In this article, we are going to get into the nitty-gritty of how to fly with camping gear. Way before you even begin packing, quite a bit of planning and researching has to be done first.
You have to figure out what camping gear is allowed on the plane according to both the TSA’s regulations and the regulations of the particular airline you are flying with.
Once we’ve got that as a baseline, you start to realize it’s impossible to take everything that you want to with you. That’s why you will need to buy a couple of things at your destination, or rent or ship them if you prefer.
I’ll help you figure out what things are best to be packed, bought, rented, or shipped and exactly what gear can be taken with you in your checked luggage or carry-on bag.
A lot of people seem to be confused as to whether they can fly with a tent or not, most likely because the answer isn’t exactly straightforward. So, let’s get into flying with camping gear and everything you need to know.
How to Fly with Camping Gear
Plan Ahead & Research
First of all, you need to decide what are the things that you need or want – and which of them are better off purchased or rented at your destination. It may be more practical to do the latter in order to save room and save on baggage fees, or due to airline regulations.
You will most likely need to drop by at an outdoor store at your destination anyway, to stock up on meals and such, so may as well pick up a few other things you’ll need too, like a thick puffer coat, instead of carrying more.
If you are wondering ‘can I bring a tent on a plane with me?’ the answer is yes, but it might be worth renting one instead. Even though it’s easy enough to carry one when you’re on the go because you can just hang them off the outside of your bag, the issue is that airlines tend to be picky about spatial dimensions and weight.
Due to the size of your backpack, you will most likely have to pay some sort of checked baggage fees.
When it comes to clothes; pack light layers, pieces of clothing that can easily mix and match, and don’t take duplicates or extras. Anything bulky that you want to take with you, like a rain jacket, wear it to the airport if you can, in order to save up on room.
Check the weather forecast to get an idea of how many layers you are going to need and what type of gear will keep you comfortable.
Take a travel-sized bottle of biodegradable soap that works both for your body and for clothes if need be. Get ultra-light versions of all your camping essentials.
Refrain from organizing everything into containers. Even though it helps you keep track of everything, it wastes space.
For anybody who is used to car camping, this is going to be surreal because you can’t just chuck something extra into your trunk in case you might need it. Packing has to be done to a t, and there is no room for anything spare or extra.
Honestly, the minimalism of it is refreshing. It may seem stressful at first, but once you’ve set off on your trip, you’ll start to love it.
Be sure to do some research about the campground you’ll be staying, so that you know what things you don’t even need to bring with you. If there are grills on site, you can forget about the hassle of a camp stove, for example.
Also, you will need to know your limits, and this time I don’t mean the baggage guidelines of your airline.
The most important limit I mean is this: how much weight can you comfortably carry? At some point, you will have to carry everything. As soon as you figure out how much, you have a starting point for your packing.
You will need to determine which modes of transportation are needed to get to the campsite as well. It is highly likely that a plane is just one of many. Whether you will also be going on a shuttle, train, bus, or in a car makes a difference. Consider what would be most comfortable for you depending on the conditions.
Let’s talk more about what things are better off packed, and what should be bought, shipped, or rented instead.
Buy, Ship, or Rent, or Pack?
So many options. Some prefer shipping or mailing their gear instead of flying with it, but this does take even more research and planning.
The first step is figuring out if there is someone you can send your gear to. If you already know someone living in the area that is willing to meet up with you, then that’s sorted.
Otherwise, you could check with the campground you will be staying at. National and State Parks most likely won’t be able to do this for you, but individually owned campgrounds probably will hold on to your package/s for you.
If you happen to be stopping to stay at a motel before you begin your trip, you could check with them and see if they would be willing to, if you prefer that.
As a last resort, if none of the options mentioned above are possible for you, you could try asking a nearby outdoor store since there’s a chance they would do that for you. This definitely isn’t a bad idea if you need to stop by a store to purchase any food or fuel anyway, just make sure that they are open on the day and time you intend to go.
When travelling by yourself or with another person, and if the weather allows it, you should take a hammock instead of a tent. You don’t need to worry about any poles or stakes, and they are so much lighter and easier to carry.
If it’s not just you and maybe one other person, and you’re going as a family, then it would be best to rent or buy the tent since you’ll be needing a spacious one that will ultimately weigh too much.
You are better off just renting all bulky items you’ll need – things like ski boots, mountain bikes, and trekking poles. It is just too much hassle with the airline to take these things with you.
Much like shipping your own gear, you will be able to pick up what you intend to rent from a UPS store, motel, or campground.
What Gear You Can Pack
Flying with camping equipment or backpacking gear may seem very complicated at first, but this isn’t really the case.
All you need to do is figure out what things are and aren’t allowed with you on a plane, according to both the TSA and the airline. Essentially, we need to follow the TSA’s regulations first and then you can take a better look at the particular airline’s rules.
Each airline has their own rules, so you have to research what the specifications and limits are for your carry on, since these bags must fit in the overhead compartments or underneath your seat.
Once we rule out what can and cannot be taken, next you have to take into consideration what things are only allowed in your checked luggage or carryon bag.
A tent, for instance, can be packed either in your checked bag or in your carry on, however the poles and stakes which must be in your checked bag, according to the TSA guidelines.
If you do try and take the poles and tent stakes in your hang luggage, there is no doubt that you will have some problems going through.
Knives are not allowed in carry-on bags; you can keep it in your checked luggage, but the knife must be sheathed. Portable camp stoves are allowed in your carry on and checked luggage, so long as there is absolutely no fuel or fumes inside.
You’re allowed to take one lighter in your carry-on, but not in your checked bag.
Fuel, firelighters, and bear spray are not allowed in either bags.
Packed in your carryon bag, you should try to include the following items: a book, a hat, a camera, and a neck pillow. The reason I’m mentioning these items in particular is because they will all be useful on your camping trip, especially the neck pillow. Remember to wear your thickest coat or jacket, and go ahead and tie a cardigan around your waist while you’re at it, to save up on more space.
If you are taking water filters with you, make sure they are fully dry before packing them because they’ll get ruined if they freeze.
Also, if you plan on taking a blanket – don’t pack it. You’re allowed to carry one blanket onto the plane to use during the flight, so you can just keep it in your arms. When you land and leave the plane, you can then roll up the blanket and tie it on top of your rucksack.
The main items you need to pack are: a tent or hammock, a sleeping bag (one that is designed to be packed in a rucksack), one cooking pot, a bowl, a mug, and durable plastic cutlery, a first aid kit, a flashlight, a lighter, and a cooking stove (without the fuel or fumes).
Liquids above the volume of 3.4 oz must be packed in your checked bag and anything less is allowed in your carry-on.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you take camping gear on a plane?
Yes, it is possible to fly with most camping and backpacking gear. Certain things can only be packed in your checked luggage, such as your tent’s poles and stakes, and others can only be taken in your carry-on bag. Some can be carried in either bag, like tents.
Some things aren’t allowed at all, like fuel for your camp stove – you’ll just have to get that at your destination either by shipping it there, buying it, or renting.
Can you bring a tent on a plane?
Yes, you can take it in your carry-on or checked luggage, but the poles and stakes must be packed in your checked bag. Make sure to double check the airline’s specifications.
How do you pack camping gear?
Only take the most portable versions of everything you want. If the weather is warm, pack a hammock instead of a tent and save up on weight and space. There are sleeping bags specially designed for backpacking, so they are ultra-light and compact. Take the smallest portable camp stove you can, and if possible, only pack one pot, bowl, mug, etc.
What to take with you while camping?
A first aid kit, a flashlight, a tent or hammock, a sleeping bag or blanket, cooking utensils and cutlery, and a stove. These are the absolute minimum, more things such as water filters or purifiers, a small pillow, etc., are up to you depending on your preferences and if you even have the space to pack them.
What should you not bring camping?
Electronics. I get it, you need your phone, but refrain from taking more technology if you can – it just defeats the point of camping to an extent.
Anything made of glass or ceramic is a no-go, and extra toiletries that just aren’t necessary like perfume.
In the case of flying to your camping destination, as mentioned earlier you cannot take things like fuel for your camp stove with you, you have to get them at your destination.
Can I fly with a camping stove?
Yes, but only if it has been completely emptied and cleaned from any fuel inside. It can be packed in both your carry-on bag and in your checked luggage. It goes without saying that fuel for the stove is not allowed.
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