This is the packing list and gear that I recommend for a liveaboard trip or diving holiday. We have been backpacking around the world for 6 years doing a lot of diving and freediving, I even worked as a dive instructor on several continents. In this time we have used (and packed) a lot of gear. Many of the items that I mention are great gifts for divers. In this article I discuss gear in the order we normally pack for a dive trip; dive insurance, mask & snorkel, dive computer, camera gear, soft gear, scuba gear, wet suit.
These make good Scuba diving gifts and are very important to pack, but are sometimes overlooked.
- SMB (suface marker buoy) and reel
- essential for more experienced divers, especially in areas with drift dives (e.g. Sipadan, Komodo)
- Thermo guard 0.5mm neoprene vest
- Thin neoprene, perfect for keeping you warm when tropical diving.
- In warm water I only dive in board shorts and rash vest.
- ssential for sun protection snorkeling
- BALD like me? buy a hooded rash vest and don’t burn your head!
- Orca 520 Diving Torch
- not only for night dives, show color of objects at depth, great if you have a camera but no strobe (e.g. Go Pro)
- 1000 LUMENS FLASHLIGHT: Super bright diving flashlight neutral white LED max output1000 lumens.
- UNDERWATER 150 METERS: This diving light has three waterproof ring, you could dive to 150 meters underwater.
- This tubular bandana/scarf is great for protection against the sun on the boat. I bought one in my country flag color, make a statement, buy a skeleton or something!
- Extra O-rings
- must have if you dive with your own gear
- nothing more annoying than a mask that fogs up
- Silicone sachets
- camera housing that fogs up, even worst than fogging mask
- Microfibre lense cleaning kit
- Sun cream
- painful to put on a wetsuit over sunburnt skin
- boat can be noisy if you want to sleep
- Mosquito Spray
- Motion Sickness Tablets
- Light fold able water resistant rucksack
- Polarized Sunglasses
- polarized sunglasses will help you see beyond the surface of the water
Thinking of things that can go wrong too much can put a damper on your trip, but there are obvious risks. Many dive locations are remote with minimal medical facilities. Accidents do happen, be prepared. World Nomads travel insurance covers travelers from most countries around the world and cover can even be organised while you are traveling. They specialize in covering adventure activities like diving. Make sure you take out the appropriate cover. Get a online quote in seconds. Have your trip, your health and your gear covered, read the small print. World Nomads Diving Insurance
Mask and Snorkel
As an experienced diver I can usually get by with any mask, but there are not many things more annoying than diving with a mask that leaks because it does not fit your face. I find my mask to be my most personal piece of equipment. Having your own mask and snorkel can also save you money if you do not have to rent to go snorkeling. I am very familiar with all the masks mentioned here and know dive professionals or very experienced divers using them. When buying check that
- How to – Buy a mask that fits
- tilt your head back and rest the mask in place without inhaling, you don’t want gaps between the skirt and the skin
- try the mask on with a snorkel in your mouth, it changes the shape of your face
- choose a mask that fits comfortable
- skirt must be made of a nice soft silicone
Dive masks we love
Mares Star Liquid Skin
I am kicking off the list with our personal masks, both myself and Alya dive with this low volume mask, the liquid skin silicone is very soft, we have smaller faces and the low volume mask fits perfect
- Extreme low internal volume design
- Patented liquid skin technology uses two different silicone types for flexibility and comfort
- Liquid skin is 45% softer than other silicone mask skirts
- Star mask lens & skirt shape allow for better vision and perception of distance
- Suitable for both scuba diving and free diving
Scuba Pro Spectra
Scuba Pro is always top quality gear, I spoke to several people that loved this mask, dive masters that told me it is the best fitting mask they have ever owned.
- Ultra-clear dual lens design is low volume for easy clearing plus offers maximum field of view.
- Lenses are made from tempered glass for safety and long-term durability.
- Push-button buckles that attach to the skirt adjust easily to achieve a perfect fit.
- Mirrored lens option delivers a glare-free view of the underwater world.
Cressi Big Eye Evolution
Tried and tested this mask has been around for a while. Very comfortable scuba mask to wear and the low volume design makes it great for scuba, snorkelling and also free diving. The inverted tear drop shaped lenses give you an expanded view downwards, perfect for easy descents and reef dives
Mares X-Vision Ultra Liquid Skin Mask
Maybe the most popular mask under divers I have trained with, super comfortable with good field of vision.
- Bi-silicone skirt which is made to fit almost any face.
- Excellent field Of Vision
- Mares LiquidSkin Skirts use two types of silicone; a firmer portion to support the shape and structure of the mask to prevent distortion at depths and a softer portion around your face for a great fit.
This is an incredible mask and was my nr 1 mask for years. The frameless design fits most faces perfect. I found the standard size to fit great even on my fairly small face, but a smaller Shadow-mini is also available that is perfect for ladies with a narrow face. I like to use one mask for free diving, scuba and underwater hockey and my shadow shattered when it was flicked on the edge with a underwater hockey puck at high velocity. Keep it in a mask box in your bag, it is frameless and will break if stepped on. It is a good mask, but things break if you throw a 2kg piece of lead at speed at it!
- No-frame design reduces weight and provides one of the largest fields-of-view
- Extremely low volume design
- Swiveling, easy adjusting buckles
- Ideal for hunters and photographers
- Perfect back-up mask as it folds and fits easily in your BC pocket
Very important piece of equipment, always in my backpack with my mask. Helps to save air on the surface when Scuba diving and essential for snorkeling. Doing a lot of free diving I prefer a minimalistic snorkel.
Mares Rebel Splash
For divers who prefer a snorkel with a semi-dry top and a purge valve there’s the Rebel Splash. The increased internal volume of the lower housing is designed to make breathing easier. Good price
Mares Dual Snorkel
Soft, comfortable snorkel, optimal diameter for easy breathing, my favorite, no valves.
Aegend soft fold away snorkel
This awesome, soft silicone snorkel folds away easy to pack in your backpack.
Buying a dive computer
If you are going to do multiple dives a computer just increases your safe dive time exponentially. Diving with tables take careful planning. I so seldom see divers sitting with dive tables and a slate planning a dive, usually they just trust their dive leader hanging around him. This is dangerous, your profiles could differ considerably if you swim lower or higher in the water which makes it very risky or for some reason you can end up with a different group for multiple dives so you start with a completely different nitrogen load than your dive leader. If you rent a computer insist that they book out a computer for you and that you keep using the same computer for your whole trip.
If you want to buy a good basic computer and spend the minimum there are 3 computers that I will recommend, the Mares Smart, Mares Puck and Suunto Zoop, have a little more money to spend? check out the Suunto watches, in a class of its own. I have owned or used all these computers.
I have been diving with a Smart for a couple of years, doing hundreds of dives and a lot of free diving. Incredible computer for about $350. Cool to wear as a watch, it is a bit big to wear as a watch for most ladies.
- Multiple gas modes (nitrox)
- Free dive mode
- Watch style
- Can replace battery yourself
- Easy to use, intuitive design and display
In my experience Suunto is the best quality computers with the best back up service out there today. Most divers are familiar with the Zoop, this is a quality basic computer used by thousands of dive schools and dive masters over the world.
- Air, nitrox, gauge and freedive modes
- Big clear display with backlight
- Made in Finland
Mares Puck Pro
Very basic, Mares quality, one of the cheapest computers on the market. Great budget computer, does what a computer should giving you no-deco time on your dives. Due to the price and quality one of the most common computers used in dive schools, bargain at $190
- Dive Log: 36 hours/50 dives
- Nitrox Programmable (21-50%)
- Ascent rate indicator
- Full Function Air/Nitrox Dive Computer
- Diver-replaceable batteries
Willing to spend a bit more?
At $649 the new D4 is significantly more expensive, again the service and quality of Suunto is in a league of its own and this computer is so intuitive to use, spending time with a manual is hardly necessary. Definitely my favorite computer in its price range.
- Full continuous decompression algorithm – Suunto RGBM
- Four modes: air, nitrox, free and off
- Innovative apnea timer, and a timer in air/nitrox modes
- Updateable firmware
- Optional wireless air integration – current cylinder pressure, remaining air time
- Built-in dive planner
- Detailed graphical logs and dive data on your PC/Mac using Suunto DM5 software
Suunto D6i Novo
Awesome professional dive computer, metal body, wearable as a watch, not cheap but a fantastic computer. $1175
- Air/Nitrox/Gauge & Free Modes
- Rated 150 m, tilt-compensated 3D compass
- Nitrox up to 99 % Oxygen (3 gases)
- tilt-compensated digital compass
- Wireless air integration option
- Connectivity to Suunto DM5 with USB cable included
- Camera Housing
- Extra SD Cards
- International plug adaptor
- Silicone sachets
- O Ring Grease
- Extra O-ring for housing
- Microfibre lense cloth
Canon Powershot G7 X Mark II
I have owned and used several of the S-series and G-series cameras for diving, looking forward to adding this awesome upgrade to my dive bag. Small enough to travel with, huge 1 inch sensor, amazing photos.
- 1.0-inch, 20.1 Megapixel* CMOS sensor with Canon’s new DIGIC 7 Image Processor helps deliver exceptional image quality even in low light.
- Features a bright f/1.8 (W) – f/2.8 (T), 4.2x (24-100mm), 9-blade iris diaphragm and Battery IS-equipped lens.
- Capture impressively high resolution images with high-speed continuous shooting up to 8 fps in both RAW mode / JPEG mode.
- Multi-angle capacitive 3.0″ touch panel LCD with a screen resolution of 1.04 million dots and tilt option of 180 Degree up and 45 Degree down.Capture stunning 1080p Full HD video in MP4 format with stereo sound.
I would recommend the ikelite housing, small excellent quality, much cheaper than metal housings, excellent value for money. I have flooded a Canon housing so I am not a fan, but I loved my Ikelite housing, never any problems.
- kelite’s tough, compact and lightweight action housing for the Canon G7X II is the ideal choice for weather/water proofing your camera. Whether you’re hiking outdoors, sailing, rafting, climbing, snorkeling or scuba diving, this housing’s got you covered
- Access to important camera functions including the menu and manual white balance. Functions are clearly engraved with the same symbols that are on the camera. Engraved markings will never fade or fall off.
To take nice photos you are going to need some light to show all the awesome colors. The Sea & Sea YS-03 Universal Lighting System is a great light set up for beginners of more serious photography including a Flex Arm, Fiber Optic Cable and Tray and it can also be used to shoot with TTL (triggered by your camera flash).
Sea & Sea YS-03 Universal Lighting System for Underwater Photography
Go Pro Hero7
We recently upgraded to a Go Pro Hero 6. After comparing many videos taken with all the top of the range action cameras I decided on the HERO6 because of its superior white balance and video stabilization, when it comes to action cams it is in a class of its own. It is an expensive little camera and after buying the HERO6 I had some buyer’s regret, this evaporated when I used it diving! I could not believe the smooth footage and amazing color tones. Like many users I have not been using the camera to its full potential, recording in 1080p and not 4k, since my travel laptop could not process the H.265 HEVC/MPEG-H format recording and it takes a lot of space. I loved the Quik editing app on my phone, I put together a decent video in 30 minutes that I could share with other divers when the boat arrived in the harbor. It is important to remember that it is an action camera, the technology packed into this little device is astonishing, but the images can still not be compared with that you will get with a top line camera. The HERO7 was just released (two weeks after buying my HERO6 !) bit more pricey, similar functions, but the video stabilization is so good it looks like everything was filmed with a drone with a gimble.
I made the video below on one dive and did the editing on my phone while the boat was driving to shore, sharing it with other divers.
Most airlines will take your dive bag as sports equipment in the over sized baggage along with sports equipment.
Mares Cruise Backpack Pro Scuba Gear Bag, Scuba Roller Dive Bag by Mares
- Mares Cruise – Large pack for all your gear
- Can wear as a backpack
- Great maneuverability and stability
- Telescoping handle
- Incorporated pockets
- Large sturdy wheels
Cressi DRY GARA BACKPACK – Waterproof Freediving Scuba Diving Gear Bag
- Waterproof back pack made in long lasting material for protect your equipment in any situation.
- Padded and adjustable shoulder straps. Adjustable waist for load stability.
- Special front pocket for storing long fins
- Internal capacity: 60 Liters
Aqua Lung Pro HD BCD i300C Dive Computer Titan / ABS Regulator Set -Awesome Budget Value for Money Set
- Tough as nails quality BCD, good balanced regulator easy to service, including nitrox computer – excellent value, super popular with schools
- Titan Scuba Regulator Uses a balanced-diaphragm mechanism resulting in ease-of-breathing and consistent performance while environmentally protecting the internal parts
- Aqualung i300C Computer Air and Nitrox modes for a range of dive situations with Effortless operation with bluetooth
- Pro HD BCD wrap-around jacket with weight integration, will hold up to the rigors of salt and chlorine and retain its good looks
- ABS Octopus The ABS Octopus combines good breathing performance with the benefits of a low profile body style
The big choice here is back inflation vs jacket style, this is 2 of my favorite BCD’s in the $400-500 range.
ScubaPro Equalizer BCD w/Balanced Inflator
Really amazing jacket style BCD in this price range
- Awesome inflator system
- Wraparound air bladder provides a secure, comfortable ride at depth and on the surface
- Full size backpack delivers maximum stability
- Octopus pockets on each side offer options for carrying a backup second stage
- Quick-release integrated weight pouches ditch easily and secure with low-profile squeeze buckles
- Four stainless steel D-rings provide convenient clip-on points for additional gear
Mares Bolt SLS
This is currently my choice for a back inflation BCD, the Mares Bolt is compact enough for easy travel and I love the design with with full back plate and cummerbund, great lumbar support, and the swiveling shoulder buckles. This BCD is great value at a good price.
- Superbly comfortable and stable back buoyancy
- 21kg lift (46 lbs)
- Swivel shoulder buckles
- Smart trim weight positioning
Clothing, you can get away with less, hopefully you will be underwater most of the time. Pack stuff that can quick dry and some soft, comfortable, warm clothes.
- Quick Dry T -shirt and board shorts
- Speedo swim suit (to wear under wetsuit) Men and Ladies
- Rash Guard
- Light windbreaker or rain jacket
- Quick dry light Long pants Men and Ladies
- Fleece Jacket, soft, warm and comfortable Men and Ladies
- Comfortable stretch cotton pajama pants Men and Ladies
- Microfibre Towel, quick dry and pack small
- Reef sandals, with built in bottle opener!
Be sure to pack all of your C cards. Some dive locations are in remote areas where internet is scarce, don’t rely on the dive center being able to look you up in the system.