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For the ultimate diving holiday, there is no better way than to book a liveaboard. These special dive boats are outfitted for anything divers may need and take you to some far fletched destinations, showcasing the best these areas have to offer in one trip. Usually a few dives are on offer each day while most of the traveling is done by night so you can really cover some ground in a short amount of time. You can read on how to plan a liveaboard diving trip here.
By now, I have done quite a few liveaboard trips in my four years of diving:
What to pack for a liveaboard dive trip? Liveaboard trips range from ultra luxurious to ‘dear ceiling please stop dripping on my head!’ and the same often applies to the equipment provided. As per usual – you get what you pay for. This is why most divers will prefer to pack their own equipment for a liveaboard trip which makes a scuba trip packing list slightly more complex than your average holiday suitcase stuffing madness.
What most of the dive boats have in common is that even the most luxurious liveaboard, the Scuba Spa, has limited cabin space and while you usually have a designated area to leave your scuba equipment, smart packing is key for a liveaboard trip. Another consideration is the fact that you are most likely going to be far from shops and can’t just run out when realizing that you are out of something. So, what to pack for a liveaboard diving trip? Here is my ultimate liveaboard packing list.
My Liveboard Packing List
Most liveaboards offer equipment rentals but those can get quite pricey and it is not always guaranteed how well maintained gear is or that it has the perfect fit. With that said, take your own if you can.
During my last trip in Raja Ampat, I didn’t have my own BCD or regulators and I missed them dearly. At a minimum pack:
- mask | Masks are so personal and a well-fitting mask can really make or break a dive. If you have lots of hair also take a mask-strap to avoid too many tangles. Most liveaboards will have soap but if you want antifog bring your own.
- fins, booties & socks | Socks are a good idea if you are planning about 4 dives per day and come in handy to avoid blisters.
- wetsuit & rashguard | Which wetsuit you pack for your scuba trip will mainly depend on the water conditions you will be diving in. If you only take one, rather take one a little bit thicker as you usually would – most of us tend to get colder the more dives we do in a day. Alternatively, take more than one option and layer if needed. For extended trips, I usually take my 3 mm Scubapro as well as one of the fun shorties from Cynthia Rowley. In addition, rash guards and dive leggings are light to pack and can either be used on their own when the water is warm or as an extra layer underneath your wetsuit.
- SMD | Most liveaboards will actually require for you to have a surface marker buoy. Bring one and know how to deploy it. As it isn’t (or wasn’t) a PADI/ SSI standard ask someone to teach you if you don’t know how and practice.
- reefhook/gloves | Check beforehand if they are a) allowed and b) needed
- torch | Especially if you are planning to do night dives, bring your own torch. While most liveaboards have the option to hire torches they tend to be quite pricey.
- tank banger | This might be a bit controversial but I like a tank banger to keep a distance from the reef if I need to as well as to get attention from my dive buddy.
- computer | If you take nothing else this needs to be on your dive trip packing list. Even if you are on a liveaboard where you will only dive with a designated dive guide, I cannot recommend enough to invest in a decent dive computer and learn how to use it. In fact, most liveaboards will require you to have your own computer. I use the Scubapro Mantis and love it as it is small enough to function as a regular wrist watch too.
- extra mask & fin straps | Most liveaboards will have equipment like o-rings and such at hand, but take your own kit if you have special requirements.
Read more about full face masks for scuba diving.
What to wear on a Liveaboard
Whatever you pack, don’t overpack as even the most comfortable cabins tend to be rather small and most liveaboards are a no shoe zone. With that said, after your equipment the rest of your scuba trip packing list should be quite small. Next to the usual array of a few t-shirts or vests, shorts and dresses make sure to pack the following:
- 3 bikinis or bathing suits | You always want to have a dry one at hand to change into after a dive, lounging in wet swimwear is just asking for a UTI. I personally love these ones from H&M and have them in various colors. While they are skimpy enough to catch sun, they are also good enough for under my wetsuit. Plus I love ordering online from H&M as they have a lot more sizes.
- travel towel/sarong | While most liveaboards provide towels for the cabins and after diving, it is nice to have an extra one for excursions and tanning.
- long sleeve shirt, jersey or hoodie | Even in warm climates, evenings can get chilly especially after a night dive. Also, consider a hoodie or a scarf when you are under the AC or the boat is moving in order not to catch a cold.
- sandals | While most boats actually won’t allow the wearing of shoes, make sure to pack some sturdy sandals for getting on and off the boat as well as land or beach excursions. I have recently discovered these plastic Birkenstocks and basically live in them. They are comfy, super light and easy especially when things get wet.
Beauty & Medication
- sunscreen | Reef friendly products all the way: Check out the sunscreen from Stream2Sea. It comes on quite thick and white and to me works best for my face. For the rest of my body, I use Biotherm Waterlover which is also reef friendly.
- moisturizer | Body- and hand lotion for after diving. I don’t know about you but sea water really dries out my skin so I prefer oils for after diving.
- hair | Shampoo Bar or Johnson’s baby shampoo which can double as a mask anti-fog. My hair needs tons of conditioner when diving. While some swear on coconut oil but I prefer Sun Bum 3-in-1 conditioner or Stream2Sea leave-in conditioner. Also a good tangle teaser is a must.
- medication | For seasickness, aspirin, swimmer’s eardrops, and decongestant: Make sure you read the side effects carefully as some medication will affect your diving and overall alert levels. I also like Fisherman’s Friends or any kind of mints for a dry throat in between dives. Make sure to bring enough supply of any daily medication you need and some antibiotics just in case – you are most likely to be far from the next pharmacy.
- contacts & glasses | Enough supply of daily contact lenses as they are more hygienic for diving, solution, and your glasses.
- feminine products | Most boat toilets are marine toilets so you can’t flush paper, tampons or other sanitary products. One of the best ways to travel and dive more environmentally friendly – make a switch to a Diva Cup.
- camera | I am still a beginner when it comes to my underwater setup and simply use the GoPro Hero 7 black. I also have a set of PolarPro color filters, an underwater housing (the regular GoPro only goes to 10m), and a PolarPro dome for some fun under/over water shots. Pack extra batteries, SD cards, and chargers as well as microfibre cloths and protective covers.
Pros make sure to bring lights/strobe especially if you are planning to film in the depth and macro. Needless to say, there are plenty of other great underwater cameras out there depending on your expertise and budget. Personally, I am keen to try the Paralenz which automatically color corrects your footage. Alternatively get a LenzO casing for your iPhone.
- apps | Download Dive+ to easily color correct your images afterward. Leave a comment if you would like to correct videos as well and I will send you a code to try the beta version.
- laptop | Needless to say, I brought my camera as well as my laptop though I dare say being on a liveaboard it the perfect time to disconnect so rather keep anything you won’t need in safety on dry land.
- wifi | Every liveaboard that I have been on offers wifi though usually at a premium. I recommend you get a SIM card with data of whichever country you are traveling to if you have to stay connected. Chances are you may hit some remote corners with no reception but will be able to go online frequently enough.
- batteries | Bring extra batteries for your torch or even better get rechargeable batteries.
- insurance | Card or policy: If you are not a member of DAN make sure you are covered for diving related incidences including a trip to the decompression chamber. Some liveaboard do offer insurance so check with them before.
- certification | PADI/SSI: Bring the proof of your highest scuba and Nitrox certification.
- logbook | Either physical or as an app.
- health | Doctor’s note for any chronic illnesses or recent surgeries.
- dry bag | For land excursions.
- luggage | Luggage for your dive equipment. Whether you are taking a regular suitcase or a special dive bag will depend on whether you are just going on a liveaboard trip or travel before/afterwards. If I am traveling longterm I tend to pack my regular suitcase and put my dive gear in a mashbag inside so I can easily separate it from my regular clothes.
- entertainment | A deck of cards. Or even better – Heads Up! app.
- fish ID books/apps | If you are looking for something specific bring your fish ID book or download an appbefore though all liveaboards I have been on had the right ones for the area we were diving in onboard.
Have you been on a liveaboard before and packed something that came in handy I didn’t mention? Please share in the comments!
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