Going on a liveaboard trip should be on every diver’s bucket list — many divers love it so much that this is the only way they dive. Often traveling to very remote areas, liveaboards offer the opportunity to see isolated and still-vibrant ecosystems. And because these trips are so remote, it’s important to bring everything you need. Always read the company’s guidelines when it comes to what to bring and chat with friends who’ve already done liveaboards for more ideas. With that said, here are our top 10 tips for liveaboard packing to make your trip more enjoyable.
Correct exposure suit
There’s nothing worse than ending a dive because you’re cold, so it’s vital to take the correct exposure suit for your trip. Your liveaboard will be able to tell you the water temperature for the time of year you’re traveling and will recommend a suit thickness. Always follow their advice or go thicker, especially if you tend to get cold. Liveaboard dives tend to be long, and you’ll be diving multiple times per day, so make sure you’re comfortable throughout. Older wetsuits tend to lose warmth and buoyancy as well, so make sure your suit is still in good condition. It may be worth investing in a new wetsuit, although you should dive in it before your trip for familiarization and to check your weight. If you’ll need a drysuit, again make sure you’re familiar with and have proper certification far in advance of your trip.
Under your suit
Adding layers under your suit is a great way to increase warmth and gives you flexibility depending on each dive. I can still get chilled in a 7 mm suit, so I always take a neoprene hooded vest to wear underneath. A variety of thicknesses are available, just check beforehand that you’re still comfortable and can easily move. Adding a 2mm hooded vest under your 7mm can make for a snug 9mm on your core, and also helps you avoid that cold gap between a separate hood and your suit. Rash guards also provide a bit of additional warmth and make it much easier to get your wetsuit on. Take two or three so you always have a dry one to put on before each dive. If you’re drysuit diving, appropriate thermal clothing for underneath, and there’s no harm in bringing a few extra layers.
No matter what your swimsuit preference, it’s always a good idea to bring at least four or five separate suits so you always have a dry one for the next dive. Between dives, hang your wet swimsuit from the railing on the top deck so it can dry in time for tomorrow’s dives.
If you suffer from seasickness you won’t need reminding to pack your medication. However, it’s not a bad idea to pack some meds even if you don’t ordinarily get sea sick, as you never know if you will be randomly affected. Take non-drowsy tablets for daytime and drowsy for nighttime. If there are rough seas at night on a liveaboard trip, drowsy seasickness tablets can be a lifesaver, allowing you to sleep and wake up refreshed for the next day’s diving.
Check prior to embarking, but many boats provide shampoo, conditioner and soap. With all the diving your hair and skin can become extremely dry. For hair bring a really good leave-in conditioner which will help you remove tangles after diving and use it between dives. A good skin moisturizer and lip balm are essential to avoid chapped lips from exposure to the elements at sea, ideally ones with some SPF protection. Just make sure your products are reef-safe (see below).
Ear plugs and eye mask
You’ll need plenty of sleep during your trip to fully enjoy your dives and stay safe. However, divers often complain they couldn’t sleep due to the boat’s engine, churning away while the boat moves at night. Find ear plugs that are comfortable for you and pack a few sets. An eye mask can also help if your cabin is light or you want to catch a snooze between dives.
This is not a resort-based trip, where you’ll be going out for dinner or perhaps a night out, so pack mostly comfy clothes. And don’t overpack: no one really cares what you look like on these trips, so comfort is the priority over anything fancy. Sweatpants, sweatshirts, loose skirts and tops, as well as a few swimsuit coverups are all you’ll really need. Plus, your cabin will likely have only a small storage space. For cold locations a good jacket or hoodie is key as well, although even in hot locations, you’ll likely get chilled at night after a full day of diving.
Camera gear/chargers/storage devices
Nearly every diver seems to travel with a camera now, so pack everything you need — check and double check. There’s nothing worse than realizing too late that you forgot a charger or essential filter. Taking extras of things like batteries will also prevent problems when you have a short surface interval. With so many other cameras onboard, keep track of yours by marking it with a particular bright lanyard, clip, or ribbon. This will help you easily identify it when the crew passes them out. Bring plenty of large memory cards or an external hard drive so you don’t run out of space.
It’s not only important to protect yourself from the sun but also to protect the coral from your sunscreen. Avoid sunscreens containing oxybenzone and other harmful chemicals that can exacerbate coral bleaching and kill corals.
Many companies sell “reef-friendly” sunscreen, as well as other products, so there is plenty to choose from.
There will be plenty of chilling out between dives and, depending on the climate, you may want some extra layers. Bring a warm hat, gloves, scarf and windbreaker for cold climates and a hat and sunglasses for warmer trips. With all that downtime, you’ll want some reading material as well. Although most boats have a few books, bring your own or load up your Kindle before you leave Wi-Fi range. If you’re going on land for excursions, make sure you bring proper footwear for the terrain; usually any hiking will require close-toed shoes. Finally, be sure to check with the boat on how you’ll pay your bill and tip before you disembark. Although most boats allow for credit cards, some require any extras and tip to be settled up in cash.