What Camping Gear Can I Fly With?

​QUICK ANSWER: ​​​What Camping Gear Can I Fly With?

The camping and backpacking gear you can fly with includes sleeping bags, hiking boots and clothing.

But you’re going to have to put most of your other gear in checked baggage, such as: tents, tent stakes, hiking poles, pocket knives, pick axes, fish hooks, and (empty) Jetboils and portable stoves (more on these below).

You definitely cannot fly with flares, camping fuel, gas canisters, bear spray, and fire starting gels and fluids.

Check out our indepth guide below on flying with backpacking gear and make sure you avoid any unwanted airport stress​ when travelling.

QUICK ANSWER: It takes the average person 5 months to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, which equals to walking around 15.5 miles per day. Read on for more info on when to go, how much it costs, and tips on hiking the trail alone.
what camping gear can i fly with

Flying With Backpacking Gear

What Is The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)?

​Flying with camping gear can be a confusing endeavour - not to mention very stressful if you get something wrong at the airport.

There’s a lack of up-to-date information on just what backpacking gear you can and cannot fly take on a plane, either as checked baggage or carry-on luggage. The TSA’s own blog post on this topic is 4 years old and fails to mention the rules for some of the most common camping gear.

So after growing frustrated with what should have been a straightforward Google search, we decided to research and create the most ​comprehensive guide on the Internet for backpackers and hikers preparing to take a flight with camping gear. Whether you're off for a spot of beach camping in southern California, or jetting off to Europe for the summer - this guide's got you covered.

Let’s get to it.

Related Post: Best Beach Camping in Southern California

​Frequently Asked Questions

​Let’s start by getting some of the most common concerns out of the way.

Can you take camping fuel on a plane?
No. You can’t even bring camping fuel in a checked bag. You’ll have to plan a resupply when you land or mail it ahead of time.

Can I fly with a Jetboil?
Yes! But give it a careful cleaning before your trip. If a TSA agent finds even a drop of fuel residue on your stove, they’ll confiscate it. If you want to be safe, mail it ahead of time.

Can you take a gas canister on a plane?
Definitely not. A​s we mentioned, the TSA is very strict about fuel. You can mail your gas canisters ahead of time, but even this is subject to ​strict regulations. To make things easier, we recommend you buy your canisters at your destination.

Can you bring a sleeping bag on a plane?
Yes! But sleeping bags can be bulky. So make sure it easily fits in your carry-on (more on using your backpack as a carry-on below).

Are tent stakes allowed on a plane?
Yes, but TSA might require you to put them in a checked bag. You could poke an eye out, after all.

Are hiking poles/sticks allowed on a plane?
Yes, but only in a checked bag. Again, think of the eyes.

what camping gear can i fly with

Flying With a Camping Tent​

The trail has five main parts in order from south to north: the desert, the Sierra, Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. Each section is unique and comes with its own set of challenges (and rewards).
How Long Does it Take to Hike the Pacific Crest Trail?
It takes us mere mortals way, way longer. Most people budget around five months to hike the trail which puts you at about 17.5 miles a day. Ideally you’ll have an open-ended schedule so you can slow down when you want to and wait out bad weather when you need to. And rather than hitting 17 odd miles each and every day, most hikers go through faster and slower periods, as well as zero days, or rest days.

​​​Can you fly with a tent? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. Some airlines are cool with it, some will make you put them in a checked bag, and a few don’t allow them at all. The best thing to do is call your airline ahead of time.

But even if your airline is okay with you bringing a tent, TSA might decide to put their foot down. There’s no official TSA policy on tents but they’ve been known to say that the stakes and poles are too “weapon-like.”

You’ll have more luck with a smaller, less conspicuous tent, but always be prepared for the worst.

However, you can’t take too long to complete the hike because you need to beat the first snow storm in Washington (assuming you’re going south to north, which 90% of hikers do). The best time to hike the PCT is to leave Mexico in April, arrive in the Sierra just after the snow melts in June, and then finish in September just before it snows in the Cascades.

​Packing and Preparing Your Hiking Backpack for Flying

How Much Does It Cost To Hike The PCT?
The cost of a PCT thru-hike will vary from person to person. According to the Pacific Crest Trail Association, you can expect to spend at least $4,000 and as much as $8,000 or more. The three main types of expenses are gear, resupplies, and off-trail spending:

​​The first thing you need to consider when preparing your backpack for a flight is whether you’ll carry it on or check it in. It’ll be easier to keep your gear safe if you carry it on, but that’s not always easy.

To carry your backpack on, it’ll need to satisfy very specific requirements. And even if you think it satisfies those requirements, your airline or a TSA agent can force you to check it on a whim.

If you want to save yourself the suspense, check the bag from the start. If you want to be brave, here’s what you need to do.

Make sure your pack isn’t too big:

This is, unfortunately, where many of you will lose the game. Most airlines require that carry-on bags are less than 22 inches long, less than 14 inches wide, and less than 9 inches deep. In backpacker speak, that means your bag can’t be much bigger than 45L.

This requirement can vary from airline to airline (​​here's a handy breakdown​​​). And remember, airlines care more about dimensions and bulkiness than total volume. 

You might be able to carry on your empty 55L pack but not your packed-to-the-brim 40L pack. You never know. To be safe, try to pack as little volume as possible, and if you haven’t chosen a bag yet, choose one that’s known to be ​carry-on friendly​.

Think of this as an opportunity to really reduce your trail load, and if you need a little extra shrinkage, consider buying a compression sack.

Don’t bring anything you can’t check on:

Pretty obvious, right? Review which items aren’t permitted on the plane, and either don’t bring them or mail them ahead of time. Oftentimes, you can rent decent gear at your destination, so leaving your best backpacking tent and trekking poles at home may not be as crazy as it sounds. Just remember to guarantee you have a quality rental beforehand.

There’s no shame in taking the easy way out and checking your bag. Here’s what you need to do to prepare a checked backpack.

Secure your valuables:

Backpacks are made for easy access. They’re full of convenient pockets and zippers so you can ensure your gear is never more than a reach away. Normally, this is one of their greatest features. But on a plane, it’s one of their most dangerous.

We’re not saying a baggage handler will steal your stuff, but we’re also not saying it’s impossible. And, beyond that, your valuables could easily fall out of an unsecured pocket.

The best thing to do is to stuff as much as possible into the main pocket and tuck in all the zippers so they aren’t pulled open.

​Secure your straps:

Your backpack’s straps, like its pockets and zippers, provide comfort on the trail and potential disaster on the tarmac. Before you fly, make sure you:

1. Start by tying your shoulder straps together so baggage handlers have one easy handle to grab on to.

2. Then, buckle your waist straps backwards around your bag so they don’t get torn off.

3. Finally, tighten all your adjustment straps and make sure none are hanging off your pack.

These adjustments will go a long way toward ensuring your backpack arrives safely at your destination.

If you really want to be safe, you can put your entire backpack into a bigger duffel bag or plastic bag.

Don’t take anything that’s not allowed:

Again, this is obvious, but it’s extremely important to remember. So check your list and check it twice. A TSA agent will think nothing of seizing your expensive, non-permitted gear. We’ll give you more information about what items are allowed in checked bags below.

flying with backpacking gear

​6 Top Tips For Flying With Camping Gear

$2,000 is a good estimate for total gear expenses. If you already have a lot of high-quality gear then that number could be a lot lower, but you’ll most probably still need to buy multiple pairs of hiking boots, as well as a couple of cool gadgets that you can show off on the trail.

​​1. You can’t bring more than four ounces of any liquid onto a plane.

This is standard TSA protocol, but many people don’t think about it when they pack their bug spray or sunscreen. It’s better to buy things like that at your destination anyway.

2. Buy what you can at your destination.

This will not only keep you out of trouble with the TSA, it will also reduce the size of your backpack, making it easier to carry it on.

3. Plan way ahead of time.

You should always plan ahead for a backpacking trip, and that goes double if it involves a flight. You’ll probably have to ship some gear and buy or rent other gear at your destination. You need to know about these factors as early as possible so you can make sure everything works out smoothly.

4. Give yourself plenty of time in your destination city.

You know how this will go. You’ll prepare for months, organize everything into detailed checklists, and still, something will go wrong. You’ll forget your sleeping bag; you’ll send your mail to the wrong address; who knows what it will be. But when it happens, you want to have time to fix it. So make sure you have a couple of days between your flight landing and your hike starting.

5. Double check TSA regulations.

We’ve already discussed most of the major items, but be sure to read this for information about more obscure items. For example, bear spray and fire starting gel can’t even be brought in a checked bag.

6.  When in doubt, call your airline.

Many rules vary from airline to airline. If you’re not sure about an item, give them a call.

Resupplies are the food and other necessities that you’ll pick up as you go, either from stores along the way or from the mail. If you want to eat cheap you can survive on the basics: trail mix, oatmeal, etc. If you want to eat nothing but fancy pre-made meals and you can afford to then go ahead but you better share! Either way, you should be able to estimate what a day’s worth of food looks like and calculate your total resupply cost based on that. $2,000 is about average.

​Airplane Camping Checklist

So, the big day has finally arrived. Here are some things to check before you leave your house:

  • Are you wearing your bulkiest clothing? This is a good way to reduce your backpack volume.
  • Does a friend or family member have a map of your hike?
  • Do you have a place to stay in your destination city?
  • Do you have a way to get to the trailhead? Most big hiking trails are far from civilization; that’s what makes them so great after all. And public transportation options will probably be limited.
  • Is all your paperwork in order? You don’t want an expired passport to ruin your dream hike.
  • Do you have your plane ticket and ID? Seems kind of obvious, but we had to say it.
One more thing to consider: In addition to the cost of hiking the PCT, you’ll also probably have to quit your job and lose 5 months of income in the process. Ouch! Basically, hiking the PCT isn’t cheap.
But it’s worth every penny.
Hiking The PCT Alone
But, if you’re hiking solo for the first time, you can also grab some solitude when you want it as well, and you can always move at your own pace.
If you’re a female thru-hiker, you should absolutely feel confident to go it alone, but you might want be a little extra careful, especially of other people. Don’t spend too much time near roads, be careful hitchhiking, and don’t broadcast your coordinates on social media.
Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail Books
These days, there is tons of great PCT info available online such as Halfmile maps and the Postholer forum, but it’s never a bad idea to do some extra reading. Here are some books we recommend for both preparation and motivation:
You’ve almost definitely heard of Wild and reading it may have even inspired your desire to hike the PCT, but we still had to put it on here – it’s an inspirational PCT classic.
The Wilderness Press regularly publishes a full PCT guidebook. It is probably the most detailed guidebook out there and gives you mile by mile information for the whole trail. It’s invaluable to have something like this when planning out your trip.
Mile 445: Hitched in Her Hiking Boots (By Claire Henley Miller)
A Blistered Kind of Love is a book written by a couple who hiked the PCT together. The authors alternate so one chapter is written by the husband and the next by the wife and so on, so you get multiple perspectives on trail life. A fascinating read.
If you want to read something a little less educational but a little more fun, we recommend Mile 445: Hitched in Her Hiking Boots. It’s a charming true story of a young woman hiking the PCT who meets a handsome man, falls in love with him, and marries him by mile 445. It just goes to show that anything can happen out there.

​Trail End

Trail End

​​Now that everything is in order, there’s only one thing left to do: get on that plane and enjoy your camping trip! Just remember to carefully check your gear before you fly to avoid any unwanted headaches. ​What camping gear do you fly with? Leave us a quick comment with any tips you have. ​=ZIP=

​Related Posts:

How To Store Camping Gear (In 6 Easy Steps)

27 Things To Do While Camping at Night

How To Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Beach Camping Tips (How to Camp on Any Beach)

Got all that? Good. Now enjoy this really cool PCT documentary filmed entirely by a couple of talented thru-hikers:
Related Post: How Long Does It Take To Hike The Appalachian Trail?

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