The Ultimate Deployment Packing List

Have you ever seen how much space there is to live in on a submarine?  It is not much.  Most of the junior officers will live in “nine-man” which is exactly what it sounds like. Imagine the smallest bedroom you can think of and put nine beds inside it.  That’s right, three sets of triple bunk beds.  And that is the good life for officers! Department heads will share a room with only one of the triple bunk beds, and only the Commanding Officer (CO) and Executive Officer (XO) have their own staterooms. The XO occasionally has to share with riders! The enlisted sailors sometimes sleep above torpedoes or may even have to ‘hot rack’ rotating beds with duty sections. Long story short, space is at a premium. You might expect to have personal space about the size of a coffin.

So how on earth do you pack for several months in that space?

A funny suggestion we got early on, before my husband’s first deployment was that 1/3 of his seabag should be clothes, and the other 2/3 should be snacks. There is no going to the store to get your favorite munchies or bubbly drinks on a sub, so if you want it, you must bring it!

Here is a good list to get started packing for deployment:


  • Sneakers (2) – the guys like to wear ‘quiet’ shoes with their poopy suits. I have seen anything from loafers to running shoes, to vans or slippers!
  • Shower shoes
  • Dryer sheets
  • Space bags
  • Sweats/work-out clothes (2)
  • Socks/underwear (10-14)
  • Poopy suits (3-4)
  • Other uniforms (The command will say what uniforms are needed.  On my husband’s first deployment the boat asked him to bring khakis, whites, SDB’s and NWU’s- dang that’s a lot of clothes!)
  • Promotion Insignia (if expecting to be promoted or pinned underway)
  • Civvies (2) – when the boat finally pulls into port the last thing they want to be wearing is their uniform! I suggest packing at least two sets of civilian clothes, in a space bag with a dryer sheet if they don’t want to smell like the boat!
  • Pillow/pillowcase (check out these fleet sheets)
  • Blanket – it can get cold on the sub, especially the deeper they go!
  • Rack curtain – the rack comes with a curtain, which may or may not be a good one.  You can get a fancy one here.  
  • Towel
  • Toiletries
  • Backpack
  • Laundry bag


  • Drink mixes- we usually go with Gatorade, Mio and Starbucks Via (only drinks on a sub are coffee, water and ‘bug juice’)
  • Snacks/candy/gum- also helps make friends 😉
  • Thermos/water bottle
  • Flashlight (look for one with a red-light option)
  • Multitool
  • Cash


  • Tablet or laptop + charger
  • Headphones
  • Camera + batteries, charger (different subs will have rules about cell phones, so having a standalone camera can be a good idea)
  • SD card/hard drive – no internet means no access to new shows, music, or family pictures – load it up!!
  • Cards! – write out lots of cards ahead of time with dates to open them.  Stuff with notes, memories, pictures, comics… Even my husband who is totally not a card person appreciates these little connections when they are out of communication.

OK – that should cover it! Did I miss anything? What essentials does your significant other like? Share below!

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