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Friday, March 3, 2017

Packing for a Dive Vacation

This time tomorrow I will be on a plane heading for the Caribbean, Grand Cayman to be exact.  I am jetting away with 13 other friends I dive with to spend a week scuba diving around the island.  Getting away from a dreary New England winter in March is just what the doctor ordered. 

To kick off my trip, I am sharing my tips and secrets to packing for a Dive Vacation (or really any trip in general).  I am sharing what kind of bag makes an awesome and cheap dive gaer bag, and how you can fit a weeks worth of clothes in a carry-on suitcase.  While I am gone, keep an eye on the blog as I share a tale of three breweries (three posts about three different breweries- one great, one good, one awful).  Now, let's start packing!

Packing for vacations can be an awful experience.  You lay out everything you think you need on the bed, look over at your empty suitcase and cringe.  A:  you probably forgot a few things and B:  that stuff is never going to fit.  If you are packing for a dive vacation, then you need a lot more in your suitcase than a normal trip.  A lot of that equipment is also really expensive, hard to replace and necessary for a week away spent diving. 

If you are like me, you love lists. I mean LOVE LISTS.  How people survive without weekly planners and to do lists I will never understand.  And no, I am not talking google calendar, I mean old fashioned pen and paper, make a list and check it off.  So today I am giving you my packing list.  We are also going to talk technique to make sure all those goodies make it onto the plane (and back) and hopefully under 50 lbs.  

Before we talk about what to put IN the bag, lets talk about the bag itself.  I did a lot of research online on various dive travel bags and brands.  What I learned is this:  if it is from a dive shop or has a dive logo on it, they are all very expensive, very obviously full of scuba equipment (yelling STEAL ME), and the bags generally don't have any great warranties.  To spend $300 on a piece of luggage built solely for dive gear without a warranty for broken zippers and wheels is something I can't stand behind.  If you want to go "non traditional" it can be hard to find a bag long enough for your fins.  

After reading through various discussion threads and talking to a few divers, I settled on what has to be the best idea ever... the L.L Bean Rolling Adventure Duffel Bag for $99.

At 30" long the bag fits my fins, my BC, two wet suits (a 3 mm and a 5 mm), boots, weight pouches, a mask, snorkel, a mesh bag, a safe the dive kit, a SMB all in that L.L. Bean bag with room to spare.  My bag was still only 34 pounds. (the bag itself only weight 8 lbs). I fit all that (above) into that rolling duffle (below). 

Not only is the price 1/3 of many scuba bags, but it can be used for different trips (unlike a bulky scuba bag with weird fin pockets and attachments).  A rolling duffle bag is good for just about any trip.  Another great perk is that the bag only weighs 8 lbs.  While these are all important, the best thing about buying an L.L. Bean bag is the 100% satisfaction guaranteed they have on all their products.  If a zipper breaks or a wheel comes of, L.L. Bean stands behind their products and will replace it.  Forever. 

Wheels are so important when lugging around heavy dive gear and the fact that this bag came with wheels was perfection.  The Adventure Duffle comes in a variety of sizes and I highly suggest getting the Large.  While it may be tempting to get the XL size, the Large size will fit your gear, and will not be subject to oversize restrictions as the XL sometimes does. For $100 you have a bag that has been labeled as "indestructible" by other owners and it comes with a lifetime guarantee. 

Once you have the bag (or two) its time to start checking off the list.  This list features scuba related items, packing for the plane, and basic personal items such as clothing and toiletries. 

  • Mask
  • Snorkel
  • Hood (seasonal)
  • Wetsuit or Drysuit & undergarments
  • Gloves
  • Boots
  • Fins
  • Buoyancy Compensator
  • Regulators
  • Dive Computer
  • Compass
  • Cutting device, knife,
  • Dive lights
  • Mesh gear bag
  • Defog

  • Save-a-dive kit (backup mouth piece, mask strap, fin strap, o-rings,
  • batteries for your lights, dive computer, snorkel keeper, zip ties etc.)
  • Backup mask
  • Slate & pencil
  • Underwater camera
  • Extra battery/accessories
  • Surface Marker Buoy
  • Strobe or light sticks for night diving
  • Ear plugs (if using)

  • Neck pillow
  • Ear plugs/noise canceling headphones
  • Headphones
  • Books
  • Luggage Scale for trip back
  • Identification documents
  • Drivers license or a passport
  • Photocopy of important documents
  • Wallet, credit cards, cash
  • Scuba certification card (including NITROX)
  • Diving insurance card
  • Health insurance card
  • Medications (Sudafed,motion sickness medications)
  • EpiPen if needed
  • Copies of Prescriptions
  • Emergency contact information
  • Tickets, reservation information
  • Itinerary
  • Road map

  • Toiletries
  • Change of clothes for all days of the trip
  • Warm clothes for the evenings
  • Rain gear
  • Sunblock
  • Bug spray
  • Swimsuit
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Dive log and pen
  • Chargers for your electronic devices
  • Spare glasses or contact lenses
  • Flip flops and sneakers

I was able to fit a WEEKS worth of clothes into a carry on with room to spare.  How is that possible?  Expert folding and packing cubes.  First I fold everything I want to bring the Marie Kondo way or by rolling.  These two ways of folding/organizing your clothes takes up as little space as possible (I Marie Kondo'd my dresser and was amazed at how much MORE I could fit).  Next I organized them by type (shorts, shirts, etc).  I was able to fit:  7 dresses, 1 skirt, 5 pairs of shorts, 7 tops, a weeks worth of underwear, 5 bras, 5 bikinis, and a sun shirt in those three little cubes on the left. With expert folding and organizing by type, 
it all fit in THOSE THREE CUBES.

The cubes packed well fit perfectly in the bottom of my small carryon, with room for the other stuff like toiletries, 3 pairs of shoes, an extra tote bag, a clutch, a curling iron, and a few other items.  WITH ROOM TO SPARE.  Sorry for all the caps, I was so excited to fit all this.  What a time to be alive.  

By sticking to one large checked bag for diving, one carry on for clothing, and a backpack for the plane with a purse and personal items, I am able to keep my clothes and important items with me, while only checking the dive gear.  Also, carrying around that small pink suitcase is MUCH easier than wielding around two large suitcases.  Second, many airlines charge for any checked baggage, by carrying on, you can avoid those pesky baggage fees that are making their way to nearly every airline.  Lastly, by carrying on my clothes, I risk losing one less piece of luggage.  My dive gear may not make it to Grand Cayman.. but the bikinis and sun dresses will.

Here are some extra packing tips to make sure you too can fit a weeks worth of clothes in a carry-on suitcase.  

1. Copy key documents. Make copies of passports, driver’s licenses, credit cards and itineraries, and pack those separately from the originals. Spouses should carry copies of each other’s key documents.

2. ID bags inside and out. What if that luggage tag comes off? To ensure airlines know who owns the bag and how to get the bag to you, put a copy of your itinerary (with name, phone, hotel info, etc.) inside each bag.

3. Use Packing Cubes or compression bags to organize clothes in your suitcase. Pack each cube with like clothing items, or pack cubes "by day".  My packing cubes are my secret to fitting everything in a carryon bag!

4.  ROLL! Try rolling clothes instead of folding.  Rolling clothes takes up much less room.  Roll them up and store in zip lock bags.  Check out this video to see how you can fit 100 items in a carry on bag.

5.  Always carry travel documents, medication, jewelry, traveler’s checks, cash, keys and other valuables in your carry-on luggage. Items such as these should never be packed in checked luggage.

6. Pack your regulator and your dive computer with your carryon to protect it (checked luggage gets abused).

7. Make sure any liquids/creams over 3 oz gets packed in your checked bag. 

8.  Use a luggage scale to make sure your luggage is under the 50 lb limit (nothing is more embarrassing than having to shift clothing around at the check in counter) Pack it with you to use on the return flight. 

9.  Use a shower cap for your shoes.  Keeps your dirty shoes off your clothes.  Don't forget to pack smaller items IN your shoes. 

10.  Pack all liquids in a zip lock baggie incase they bust in your suitcase. Also, always good to have extra baggies!

11. Pack light when it comes to clothes.  Have layers and outfits that can be versatile. Some people suggest laying all our clothes out and taking half of them out.  You always regret bringing too much clothes but never regret leaving clothing behind. 

12.  Pack a "travel kit" for the plane:  Eye mask, ear plugs, advil, and chapstick 

Want More?  Check out my Tips for Flying 



  1. Wow! Great list. Maybe I need to plan an international diving trip now :)

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