Traveling Light

For most people, dive trips are about relaxing and enjoying yourself. While you can bring all your dive gear with you when you travel, this can be expensive, time-consuming and stressful.

Dive equipment can be rather heavy, bulky and inconvenient for airline travel. While innovations in materials and design have led to lighter and more packable gear, some products may not be as comfortable, durable or easy to use as standard gear.

At popular dive destinations around the world, much of the available rental gear is adequate. Although it is best to practice with your equipment and confirm comfort and fit before travel, this isn’t always possible and may not be necessary for every piece of dive gear. Just make sure you are capable and comfortable with your equipment before you dive. Some gear, however, you’ll definitely want to bring with you from home. Here are some considerations for traveling with various pieces of dive equipment.

Buoyancy Control Device

Whether you choose to travel with your buoyancy control device (BCD) or rent one may come down to how much you like diving with yours. While your BCD is an important part of your kit, it’s also relatively large. You can make a case for either packing your own or renting one. Minimalist jacket-style BCDs with small bladders are available, as are harnesses and small wings for divers who don’t need a lot of features.


As with the BCD, the decision to rent regulators or bring your own comes down to personal preference. Lightweight materials such as titanium and carbon fiber make for lighter regulators. If you’re diving with your own air-integrated computer, you can remove your regulators’ analog pressure gauge before traveling.

Fins, dive computer, mask, regulator and other gear are in a pile
When traveling to dive, consider taking along any of your own gear that’s complex, such as your dive computer, or that enhances your personal comfort or enjoyment, such as your mask or fins.

Dive Computer

Familiarity with your dive computer promotes both comfort and safety while diving. Because computers are also relatively compact, divers should seriously consider packing their own when they travel. A wrist-worn computer that links to your regulator via a transmitter can be an enjoyable and space-saving investment, and some can be worn as watches when you’re not diving. If luggage space is at a premium, you can wear your computer as a watch when you board your flight.


As your window on the underwater world, your mask is critically important. If you own one that’s comfortable, offers great visibility and doesn’t leak or fog, take it with you wherever you go. Be sure to protect your mask; carefully pack it, and keep it in its case when you aren’t using it. Many comfortable low-volume and frameless masks are available that take up less space and may be less likely to break if your luggage is dropped or crushed.


Most diving in warm-water destinations can be done with a lightweight full-foot fin, with or without a neoprene sock to protect your foot. These fins are often easier to pack than their open-heeled counterparts, and you won’t have to bring your wetsuit boots to use them. If your fins aren’t too large, try putting them in a backpack with your regulators, mask, snorkel and dive computer. In many cases you’ll be able to carry this on the plane with you, avoiding fees and possible gear damage. 

Exposure Protection

Wetsuits and drysuits can be both heavy and bulky. But a thin one-piece wetsuit or trilaminate drysuit can be tightly rolled or folded and stored with your clothes; bringing your own suit ensures fit and comfort and reduces hygiene concerns. Most dive shops have exposure protection available for rent, and it might be cheaper and easier to rent suits than to pay fees for extra luggage.

Surface Marker Buoy and Signal Mirror

Although it’s possible to dive without a surface marker buoy (SMB) and a signal mirror, you really shouldn’t. Very few dive shops offer these tools as rental gear, so you’ll want to bring your own. If you are separated from your boat or forced to surface in an unexpected place, or if you just need to quickly get someone’s attention, these items can be actual lifesavers. To be certain you can effectively use these tools if in distress, be sure to practice with them at your local quarry.

Dive Light

Shining light during a deep or dusk dive brings to life the colors of the local flora and fauna and illuminates cracks and crevices of the reef or wreck that might have been invisible otherwise. If you like diving with a light, call ahead to find out if a dive shop at your destination rents them. A bright dive light can be very small, so it shouldn’t take up much space in your luggage if you need to bring your own. Confirm airline and transportation authority policies concerning batteries before you fly.

Cutting Tool

This is another recommendation that should really be a requirement. You don’t need to carry a Sea-Hunt-style boot knife to be a safe diver, but a lightweight line-cutter takes up very little space and should be able to resolve almost any entanglement situation you encounter underwater.

Save-a-Dive Kit

Extra O-rings, fin and mask straps, blocking plugs for the first stage and a backup dive computer or pressure gauge are nice to have in a pinch. If your destination won’t have equipment for you to use if yours fails, consider bringing spare parts or a backup. It’s easy to go overboard and bring too much though, so try to bring just enough to deal with the most likely problems.


If your camera is small enough that it doesn’t need its own piece of luggage, consider wearing it around your neck or on your shoulder as a carry-on. This will keep you from having to check it at the airport and will prevent it from getting jostled or damaged.

Think small while you pack, and bring just the basics — this will cost less, and you’ll have less to carry. Much of the time you’ll want to bring just a few personal items such as your mask and dive computer along with safety gear such as an SMB that might not be available at your destination. Call local dive shops before you travel to check on rental-gear availability — a nearby shop might be able to provide just about everything you need. If not, get creative. You could probably fit everything on this list into a carry-on backpack if you packed it just right, and besides, how many changes of clothes do you really need?

© Alert Diver — Q3 2017