Zhik-ed Out in Offshore Gear

Sailing World contributing editor Dave Powlison checked out Zhik’s latest offering in offshore gear during the 338-mile Trans Superior International Yacht Race.

What does one do for sailing in the warmest month of the summer? Simple. Head to one of the coldest lakes in North America for one of the longest freshwater races in the world—the 338 nautical mile, biennial Trans Superior Race. In August I joined Bill Martin and crew aboard his Great Lakes 70, Stripes, for the “Trans,” which is also referred to as the 50-50-50 race: 50 degree water temperature, 50 degree air temperatures and 50 mph winds. When I told Zhik’s Trey Brown what I was up to, he volunteered to put together a full kit for me. Here’s a quick look at what he assembled and how each item delivered.

Zhik Sea Boots
Zhik Sea BootsZhik

Zhik Sea Boots

I wore these boots for three days straight and hardly noticed I was wearing them. They fit well around my foot, with no slop, and the soft, breathable uppers were extremely comfortable. One of the foredeck crew aboard Stripes also had a pair, and he especially liked how the tread ran up on the sides of the boot. He said it's useful when on a wet foredeck, on his knees or trying to get a good footing on a sloping deck. Loops on the each boot's neoprene liner makes it easy to pull them on. The rubber sole is soft and pliable, giving a great grip.

How easily can they be removed in the water? I visited my neighbor’s pool, to find out before the race, and even while wearing thick wool socks, it took about 10 seconds per boot. As with other boots of this style, don’t tighten the top of the gaiter too much. Tighten them just enough to hold the gaiter up, as any water that gets in there runs down the outside of the neoprene and then out through the perforated neoprene. You’ll still need to loosen them to get the boots off.

Bottom Line: Neoprene uppers that keep the boot lightweight. Pull loops are designed to make quick work of putting these on when you're below and all hands are needed on deck. $299

Aroshell Race Jacket
Aroshell Race JacketZhik

This jacket has great styling, and it's a sharp looking, durable jacket for coastal sailing. There are three pockets—one on each side plus an inside chest pocket for small items, such as an iPhone. The jacket is lightweight, but has no liner so layering is a must. Its waterproof rubber cuffs are great assets, but they're a little challenging to get to and snug, unless you roll up the outer shell.

The only issue I had with this jacket is one I’ve run into with other jackets—there’s comfortable fleece collar liner everywhere except the section by your chin. After three days of continuous wear, I ended up with chafe marks and minor discomfort in that area. Another good upgrade, especially for colder situations would be fleece-lined side pockets.

Bottom Line: A lightweight, unlined, breathable jacket—warmth hinges on the base layers. Its key features are a fleece-lined collar and double wrist closures. $295

Aroshell Race Trousers
Aroshell Race TrousersZhik

The Race Trousers were pretty typical of most bibs available today. I appreciated the two-way zipper and large inner flap that made relieving myself over the long race a non-issue. Unlike other bibs I have worn, I never had to deal with the shoulder straps sliding down off my shoulders. Two front pockets gave me all the storage space I needed, and Velcro cuffs allowed them to slide smoothly into the boot gaiters.

Bottom Line: Like the jacket, very light with a full front zipper that not only zips up but down, as well as the waist clincher straps that take a little pressure off the shoulder straps. $379

Hydrobase tops and bottoms
Hydrobase tops and bottomsZhik

When I first tried these out, they fit pretty snug, even though they were the correct size for someone of my height and weight. How comfortable they would be over the long haul? Not an issue. I wore them from Saturday afternoon straight through to Monday afternoon—almost 48 hours straight—and almost forgot I was wearing them—seemed just like a second skin. And they certainly added to my overall warmth. A front fly opening in the pants would make them even better.

Bottom Line: These base layers are advertised as "hyper wicking," which would be perfect in cold, damp situations.Top: $109. Pants: $109

Hydrophobic Jacket and pants
Hydrophobic Jacket and pantsZhik

The jacket is considerably thicker than the pants: It has the usual set of outside pockets, plus a pair of inside pockets on both sides—convenient whether you're left-handed or right-handed. It was great under the foul weather gear or just on its own in chilly conditions. The pants are light enough to wear under a pair of sailing shorts, providing long-pants warmth. Early on, I wondered how much the fleece pants and Hydrobase pants would restrict movement, but once again, I was pleasantly surprised. They worked well together. Again, with the pants, my only suggestion would be a front fly opening.

Bottom Line: This is the stuff of critical mid-layer protection, worn over the Hydrobase set. Jacket: $149. Pants: $99

Zhik Regatta Bag
Zhik Regatta BagZhik

There's nothing worse than having your gear scattered about when you're trying to find something. The Regatta bag has 50L of storage space that will fit any gear you need to stow in it. It's easy to carry with both shoulder and backpack straps, and is extremely durable and waterproof.

Bottom Line: This bag has big, easy-to-access pockets, plus it's waterproof. $179