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May 16, 2020 2 min read

The Difference Between a Rash Vest and Hydrophobic Top

The rash vest has been a popular accessory to wear with a wetsuit for many years. More recently we've seen the introduction of the Hydrophobic Top which is very similar, but what is the difference?

The Key Facts

Rash Vest

  • A mix of nylon and spandex
  • Protects against the sun
  • Keeps the skin cool
  • Creates a layer between your body and outer layers
  • Should have a tight fit

Hydrophobic Top

  • Designed to keep the skin warm
  • Creates a layer between your body and outer layers
  • Water repellent
  • Thermal fleece inner
  • Takes sweat away from the body

Hopefully you've noticed the main difference in these sailing tops from the key facts. The rash vest is designed to cool the body, where the hydrophobic top is designed to keep it warm. We see many sailors, especially younger sailors, getting kitted up in cold conditions into rash vests. This is going to do you more harm when it comes to being warm in colder sailing conditions.

The hydrophobic top has a fleece lining inside the rash vest material so it sits close to your skin to keep you warm and the technical fabric also takes sweat away from the body should you get hot (or work hard on the boat).

For me, the large majority of my sailing is done in a Zhik Hydrophobic fleece top, it's my most worn piece of kit and I also use it for paddle boarding, snowboarding and kayaking.

It's only really in the heat of the (very short) UK summer that I change into a rash vest where I will likely combine a short sleeve rash vest with a skiff suit, or wetsuit trousers. As you saw above the rash vest is great for keeping the sun away from your skin and will protect your body from those UV rays.

The Sailing Tops We Recommend

In summary, we recommend you have both of these in your sailing wardrobe, if you have to pick one and you sail in the UK you are going to get far more use from the Hydrophobic fleece top.

Hydrophobic Top

We recommend the Zhik hydrophobic top which is available in mens and ladies cuts. It's a well made quality top that will last.

Mens Hydrophobic Fleece Top

Womens Hydrophobic Fleece Top

Rash Vest

We sell a range of rash vests here at Sailing Chandlery, men and womens, long and short sleeved and in a variety of colours. I have to say, my personal favourites are the short sleeve blue Zhik rash vest, and the long sleeve hi-vis rash vest.

Explore the range and pick your chosen colour.


Have you got questions about our sailing tops? Our team are experienced in using all of the products we sell so please do get in touch if you have any questions.