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Pack Smart

What to pack for your liveaboard vacation — and what to leave home.
By Patricia Wuest | Authored On June 25, 2018
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Pack Smart

packing for a dive trip

From one month to the night before, here are our helpful tips on packing smart for your dive trip.

Thomas Burns

If you’re the type of diver who manages to pack everything you need for a one-week trip in your favorite backpack and duffel, you can skip this article. However, if your packed bags take up all the space in your living room, we’ve got a few tips for helping streamline and reduce the weight of your luggage. It helps to think — and pack — like a disciplined U.S. military service member who has been taught to pack without sitting on a bag until it zips.

One Month Before

1. Make multiple checklists — one for gear, one for clothing and one for toiletries.

2. Research the destination — make sure you know the expected air and water temps. There’s no sense in packing a 7 mm wetsuit if water temps are in the low 80s F.

3. If you take any prescription meds, make a copy of the order form, both for emergency resupply and to satisfy customs inspectors.

Two Weeks Before

1. Create a staging area, such as the floor of the guest room in your home, and begin organizing things into categories — items that will go into your carry-on and those that will go into your checked bag. Set aside anything you won’t need before your day of departure, such as underwater camera and dive gear, save-a-dive kit and travel-size toiletries.

2. Make sure you have two well-made bags — a carry-on backpack or duffel and a large bag for checking. Soft-sided bags work best for liveaboard travel because they’re easier to stow once you’re onboard. If you’re a serious photographer, you’ll need an extra piece of luggage — a hard case for your camera gear.

3. If your trip includes shore excursions, assemble appropriate gear — for example, lightweight hiking shoes and socks.

4. Bring ear plugs if you’re a light sleeper. Your cabin mate might snore.

aggressor liveaboard vacations

Smart packing starts with making a list and ends with a successful dive trip.

Aggressor Liveaboards

Two Days Before

1. Organize everything else that remains in your staging area. Place sensitive dive gear like your regulator and dive computer in a carry-on along with your laptop, some items of clothing, swimsuit, essential toiletries and medications, and pack a larger checked bag with heavy gear as well as bulky clothing items.

2. Keep in mind that the dress code on a liveaboard is beach casual. Take only what you’ll need, and tightly fold or roll multiple swimsuits, T-shirts and shorts. If your final meal is at a local restaurant once you’re back in port (so that the crew has a chance to prepare the boat for the next week’s guests), pack a nice shirt or sundress. Try to fit as many items of clothing into your carry-on, including underwear, a swimsuit and a rash guard. This way, if your checked bag doesn’t make it, you can hopefully rent dive gear but still have your own clothing to wear (and your reg and computer). Flip-flops and comfortable socks for slipping on at night are all the footwear you’ll need.

3. If air temps will be cooler or you tend to get chilled, pack a versatile jacket — one that’s both water- and wind-proof. Get a sun hat and sunglasses with UV protection, and pack plenty of sunscreen.

4. Pack toiletries that won’t get past TSA security checkpoints and over-the-counter medicines, such as motion sickness tablets and pain killers. In the U.S., liquids in your carry-on are limited to 3.4-ounce containers; you can pack as many 3.4-ounce containers that will fit in a clear, quart-sized zip-top bag.

5. If you’re shooting, pack a portable hard drive with a viewing screen and plug-ins for USB and flash memory cards.

6. Pack safety items, such as a surface signaling device and dive light.

7. Make sure you’ve got extra batteries for your dive computer, camera and everything else that uses them.

8. Don’t forget a dry bag. It’s essential if you’re diving from a tender.

The Night Before

1. Finish packing your carry-on bag, leaving items that you want to access on the plane — including your laptop, chargers, reading materials and your itinerary — in an easy-to-reach place.

2. Print your boarding pass, and store documents and passport in an easy-to-access place.

3. Check off items on your list and make sure you haven’t overlooked anything.