We have finally organized our diving trip, all the documentation ready and checked that we don’t have an expired passport (remember that it is valid for 6 months from arrival to destination). Now it’s time to pack … in this post I’m going to talk about how to organize the suitcase for a trip of these characteristics, from my experience and humble opinion.
First of all, we will assume that we travel to a tropical place and, therefore we will not need to take warm clothes. Moreover, our suitcase will be completely different if we are going to travel to a hotel to dive from there or on the contrary, to embark on a diving liveaboard. In the first case we do not need to take as many spare parts for possible setbacks, since the “dive centers” tend to have all the equipments and spare material that we will possibly need in case of ours doesn’t work. The problem will be easily solved by returning to port and buying in the “dive center” what we need for our next dive. In a life on board on the other hand the situation is quite different. Although in theory on board we should find all kind of spare parts, and it is usually this way, let’s not risk ourselves and pack the spare parts that we may need for any problems with our equipment. A simple toric in the middle of the Red Sea in Sudan can leave us without diving …. here the “I do not pack this because on board the crew will provide me with the spare material I will need” can bring fatal consequences.
The suitcase itself must be strong enough so that it does not break down along the way. Even though this may seem obvious, many people buy a suitcase very “light”, which tend to have a weak fabric and at the slightest hook makes us a “seven” in the suitcase. The material we carry inside is very expensive and better not to skimp on this. The ideal suitcase is the one that have a rigid bottom or “carapace” that will protect better what we have inside. I particularly, when I fly never check the regulator, neither the dive computer nor the flashlight, I always have them with me in a backpack. Somewhere I have read that the pressure changes in the cabin can affect the regulators, but the truth is that I have been diving for more than 24 years and therefore travelling and I have never had the slightest problem in this regard. Returning to the continent before starting with the content, say that it is a good idea to carry discreet suitcases without flashy diving logos, that although we all know that they are very “cool” , there are far away airports (and sometimes not so far away) where they abound the friends of the stranger that moves very quick on the luggage conveyor blelt and we may find that our suitcase is gone. There have been cases that even before that our suitcase arrives to the baggage conveyor belt, some airport operator knowing that these suitcases usually carry expensive material, has lightened the load a little … it is also worth putting a coloured ribbon on the handle of the suitcase to be able to identify it as soon as it appears on the baggage belt . In case you travel with a group of divers by puting a simple coloured band , it will save us the struggle to identify our luggage among others.
Well now that we have clear the best kind of suitcase, the next thing to be taken into account is the maximum weight of baggage allowed to check by the airline or airlines with which we will travel. We are aware that our equipment weighs, in addition you have to bear in mind to add your own personal luggage such as clothes, toilet etc in addition to the weight of your own empty suitcase (an empty suitcase can easily weigh 3 kilos) and that can make us exceed the allowed kilos. The airlines are increasingly starting to charge “dissuasive” prices for excess baggage, as an example Qatar, which is one of the most used by divers who travel to Asia, already charges 50€ per kilo of excess, and that can be a “grass” if we have not been a bit farsighted. Fortunately, many such as Qatar, Emirates, Turkish, etc. already allows to check up to 30kg in tourist plus about 8kg of hand luggage, which gives us a more than enough margin to not have any kind of surprises. Whereas other airlines have the option to request “sports luggage” at the time of booking, this allows us 10kg of additional luggage at no cost. Keep in mind that if you are going to make a trip with “jumps” of flights, very usual to reach the most attractive corners of Aisa / Pacific, it is possible that you fly with more than one airline. Make sure that all airlines allow you a reasonable baggage, but it may be that in the transcontinental flight you have 30kg of luggage, and in the domestic country you find that only allows 20kg or even less and you have to scratch your pocket. Not to mention if you also buy the tickets separately …
Let’s go for the content. My advice is to put the diving equipment on top of everything else so that it is the first thing you can take out when opening the suitcase. Otherwise, you will make a show trying to take out your diving equipment. In addition, you may find yourself surrounded by nineteen other divers doing the same … your kidneys will thank you. In life on board just stepping on the boat you will be asked to leave the diving equipment in the area designated for it on the boat and also to take down to the cabin the rest of the luggage.
It is interesting to carry a mesh bag where you can place more diving things better and so from a tacada take almost everything, or if you have to climb out of the cabin with some equipment to carry it comfortably. It is also advisable to carry one or several garbage bags of the industrial size, it can be used to place the equipment that is still wet at the time of making the suitcase for the return.
If you already have your equipment you already know what it weighs, but if you are a diver that has just started and you have to buy equipment, or maybe it is time to renew it, it is highly recommended to take into account the weight and ease of keeping the material you are going to acquire. There are very light jackets in the market and others that can weigh four kilos, so at the time of buying read the specifications, all savings in weight are welcome because in the end everything adds up.
If you are going to dive from a hotel, it is different, but if you go to a diving liveaboard, no sooner that you are on board than you will get rid of your shoes and put them on a box that you will recover the day before disembarking. You will travel on board barefoot (what a pleasure !!). Therefore, you won’t need to go loaded with shoes that surely you will not use. If diving liveaboard is for example in the Red Sea in winter, I advise you to wear some socks like peaches, they will save you from having cold feet
Apart from the clothes we choose to wear and the diving equipment itself, it is interesting to get a good spare material for what was said above. My suggestion is that in your suitcase you should never miss to pack things like a box with quality o-rings of different sizes, first stage plugs, spare cap for the first stage, spare nozzle for the regulator, fin straps, mask tape , spare mask, flanges of various sizes, spare battery for your dive computer and some multitools that have several sizes of allen keys, because they are what you will need to screw and unscrew most things like regulator hose, etc. All the above would be considered as the “essentials”, but if you have more diving material, it is worth taking a spare regulator, a spare manometer, even a button of the jacket. These things are the ones that if they stop working on board, the crew do not usually have them on board, and unless someone has been more proactive than you, you will be unable to dive without a broken jacket button, for example. Although there is no need to be alarmist and life boats on board usually carry spare material such as jaquets, regulators etc. (let’s not say if you are in a hotel), it may be the case that they have neglected it or simply they are already in use by another diver in your same situation. I have found myself in cases, one for example in the Red Sea, of having to leave my spare manometer to the guide as his had broken and all the regulators that were on board were rented. On another occasion in the Philippines, a diver who missed the DIN o-ring, found that curiously none of the ones on board were appropiate and then had to end up renting a regulator, with the consequent cost. From my point of view, I think that spending the money on a diving trip to the other side of the world and then having to dive with borrowed equipment, or even worse, not being able to dive at all for not bearing these things in mind is like banging your head againts a brick wall.
Once we have all this clear, when it comes to preparing the toiletries and small final details as medicines that we may need, here are the latest recommendations. I return to focus on a life on board which is the situation in which you most likely have to be self-sufficient, because as I said before, the fact that diving from hotel almost all the issues that may arise can be easily solved by returning to port at the end of the diving day. Although the dive boats have “beach” towels in addition to bath towels, it is advisable to wear one of those suede type, which does not weigh and occupy little, and I’ll tell you why. The towels that belong to the boat they all look alike and are hanged in the same place, when divers get out of the water they go as quicly as a flash to get dry , it is more than possible that at some point someone ends up drying their noble parts with your towel.
We go with the first aid kit, in the dive boats there is usually a first aid kit with the most common things, besides that they may be expired, or at room temperature, I consider it essential that you take your things with you. Needless to say that if you usually get dizzy on the boats you have to fill it up with Biodraminas. You can not miss the tape. The plaster will go very well to avoid chafing the shoe, also holds up well the hustle of the water and rarely takes off if it is a good one. Some divers have boric alcohol, which serves to dry the eardrums and prevent possible infections. About this there are several opinions, on one hand some diving doctors think that it is imperative. On the other hand, others say that it is a bad thing because it dries the eardrum too much. Everyone knows their own ears. I particularly do not use it and I have never had the slightest problem. What I always carry with me is “Sinalar Ótico”, which are a drops that go very well if our eardrum has become inflamed (they have some cortisone) after a dive, which is usual in life on board where you do repeated dives and sometimes due to the current you have to descend faster than it would be advisable for your eardrums. To finish with the ears theme, I would say that it is also interesting to wear earplugs, not obviously to dive but to sleep. Some cabins are next to the generator of the boat or in the worst case of the engine itself, that can prevent us from sleeping. As well if our cabin mate snores like a cart-horse, these simple gel plugs can lead Morpheus to us.
As a last but not least recommendation, it is interesting to take some waterproof plastic bags. You do not need to waste a fortune in them, those used in the kitchen (“Albal” or other brands) of different sizes are more than enough. They close perfectly well and besides can help us to keep dry the passport, wallet or delicate things if we have some mishap with the water in the cabin, as for example leaving the porthole (window of the cabin) open while we sail.
And this is all I can tell you for now…
By Sergi García