Must-Pack Items for your Underwater Photo Trip

Not your regular packing list - these are essentials you may need and others may not have
By Scott Gietler

Must-Pack Items for your Next Photo Trip

Not Your Average Packing List - These are items you may need and others probably won't have

By Scott Gietler


I've seen many excellent packing lists out there, telling you to bring spare o-rings, various tools, gadgets, wires, etc etc. Some of these lists are 30 or 40 items long.  Bringing all of these items is obviously not a bad idea, however I couldn't help feeling that many of these items I either find myself never using, or always being able to borrow from other people (in a pinch).  So I started to think - other than your camera & housing, what do I see people really needing?  What are the things that are often very hard to get?

Ok - you need more than just a camera and housing.  You need a camera, housing, mask, laptop, and external hard drive.  You can pickup a 500GB external hard drive for $60 USD and a 1500GB drive for $99USD, so you'd be crazy not to have one for backing up your images.

This list of a dozen or so items is not meant to be all-inclusive, but it does list the items that I think will either be extremely useful or hard to find if needed.  The list is based on my own experience running underwater photo workshops for several years, along with input from experienced travelers like Mark Strickland, Ron Watkins and Michael Zeigler.

So here it is - in no particular order, the "must-bring or you may-be sorry" packing list.


#1 Micro Mesh Kit

If you own a dome port, at some point it is going to get banged up. And when it does, you'll wish you had a way to repair it on your trip.  Bring along your micro-mesh kit and you won't see that giant gash in your photos anymore.

Micro Mesh Kit for Dome Port


#2 Spare charger for your Sola Light / Ikelite Strobe

First of all, be very careful to check all of your charges and make sure they say 110/220.  I learned the hard way that my Energizer charger was only 110 - when I plugged it in (in the Philippines) it got fried.  Same with my UK light canon charger.

Most chargers will work pretty well when travelling, but I have seen my fair share of charger problems.  If you own a Sola light or Ikelite strobe, I definitely think having a spare charger is a wise investment. 

scuba travel


#3 Rocket Blower, Lens cleaner, O-ring removal tool

One of the most important task on a dive trip is cleaning your housing, o-ring, ports and lens glass. Having a Giotto rocket blower, lens cleaning fluid, lens paper, and a good o-ring removal tool will make this task a hundred times easier.

Rocket Blower


#4 Spare Strobe or spare battery cap

Yes - your strobe is your weak spot. I've seen people flood battery compartments, fry chargers, have their strobe stop working, etc, etc. If your strobe does flood, usually if you quickly dry it out and clean the inside, it will work again. You may need to replace the battery cap. Just to be safe, either get a spare battery cap or bring a spare strobe. For a once in a lifetime trip, some shops like the nice folks at Bluewater Photo might let you buy a new strobe and return it if it is unopened.

scuba travel


#5 Digital Luggage Scale

Ok - this item is not essential, but it sure is a lot of fun, and it can save you a lot of money in baggage overage charges. But the best part it, you'll easily make lots of friends in the check-in line by sharing your scale with other travelers.

digital luggage scale

#6 Universal Travel adapter

There's nothing worse than needed to recharge your laptop or phone at a resort or airport, and not having the right adapter. Travel adapters are small, inexpensive, and usually cure these ills immediately.


#7 USB Drive / Thumb drive

For $10 or $20, you can pick up a large capacity USB drive, so you can easily share photos on a trip with friends, put together group slideshows, etc. So the next time someone takes a perfect photo of you underwater, and they offer to send you the photo, slap a thumb drive in their hand and get it on the spot!

scuba travel


#8 Spare Computer battery (& TTL converter)

If any of your gear takes a lithium battery (like your dive computer, leak detector or TTL converter), it is sure to stop working during your next trip, guarenteed. Bring a spare battery, however, and the gear will most likely make it through the trip.

scuba travel


#9 Owners manual for camera & dive computer

On many, many trips - people need to figure out something on their camera or dive computer, that no one seems to know. Bring the manuals - they may come in handy. More often then you think.

scuba travel


#10 Micro-fiber cloths

These are essential for cleaning your lenses, LCD screens, or anything else you don't want scratched. Enough said!

scuba travel


#11 Lens for topside use

Don't forget to bring a zoom lens for some topside shots. Yes, I know the main subjects are underwater. But inevitably, there will be something on land you will want to photograph. Don't be stuck with just your underwater lenses (e.g. - fisheye or macro).



#12 Regular viewfinder (if you are diving with a 180 or 45 viewfinder)

If you usually dive with your viewfinder, don't forget to bring your original viewfinder along, with any tools you'll need to change it. Because if your pricey viewfinder fogs up, you will be in deep doodoo. This happened to my friend Jim on my Raja Ampat trip, with his Subal 180 viewfinder.


#13 Thinktank International Bag  

Last, but not least, the Thinktank International Bag is essential. I fit my D7000 housing, 105mm port, 6 inch dome, camera, 2 YS-D1 strobes, Sola light, and 3 lenses into this bag. Wow! And I carried it on the plane. The best part is the long handle, it was simple to roll it while I was walking, without leaning over at all. I will never again travel any other way.

thinktank airport international bag



So that's all folks. If you have anything to add, etiher leave a comment, or shoot me an email at


Where to Find These Items?

Want to pick up some of these items before your next trip?  The well-traveled team at Bluewater Photo can help.



About the Author

Scott Gietler is the creator of the Underwater Photography Guide and owner of Bluewater Photo Store. An avid marine naturalist, Scott is the author of the Field Guide to Southern California Marine Life. He was the LAUPS photographer of the year for 2009, and his photos have appeared in magazines, coffee table & marine life books, museums, galleries, and aquariums throughout the world.


Further Reading


Where to Buy

You'll find the Thinktank International bag, micro-mesh kits and other essentials at Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!




The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear


Visit Bluewater Photo & Video for all your underwater photography and video gear. Click, or call the team at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


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