Snorkel+Dive

Backpacking with Scuba Gear: Our Ultralight Packing List

Traveling light is key for most backpackers, but what if you’re a diver? Is it worth backpacking with scuba gear? Here’s why we bring our own equipment and how we keep things as simple as possible!

Is it worth backpacking with scuba gear?

If you’re planning on doing a lot of diving during your trip, then yes, we think it’s definitely worth backpacking with scuba gear. You will need to streamline and make some compromises, but the gear you need can be kept quite minimal, especially if you only dive tropical waters like us.

Benefits of bringing your own gear:

Safer Diving

As budget backpackers, we mostly dive with small local operators rather than resorts and liveaboards. Unfortunately this often means less than satisfactory rental equipment.

In more remote locations the upkeep of dive equipment can be difficult. We have had some pretty hairy situations due to poor equipment before, which is why we feel much safer using our own.

More enjoyable diving

By using your own dive equipment, you’ll likely be much more comfortable and confident in the water. Everything will fit you perfectly and you’ll know your way around your gear.

Cheaper Diving

Renting dive equipment in South East Asia costs anywhere between £5-£25 per day, so if you plan on doing a lot of diving, this really adds up. Save money by backpacking with scuba gear, and spend more on actual dives instead.

Our Ultralight Packing list for Backpacking

Packing Categories:

Essential Scuba Gear

Essential Backpacking scuba equipment laid out on wood decking

Travel BCD

Our choice of BCD is a very simple wing and backplate setup.

We use a setup made by Apeks which includes a WTX Wing (18 lbs), Travel Backplate, and Basic Harness.

With a fraction of the material used compared to a traditional jacket style BCD, the Apeks Wings are one of the lightest, smallest and fastest-drying BCD’s available. A perfect choice for tropical diving.

The modular nature of the Wing/Backplate setup means we can take apart our BCDs, roll them up and pack them into our tiny 13ltr backpacks. This lets us carry them on flights as hand luggage, making them incredibly versatile for those backpacking with scuba gear.

Wings: Apeks WTX Single Cylinder Wing
Backplate: Apeks Ultralight Travel Backplate
Harness: Apeks Basic Harness

Regulator Set

Our regulators are probably one of the most important pieces of equipment we dive with. As our lifeline and breathing source, taking our own whilst traveling gives us peace of mind that they’re in good working order.

Although a regulator set may seem like bit of an awkward shape, it is modular, so you can take the entire system apart if need be.

Instead we just coil these up and place the entire set inside a plastic ziplock bag, we then pack this in our carry on 13ltr backpack.

Regulator & Octopus

We use the popular and reliable Apeks XTX Regulators. They are reasonably light and come with lightweight flexi hoses.

Regulator: Apeks XTX50 Regulator
Octopus: Apeks XTX50 Octopus

SPG

We bought the smallest one we could, which was made by Oceanic. It seems very reliable so far, although we have only taken it to 38m.

SPG: Oceanic SPG Swiv Module Pressure Gauge

Hoses

We use flexi dive hoses made from braided nylon that can be curled into a small spiral, perfect when traveling with scuba gear. Another bonus is they’re much lighter than a traditional rubber hose.

SPG hose: MiFlex XS Scuba High Pressue Carbon Hose
Inflator hose: Flexi BC Inflator Hose

Mouthpiece

A properly fitted mouthpiece can also make a huge difference to your overall comfort. How many times have you suffered jaw-ache or a reg that lets in water? It can be really annoying… Thats why we use a moldable mouthpiece which custom fits to your bite.

Mouthpiece: Seacure X Type Mouthpiece

Dive computer

As a responsible diver, having your own computer is highly recommended. Relying on others for your individual decompression time is not always accurate, plus you are left in a vulnerable position if you get separated from your buddy or dive guide.

With a computer, you can constantly track your individual status, and avoid decompression sickness. It’s also a great tool for logging dives and knowing when its safe to fly or dive again.

Since we spend the majority of our time diving in remote tropical locations having a realible, easily serviced dive computer has been very important for our safety. For this reason we use the simple but reliable Sunnto Zoop Novo.

Dive Mask

If there is one thing we never travel without, it is our own masks.

If you rent, it is highly unlikely that you will find a mask which fits properly and let’s be honest, nobody wants to spend their dive clearing their mask every two minutes. Save yourself the grief and pack one you know performs well.

We can’t really recommend one mask over another as it’s all about fit, plus everyones face is different.

I personally use the Scubapro Synergy 2 Twin Scuba Diving Mask, which gives me an excellent seal aided by its thin and soft ribbed silicone.

Scuba Fins

When backpacking with scuba gear via any mode of transport other than plane, we strap our fins to the rear of our backpacks which is much quicker than distributing them inside.

Your confidence, comfort and dive technique will be vastly improved by wearing your own set of scuba fins. It also helps with your buoyancy control, as you’ll be better used to their weight and length – avoiding accidental kicks of silt, reef or fellow divers.

We use open-heeled Mares Avanti Quattros Plus scuba fins as they’re efficient with all styles of fin kicks, rigid enough for strong currents, quick to wear, and pack relatively flat.

Open heal also helps greatly with rocky shore entries such as the diving in Tulamben, Bali.

After 3 years of heavy use for diving and snorkeling, our fins are still in very good shape.

Thermal / Skin Protection

lightweight scuba clothing to take backpacking

Hooded Vest

We choose to leave our full body wetsuits behind whilst traveling as they take up too much space and add too much weight to our backpacks. Instead we pack a 2mm hooded vest, which is good enough for almost all of our tropical diving.

Given that a large proportion of heat loss comes from the head and torso, our hooded vests provide a better amount of thermal protection for the space they allocate in our backpack.

We use the ScubaPro 2.5mm Unisex Hooded Vest which are very comfortable, great quality and available in a broad spectrum of sizes.

We also use these for snorkeling, so get double the use compared to our full body scuba wetsuits.

Long Sleeve Rash guard

We wear Mares long sleeve rash guards over our hooded vests when scuba diving. These weigh almost nothing and the Metaltite coating on the inside reflects heat back into your torso.

Another benefit of rashguards is that they are quick-drying, simple to pack and easy to wash while on the go. Overall they make traveling with scuba gear a heck of a lot easier.

Make sure you get a good fitting one as they work much better when they hug your skin. Also don’t bother with the short sleeve rash guards as they leave your forearms open to stings and lack as much insulation.

We have rarely missed wearing full body wetsuits with this combination of rash guard and hooded vest. In fact, it makes us feel more free in the water, especially as combined they’re less rigid and buoyant.

Mens: Mares Mens Trilastic Rash Guard
Womens: Mares Womens Trilastic Rash Guard

Leggings

We both wear leggings to protect our skin from the sun, coral stings and jellyfish – but most of all the cold! Our preference are compression leggings specifically designed for watersports, which help regulate your body temperature and keep it steady. We use Dive skins which offer moderate compression improving muscle oxygenation, plus UPF 50+ sun protection.

Booties

Booties are a great way of retaining precious body heat during dives. They
also protect your feet and help with grip over slippery surfaces when entering and exiting the water, especially with all your dive gear on.

We wear the Mares Equator 2mm dive boots which come up short (just to your ankle) making them super light and flexible. They store easily inside our matching fins, making them a perfect choice when backpacking with scuba gear.

Scuba Dive Accessories

Scuba accessories laid out on decking
Dive accessories are endless, but we try to keep things simple.

Snorkel

A snorkel isn’t obligatory to your dive equipment packing list, but its always better to have one at hand. Thats why we use the Mares roll-up snorkel which fits into a pocket and also comes in a handy carry case, ideal when traveling with scuba gear.

Whistle

To help us feel more comfortable in the event of any emergency situations, we attach a Storm Alert Whistle to a single ended snap bolt, then clip this to one of our BCD harness rings. These whistles are incredibly loud, which is the point I suppose.

Dive stick

These dive sticks are a great tool for keeping yourself steady when taking photos, pointing out small critters to your dive buddy or simply clinking your tank to get their attention! We love ours, and wouldn’t dive without them.

Bolt Snaps

We use these single ended stainless steel bolt snaps by AOWISH to attach all our accessories to our BCD harness’. They also come in handy for attaching anything to your backpack.

Magnetic Clips for Second Stage/Octopus/SPG

Love em or hate em, we love these magnetic clips and use them for securing both our SPG and Octopus. They have held up very well so far, however we can see why they would be problematic for those using a compass.

Given that we haven’t ever dived with compasses (not including our certification courses), we found these to be the simplest and tidiest way of connecting/disconnecting loose bits to your BCD.

Camera & Light Equipment

Sony camera equipment for scuba diving

If you’re a serious underwater photographer, minimising your camera equipment may be last thing on your mind. We’ve figured out a begginer-mid range setup which allows us to capture great footage, but is still backpacker friendly.

Camera

The Sony RX100 series is a great little point and shoot, doubling up as an over and underwater camera. This is a huge bonus for us, as we get to use it for our land adventures as well.

We have the Sony RX100 Mark 3 which for its price and size takes surprisingly smooth video footage and sharp photos.

Camera Housing

There are a number of different underwater housing models available for the RX100, we chose one made by Sony. Although not the smallest or best, it was simply excellent value for money and after 60+ dives we haven’t really had anything to complain about.

It’s worth mentioning though that the housing doesn’t come with a spare o-ring, maybe grab one before your trip just in case. We once had a rat gnaw through one of ours!

Video Light / Torch

To help bring the colour back to our videos and photos, we invested in a Big Blue Black Molly III for our camera.

Unlike some other torches on the market, this one offers a very compact design, and at only 5.0″ x 1.53″ it packs neatly into our electronics bag making it ideal when backpacking with scuba gear.

Our torch comes with an extra wide 2600 lumens LED beam. It also has built-in red LED’s and a yellow filter for shallow diving. Although the filter seems a bit pointless even in shallow water, we do use it to help protect the bulb/glass when we’re not using the torch.

Overall we’ve seen a huge improvement in the quality and colour of our videos and photos, especially for macro. Additionally, having a high powered ultra wide angle beam lets you see so much more than the typical narrow focus torches rented out on a night dive.

Video Light Camera Attachments

To connect the torch to our camera, we use several small attachments which include a Howshot male thread ball adaptor, an Inon clamp and an Inon shoe base ball.

For the size of them, we found these attachments gave the torch a relatively good amount of flexible positioning, whilst also being easy to connect/disconnect from the camera housing.

Our Backpack

We managed to fit all of our dive equipment into our two trusty Osprey 70L Backpacks. Their roomy interior, large panel zip access and durable material make them an excellent choice for backpacking with scuba gear.

When we embark on long motorbike roadtrips or excursions we leave one backpack containing our scuba gear in a rental storage unit. Many airports, hotels and self storage warehouses offer this service relatively inexpensively.

Whats your experience backpacking with scuba gear?

Tell us about your experience of traveling with scuba gear, and if you have any tips please leave a comment below.

Ready to plan your next dive trip? Why not check out our recent dive reports from Raja Ampat and Bali.

If you found this packing list helpful, why not take a look at our recommended list of toiletries to take backpacking.

8 comments

  1. Hi Claire & Nick

    Once again, a very clear and complete blogpost from your part!
    Would you consider these boots and fins, as much convenient for snorkeling as you find it is for diving ? Or would you recommend something else? (For Raja Ampat)
    Thanks
    Regards
    Marine

    1. Hi Marine, the Mares Avanti Quattro Plus fins are good for snorkeling as well. Snorkeling in Raja Ampat is warm enough without booties, and entry is either directly from a boat or a nice sandy beach. Therefore I’d say go for the closed heal Avanti Quattro instead, they will feel much lighter especially at the surface.

      We can also recommend the Mares Volo Race fins for snorkeling. They’re less stiff than Avanti Quattro fins and a bit easier for surface kicking. However, if you frog kick a lot then I’d say go for the Avanti Quattro.

      Hope this helps and thank you for your comment, Nick

  2. This is a pretty good list…. however with all the electronic gear (cameras, lens, laptop, cables etc) that I carry I could never travel with diving gear at the same time. At least not on a solo trip. Just carrying fins, snorkel and mask last winter took up a huge amount of space in my suitcase…. In places with hot climates and inconvenient transportation I can’t carry any more than I already do. Living reasonably close to a diving spot would make a huge difference though…. 🙂

    1. Hi James, thanks for your comment.

      We also travel with a lot of electronics, including camera gear, laptops, iPad, power packs, cables, even motorbike helmets now… but it works for our style of travel.

      This obviously means we have to compromise a lot on our clothes, footwear and toiletries, but the trade off is definitely worth it considering the amount of diving and snorkelling we do.

      We also tend to stay in each location for quite a while, so when we travel, the extra bit of weight isn’t too much aggro. We just treat it like a workout 😉

  3. Thanks for this awesome post, it’s very helpful! I was wondering how exactly do you strap your fins to the rear of your backpacks? Do you first put the fins in a separate bag before attaching them? And are you ever concerned that they may get damaged when you check them in before a flight? Thanks!

    1. Hi Shash, we only ever strap our fins to our backpacks when travelling by any mode of transport other than plane (for example on motorbike trips). We use 70L Osprey backpacks which have straps on the outside, making it easy to attach our fins (and no need to put them in a bag). However, when flying, we always pack them inside of our backpacks in case they get lost or damaged in transit. Thanks for commenting and glad you enjoyed reading our post! Cheers, Nick

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