View Full Version : Flying with Checked Backpack

12-11-2014, 21:09
I'll be flying in to Georgia to start my thru-hike in March and I'm curious what the best method of bringing my pack and gear on the plane with minimal damage or loss by TSA.

And what about hiking poles that can't fit in the pack. Would they be let on as carry-on or will they be ok strapped up on the pack?

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12-11-2014, 21:36
I would take the poles apart and put them inside the pack.

Odd Man Out
12-11-2014, 21:43
Some people can get poles on the plane. Others can't. If you are willing to part with your poles and buy new ones when you get there, try it. Otherwise, don't. I personally wouldn't risk it. I have a big green heavy canvas army-issue duffel bag. I put my pack in there with my poles and checked my bag (was flying SW so no checked bag fee). I was doing a section hike so my shuttle driver held my bag for the flight home. On a thru you would either have to ship your duffel home or donate it to someone (shuttle driver, hostel owner, hiker box, etc...) You could pick up a cheap one at a resale store. Just remember to take your lighter and matches out put them in your pocket (allowed as carry-on, but not checked). Put your pocket knife in your bag (allowed with checked bag, not carry-on). And no fuel allowed (alcohol, canister, or gas) in either. You will have to get fuel when you get there. A lot of people ship their stuff. Others can advise on that.

Damn Yankee
12-11-2014, 21:43
I have taken atleast 8 flights with my pack in the past few months. I used a Jam 50 and my collapsable poles were in each side pocket. Not one problem with TSA Security. I either took it on the plane and tucked it under the seat in front of me or carried it to the skybridge and tagged it and put it on the cart to be placed under the plane. Easy as pie. Just make sure you have every thing taped or tied so as not to come open or undone during transport.

12-12-2014, 07:31
I asked a similar question not too long ago, maybe this will help: http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php/107109-Air-travel-with-pack-how-to?highlight=ruffdude

Don H
12-12-2014, 07:49
For checked luggage I use a large duffle bag from Cabelas with a TSA lock for the pack and poles. Poles get collapsed and wrapped in cardboard then taped or use your foam sleeping pad. I also include a large USPS Flat Rate box and tape to send the duffle home.

An alternative method I've used is a laundry bag for the pack, just make sure you have the draw string tucked in. Had an entire plane load of Scouts use the laundry bags without incident last year.

Check the TSA website, they have a section on camping equipment and what you can pack or carry on.

I had a buddy get his pack searched while we were in Anchorage, what a mess. If you check as luggage you avoid that.

12-12-2014, 07:54
I don't want to risk trying to carry on things like trekking poles, tent stakes, microspikes, tent poles, etc. I fly out of the DC area and TSA is unpredictable. I will either check those items in my pack or send them ahead via priority mail. When I check my pack, I collapse my poles, put rubber tips on the ends, and put them in the side pockets of my pack and put the whole thing in an REI Pack Duffel. I don't put them in my pack because I don't want the shifting and handling to cause them to poke holes out of my pack.

12-12-2014, 08:18
On my last trip, I carried my ULA Circuit on the plane as carry on luggage and shipped ahead all items that the TSA could object to. It worked out pretty well. On my flight back I did the same thing, except I was on smaller planes and had to gate check my pack. I used a laundry bag to protect it. On my next trip I might opt to send my entire pack ahead. Since I'm going to be sending something anyway and will have to pick up a package, the convenience of sending everything could be worthwhile. I trust FedEx and UPS much more than TSA. I trust the USPS more than TSA. TSA can be totally arbitrary.

12-12-2014, 11:07
Section hikers have to deal with the TSA hassle more regularly than someone attempting a thru. We use duffel bags, leaving them with the shuttler if possible, and carrying them on the trail if we have to. They're durable and not something we're willing to discard. If I were doing a thru, I'd use a large trash bag, maybe doubling it up - I wouldn't mind throwing that away.
We carry on a stuff sack with essential items, ID & boarding passes, phones & chargers, a light jacket for each of us, maybe some snacks, and something to pass the time. Everything else - poles, stove, food, water bottles, tent, stakes, clothes - is in our packs, stuffed in the duffels with our boots. After the flight we change from "airport shoes" to our boots, load water bottles, stuff one duffel inside the other with clean clothes to fly home in. We meet the shuttler, who gives us our fuel. We give him/her our duffel(s) to hold, get in the car, and we're off to the trail.

12-12-2014, 11:12
on my thru I used a cheap canvas laundry bag and threw it away at the airport

12-12-2014, 11:52
Duffel bag seems like it would work well but you'd have to ditch it or mail it home which seem annoying. The laundry bag idea sounds great. Toss it when you get there.

I buckled my straps and just checked mine, no outer bag. Forgot to buckle the sternum strap though and it got ripped off by the airport conveyor. Osprey mailed me a new one...

My buddy mailed his trekking poles/knife to his first maildrop. That way he could carry his pack on.

Another idea not necessarily better than the laundry bag is you could buckle all the straps and then saran wrap the whole bag tightly.

12-12-2014, 12:14
I have flown several times with my pack. Make sure no fuel cylinders, collapse your poles and put inside your pack. I placed my pack inside a trash compactor bag and used a zip tie to secure. When you get to airport, ditch the trash compactor bag and you a good to go.

12-12-2014, 12:33
I fly out of NYC with my pack once or twice a year, often to Atlanta. I use an Osprey Airporter bag with TSA lock and check it. Hiking poles strapped to outside of the backpack then the whole thing goes into the Airporter. Never had anything bad happen to my gear but the Airporter was torn once. Patched it and has not happened again.

12-12-2014, 12:35
I've flown dozens of times checking a backpack, and I've even led a few trips (in the CO mountain club) with dozens of participants all checking backpacks, never any loss problems, only once or twice had to wait for next flight to arrive because of a late baggage check (I think).

I've used three methods: 1) the duffel method, mailed home 2) simply wrap the entire pack in that plastic stuff they use to wrap some things, comes in rolls, or even once or twice I used a trash compactor bag 3) putting the pack in a box, taping it all up nicely and checking it.

12-12-2014, 12:36
Another idea not necessarily better than the laundry bag is you could buckle all the straps and then saran wrap the whole bag tightly.

Except if TSA cuts through the saran wrap to check the contents of your bag.

Feral Bill
12-12-2014, 13:20
I understand that white gas do not fly, unless new in box. I would not risk mine.

12-12-2014, 13:33
In my dozens of flights, maybe 50+ total with backpacking gear, I've had TSA inspect my checked bag many times (they leave that little tag saying they did). Never had a single piece of gear confiscated, including (when I carry it) my white gas stove or fuel bottles (empty of course, w/o caps and well aired out). I do pull a little "trick" as extra insurance: I put a piece of duct tape over the "fuel" lettering on the bottles and write "water only" in bold letters. DO leave your caps off, put them elsewhere. I also separate the various parts to my stove and pot into as many pieces as possible and I thoroughly clean and triple wrap the burner in baggies in case there is any residual odor. those are the only two items that have any TSA concerns, and again, I'm 50-for-50 without any problems. It's only a $80 stove, if it did get confiscated, not the end of the world.

12-12-2014, 14:57
This is all great food for thought in how to approach checking a pack. The additional input on how to best pack the bag for purposes of travel if TSA takes the initiative to dig into my pack. Didn't even think of that.

Thanks for the thorough and great responses!

Rolls Kanardly
12-12-2014, 16:31
Ship ahead to your intended shuttle. It is a lot safer than relying on the air lines to get all your stuff to Atlanta.
Will cost you a little more but sometimes the cost of "Peace of Mind" is worth it.


12-12-2014, 16:34
I use a duffel bag for my pack w/ a separate plastic tube (used by architects for their drawings) for my hiking poles. The tube goes inside the duffel bag but outside the pack. When I get to my location, I mail back the tube w/ the duffel bag stuffed inside. A bit of a hassle but it works.

The biggest problem I had flying w/ backpacking gear was in NZ. The NZ customs people took my tent and inspected it in another room. I knew in advance to wash my stakes clean as NZ was trying to prevent the introduction of non-native plants into their country.