Packing all your camping gear in your car and heading out to the great outdoors feels more convenient than having to take all that gear onto a plane in order to be able to fly to your camping destination.
What makes flying even more difficult is that you might not be able to carry everything you want.
What camping gear are you not allowed to bring onto a plane?
Items like stove fuel and bear spray are not allowed on planes because they’re combustible, so you’ll have to find other ways to get these to your camping location or just leave them behind in favor of safer items.
Although the question of how to fly with camping gear can seem complicated, if you follow the rules you’ll see that it doesn’t have to be impossible. There are many items you can safely take with you.
Here’s what they are – and we’ve also covered some traveling hacks every camper should know about.
Camping Gear You Can Pack For A Flight
- Your tent. Its weight and size will need to be considered in the same way you’d consider your other luggage. Make sure the tent can be folded into an acceptable size so it can be checked in and remember that the tent stakes and poles will also have to be put in your checked luggage. You must check with your airline to be sure the tent will fit in the plane’s overhead bin or underneath the seat in the airplane.
- Blades. It might sound crazy, but you can bring items such as knives and tent pegs, but make sure you check them into the hold. You won’t be able to have these in your carry-on luggage for safety reasons. Anything sharp needs to be wrapped securely when packed so that it doesn’t injure the bag inspectors or bag handlers.
- Fire starters. While you can’t carry firelighters or fire steels, you can bring one box of safety matches or a refillable lighter. These should be carried onto the plane instead of put in your luggage. Bear in mind, however, that you’re not allowed to carry “strike-anywhere matches” – not in your carry-on luggage or your checked luggage.
- Flashlights. These can be brought into your carry-on luggage or checked luggage.
- Hiking poles. Although these camping items can’t be brought onto the plane, they can be stored in your checked luggage.
- Camping stove. As long as it doesn’t contain any fuel in it, you can travel with your camping stove.
- Sleeping bag and pad. Both of these are allowed. Your sleeping bag can be put into your carry-on or checked luggage. As for your sleeping pad, this is similar to an air mattress. The TSA determines that such items can be put in your checked or carry-on luggage.
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Tips For Flying With Your Camping Gear
The TSA might give you the green light for packing certain camping items, but remember that that’s only half the job done.
You still have to check the size and weight restrictions of your items with the airline. Sometimes even the shape of an item can cause it to be restricted, and there’s always the chance that you’ll have to pay some extra money for flying with certain items.
Pack As Light As Possible
Some items that will take up a lot of space in your luggage and result in you carrying too much weight for what the plane allows are your clothing and accessories. Try to pack as lightly as possible, and think about choosing clothes that you can wear more than once.
For example, clothing made out of natural, light fabrics that won’t absorb sweat and odors makes the most sense for camping. You might also be able to rent out camping gear, so find out if that’s an option based on where your campground is located.
Think Ahead To The Rest Of The Trip
When packing, remember that you’ll also need to take taxis or other transport from the airport to your camping destination so you should only pack what you’ll be able to lug around with you when your feet hit the ground.
Protect Your Backpack
When you check your backpack, it’s not enough to tuck in its straps and hip belt because these can become broken on the luggage carousel.
So, a safer option is to tighten the bag’s straps as much as they can be tightened and then hook them together.
This will prevent the baggage handler from grabbing just one strap. You also want to buckle the hip belt backwards and around the pack, and then finally tape the straps down.
Choose Soft Bags Where Possible
While you might think hard-shell bags are more secure, these can easily crack and break upon impact, so rather stick to soft-sided or nylon bags as they are more resistant to falls and impact.
Take Safety Precautions
Sometimes, despite your best efforts to protect your checked luggage as much as possible, things happen. That’s why it’s good to prepare for the worst-case scenarios by taking photos of your luggage before you head off to the airport.
If your bag ends up lost, airport staff are more likely to be able to locate it if they can see photos of it. It’s also a good idea to use a duplicate tag inside your luggage in case the exterior one gets torn off.
This will help you to locate your bags in the event that they’re misplaced and prove that you own them.
What To Consider When It Comes To Baggage Weight And Size
You should contact the airline to find out what their baggage weight and size restrictions are. Then, you’ll need to ensure that you don’t exceed them.
Before measuring your bag, you’ll also want to check the airline’s website for information about the types of bags that are allowed.
How to measure your bag:
If your bag has a zipper around the edges and opens up to extend the bag, you might need this extended measurement so measure the bag when it’s both zipped and unzipped to be on the safe side.
When measuring your bag, you want to ensure that you do so when it’s been packed. The linear inches or centimeters of the bag are most useful because bags come in so many sizes and shapes. Here’s a video offering more info about how to choose the best camping backpack for traveling.
To get your bag’s linear measurement, you want to measure the height, length, and depth of your bag – don’t forget to include the wheels and handles, too! Add the measurements together – this is your linear measurement. FYI, the depth measurement of your bag is taken by measuring the bag from the back to the front.
When you know the weight restrictions that are in place for luggage, you should weigh your bags on your home scale to be sure that you haven’t packed them with too much stuff.
Should You Ship Your Camping Gear To Your Location?
Some campers choose to travel really light and have their camping gear sent to the camping location, or a hotel where they’ll be staying before heading out to the campground.
These are both good options. If you have friends who live close to the campground they might be happy to hold onto your stuff before you get there.
If the above sounds appealing to you because you’ll be able to travel by plane more comfortably, bear in mind you’ll have to pack the gear in strong cardboard boxes and lots of bubble wrap as well as heavy-duty tape.
Every item should be wrapped in bubble wrap before being put in the shipping boxes. You want the boxes to have the final destination address clearly labelled on them.
Before going ahead, make sure you do your homework to find the best prices and shipping options, and find out about any restrictions that you won’t be allowed to ship. Make sure you get your gear sent to the camping location before you arrive!
There’s also another option to consider that might help you travel lighter, whether you’re carrying items with you on a flight or shipping them to your camping vacation location ahead of time: you can rent some camping gear in the location where you’re going to be camping.
This can help you out in a big way by preventing you from having tons of stuff you have to try to get to the campground.
What size backpack is usually allowed on planes?
While different airlines will have different rules, most of them will state that bags up to 45 linear inches (measuring length, width, and depth combined) or 22 inches long, 14 inches wide, and nine inches deep are allowed.
Where can you rent camping gear?
There are various places where you can rent your camping gear so you don’t have to lug it with you across the world. Some places include REI, Arrive Outdoors, and Xscape Pod.
If your camping spot is far away from home, or in another country altogether, you’re going to need to get onto a plane with your essential gear (or ship it out).
Whichever one you choose, it’s always a good idea to pack as lightly as possible so that you make your life easier.