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August 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 29, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Drop the Dive Travel Weight: Part II

how to pare down your clothes and gear to just one bag

from the August, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Even fit divers could stand to shed some pounds when it comes to packing for their next dive trip. Do you really need long-sleeved anything for a Caribbean trip? Could you lose some bulk if you buy newer photography gear? We continue with more tips from our Undercurrent contributors on how they shed weight to spare themselves from airlines' multiple and ever-increasing baggage fees.

Do You Really Need to Dress Up for Diving?

Obviously, the rule "less is more" applies when it comes to packing clothes for dive trips, but it also applies to the type of luggage you pack it in. Ken Kurtis, owner of the dive shop Reef Seekers in Beverly Hills, CA, and frequent leader of dive trips around the world, recommends looking at the weight of your checked bags." If you've only got 50 pounds to deal with, do you really want to give up a large percentage of that weight with a heavy bag? Some older suitcases may weigh 15 pounds, while many lighter ones nowadays are as little as seven pounds."

Maurine Shimlock packs her clothes around her camera equipment. "I don't need to use unnecessary packing material, just T-shirts and shorts I'll wear on my trip."

Dean Knudsen (Golden Valley, MN) dropped four pounds by using the Eagle Creek Crossroads Roll-Away as his primary checked bag. "There's no internal frame, but it still rolls well. I can pack 10 days' worth of gear in it, and it folds compactly to shove under the liveaboard bunk."

Shawn McDermott (Melbourne, FL) ditched his heavy roller bag for a vinyl-coated, wheeled mesh bag, and bought a $20 luggage scale to help him prepare for trips. John Woolley switched to duffle bags. "I bought NorthFace duffle bags which only weigh about two pounds; they're tough and their bright colors make it virtually impossible to mistake your luggage for anyone else's."

Underwater photographer and Undercurrent contributor Maurine Shimlock packs her clothes around her camera equipment. That means I don't need to use unnecessary packing material, just the T-shirts, shorts, etc., I'll wear on the trip."

Take only what you need for clothes. Frequent Undercurrent contributor Bret Gilliam's packing list is a good example. "On a liveaboard, you don't need anything other than T-shirts, shorts, maybe a sweatshirt, a pair of comfortable drawstring pants, sandals, a hat, sunglasses, your iPod, and headphones. What the hell are you going to dress up for?"

Speaking of other forms of entertainment, Elizabeth Eby (Mountain View, CA) recommends buying the lightweight Amazon Kindle. "Moving 10 books to a six-ounce device pays for itself the first time you use it overseas."

Some readers recommend dropping weight by switching to certain clothing brands and materials. Dean Knudsen, a very creative dresser, dropped half a pound by switching to quick-dry wicking polyester t-shirts. "Two shirts for a 10-day trip; they wash in a sink, and can be dry in five minutes. Pay $30 at REI, or pay $12 at Kohl's for the FILA brand. Gray or black does not readily reveal stains and grime." He drops another quarter-pound with a pair of lightweight Sportif USA shorts ( www.sportif.com/shorts ). "They're polyester and rapid dry. I drop another 0.15 pounds by using ExOfficio underwear ( www.exofficio.com ), two pairs for seven days, wash in the sink, and dry in the sun after 30 minutes. By stripping down to the essentials, I routinely weigh in at 46 pounds of checked gear, and I still have the luxury of full-sized fins, a 1mm vest, mini-video camera, and regular dive camera with flash."

In his Stahlsac Jamaican Smuggler bag, weighing 9.7 pounds, James Morus (Cleveland, OH), brings Under Armour compression shorts to dive in, and his wife puts on an Under Armour shirt ( www.underarmour.com ). "We bring a little plastic container of Oxywash and wash clothes in our room. After the dive, I have two pairs of lightweight shorts, one with the zip-off legs, that wash and dry as quickly as the Under Armour stuff. I wear tomorrow's dive shirt as today's shirt."

Scott Pillifant (Flower Mound, TX) used to take cotton shirts, but now substitutes lightweight nylon Nike shirts. "If they get dirty or stinky, I dunk them in the tub for rinsing wetsuits, and ta da, my wife can stand me again."

Kurtis also has a pared-down shopping list, but the formal clothing he always brings is a collared polo shirt. "I've always felt that if there's any shot at getting a seat upgrade on the way down or back from a dive trip, I stand a better chance of getting it if I look nice rather than if I look like a schlub."

Pare Down the Photography Gear

It's not uncommon for serious photographers to carry a huge camera, strobes, and a laptop, but how should one pare down the load, not only to reduce baggage fees but to reduce the stress of transporting such delicate gear?

Well, here's another opportunity to spend a lot of money to replace your decent equipment (maybe it is growing old and can use upgrading) with lightweight substitutes. Jim Reilly once housed his Canon PowerShot G11 in an Ikelite acrylic case, and used twin DS 51 strobes triggered by a light metering device. "The carry-on dedicated to this gear was too heavy to handle. So I replaced the camera with a Canon S95, a pocket version of the G11. I replaced the heavy, bulky housing with an aluminum case. I replaced the arms with titanium ones, and replaced the strobes with Inon S2000s triggered by fiber optics. I also bought rechargeable batteries. Overall, I get pretty much the same photographic results with a new rig weighing just under four pounds. I saved something like six pounds." Reilly says he is looking at Mirrorless cameras and housings, which "are still a lot lighter than DSLR systems; however, this is not an inexpensive option!"

After reviewing camera options, Scott Pillifant decided on a Nikon ColorPix AW110. "No housing required and warranted to 60 feet, but I've taken it deeper and had no problems. For my type of picture/ video requirements both on land and in water, it is more than satisfactory."

Kurtis recommends taking a good look at the gear you actually used on your last trip, and thinking ahead to the next trip and what you'll be shooting, then limit your gear to that which you will use. "On some trips, I know I won't shoot wide, so I leave the 10-24 lens and the port home. On other trips I won't be doing macro, so the 105 and the port stay behind. And if you're going to use a lens on only one or two dives, is there another lens that will give you the same result?"

Also give thought to your batteries, he says. "I made the error of taking a trip with dual strobes that each required four C batteries. Given that I would change my batteries every day, I brought 48 C batteries, which weighed a ton. 'What about rechargeables,' you might be saying. Good thought, but you will need multiple sets so you can have a set in your strobe and a set charging. You don't save that much weight and you'll have more gizmos to deal with. For years, I've only shot with strobes that use AA batteries. I get 48 AA batteries from Costco, about $10. I'll shoot them for a day or so, and then I give them to the dive guides for their radios or kids' toys. My cameras, by the way, both use rechargeable batteries, and I can get about 600- 800 shots per charge. They almost always last a full day, so I bring one battery for each camera. I sometimes bring a back-up rechargeable, just in case."

After a 40-year career as a professional photographer, Gilliam says the ritual of packing multiple camera gear into a separate duffle bag has become too tedious to deal with anymore, and his current choice is GoPro. "I was blown away by the quality of its latest cameras for both still images and video. Those devices fit in the palm of your hand and produce outstanding results. I just ordered a GoPro system from Backscatter and will use it on upcoming professional projects. I'm leaving my Nikon and its bulky housing behind, and I can fit the entire GoPro system in my gear duffel. One bag to check! I'm a believer."

Not every tip here will work for every traveling diver, but hopefully some of our suggestions will help you devise a plan for dive clothes and gear that will not only make your traveling easier, but will ensure money stays in your pocket, not into the airline's.

-- Vanessa Richardson

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