So tomorrow night I’m heading to the airport for two weeks of diving in Kona! Heading to my favorite dive spot, Honaunau, for shore diving with students during the upcoming Intermediate Freediver and Advanced courses I’ll be teaching over there. I’m also heading there a few days early to do some casual diving including FINALLY heading out to do the famed night manta ray dive! It’s about time!
So as lots of you travelling freedivers know there’s all kinds of pre-dive trip prep needed to start the trip right. I’ve got my Mucinex ready to start taking tomorrow, I’ve been cutting down on the dairy and I’ve got my dive gear all laid out, ready to be packed up for the flight. But that’s the hard part, right? Packing everything away so fins don’t snap, suits don’t get ripped and masks don’t get scratched?
About a year ago I was sitting on a plane heading across country to teach a course and as I looked out the window before we took off I saw my bag coming up the conveyor to be loaded onto the plane. I usually love that as it eases my mind about lost luggage, but this time was different. As the conveyor ended my bag slipped between it and the plane, got smashed, then dropped to the ground only to get crushed again below a few other pieces of fallen luggage. As I sat through the rest of the six-hour flight I daydreamed about what damage I would find on my gear as it came through at baggage claim.
Six hours later I opened up my bag, which was pretty shredded, to find that all my gear was completely intact! Not a scratch on a fin or a tear in a suit. The bag, though trashed, had done its job and took one for the team. Awesome.
So since there’s no way to prevent your bag from getting smashed, you’d do best to protect the gear inside. To start, that means getting the best kind of bag for your travel. I’ve got a few different containers but the most important one is a good, durable, all-purpose dive bag. The one I use is a Dessault fin bag, which has one large compartment that fits most of the gear, plus an outside pocket for masks and miscellaneous equipment. This photo was taken during a course I was teaching in Newport. As you can see from the photo they’re pretty popular bags!
The feature that sets this bag apart from others is the hard bottom, which prevents it from rotting out. When you dive often its inevitable that some gear dry rots and bags are one of the biggest victims to this problem. A solid, hard bottom makes the bags last much longer and protects your gear.
My personal bags last about a year before needing to be replaced and that’s after going through 30 or so flights per year. Not too shabby.
Once you’ve got the right bag you’ll want to make sure to pack it properly to reduce the chance of damage to your gear. Up to this point I haven’t snapped a fin in travel (knock on wood!), but if you’re worried about that you can always pack the blades together, then reinforce them with thick cardboard or something similar. You can pack the weights separately too, but I always put them at the bottom of my bag wrapped in something like a towel. It doesn’t guarantee that they won’t bang into your fins, but it definitely helps. Then I pack my mask in its box and finally my wetsuit(s). The key is to pack the bag as full as possible to keep everything from floating around in there and banging into other gear.
But if you’ve got specialized gear, like a monofin, you may have to branch out from the standard dive bags. Unfortunately I haven’t found a company that makes a bag that protects the monofin blade enough to check it at the airport, but a good, cheap alternative is to buy a mirror box. They usually have them at Fedex and UPS in various sizes so you can put your monofin in it (or a couple of them if you’ve got a dive buddy that wants to split baggage fees with you!) as well as the rest of your gear. It’s usually more expensive to check, but saves you from having to repair or buy new monofins!
This photo is the box I’ve used in the past (obviously in need of replacement) but it’s a little large- this one fits 3 monofins plus gear.
Hope these tips help you out on your next freediving expedition! They’ve been hard learned on my part so maybe you guys can skip the learning curve.