I remember this one day…when I thought all I had to do was remember what to pack. Right. Then I started diving. There can actually be a lot to remember. Some things to consider if you are bringing your own gear:
- If any equipment needs servicing, be sure to plan enough lead time to get that done before you depart. Take time to review your equipment and if needed, check with your local dive shop to see if you can use the pool for a refresher. Check for any product recalls well in advance.
- Bring any critical spare parts (e.g., o-rings, batteries) or general maintenance items (e.g., camera lubricants) with you. An extra fin strap will come in handy if yours breaks on a liveaboard, for example. Remote dive destinations may not have these available. Remember to pack a charger for strobe/video light batteries. If your camera housing has a vacuum sealing mechanism, do you recall the last time you changed that battery? Don’t forget to pack the pump for the vacuum too.
- If you use a wristwatch-style computer or a wireless tank transmitter on your regulator, do you remember the last time you changed the batteries (they both have batteries inside)? Depending on how many dives you do each year, the batteries will last different durations and, of course, decide to stop working at the least opportune times. I was in Bali ready to dive the next morning when my Suunto D4i spontaneously decided it was time for the low battery indicator to appear. Thankfully, I was able to arrange for service there but I might not have been so lucky in another remote area. Since wireless transmitters are finicky in general, it is wise to have a backup air pressure gauge on your regulator just in case.
- Be careful how you transport your dive lights if traveling by air (opt for carry-on when possible). Loosen the seals on the lights so the flight pressure does not cause them to crack or explode. This applies to tank lights as well as hand-held lights or camera strobes. Remember your batteries and test them before you pack. Tank lights can use uncommon non-rechargeable batteries that you won’t be able to find easily at your destination.
- If you plan to dive in multiple locations, remember that items may still be wet between your destinations. Prepare to keep wet gear or clothes contained so the rest of your items do not end up soaked. Even just bringing a couple of extra plastic trash bags from home can come in handy.
- If you do not want to pack a heavy gear bag, visit your local Ikea store to stock up on their big blue shopping bags at the checkout register (you just need one per trip). They are extremely durable even when wet, the perfect size to carry a bundle of gear (including wetsuit and fins) to and from the site and they have shoulder straps with a great drop length. They are also very inexpensive so if you decide you do not want them to come home with you, you won’t feel guilty leaving them behind. On occasion, I bring a dive gear backpack that I love but the downside is that this is yet another item to have to pack inside a bigger gear bag.
- Guys may laugh, but you girls know how unforgiving wetsuits can be. If it has been a while since you have tried on your water wear, it might be worth a double check in case any sizes have changed. It is always better to figure this out before the trip.
- Consider any site-specific needs for your trip. For example, if you are doing drift dives, you may want (or need) an inflatable surface marker buoy. For areas with strong current, a reef hook might also be advisable. When you are photographing with current or surge, you may want to bring a stabilizing pointer. Night diving? Ensure you have two torches (primary and backup) and maybe even a tank light.
A few additional dive travel tips:
- Keep in mind that some dive shops require proof of a specific number of dives in order to see various sights (e.g., operators in Galápagos generally want to see 30 logged dives before taking a diver to Gordon Rocks) so it is smart to keep your dives logged until you’ve reached Master Scuba Diver or Divemaster credentials. Bring your “c-cards” (certification cards) and diver insurance card with you on trips. Some locations charge a fee if you do not have proof of diver insurance.
- Consider maintaining an electronic log book. Mac/iPad users might like the Dive Log app. There is a small charge, but I think it is worth it. It is easy to sync between laptop and iPad and the interface for iPad is great. You can store electronic copies of your certification and insurance cards in the app, easily view your stats, and reference your weights from prior dive conditions. Oh, and it’s not full of coffee cup stains, smeared ink, crumpled pages, etc. At the end of each dive day, I just log my dives to stay current and then I do not have to rely on my memory. Some watch computers have programs where you can sync your stats and add dive details. This has come in handy when a dive operator asked me the last time I was diving, how much weight I need, how many total dives I have, etc.
- Newer divers may benefit from a refresher on hand signals, safety procedures, boat etiquette and general diver courtesy (especially if using an underwater camera). Rescue divers may want to take time to refresh knowledge of emergency response procedures. Some handy dive-focused apps and other diver resources can be found here.
When you return home:
- Refresh your memory on how to safely wash gear and camera equipment.
- Consider washing in phases/sections.
- Remember to soak your camera housing/components but be careful to ensure everything is sealed.
- Service any damaged gear right away so you do not forget.
- Reorganize your gear so you are ready for the next trip (I use labeled totes but everyone has their own style and system).