View Full Version : Checking in backpack and gear for a flight

04-23-2015, 20:39
While I do most of my hiking locally, last year I flew to West Coast and my friend lent me a large duffel bag that was big enough for my backpack, bear can, boots and some other gear. This worked out great as everything arrived intact with no damage to my pack. I'm planning to fly again and I wonder if you have any recommendations for a bag like this that would be sturdy enough not to fall apart after two flights and would still be easy on my wallet. Thx!

04-24-2015, 03:22
I've heard of using a laundry bag from the dollar store, or a cheap duffel from a thrift store, or maybe the storage bag that came with your sleeping bag. I'll probably take the bus from Maine back to DC in the middle of my trip. Should I bag up my pack or is it okay the way it is on the bus?

04-24-2015, 03:30
I've heard of using a laundry bag from the dollar store, or a cheap duffel from a thrift store, or maybe the storage bag that came with your sleeping bag. I'll probably take the bus from Maine back to DC in the middle of my trip. Should I bag up my pack or is it okay the way it is on the bus?
It will be fine on the bus. jst try not too have too much crap hanging off it.

04-24-2015, 06:37
I'll probably take the bus from Maine back to DC in the middle of my trip. Should I bag up my pack or is it okay the way it is on the bus?
I think your luggage is safer from mistreatment on the bus because either you place it in the luggage compartment your self or will stand next to the driver while he does it.

Airplanes are a different story because you completely give up control of your backpack and some baggage handlers treat them as if they were practicing for wrestling matches. On top of that I worry that the straps can get caught up in conveyor belts or my hiking poles will get crushed unless they are next to my backpack with extra layer of protection. Finally, I have to pay $30 for a checked in bag each way, so I think as long as the total weight is within the limit having one bag will save me a bit of money as well.

04-24-2015, 08:36
It really depends how often you are going to use the bag. If you will be using it a lot, then it makes sense to get a high end duffel from EMS or REI to hold your gear. If only a few times, Walmart may have a decent duffel that will last a few trips. Make sure any locks you put on the zipper openings are TSA locks.

04-24-2015, 08:41
Osprey makes some duffels in a couple of sizes for this purpose. Called the Airporter.

04-24-2015, 09:59
I agree that it really depends on the trip. Assuming a trip that starts and ends in the same place, and that you can find some place to store your duffle bag --- or if you're willing to carry the extra weight (!) --- duffle is a good way to go. Or a big cheap suitcase. Or a sturdy cardboard box. Or whatever keeps all the straps and waist belt tucked away, and protects the lightweight pack fabric if you have a relatively light (and not so durable) pack.

I will say that bus travel isn't always "safe". I've been in several situations where there is no option but to store the pack under the bus. More often you place it there yourself and get it yourself, which isn't normally bad, but once or twice I had to give it to the bus driver or other employee to store, only to watch them jerk-left it with one pack strap. And in the frenzy to reclaim luggage at the end, other customers aren't always careful about other people's luggage. Still, much better than flying.

Another option for (domestic) flying is to ship your bag ahead via UPS or FedEx or whatever. Note that you generally pay to check a bag anyway, so it's not necessarily [a lot more] expensive. Yet another approach is a hybrid one: Mail (or check?) a relatively small parcel that contains trekking poles, knife, anything else that you can't or just don't want to have as carry-on, then just bring the pack on board with you. That way the pack isn't abused and you definitely arrive with at least most of your stuff.

I do a number of trips where either I don't start and end at the same airport, or where for whatever reason it's difficult to store a duffle bag or to get to a UPS/FedEx store at the end of the trip. The approach I now favor for this is to use a fairly hefty contractor bag as the liner bag for hiking, and bring along more duct tape than I think I'll need. Just before checking my bag at the end of the trip, I put the packed backpack in the contractor bag, and tape it all the way around in a couple of places: mid-pack to snug up the loose contractor bag, and at the very top --- taping it to the upper backpack fabric --- because I don't completely cover the backpack. With the top exposed, TSA can get into it without having to take it out of the contractor bag, yet all of the strapping is tucked in and protected. This is what I did coming home from the Florida Trail earlier this year, and it worked great.

Note that it helps to have trekking poles that collapse pretty short, and of course pack them inside the pack such that they're protected by clothing, and cover the tips with a folded bandana or whatever, taped or rubber-banded in place.

Best of luck in whatever you do, and if you come up with other good approaches, please share. It seems that I keep learning how to do this a little better (or at least different) each time I fly somewhere.

04-24-2015, 10:33
A real military duffel bag is almost bullet proof (literally). That would be my first choice. I have never had a problem just flying with my pack as checked baggage. I put everything inside, chinch all straps tight and tie the ends together. (ULA Ohm 2.0).

04-24-2015, 11:30
I've had good luck with the biggest, basic hockey gear bags you can find. Hunt around on the web and you can get them for $25 or less. Flown back and forth between the coasts with one 4 times now and it's still going strong.

04-24-2015, 12:17
Heading off Monday on a Red-Eye to the AT via US Air to Charlotte and then "The Dog" to Marion, VA. As I have done on multiple trips where stove, knife, hiking poles and other "dangerous" items are to be transported, my system is simple.

A cheap or free.........Cardboard BOX (medium moving box is my favorite)

Just remember to not pack any fuels or batteries. Once you land don't be surprised if the box ends up in the "oversized" pick-up area. My only carry-on items fit into a stuff sack with electronics, batteries, ID, etc. I unpack all of my gear, load my pack, fold up the box and then deposit it in the nearest garbage can or recycle container. So far I'm batting 1,000. So wish me and my Box of gear good luck on Monday. See ya on the trail......

04-24-2015, 12:37
I use a duffel bag from REI that is specifically designed to carry backpacks. When I get to my location, I'll mail it back home. I've flown this way many times w/ no problems. Quite frequently, I've had my bag inspected. All that metal (pots, poles, stoves, etc) gets some attention from the inspectors.

04-24-2015, 19:21
Great thanks to everyone who replied. I will do a bit more research over next few days and I will summarize here. Last year we did a loop hike, so leaving a duffel bag in a trunk of rental car was not a problem, but obviously carrying a few pounds on a hike would be an extra burden. I guess in case of a non-loop hike I would have to ship it to my hike end point or back home, but that's not in the plans right now...

04-25-2015, 11:26
From my experience even the cheapest duffel bags are fine with being checked for a flight. I'm in the military, many a time I've had to consolidate my things into as few large bags as possible and give them to the unfortunate clerk at the airport. As long as the handles can take being used about 6 times, you're good.

04-25-2015, 18:36
Ditto on the military duffel bags for about twenty bucks at any surplus store. we've used them a couple of times with success. You won't be able to insert your loaded pack but everything separately will fit just fine. For our hikes out west we just stashed them at our stopover hotel and on the thru attempt we mailed them home with our street clothes. Easy as pie, good luck!

04-25-2015, 19:20
Shrink wrap or duck take on the pack will suffice if you don't have a duffle bag...worked okay for me.

04-26-2015, 22:30
After doing some exploring I found a couple of bags that would be big enough for my pack/boots/bear can & extras:

Osprey Airporter LZ (large): 37 x 16 x 14 inches, weight: under 1 lb, price: $30 ~ $45. rating: 3.5 at REI, 4 at Amazon
K Cliffs Heavy Duty Large Square Cargo Duffel: 42 x 19 x 19 inches, weight: 4.2 lb, price: ~ $30, rating: 4.5 at Amazon
Stansport Deluxe Duffel Bag with Shoulder Strap: 50 x 30 X 30 inches, weight 3.6 lb, price: under $30, rating 4 at Amazon
Olympia 42 Inch Sports Duffel: 42 x 18 x 13 inches, weight: 3.4 lb, price: under $40, rating 4.5 at Amazon.

I guess I like Osprey Airporter most because it appears (from pictures on Amazon) to have shoulder straps, so it can be carried itself like a backpack and I think that I could stuff it with a small carry-on luggage once off the plane if I don't need to bring a bear can. It is also the lightest of these bags, which probably means that is not the sturdiest but I hope it would survive a couple of flights.

Again, thanks a lot everyone for your suggestions!