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Flying with a Backpack
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Sean Heenan

Locale: Southeast mountains
Flying with a Backpack on 03/09/2012 12:10:56 MST Print View

I have just gotten confirmation for my permit to hike the Rae Lakes loop starting June 17th. I am so pumped up, it will be my 15 year old son and I. My question is since I am flying from NC to Calif. what to do with backpacks. Can these be carried on? Should we take a chance and check them? Will probably have to have an extra bag with pre trail and apres trail clothes and such? Help!!

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Flying with a Backpack on 03/09/2012 12:28:13 MST Print View

Here is what I've done in the past. To protect the backpack straps from being torn off in the airline baggage handling, I put my backpack into a very thin nylon duffle bag and check it. It will have my backpacking clothes and everything for the trail, minus fuel. When I get to my destination, I convert over into a backpacker with backpack, and the civilized airliner clothing goes into the duffle bag to be stored somewhere until I return (typically inside a rental car at the trailhead). Then the conversion is reversed.


Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Flying with a Backpack on 03/09/2012 13:26:12 MST Print View


Firstly, how big are your backpacks? Most UL packs, for example, can easily qualify as carry on's. You should aim for that, given how easy it is (for most all of us UL hikers anyway) and the fact that you can minimize the chance of lost packs this way. I almost always carry on my pack... and simply check my hiking poles and knife/multi-tool in a postal tube (available at PO and most all stationery stores):

But if you have to check your pack, do one of the following:

Option 1: Wrap and tighten hipbelt around the pack itself, and tighten all other straps. Pretty safe.

Option 2: As Bob wrote above. Safer. But you may need to buy a big duffle and deal with storage in-between use.

Option 3: What I do when I have to check a pack: go to United Airlines counter and get a couple of their giant, extra heavy duty bags -- the kind used to protect golf clubs, strollers, etc. They're FREE and effective too. No need to buy a duffle (if you don't already have one).

Whichever option, be sure NOT to transport any fuel. Buy that locally at your destination.

Edited by ben2world on 03/09/2012 13:28:20 MST.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Carry on on 03/09/2012 13:43:27 MST Print View

I ALWAYS carry on. My pack and gear is to valuable and valuable to my trip. If you do check another bag, you might trow your stove in the checked bag; I have heard the sniffers might sniff out a stove. And buy your fuel when you get there. Its easy to forget a knife, etc in your back pack too. I was told to also check my trekking poles as they were too weapon like.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: Re: Flying with a Backpack on 03/09/2012 13:43:58 MST Print View

Thats a good idea on the postal tube Ben, you could get a small stove in there also.

If I am stuck for space or weight with checked baggage I carry my rain jacket and down jacket through security with heavy items stuffed in the pockets.

I once saw a mother and daughter in an Irish airport wearing full horse riding gear going through security, hats, boots and the lot :-)

Rob E

Locale: Canada
cheap duffle on 03/09/2012 13:49:31 MST Print View

I take a large, cheap duffle bag, (hockey gear bag large sports bag, etc) and simply put my packed bag inside this bag. By packing my backpack as normal, I ensure that I don't overpack and that everything fits inside the backpack, and then my items are protected inside the pack. The duffle is just to protect the backpack from damage and the straps getting caught.

I try to keep the duffle for the return trip, but they are cheap and can be given away, recycled, etc.

Konrad .
(Konrad1013) - MLife
flying with packs on 03/09/2012 15:25:17 MST Print View

I do a number of different things when I have to fly with my pack.

If I have pointy things or fiery things that need to be checked (trekking poles, ice axe, used stoves, etc) I will either load it all into a cheap duffel as others have suggested, or put it all into an large rigid suitcase. It really depends on how delicate the contents are. But, these days, I'm finding that I use a rigid suit case more, because it offers better protection, easier to wheel around (as opposed to carrying a duffel) , and I'm paying $25-30 in fees regardless of what I use to check my equipment in. Plus, since everyone UL on this site, it's doubtful your suitcase+equipment will weight more than the threshold 50lbs before additional fees are tacked on.

I usually just place my empty backpack into the suit case, lay my collapsed trekking poles diagonally to fit, and just starting piling in gear wherever it fits.

When my girlfriend and I flew back to CA, she gave me all her pointy/fiery things to put in my suit case, and she went on the plane with her backpack as a carry-on. You shouldn't have any problems placing a 50 liter pack in the overhead compartment.

I think that's the best approach for you and your son IMO. Have him carry on his pack filled with his stuff ( and maybe some of yours), and you check in everything else plus whatever is not legal to carry on.

It's pretty much inevitable that you're going to need something that's considered contraband in the passenger cabin. Namely, a knife, a stove, and/or trekking poles. $25-30 dollars for 2 people isn't so bad. And if you fly Southwest, I think the first bag's free? I sometimes forget to factor in the luggage check in fee when I'mhunting for cheap tickets online...but it's something that you should be conscious of.

Edited by Konrad1013 on 03/09/2012 15:36:29 MST.

Sean Heenan

Locale: Southeast mountains
what to do on 03/09/2012 16:50:21 MST Print View

Wow, thanks for all the input. I like the idea of putting the packs in a duffle and checking them. The only thing that concerns me is them losing my gear. My son's gear is newer than mine and he has a go-lite quest and I have a Gregory Baltoro 65, I'm late finding backpacking light and even though I've gotten the religion I haven't got the gear, yet.
I never thought about the trekking poles so the mailing tube for them sounds good, my sister lives in SF so I could mail to her and pick them up. We have a trip to Mt. Rogers, Va. in April and will use that to shake down our gear. Thanks for all the help, even though I'm new to the to following the site I have gotten some great ideas and started the gears turning.