Tips on flying with Backpack in checked in baggage

Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Home Forums Gear Forums Gear (General) Tips on flying with Backpack in checked in baggage

  • This topic is empty.
Viewing 22 posts - 1 through 22 (of 22 total)
  • Author
  • #1298369
    Yes 1000


    I've an upcoming trip for which I'm taking the airplane route to save time and strain of driving over 1000 miles. I've never flown before with all the backpacking gear, looking for some tips on do's and don'ts. I'm flying Southwest in case if it matters.

    BPL Member


    Put it in a big mesh bag or sleeping bag storage bag, and then put it in one of the large trash bags that they'll have at the check-in counter. This will keep any straps/lines on your bag from getting pulled or ripped off.

    If your trekking poles are in the bag, cover the tips with multiple pairs of socks that you don't mind getting stretched.

    Don't put any fuel canisters in your bag.

    Fill up your bag. If there's empty room, stuff extra clothing in there so nothing moves around when it's thrown into the plane.

    Surround any hard items or items with non-rounded edges with clothing or other soft items so that they don't poke or stress your pack too much.

    Sumi Wada


    Locale: Ann Arbor

    I fly with backpacking gear often. I use a wheeled duffel, lay my empty backpack flat on the bottom. I don't really go out of my way to protect my poles except to put them among soft items. If you use a CCF pad, you can wrap them with it.

    Can't check any type of fuel. Max weight on most domestic flights is 50lb.

    Paul Wagner
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wine Country

    WE just put ours in a larger suitcase…and leave the suitcase at a trailhead hotel. works fine

    Konrad .
    BPL Member


    Check out the search function. I know this one has been tackled a lot on this forum.

    If I'm flying with my pack fully assembled and ready to rock the minute I touch down, then I usually cinch all straps down, and wrap a raincover over it OR throw it all in a larger cheap duffle. The raincover doesn't always work, as I've seen it slip off somewhere in the TSA groping process.

    If I have nice equipment that I value dearly, then I stuff it all in a semi-rigid upright wheeling bag and check that in. I then bring my backpack as the carry-on.

    If I'm ever carrying tools (e.g., crampons, iceaxe, trekking poles) or a bear can, I always use a semi-rigid upright.

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    Especially with UL gear, which is more subject to abrasion on conveyor belts, put it in a sacrificial outer bag. If you have no breakables, it could be a soft duffle or even a burlap bag. If you have poles, umbrellas, etc, then look at Goodwill or garage sales for a used, rigid suitcase or roller bag.

    In a pinch, use a cardboard box, cut-down to be a snug fit. They will make you sign a "non-standard luggage waiver", but they will take it. I've done that all over the country.

    Some airlines offer a thick plastic bag at check-in to secure over backpacks, baby strollers, etc. But sometimes they run out. We save them from previous trips.

    No fuel or at least nothing that could be mistaken for fuel. (i.e., who is going to check that 4 ounces of mosquito repellent isn't alcohol?). Matches and mini-bics are technically not allowed either, and mostly I get them on-site, but last month I tossed them in and they arrived just fine.

    I've got a cardboard tube I transport my chrome dome umbrella in like maps or architects plans would be shipped in (unless I'm taking a pack with a frame longer than it is). I strap it to my backpack so there is no additional charge.

    If you have some delicate stuff – carry it on. As long as it has no blade and no liquids.

    Increasingly, when I'm flying some place, I've already bought and packed my food. I used to think, "There's a store there, I'll provision on site." but then they are out of something I planned on or I waste a day of vacation driving around town. At home, I know where everything is in my local store.

    Call ahead if you are going to buy fuel at your destination. Get locations and hours for two stores. Uncooked Mac&cheese sucks. Cooking over Sterno sucks only slightly less.

    Yes 1000


    Thanks everyone, looks like I need to go buy a duffle bag to put my backpack. For sure I will have a pair of trekking pole which has to be taken care with some padding.

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    Update. Not being a smoker, it didn't occur to me to take the mini-Bic with me, but, "Matches/Lighters (One book of safety matches or one common lighter): Carry-on, Not checked."

    Another thought on fuel: I've shipped cases of wine many, many times. Anything you remember about XX bottles of wine and Y liters of distilled spirits is only about international borders. On a domestic flight, you could have 18 wine bottles in a box (more would be over weight) or a 24-pack of Bud, or 5 liters of vodka (commonly seen on flights to the Bush in Alaska).

    My point? A plastic vodka bottle is obviously compatible with alcohol fuel. And, if it were vodka, is totally legit to have in checked baggage. Mouthwash containers are also alcohol compatible. And with a few drops of green food coloring. . . .

    From the official list:

    "There is no restriction on the amount of alcohol you may pack in your checked luggage, provided it contains under 24% alcohol by volume (e.g. beer and wine). Alcohol greater than 24% up to and including 70% (140 proof) is allowed with the following restrictions:

    Up to five liters of alcohol per package
    Up to five liters of alcohol per person
    Must be in retail packaging
    Alcohol over 70% (140 proof) is prohibited."

    I snag vodka and rum plastic bottles from the recycling center for such purposes. Alternately, you could just buy vodka, drink it, and then use the bottle.

    Dale Caldwell


    Locale: Coastal Georgia

    You can seriously carry on matches and lighters when flying???

    j lan


    Locale: MN

    Yes, they have eased the restrictions on lighters or matches. You can bring one in your pocket or carry on no problem.

    Richard Fischel
    BPL Member


    my pack goes on teh plane as carry-on luggage. i try and pack as many heavy things that i can into the pack so that it lightens my checked luggage weight. i typically pack teh brain for the pack in my checked luggage and cinch down the draw string top closure on teh pack. my checked luggage is typically an old patagonia black hole bag. all my pointy items have dedicated covers. i will nest things like trecking poles and an ice axe into the middle of the bag. I have a large wheelie duffle, but the added weight cuts down on things i would pack. i like to pack more things for the trip than i am actually going to end up wearing or loading in the pack. it's great to be able to have some ability to fine-tune your gear once you end up at your destination.

    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    Buy a McHale. The baggage apes can't harm them. This based on personal experience. They also cannot harm a top of the line Briggs and Riley suitcase.

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    Dale: You can (currently) carry on matches OR a lighter when flying.

    But that is a change. It used to be that you couldn't. I take about 8 flights per month and still get surprised at times. Sometimes the rules are different on the same day as different airports. They also differ by which line I stand in (elites or peons) and whether I have my kids with me or not. Ah, security theater. . . .

    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    The matches & lighters allowed has been in place for several years. Problem with TSA is that they don't know their own regulations. Every airport is a little different. What gripes me is when I see a group of them standing around chit-chatting, while the line gets longer and longer, and there are unused scanning stations just sitting there. Worse news is that last November they unionized.

    I fly a lot — probably more than David, and my un-favorite pastime is watching TSA employees sit around. There are a few airports where the TSA employees work hard, are courteous, and do a good job serving their customers the travelers.

    End of rant.

    Bob Gross
    BPL Member


    Locale: Silicon Valley

    "And, if it were vodka, is totally legit to have in checked baggage."

    Not so fast, Stoli breath!

    You can put a bottle of liquor in your checked bag, but only if it is a factory sealed bottle of liquor, and no higher than 140 proof. Now, if they caught that, it might be a problem.

    For the last time that I flew to Alaska, I had some discussions about this with a DOT hazmat specialist, because TSA could not answer my questions.

    For fuels, you can pack wood, wax, and a few other crappy fuels. A Ti-Tri Caldera Cone can actually make that work. Been there. Done that. Saw the video. Read the book. Saw the play.


    Miguel Arboleda
    BPL Member


    Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan

    Nick, what's really funny and quite a mind-bender is that of all the countries in the world that have stepped up security measures after September 11th, the TSA, working for the country that started all this mad security tightening and is the most paranoid country in the world when it comes to airport security, has the laxest, most chit-chatty security teams of any country I've ever passed through customs in. You don't see French and German and British and Japanese security officers chit-chatting. Makes you wonder exactly how secure the check points really are in the States.

    As an aside, here is a tip that worked for me, though I'm sure it probably isn't something everyone should try. I managed to slip a raw sausage through Swiss security by stuffing it into an extra shoe I was carrying. The security officer found it, of course, and took it out to question me about it:

    "Is this a sausage in your shoe?"
    "Why, yes, officer, it is."
    "You know that I nearly thought it was an explosive?"
    "I hadn't considered that, officer."
    "But the shoe certainly does protect the sausage from getting crushed."
    "Yes, sir, that it does. My intentions exactly."
    "Is it a soft-type saucisson from the Mont Blanc region?"
    "Why yes! It is! You certainly know your sausages."
    He smiled and looked up dreamily to the ceiling. "Ah, it's been a while since I climbed in the western Alps. You've triggered some good memories. And great culinary times!"
    "Yes, I know exactly how you feel. I was hoping to bring that back with me to Japan."
    He nodded. "I take it you can't get such sausages in Japan?"
    "Oh no, not at all! Japan's sausages are awful."
    "Ah, a pity. To be so long without a good sausage."
    He nods again. "All right. I'll let it go just this once. Take your sausage and enjoy a bite for me when you get back home."
    "Thank you officer!"
    "Just one thing…"
    "Don't keep it too long in that shoe. It's a sacrilege. And that smell… well, to each his own, I guess."
    "Right, officer. It's just temporary."
    "Make sure that it is."

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    > You can put a bottle of liquor in your checked bag


    > but only if it is a factory sealed bottle of liquor

    Not clear to me from the guidelines. I see "Must be in retail packaging". And anyone without a vac-packer, glue gun, hot-air welder and numerous adhesives in their garage needs to stock up. On general principles.

    > and no higher than 140 proof.


    > Now, if they caught that, it might be a problem.

    That's true of many things in life.

    > For the last time that I flew to Alaska, I had some discussions about this with a DOT hazmat specialist, because TSA could not answer my questions.

    I only ask questions if I don't care what the answer is.

    >For fuels, you can pack wood

    Not as carry-on, only checked.

    There have been times when I carry on an x-ray machine and I wonder what their x-ray sees when trying to look through my x-ray machine. So you certainly can bring "radioactive materials" on board (with proper paperwork). Although they always seem to give a pass on bananas (potassium 40).

    Bob Gross
    BPL Member


    Locale: Silicon Valley

    "I only ask questions if I don't care what the answer is."

    My motto used to be that I only ask questions if I already know the answer, and they do not.

    DOT was trying to tell me that I could check something wooden as a container, such as a shipping pallet, but I could not check some wood that was intended for use as fuel. I saw a problem with that, so I was buzzing them about taking an empty shipping pallet and then burning that up to dispose of it. They said that was OK. About that time the DOT hazmat specialist realized that I had her cornered. Besides, you can check a delicate item packed in excelsior. When you get to your destination, you throw away the fake item and use the excelsior in your wood stove.


    John S.
    BPL Member


    Always read for yourself. Common lighters are allowed in carry-on (no number given) or checked baggage (either no fuel or in approved container).

    "Common Lighters – Lighters without fuel are permitted in checked baggage. Lighters with fuel are prohibited in checked baggage, unless they adhere to the Department of Transportation (DOT) exemption, which allows up to two fueled lighters if properly enclosed in a DOT approved case. If you are uncertain as to whether your lighter is prohibited, please leave it at home.

    Torch Lighters – Torch lighters create a thin, needle-like flame that is hotter (reaching 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit) and more intense than those from common lighters. Torch lighters are often used for pipes and cigars, and maintain a consistent stream of air-propelled fire regardless of the angle at which it is held. Torch lighters continue to be banned.

    Strike-anywhere Matches – One book of safety (non-strike anywhere) matches are permitted as carry-on items, but all matches are prohibited in checked baggage."

    Yes 1000


    I've carried duty free Liquor few times on an International flight, but never have carried a match box or a lighter. Thanks for all the suggestions. I will be buying the fuel canister at the local REI.

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    Bob, Yes, shipping pallets make pretty good firewood. Well seasoned. They are commonly used in treeless, Western Alaska to fire steam baths. Often easy to split (although very hard to pry apart). I snag them from the transfer station at times, looking for the oak ones. Then I SkilSaw them into slats and small chunks for (1) starting bonfires without petro-chemicals and (2) making a fire for cook hot dogs and s'mores over oak coals instead of spruce.

    If I knew I was flying with wood in advance, I'd set aside things like old wall plaques, tie racks, cut-offs of molding, etc, from the dump or Goodwill. Maple, oak, cherry, etc, completely seasoned, straight grain and easy to split.


    Last time i flew with my hiking equipment, my whitebox alc stove got dented a bit. Probably need to wrap it in future.

Viewing 22 posts - 1 through 22 (of 22 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!