Going on a dive trip is always exciting, but it can also be quite stressful when you are getting ready for your big trip and trying to remember everything you need to bring. After all, you want to be prepared for all eventualities, right?
As underwater photographers, we have even more things to keep track of than the usual scuba diver. We have lenses, ports, spare parts, strobe arms, and so much more gear to bring. It is very easy to forget a little but important piece, like a ball clamp.
To keep a cool head in those packing situations and to make sure you are really bringing everything you will need on your trip, I have prepared a checklist for you: Your Photo Dive Trip Packlist.
Let’s start with the essentials you need to bring on your trip:
Dive Travel Essentials
Dive Insurance is an absolute must in my opinion. As we all know dive accidents can happen, and if they do, you want to be insured.
If you dive regularly you will probably have dive insurance anyhow. Before any big trip, make sure that your dive insurance is still valid, otherwise renew it.
If you don’t dive on a regular basis, there are plenty of options for booking dive insurance just for the duration of your dive travel.
Is your passport still valid? Some countries require your passport to be valid minimum 6 months upon entry. Also check if you have enough free pages in your passport: depending on where you’re traveling to and how many stopovers you have, you might fill a couple of pages with stamps during your trip.
Don’t forget to bring your dive certification card! Although most diving centers will be able to look you up in the system (as long as you got certified with the same organization that you’re diving with), bringing your dive certification makes it easier for you and the diving center staff.
Many places they will ask for proof of your last dive. This can be either in the form of your logbook or your dive computer.
If your last dive was more than 6 months ago, many places will ask you to do a “refresh” dive.
It’s like with anything- being out of the water for too long, you get rusty.
How long is “too long” depends on your individual skill level, but also how comfortable you feel underwater. But in the end, it is always a good idea to at least do a test dive every time you dive in a new environment, or it has been a while since your last dive.
Owning your own dive equipment comes with many advantages. On any dive trip, you want to bring along your own dive equipment.
Never dive without a dive computer- it shows you your depth, calculates your No-decompression-limit, shows your dive time and water temperature…If you are using Nitrox, make sure to change the gas mix on your dive computer as well.
Is your regulator Din or Int (Yoke)? Depending on where you are going for your dive travel, you might have to bring an adapter.
BCD (Buoyancy control device)
Are you using a lightweight travel BCD? Integrated weight pockets? It doesn’t matter, as long as you are comfortable!
Open heel or closed-heel fins? It’s your choice!
If you are using open-heel fins, booties are a must. But Booties are also great for walking on rocky beaches to avoid cutting your feet.
You might have never heard of dive socks before, but once you get them, you’ll never want to go without them! They are more than just a fashion statement- dive socks make it really easy to glide into your wetsuit and booties.
When choosing your mask make sure it fits your face, so it won’t flood all the time. If you are having trouble with your mask because it keeps fogging up, try putting a layer of toothpaste on it overnight.
Yes, snorkels are part of the mandatory dive equipment, so if you do a scuba diving course, you will be required to have a snorkel on you. But imagine a pod of dolphins swimming by your dive boat during your surface interval! You’ll be happy to have your snorkel with you! 😉
SMB- Surface Marker Buoy
This is probably the one safety equipment you don’t want to go without on your dive trip. If you are diving somewhere with strong currents, surface marker buoys can help you get noticed by the boat in case you drifted off. If you are diving somewhere with lots of boat traffic, sending your surface marker buoy up to the surface before you ascend makes you visible- and ensures it is safe to come back to the surface.
Depending on where you dive and how cold you get (I get very cold, very quickly!), you will bring a 3mm, 5mm, 7mm, or even a dry suit on your trip.
Rashguards are amazing, as you can wear them under your wet suit if it gets colder, or just by themselves. They are also a great sun protection alternative to sunscreen (–> why to protect yourself from the sun), and you can wear them even just to go snorkeling on the house reef or on the boat between your dives.
Dive Equipment Spare parts
It’s always a good idea to pack some dive gear spare parts, especially for parts that can break easily, such as fin straps or the strap of your mask.
Bikini/ Bathingsuit/ Boardshorts
Because you don’t want to go naked under your wetsuit 😉 And maybe you are traveling to a dive destination that is warm enough to dive without a wetsuit.
Sure, you will probably get a towel in the hotel you are staying in (and if you are staying in a dive resort, you might even get your own boat towels to keep you warm and dry after your dives!). Bringing your own lightweight travel towel might still be a good idea.
Zinc or Reef safe sunscreen
Protecting yourself from the sun is important, especially during longer surface intervals. Make sure you are using sunscreen that does not contain any pollutants for coral reefs. In some places of the world such as Hawaii, it is even forbidden now to use any sunscreen that contains reef damaging ingredients.
Some people hate it- some love it- I am a fan to protect yourself from the sun!
You’ll know what you wear.
Now we’re finally coming to the good bits!
Your underwater camera gear
The one thing you don’t want to go without! 😉
You want to keep your camera protected from the water 😉 Probably your underwater camera is not waterproof by itsel, so you will need a housing for your camera.
Tray for your housing
A tray that you can mount your underwater housing on makes it easier for you to hold your camera underwater. Plus it is where you will mount your strobe arms.
Depending on what kind of housing you are using for your camera (and also what kind of lens) you might
Macro or wide-angle? If you have a mirrorless or DSLR camera where you can change the lenses on your camera, bring all your lenses (or at least all the ones you might use on your trip). If you own a compact camera it’s easy- you cannot change your lens.
Wet lenses are a great addition to your underwater photo setup! If you want to go wide-angle or macro, bring your wet lenses on your trip!
You’ll need light for your pictures.
A dive torch can be handy on any dive: if you want to look into a crevice, if you dive on a darker day or just to inspect a part of a wall closer. But they are especially handy if you are taking pictures!
Strobe/ Float arms
For extension of your light sources (your strobes). Float arms will add some buoyancy to your rig to make it more neutrally buoyant.
For mounting your arms on your housing.
Strap to secure your housing to your BCD
It’s a good idea to clip your housing somewhere on your BCD (so it doesn’t fall into the abyss in case you drop it). However, make sure to always keep your camera in your hand. If you just let it dangle down from your BCD, it might accidentally hit the reef and cause some damage. Remember that it is very important to practice environmentally-friendly diving habits.
You will need a lot of them. Bring more than one!
Harddrive to back up your pictures
I cannot stress this point enough (and I’m speaking out of experience!): Always, always back up your images!
You can make it a habit to back them up after every day of diving. This will keep them safe, in case something happens to your SD card or your camera.
Laptop to back up and edit your pictures
If you wait until you are back home, you will most likely have thousands of pictures on your SD cards. The more they accumulate, the harder it will be to go through them!
Underwater Camera Spare parts
Again, you want to be prepared in case something breaks. Bring enough o-rings for all your gear, o-ring silicone grease to maintain your o-rings during your trip, and an o-ring removal tool (or credit card if you don’t have one). For cleaning your underwater camera setup you also want to bring at least one microfibre cloth and a lens pen.
Any creative extras (.e.g Snoots)
Underwater photography is about creativity. There are many additional tools and techniques you can use to create stunning pictures underwater. For example, you might be using a snoot.
Bring any creative tools on your trip and don’t be afraid to try something different!
Did I forget anything? What else are you bringing on your Phot Dive Trip? Let me know in the comments!