouch

As a nod to the kayakers this top is part of the Taku system of tops and bibs, which work together to keep you dry. Great for the adventurous paddlers out there, but just as effective in other watersports too.

Buy the Mustang Survival Taku top from MustangSurvival.com

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

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