This is a minimalist travel scuba diving kit that you can build so that if you have the chance to go scuba diving, you have the essentials with you. Sometimes life provides the opportunity to go diving but you need to have certain certification, safety, and comfort items with you.
I have my Minimalist Travel Scuba Diving Kit in a Ziplock baggy with my other travel stuff. License, dive log and other essentials are always packed. If I might be able to dive, I toss the kit into my travel bag. Easy. Join me for some of my dives in South Africa and Mozambique, including an amazing experience diving with Black Tipped Reef Sharks.
I’ve been scuba diving for about 14 years. I’d love to say I get out diving all the time, but it only works out about every 6 to 18 months that I will get a chance to strap on the air tanks. If you are Canadian, the only scuba diving in Canada is going to be ridiculously cold so for me diving happens mostly when we are travelling or living abroad. Sometimes I will plan to dive but often it’s hard to predict if there will be an opportunity to go. If there is suddenly a chance to go scuba diving but you didn’t have certain kit with you, well then you can’t. Let’s look at that kit!
Diving the African Coast
In the past ten years, most of my diving has been on the east coast of Africa including the Red Sea and Kenya, but mostly in South Africa and Mozambique. In Africa, sometimes you’ll just put on your gear and do a shore entry, such some of the dive sites around Cape Town. Usually the diving has been Zodiac-style boats launched from a beach. There is not much storage onboard to put stuff and you’re often dealing with big waves and spray which means a lot of water coming in the boat. You don’t want things that can get damaged with you and you can’t have loose items in the boat.
If you do a shore launch like I did for my dive at Aliwal Shoal (just south of Durban, South Africa) or in Mozambique, you have to get over the breakers (huge waves) and things could go horribly wrong if the big swells and breakers were to flip the boat. Huge breaker waves are created by a shallow reef below. Everything in that boat needs to be tied down and waterproof if it needs to be.
Create a Packing List for your Kit
I highly recommend a packing list as a reminder of the key things you need and need to collect before your trip.
Your Compact or Minimalist Travel Dive Kit Essentials
Let’s go through some of the key things that you absolutely need to have:
1. Your Dive License
Your license is just a card with your name and photo, international diver license, and level of certification. This allows you to show a dive shop that you have the certification needed for whatever diving you want to do.
2. Photocopy of your ID and Passport
Especially for shore entry and beach-launched diving, your wallet will likely be elsewhere from you. Having a photocopy of them in a waterproof bag is a wise idea.
3. Dive Logbook
Your dive logbook is a record of your diving history. It shows your dive experience and the date of your last dive. If you haven’t gone diving for about 6 months, most operators will insist you do a check-dive in a pool or the ocean, and maybe you’ll need to do a refresher course. If you do not have your dive book with you, they may say “Well, we don’t know when your last dive was, so you’ll have to do the refresher” even if you didn’t really need to.
4. Dive Planner Booklet and Recreational Dive Planner Chart
Bring your dive planner booklet and chart for some good reminders especially if you haven’t been diving for a little while. This allows you to check the required surface time if you’re doing multiple dives.
5. Anti-nausea (Sea Sickness) Pills
In recent years I’ve tended to get a bit more see sick than I used to and having a few Gravol tablets in my kit pays off. Trust me. Sometimes the ocean is calm but often it’s been rolling swells, long boat rides over the swells to the dive sites, and remember that you will hang out for a period of time in between dives.
When my buddy Geoff and I dove in Tofo, Mozambique, I forgot to take any Gravol before the first dive. Big mistake! There were massive swells and I had 3 sessions of throwing up. Many of the other divers were doing the same. A tablet of Gravol on day 2 sure helped. By day 3, the sea was much calmer and I didn’t need to take any.
You can spare yourself from feeding the fish or decorating the side of the dive boat by having a bit of anti motion sickness medication with you at all times. You may even earn a post-dive drink from one of your fellow divers if your stock of Gravol saves their day.
6. The Emergency Sausage or Surface Signalling Tube
I think the most underrated piece of safety equipment is called an emergency sausage, or surface signalling tube. It’s very compact when rolled up. If you ever got separated from the dive group or the dive boat, and you come back up to the surface (as instructed in the pre-dive meeting by the dive instructor/guide), you will need to get the attention of the dive boat or other divers if they are a distance from you. This happens especially in the case of a drift dive. Some dive shops will sell them but not always. This is similar to what I use: https://amzn.to/32cHNUD
Once inflated by a few breathes or using air from your regulator, the emergency sausage creates a tall and bright air shaft above you. You can wave it, too. Your head only sticks out of the water by 20-30cm whereas this tube is visible from quite a distance away. Bring two in case you lose one which has happened to me when I’ve forgotten the emergency sausage in the pocket of my rental BCD. Oops.
Also, attach a marine-grade whistle to the emergency sausage so that you have an additional means of calling for help when at the surface. The sound of your voice will not travel very far at sea. (https://amzn.to/2Zl6jRq)
7. Wrist ID
Scuba diving can be a lot of fun and fascinating, but it has an element of risk. Careful training courses, attention to proper procedures, and teamwork aim to reduce that risk. Should ever things go horribly wrong and you are unconscious (or worse), I feel you need to have some form of identification on you. In short, I always bring my wrist ID bracelet when I dive. It has my name and some key emergency contacts and phone numbers list. You can also list any allergies or critical health information someone helping you needs to know. Road ID makes great one’s with stainless steel clasps and I’ve been using my current one for over three years. (https://amzn.to/2HqqCXH)
Here’s a link to my other episode on the importance of having ID when doing activities: https://betterpreparedness.com/bringing-id-could-save-your-life/
8. Skin and Lips Sun Care
Sun burnt skin and lips is not much fun. Being out on the ocean is like a tanning salon on steroids. Keep a tube of sun cream, sun block, and SPF lip balm in your kit. I’ve been a fan of Burt’s Bees lip balm products for a while (https://amzn.to/3217kzQ).
Remember a hat and sun glasses for longer moments at the surface. My quick-dry Columbia hat has a chin strap if I am wearing it in windy conditions or when the boating is moving.
9. Dry Bags and Waterproof Pouches
If there are important items, consider a dry bag or pouch. There are many sizes to choose from. If you need to bring your phone on the boat, make sure it is also protected from the saltwater and sand. Here’s a decent drybag and phone protector option: https://amzn.to/31ZZJBA
10. A carabiner
Always good to have a little carabiner to attach whatever bag you have and whatever things you take on the boat attach it to the boat itself.
1. Underwater Sport Camera
I use a vintage GoPro Hero 2 that I found years ago on a river bottom in Canada. It came off somebody’s kayak I think and still had the deck-mount attached. There was no name label or contact info, and no files on the memory card indicating whom it belonged to. Google searches didn’t turn up a depressed former owner, either. The lesson there was “label your gear” so it hopefully gets back to you.
That disclaimer aside, I’ve been using this GoPro for years. Make sure you have a case to protect it at depth and from the saltwater and sand.
Dear makers of GoPro, if you have any extra GoPro Hero 7 Black cameras (https://amzn.to/2Zsr2CM), I would love to try one! Get in touch!
I have a strap on my camera’s waterproof case so I can synch it down on my wrist. This means I can let go of it and not lose it, hopefully. You don’t really want a floater on a camera when you are 20m below the surface as the camera would always be trying to float up the surface.
2. Bringing your own Mask and Fins?
If you want, you can bring your own mask and fins, but I find them bulky when we are trying to travel light. If it’s doubtful I’ll be able to dive, I will probably not have a mask or fins with me. I also find that I rarely have any issues with the models of masks and fins provided by the dive shops.
If your face and feet size do not work well with generic masks and fins, you’ll probably want to have your reliable ones from home.
3. DAN Card (Diver Alert Network insurance)
A Driver Alert Network (DAN) card can be a good idea if you are a regular diver in case things ever go wrong from a medical perspective. I don’t have one. That said, make sure you have valid travel medical insurance and those around you know of it. Provide copies of your medical travel insurance to your emergency contacts in case they are contacted by your dive shop because you suffered an incident.
4. Ziplock Baggies
These things are always useful this is kind of my go to bag so a lot of just about everything I have sounds like a fair bit but all that fits into this so this is what stays at home and I always have the stuff with me I had this guy
5. A Guidebook to the Local Dive Sites, so worth it!
We’ve been in South Africa for a few years. Two years ago, when in a used bookstore, I bought an amazing guide to South Africa’s dive sites by Anton Koornhof (https://amzn.to/3265AVQ) . I have it open every time I speak to a dive operator and it allows me to see the merits of the dive sites on offer.
Sometimes the book has enabled me to ask about some other dive sites or wrecks in the area. It gives you so much more information than the one paragraph in your Lonely Planet book and I don’t find internet websites to be as comprehensive, either. If you will likely dive a number of times throughout a region, buy the book.
6. Mini Padlock
A mini padlock is a good thing to have so if you have a place at the dive shop where you can lock some of your gear.
7. Create a Shower Bag
After a dive, your skin and hair will be grimy and gross with suncream, salt and sand. Put in a small plastic baggy with soap and shampoo. Also include a quick-dry mini towel. I usually leave my Speedo-style bathing suit and sun shirt in that same bag, so I know I have them.
My Dive Kit Wishlist?
If I had extra money and dove quite regularly, I would definitely like to have:
- A new GoPro and case.
- My own dive watch computer (it does a variety of things and calculates depth and dive times). There are some entry level and advanced models like these Cressi (https://amzn.to/2ZiNHqb)or Suunto (https://amzn.to/2Zg5yhs) units.
- A scuba wrist Compass: Basic https://amzn.to/31YM6Cw Advanced https://amzn.to/326xbXh. While not always a necessity, it can come in handy.
- A dive knife like this one: https://amzn.to/2KW2PRq in case of various emergency scenarios.
- While I’d love to have my own full dive kit, I don’t dive enough and all that needs regular maintenance.
Any Items you Can Recommend?
Please add your suggestions in the Comments section below.
- Wrist ID Bracelet: https://amzn.to/2HqqCXH
- Emergency Whistles: https://amzn.to/2Zl6jRq
- Emergency Sausage: https://amzn.to/32cHNUD
- Scuba Dive Watch: Cressi (https://amzn.to/2ZiNHqb)or Suunto (https://amzn.to/2Zg5yhs)
- Scuba Wrist Compass: Basic https://amzn.to/31YM6Cw Advanced https://amzn.to/326xbXh
- Dive Knife: https://amzn.to/2KW2PRq
- GoPro Hero 7 Black: https://amzn.to/2Zsr2CM Case https://amzn.to/2HpHXzE
- Drybag: https://amzn.to/31ZZJBA
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