One of the key elements of many liveaboard dive trips is that they take place in remote locations, which often require domestic flights to reach. With a continuing reduction in airline baggage allowance and growing fees its becoming increasingly important to get your packing just right.
Choosing the Essentials
Topping the list of essential items of course would be your dive gear. Or would it? Several liveaboards offer free equipment rental or low cost packages as an alternative to bringing you own. Perhaps you are supremely attached your own BCD or Reg and would not wish to rely upon rental gear, but what about your fins? Do you really need all those wetsuits? For most trips there is not really a need to pack in all that spare gear and parts for those “just in case” moments when perfectly adequate alternatives are available on board the yacht? Much depends on the quality of the dive operator so its important to check with them what they will have available before you depart. Then think about what you couldn’t dive without and bring a fix-it / repair kit of o-rings, mask and fin straps and a mouth piece or two.
Clothing next, so lets just be honest you’re on a boat with 12-20 other divers, dinner will not be a cruise ship captain’s table black tie affair. In my experience most people wear the same clothes repeatedly – after all we’re hardly in them. Shorts, t-shirts and 2 sarongs would more or less cover it. I always pack at least 1 sun dress and a fleece jacket in case it gets chilly. Men might want to bring long trousers and shirts and if you’ll be taking any land tours, think about whether its prudent to cover up to avoid offending the locals by displaying bare shoulders or knees. Shoes, just forget about them! But very importantly don’t forget your swimwear… I’ve seen a naked 70-year old man bent over on the dive deck and I sincerely wish I hadn’t!
No one wants to be known as “Mr or Ms Stinky” during the trip so some toiletries won’t go amiss. Most operators I’ve dived with provide shower gel but shampoo/conditioner you should plan to bring for yourself. Don’t bother packing huge bottles – decant your usual brands into 100ml bottles then you can also take in your hand luggage too. Essential advice for the ladies: don’t forget your menstrual products! Such items can be exceedingly hard to find in places such as Egypt and Indonesia (note any unused supplies are always very welcomed by female cruise directors!)
Don’t bother with a towel. Every liveaboard I know provides one or more and if you would like extra, a sarong works brilliantly and takes up far less room.
Now we know what to bring the big question arises – can I fit it all in? Here the importance of maximising your carry-on comes into effect. The best items for placing in your carry-on bag are your reg (if you decided to bring it), dive computer, mask, toiletries and any bulky but light weight items that you could put on if necessary. Any medications too just in case your check-in luggage gets lost in transit.
Of course if you are photographer you’ll likely be struggling with which lenses, dome ports, strobes etc etc etc to bring with you. Most airlines count a camera as a separate hand carry item you are allowed on top of a 7kg bag, but even so it can be a tough decision so do your research on the destination and make your decision based upon that… or buy a jacket with loads of pockets and stuff everything into them instead!
Knowing the struggles us liveaboard divers face, equipment manufacturers have developed specialist equipment for travel. I have the complete Aqua Lung travel set – it’s a bcd, complete reg, fins, mask, shortie 3mm and bag all weighing in at 10kg. I leave the shortie behind and just take a skin and hooded vest for most trips. The bag itself is the perfect fit for the overhead bins on planes too, so I can be really flexible with how I pack.
Last month I met two divers from Australia who only had 10kg each to check in as they had purchased the Aeris backplate which doubles as a bag and then rented other kit on the yacht. There are plenty of great choices out there for divers who love to travel.
Now you are all packed and ready to go – unpack, remove half of the clothes from the pile, pack again and you’re all set!
Keeping your check in under 20kg is most certainly do-able with a bit of planning. “Know Before You Go” guides are provided by liveaboard.com for each destination and liveaboard yacht, to help you plan what you should bring to get the most from your dive trip.