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Flying with Hiking Gear

Updated: Jul 18, 2020

I often travel to do my hiking. For example, this summer I went to North Carolina to hike in Nantahala with J-Dub.

Even if you’re a seasoned flyer, traveling with hiking gear has a bit of a learning curve so I wanted to share what I’ve experienced along the way.

Most airlines have a page that l specifically break downs their carry-on requirements. For example, I fly Delta frequently, so here’s their special items page:

The “Sports Equipment” page contains a lot of outdoor sports info, including the fact that folding kayaks are allowed as a carry-on.

What about trekking poles? The TSA clears that up fairly succinctly:

Screenshot from TSA on Hiking Poles
Screenshot from TSA on Hiking Poles

I also like to cover the tips of my poles with a little clump of medical tape. In this way my gear is protected and if I happen across a stickler of an agent when checking in, it shows I’ve given safety some forethought. Another thing some people use are tennis balls with little slits cut into them, but I think tape works fine and comes off easily after landing.

For a lot of gear needs, the TSA actually offers a couple useful guides including this “Travel Tips for Backpackers, Campers and Fishers”“Travel Tips for Backpackers, Campers and Fishers” and “Safely Packing Batteries for Your Trip” which explains what you can do with rechargeable batteries as well as extra batteries for your headlamp and other electric gear.

When it comes to my pack, I feel safest checking it in a larger piece of luggage with my other gear.

I like to take everything big out and use them to kind of cushion my actual pack. For example, I put my sleeping bag, tent, rain coat, etc. into my luggage first to make a little nest for my pack. Then on top of my pack I place my clothes, both hiking and casual to protect the top of the back.

In terms of little stuff: compass, water filter, croakies and a case for my glasses, and what have you, I’ll put those into the pack along with anything fragile (ish) so that they don’t get misplaced and moved around too much.

Ultimately, travel how you feel most comfortable. If you check with your airline and your pack can be carried on then by all means, do so! The fact that trekking poles have to be checked is a little tricky, but maybe you can borrow a pair wherever you’re venturing off to!

And if anyone reading this has any other helpful hints or even just fun TSA stories, feel free to share in the comments!

-Babysteps (Cover photo by J-Dub)

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