Flying with camping gear can present some challenges. Clearly, if you’re a habitual camper, you want your familiar gear. However, current airline regulations preclude being able to take some things with you. In addition, some kinds of camping gear are more than a little bit heavy. The big question becomes what do you really need to have an excellent camping experience, what can you do without, and how to fly with camping gear to the trailhead or campsite location without violating flight regulations or spending all your discretionary allowance on getting your stuff there?
Flying with Camping Gear
Take the things you need that you’re allowed to take, but don’t pack more than you need. Keep in mind services available at your destination. Travel as light as you possibly can.
Keep in mind that when you get off the plane, you’ll be the person responsible for moving that gear from the airport to your next location.
1. Make a List
The first step when you want to fly with camping gear is to make a list of all the things you usually take camping. Next, check with your chosen air flight service to see what kinds of things they will allow and how you’ll need to pack them.
Some things can be placed in your onboard luggage, some will need to go into your checked baggage, and some things won’t be allowed at all.
Below are some more ideas about how to manage your camping gear if your journey starts with flying. Keep in mind that regulations change all the time, so be sure to check with your airline before the day you are to fly.
2. Classify Your Gear
Divide your preferred gear into categories:
- Wear it on
- Carryon luggage
- Checked luggage
- Ship it
- Buy it
- Rent it
3. Wear It
While perhaps not the most comfortable way to fly, you can “pack” your coat, hat, and perhaps even a layer or two of clothing simply by wearing it.
Some small items can be placed in the pockets of cargo pants or coat pockets. Keep in mind, however, that you might have to empty all those little hiding places to make it through the initial pre-flight check-in.
4. Carry-On Luggage
There are certain things that can only be taken as carry-on luggage, and some things that must be checked.
Here’s a suggested carry-on list:
- Clean, empty portable camp stove. No fuel of any kind.
- Safety matches. Believe it or not, these cannot be in your checked luggage.
- Ultra-light tent without pegs or poles
- Flashlight or similar small light
- A reusable spork
- A butane or zippo lighter, but not the lighter fuel (not the torch kind either, and it must stay in your pocket or container and not be taken out on the plane)
- A full change of undies, including spare socks
- Freeze-dried food.
- An empty collapsible water container
- Nesting or collapsible pots/dishes
- Spare batteries – lithium or dry cells, such as might go in a camera or flashlight. (limit the number)
- Any prescription meds
- Maybe your sleeping bag, if it packs down tight
Note: Follow airline regulations for packing these items
5. Checked Luggage
Pack in a hard-shell suitcase or into a large duffel. Make sure it will fit in the airline baggage measurer, and that it doesn’t exceed weight allowances.
- Weapons (check airline regulations for transporting guns, bows, and arrows, or similar gear.)
- Flare guns (minus the flares.)
- Ammunition in hard-sided cases. (check with your airline for regulations)
- Knives, including your folding pocket knife.
- Anything with a sharp point, including bottle openers, knitting needles, etc.
- Large cooking utensils
- Your sewing kit
- Tent pegs
- Tent poles
- Trekking poles
- Large camp stove
- Bulky wearing apparel, such as overalls
- Extra clothing
- More undies and socks
- Your backpack
- Bulky or heavy sleeping bags
- Ground cloth or pad
- Additional dried or convenience food
- Nesting or collapsible pots/dishes
- Collapsible fishing poles
6. Try to Ship It
In some cases, it might be more convenient or less expensive to ship your gear rather than to fly with it. This presupposes, of course, that there’s someone at the other end who’s willing to receive it.
If you have a hotel or motel reservation, you might check with your accommodation to see if they are willing to receive packages for you. If you’re visiting friends or relatives, they might be willing to receive your gear.
7. Buy on Your Destination
Buy it when you get there. Check prices, place orders for pickup at the other end, and spare yourself the trouble of packing, shipping or otherwise transporting sensitive items.
Call around to make sure that the kind of stores you need are available. Make note of their hours of operation so that your plans aren’t derailed by waiting for an establishment to open.
8. Rent the Gear
Another alternative is to find a camping outfitter or agency that is willing to rent large gear items, such as tents or sleeping bags.
The overall cost might be huge savings for you, especially if you’re not likely to use the items often.
Since airlines have both size and weight limits, you can take the opportunity to focus on what you really need for your camping adventure when you fly with camping gear. Evaluate what you usually take with you.
Which items in your kit are favorites that you really cannot live without? And which are things that you might use once, but then not again for the rest of the trip?
Use the one off, one on, plus a spare rule for most outer clothing. Discover whether you might be just as warm by layering as you might be with a bulky coat. Don’t risk yourself by leaving behind items that you really need, but try not to burden yourself and crowd your luggage unnecessarily.
Double and triple check regulations. Measure and weigh your luggage before going to the airport. Taking these precautions will save time, money, and embarrassment, as well as avoiding the risk of having a favorite piece of gear confiscated because you didn’t read the fine print on the flight agreement.