My bags: a big one for diving equipment and clothes, a small one for photo equipment ...
My bags: a big one for diving equipment and clothes, a small one for photo equipment ...

What's in my travel dive bag?

  Between Two Journeys

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could have been generated during the process. If you can read French, click on the French flag below to access the original text:

My diving equipment and underwater photography gear now take up the lion's share of my luggage. Impossible for me to travel light as before! But the basic principle is still valid: I must be able to carry all my stuff on my own.

Warning : this is NOT a sponsored item, I am affiliated with NONE of the brands I mention below in this article. I have invested little by little, year after year, especially in computer, photographic and diving equipment...

My main bag since July 2018

I invested in 2018 in a new wheeled bag to replace the previous one (see below). I wanted it to be designed in the same way: a bag large enough to hold my diving equipment, clothes and accessories related to the photo, and which opens into two wallet-like compartments. Convenient to separate the diving gear from the rest.

Again, I went for a discreet bag, without any large brand name written on it. There's nothing worse than displaying the name or logo of a diving equipment manufacturer on your luggage. It indicates that there are valuable things inside, and that you are potentially a (very) rich tourist...

Here are my current luggage: a big Eastpack wheel bag (right), a Ikea wheeled cabin bag with detachable backpack (left). (Charles-de-Gaulle airport, Roissy, July 2018)
Here are my current luggage: a big Eastpack wheel bag (right), a Ikea wheeled cabin bag with detachable backpack (left). (Charles-de-Gaulle airport, Roissy, July 2018)

I chose a model from a reputable luggage brand (Eastpack) that guarantees its products for thirty years. Its name : Transver L.

This big Eastpack wheeled bag is less cheap than my previous bag from Decathlon, and a bit bigger (121 liters). I hope it will last as long or even longer! For now, I'm satisfied with it. It's sturdy, handy, practical and doesn't attract attention.

Underwater photo logistics

I no longer carry my stuff in a backpack like I did when I was 20 years old... I now carry all my underwater photography equipment so I had to completely rethink the organisation of my luggage! The solution of the big wheeled bag quickly became obvious.

Because in addition to the reflex camera and its waterproof case that I keep in my small carry-on luggage, I have to carry the heavy equipment that goes with it: the plate (support) with its two handles, the flashes and their batteries, the arms of the flashes, the charger for these flashes, the cables, etc.. I put some pictures below, to give you an idea of the mess...

Yes, I do not really look like a mermaid with all my photographic bazaar under water! (Philippines, May 2018 - Photo by Steven Weinberg)
Yes, I don't exactly look like a mermaid with all my photographic stuff underwater! (Philippines, May 2018 - Photo by Steven Weinberg)
My paraphernalia for underwater photography.
The same rig, dismantled...
There you go ! The device is ready to accompany me under the water! (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
My current configuration (since 2016), with two flashes.
The little bazaar that I steal on a trip to be able to take photos under water ... Right, my camera with its new lens 100mm macro. Only the most fragile elements, namely the camera and lenses, its box and portholes, remain in my cabin bag. I put everything else in the hold. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
The little mess I make on my trip to be able to take underwater pictures... And still, the dome and the lens for wide angle photos are not on the picture. On the right, my camera with its 100mm macro lens. Only the most fragile parts (camera, lenses, housing and portholes) remain in my carry-on bag. I put everything else into my checked luggage. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)

The thorny question of carry-on luggage

In addition to my large rolling bag intended to fly in the hold, I have with me a "small" carry-on luggage, also on wheels, bulky and convertible into a backpack, which I have found in the store of a large Swedish furniture chain (Ikea)

The interest is that it divides into two small luggage thanks to a zip:
- the rear part, which rolls up and is exactly the authorized standard cabin size ;
- the front part, which turns into a mini backpack perfect for my MacBook Pro 15′ and my papers. All zips can be secured with small padlocks.

I spread in this cabin baggage "two in one" all that is fragile and / or precious and that I do not want to put in hold:

In the main part of the rolling bag: the Ikelite waterproof case for my 7D and its two portholes (wide-angle dome + macro porthole), the Canon Eos 7D and its lenses, the fragile electronic equipment (dive computer and backup hard drive), a fleece jacket for transport ( especially in Asia where the air conditioning is often pushed to the bottom) and a mini-change of urgency (in case the luggage in the hold containing the clothes would not have followed, precaution that I take since that happened to me in 2015 → Leaving on an island far from everything).

In the small detachable bag: my 15-inch MacBook Pro, my iPhone, money and papers, as well as my survival kit for the plane (eye mask, earplugs, support socks, toothbrush). Usually, I keep this detachable bag with me in the plane, slipped under the seat in front of me, and place the other one in the overhead luggage compartment.

NB. I have this smart convertible carry-on bag since 2016 (before, I had a simple little backpack, which weighed a bit heavy on my shoulders, with all this stuff, in the airport lanes)... I'm thrilled with my find, this new little bag on wheels is perfectly tailored for airplane travel!

The question of overweight luggage

As I said earlier, I only put one big rolling bag in the hold. This wheeled luggage, divided into two compartments, therefore contains :

  • on one side, my complete diving equipment;
  • on the other side, some clothes and various accessories a bit heavy related to underwater photography that I mentioned above (the strobes and their batteries of an authorized model in the hold, the charger for these batteries, the arms of the strobes and the tray of the housing, among others).

Good thing that bag rolls! It easily reaches 28-29 kg... 😱

As I can't be satisfied with the 20-23 kg usually allowed in eco class on international flights, I travel preferably, for trips to/from France, on airlines serving Asia that allow 30 kg in the hold without extra cost (Emirates Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines...).

Overweight fees are rarely a problem on the local airlines I often use (Indonesian, Malaysian, Filipino): they are very low compared to Europe. You can either pre-pay them when you book online, or pay them at check-in, and they are then sometimes charged with a "discount" to the customer's head (and especially to the customer, when she smiles a big smile at the check-in counter and says hello in the language of the country)... 😉

For flights between Asian countries, I often use Air Asia, which allows me to buy at the time of booking, beyond the 15kg base for hold luggage, additional kilos up to a total of 30kg ...

Attention on Emirates: during the stopover in Dubai, this company has the habit of checking the weight of passengers' hand luggage AGAIN. Employees are waiting for you with a scale, just before the access to the boarding lounge. Better not to exceed the 7 kg allowed, they are very strict, the extra kilo is charged at the full price (and you can't board the plane without paying). For photographers: I therefore suggest to take out of your carry-on all the heavy stuff. The easiest way is to carry your camera around your neck and to slip your lenses into a multi-pocket jacket ...

2010-2018: my first bag with wheels

This is the bag that faithfully accompanied me from 2010 to 2018, in all my diving trips: a 90-liter wheeled bag, light and cheap, found in a large chain of sports shops (Decathlon), early 2010 (this Newfeel bag is no longer sold today).

Its two-compartment design was very practical. My complete diving equipment was stowed on one side. Clothes and part of my underwater photographer's gear on the other.

I completely revised my luggage logistics from 2010, when I started to carry a bit more photo equipment to make underwater pictures. I talk about it in these articles:

→ Finished the backpack, long live the bag with wheels!

→ Photo and diving: my equipment

I have given up without regret my status as a "backpacker" carrying all her stuff on her back / shoulder. It is much less exhausting to be a "rollpacker"... 😂

This compact and discreet wheeled bag attracted much less attention than the voluminous travel bags for divers, which all have a prominent brand name written in large letters on them. It lasted eight years, with 3 to 4 trips a year, and was often mishandled!

My bags: a big one for diving equipment and clothes, a small one for photo equipment ...
My bags: a big one for diving equipment and clothes, a small one for photo equipment ...

I was very happy about it, until he let me go in May 2018, when I returned from a trip to the Philippines.

The handle eventually came out of its rail and the two bottom corners at the front were all grated. However, the latches were still holding and the entire canvas was still in good condition. Rather robust, so, despite its very small price, a very good investment.

Until 2009: my backpacker luggage

The picture below was my pack of scuba divers, before 2010. I was then a backpacker, a backpacker with a backpack. I hadn't yet invested in a waterproof case to take my SLR camera underwater (Canon Eos 7D), which today represents a whole lot of additional gear to be transported.

Big backpack (green) + diving bag (black) + small backpack "cabin".
Big backpack (green) + dive bag (black) + small "cabin" backpack.

I would then travel with the following three pieces of luggage:

  • 1. A big backpack (green stuff) for clothes and the rest (10-12 kg)
  • 2. A sausage bag with shoulder strap for diving equipment (10-11 kg)
  • 3. A small backpack, my "carry-on" luggage, where I stored my compact camera of the time and its small housing, the laptop and small fragile and/or precious things (iPhone, papers, money)...

All this was roughly within the limit usually practiced, at the time, in economy class for luggage: about twenty kilos in the hold (my two big bags) + a few kilos in the cabin.

Clothes: the tropical minimum

And what else do you put in your luggage for a trip to Southeast Asia or tropical islands? As little as possible! 😎 🌴 In the course of my travels in Asia, I have learned to take only the essentials with me. I've made a short checklist below.

Go for summer clothes! My usual destinations share the same climate: hot and humid. No need to bother: if I'm missing something, I buy it on the spot (besides, it's much cheaper than in France). No need to worry about buying flip-flops, tee-shirts or sarongs in Asia!

Clothing: the tops

  • some tops with straps for "seaside" places
  • two t-shirts covering the shoulders and several fine tunics with long sleeves. Both to respect certain places and situations (cities, Muslim countries, temples) and as protection against mosquitoes at night. Preferably things easy to wash and match with any stocking.
  • a small fleece jacket for all air-conditioned places that are often in "fridge" mode (plane, bus, boat, shopping malls, etc.)

Clothing: the stockings

  • cropped trousers
  • long trousers (for travel by plane, and for places and circumstances where it is not better, as a woman, to be bare legs)
  • a skirt and / or a summer dress with braces
  • one or two shorts

Undergarments

  • panties and bras: simple and comfortable
  • in sufficient quantity for a week

At the feet

  • a pair of canvas sneakers that I wear on the plane, which is then used only when you have to walk a little
  • a pair of flip flops that do not weigh anything in the bag and that I almost always at the feet on the spot

I'm not a trekker, so I do not clutter heavy hiking shoes or socks ...

My indispensable accessories

  • 3 or 4 swimsuits (I am always in the water, I like to change)
  • 2 to 3 paréos or sarongs (a "clean", one or two others for the beach and sea trips, I often buy new ones on site)
  • a hammock (one of these light models as found everywhere in Asia)
  • Sun glasses

I do not take bath towel for a long time, it is now everywhere.

Toilet stuff

  • Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel or soap, toothpaste, moisturiser, sunscreen, etc. Before, I used to take them in minimal quantities in small bottles for the arrival, because I often bought my toiletries on the spot to save weight in my luggage. Now, I use biodegradable products to pollute as little as possible and since they are not easily found when travelling, I take the necessary quantity with me.
  • Toothbrush, hairbrush, hair elastics, tweezers, razor, etc.

Girls' special: whether you are tampons, cups or pads, it is better to think about taking your sanitary protection with you, we are not sure to find the solution we prefer everywhere, especially tampons .

Small medical kit for sores and boo-boos

My first aid kit has been getting smaller and smaller throughout my travels, mostly to Asia and the Indo-Pacific archipelagos... Remember that in tourist areas and big cities, there are usually medical facilities in case of real problems.

Overall, the risk of contracting a serious illness is minimal for a healthy, well-nourished Western traveller who has up-to-date immunizations. And if this happens, you will not treat yourself: you will consult a doctor on site or use the services of a travel assistance/insurance company.

So I'm happy here to give common sense advice, for small problems on the trip, not for serious situations. These tips obviously can not replace a medical opinion. But given the exorbitant price of some drugs (which often will not be used), the best is to take with you only enough to treat small disorders and small sores.

Covid-19. This article dates from before the pandemic ... In addition to the basic health recommendations recalled here, if you manage to travel despite the restrictions imposed by the health situation related to the coronavirus, remember to take precautions to protect yourself and others: mask, distancing, hand washing (soap and hydroalcoholic gel).

The really useful stuff

The problems that are most likely to be faced: the famous tourista (traveler's diarrhea) and small wounds (bites, scrapes, cuts, blisters, which heal poorly in humid climate and can become infected).

So, what is really useful in a travel medical kit is at a minimum an anti-diarrhea, as well as bandages sterile and a disinfectant type Betadine (be vigilant on all the small sores on the feet, since we walk around barefoot, in flip flops, it can be infected very easily). I now have with me also waterproof bandages adapted to protect a wound when I dive, the salt water only aggravating the situation otherwise ...

Possibly antibioticsif you know that you will spend time away from any city (where you can find doctor and / or pharmacy). For example, I already had to urgently find a pharmacy between two planes in Indonesia, to get me antibiotics for three days, just to stop the infection of a bulb of fins (sic!) That had degenerate.

For the small ordinary evils, I also take some pills ofanti-pain with paracetamolDoliprane or equivalent.

Finally, very useful for the diver that I am: drops to treat otitis externa (caused by badly rinsed ears after immersion). The most effective for this type of infection, among those I tested: those named Ottopain in Indonesia or Panotile in France.

Mosquitoes and malaria

The malaria (also called malaria) is an infectious disease potentially deadly, caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium, transmitted by mosquitoes when they bite us.

Malaria does not occur everywhere in the equatorial or tropical regions of the world, nor in the same country considered malarious area. I mean, there's no need to take preventive treatment when you go to Phuket, for example ... For malarious areas, it is obviously advisable to consult a doctor before leaving. He alone can properly inform you about the risks of contamination where you are going and how best to prevent them.

This is not a question to take lightly. As rightly remember many travelers on the internet, just a single bite of a mosquito carrying the parasite to be infected for life ...

My weapon against mosquitoes.

For my part, it is rare that I take an antimalarial treatment. I am often asked the question and I am always a little annoyed to answer, knowing that this can influence the decision of other people. But it is a personal choice, of which I assume the risk for myself, knowingly.

My decision is not a substitute for medical advice and is not a recommendation. Everyone to take responsibility with their health.

I usually stick to the simplest basic precautions, which have proven their worth: mosquito repellent, long sleeves and pants at dusk if needed, careful closure of the net around the bed if there is one and the room is not closed.

I invite you to read this excellent article published by François du blog Tourdumondiste, which explains everything very well, with serious information (sourced) and advice → Should I take malaria medication when travelling?

Malaria is not the only thing to fear: mosquitoes can also transmit the dengue...in particular. Protecting yourself with repellent and long clothing is therefore a basic precaution in all cases.

Techno: an indispensable superfluity

There, I confess, I charge a little. I'm addicted to my toys! I have traveled a long time without a computer, when I was a real backpacker, but it's over. At that time, to connect to the web and keep this blog updated during my travels, I spent hours in the local internet cafes ...

1. Laptop

The first time I decided to leave with a laptop, I first opted for a netbook (a laptop) all light and not too expensive, the small Medion Akoya (read here → My technomade mini-computer). But from 2010, when I acquired my Canon 7D SLR camera who is doing HD video, I gave up: this little computer was not powerful enough ...

Instead, I took the next time my old 15-inch MacBook Pro. Only he scared me by falling in the road with a beautiful black screen: he did not like the humidity and the heat at all. It returned to life afterwards, but this machine was already beginning to be obsolete at the time. Technological toys are evolving at full speed! ! !

So, in January 2011, I fell for a 13 inch MacBook Air, one of those of the first generation, all light, really good. I loved it and traveled with many years. But similarly, he ended up no longer suffice me, with the stock of raw photos and videos that I accumulated ... His slowness, faced with new software and ever larger files, became infuriating.

My MacBook Air. At Ankermi, in Maumere. Flores, Indonesia, July 2011.
My MacBook Air 11 inches, at Ankermi Happy Dive, in Maumere. (Flores, Indonesia, July 2011)

So, in June 2016, I invested in a new machine, able to process without dragging a lot of big files and which should be able to last several years: a MacBook Pro 15-inch Retina Display from mid-2015 (photo below).

Nice, my blogger's office! (Lembeh, Sulawesi, July 2017)
Nice, my blogger travel diver! (Lembeh, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

I bought it reconditioned (they are computers that were used in presentation in store and which were rehabilitated for sale then, it allows a consequent saving, compared to a new model) on the Refurb Store from the brand to the apple.

I took care to choose a model well inflated in power (16GB RAM + 2.5GHz processor Intel Core i7) and storage (1TB of flash memory), in order to process without rowing heavy files photos and videos, and in the hope that it will not be too quickly obsolete ...

With the amount of underwater images I'm doing now, I can not imagine traveling without a computer. I can write my texts whenever I want, from my room or my terrace, sort my photos as I go on LightroomI can edit videos and connect to the internet, either by using a wifi connection when there is one, or by using the shared connection of my iPhone in which I put a local SIM card (it's not expensive at all in Asia, very handy to connect via the mobile network).

2. Photo and video equipment

Since January 2010, I travel with a SLR camera that also makes video, the Canon Eos 7D (nothing to do with the small digital compact Canon Powershot A95 who accompanied me before). I am very happy, even if it is quite heavy and cumbersome.

He has never let go of me, he's robust, can stand the wet conditions I regularly inflict on him, and is capable of making superb underwater images.

I have not yet renewed this material (it represents a budget, especially since it would buy a box for a new device, these things are not interchangeable, and a box, it costs roughly the same. same price as the case ????).

Before, I also had a compact device in relief, for terrestrial photos, but the iPhone has now become my second camera. In just a few years, the quality of the smartphone sensor has become excellent.

In 2019, I acquired a mini-SLR as a secondary camera for terrestrial photography, the Canon Eos 250D. Extremely lightweight, not expensive, it is considered a SLR of "beginners". But I seem to have the right technology to be a practical and versatile case on the road. I'll talk about it when I test it more in the field. It was getting complicated for me to take the 7D out of the box after every dive when I needed it for photos I did not want to make to the iPhone.

For the 7D, I carry several 32GB and 16GB memory cards, a spare battery and its charger. For the 250D, I have two SD memory cards, an 8GB inherited from an old device, a fast 32GB video-ready, as well as a spare battery and charger.

My goals (see here → Photo and diving: my equipment) are interchangeable on both housings.

Finally, I also have a portable hard drive 500GB SSD to make a backup of photos and videos (I unload and store the originals on my MacBook Pro).

For underwater shooting, as I explained above, I also carry the Ikelite housing for my SLR (and its accessories: the flashes and their charger, the flash arms, the cables, the turntable, the portholes...).

3. iPhone

I also spoke about it above. I currently have the iPhone X and it's really my second camera now. It allows to to make images without attracting attention, everyone leaves his smartphone to make pictures in Asia! It's always on hand, really practical.

For all that is communications (telephone, SMS, internet), I put a local SIM the time of the trip, it allows to have access to internet 3G and 4G when there is network and it avoids roaming charges. It serves as a "modem" to the computer via connection sharing, when there is no wifi available and I only have the local telephone network to connect to the internet.

NB. In this month of June 2019, just discovered with spite that the new iPhone XR and XS allow recently the use of e-SIM, but not the iPhone X I have ... Too bad for me, the e-SIM is virtual, allowing to keep his usual number associated with the iPhone without physical SIM. So we can slide a second physical SIM card in the device, for example a local SIM, without missing the first number ... The kind of thing perfect for me!

4. Cables

In modest accommodations, it is rare to have more than one electrical outlet. And sometimes it's set up in odd places, high up, or near the door, or in an inaccessible corner behind the bed ... So I take a strip, to connect all this little world more easily. I check before leaving the type of taking the country to take the adapter which is good (but if you forget it, it is on the spot).

I also have a USB key, a memory card reader to unload my photos and of course the cable and the plug for iPhone.

  Between Two Journeys

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