Do you put your backpack in a duffel when you travel?

3:48 p.m. on March 6, 2011 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
24 forum posts

Out of curiosity, when you have to fly on an airplane and check-in your pack, do you put your pack in a duffel or do you check it in as is (unprotected)?

I'm flying to Maui (from Oahu) in a couple months to backpack in Haleakala Crater.  I have a Gregory Baltoro 70 that I'm going to use to carry all of my gear and am considering buying The North Face Base Camp Duffel to put my pack into when I fly.  I'm probably going to buy the Base Camp Duffel anyway for future travels but would like some feedback from the more seasoned backpackers out there.  Also, if I do get the Base Camp Duffel to put my pack into, will a large fit?

Thanks in advance for your input!

5:56 p.m. on March 6, 2011 (EST)
244 reviewer rep
5,249 forum posts

I never havebut the last time I flew which was in 2007 back from Alaska to Seattle, I found some of my outsidepockets had ben gone thru by I guess the baggage handlers. Some caribiners were missing. I would definetly put my pack into a duffle bag next time. Have one lockable zipper instead of the half dozen on my pack to safe guard against.

7:10 p.m. on March 6, 2011 (EST)
5,732 reviewer rep
2,048 forum posts

i always put my large pack inside a duffel bag for air travel to protect the backpack from damage.  the airlines might, at departure point, provide you with a large, heavy-duty clear plastic bag for a backpack, but that imposes some limits.  i pack everything into a duffel, including items like crampons, ice axes, snowshoes.  would rather damage a $60 duffel than a more expensive backpack.  i also remove the hip belt, which has a semi-rigid outer shell, and wrap it around the pack, clipping it shut to keep it from getting damaged.  this would be imperative if you have a heat-formed hip belt, like the higher-end Osprey packs.  most large duffels will do the job.  i use an extra-large ll bean duffel bag. 

i would not lock the duffel shut unless you have an approved lock; if you check current US security rules on the TSA website, they have the right to cut locks off to check bags, unless you use an approved lock that can be opened with a TSA master key. 

9:54 p.m. on March 6, 2011 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
24 forum posts

Thanks for the replies.  I will go ahead and buy the TNF Base Camp Duffel for this trip and look into getting a TSA-approved lock as well.

10:57 p.m. on March 6, 2011 (EST)
4,419 reviewer rep
6,010 forum posts

I have been travelling by plane to distant locations for years. I learned long ago to always put my pack (and bicycle, skis, and other gear when I carry thse things) in a duffel or purpose-made bags. I haven't felt the need for hard cases, though some friends do use them. I just use the Eagle Creek and Outdoor Products duffels, usually the largest size - no need for the extra weight of the TNF Base Camp (remember the weight limits have shrunk in the past couple of years). In my avatar (click on it to get a larger image), you can see that I frequently have to haul a sled. You can see one of mu large duffels in the sled - for expeditions in snowy places (Denali, Antarctica, etc) the duffel serves a double purpose. In places where I am not hauling a sled, I put my "town clothes", etc, in the duffel to check at the in-town B&B, hostel, hotel, friend's house, ... until I return.

When you select the duffel, make sure that there is a dedicated provision for the lock (I prefer the 4-digit combination locks with the "red flag" that indicates that TSA has opened the bag, although they usually leave a card explaining the procedure inside the bag). I have had them unzip the top pocket in the pack and spill stuff out, luckily so far into the duffel.

Two reasons I use the duffel - protection so that the straps in particular don't get caught in the conveyors (I have seen unprotected packs coming down the conveyor minus belts and shoulder straps), and second, it does discourage any airport workers who might be tempted to take advantage of an easy to open zipper. But don't necessarily blame the workers - zipper pulls can get caught in the conveyors and spill stuff, and sometimes, like my pack inside the duffel, TSA might open a pocket and not notice something falling out..

My Outdoor Products and Eagle Creek duffels have gone through at least a dozen round trips each, sometimes with 2 or 3 plane changes on the way. I also have an REI dedicated "Pack Duffel". It is pretty good, but I can't get my expedition pack into it - I have used it to pack the tent and snowshoes, and when we went to Alaska 4 or 5 years ago, we shipped the tent, stove, cook gear, snowshoes, and a couple other items in it (Alaska Airlines at the time would not accept a new or used stove of any kind in checked or carryon luggage - the rules have changed, so check the TSA website for what you have to do to take your stove - you cannot carry fuel of any kind, whether liquid fuel or compressed gas, on any airline).

Oh yeah - be sure to put a sheet of paper listing your itinerary in the bag, right on top. Sometimes the baggage tag gets ripped off (happened to my son a couple years ago when he flew out here for a family ski trip). The airline can get TSA to open the bag to find the ID, and if the schedule with all segments of the flight is there, it makes it much easier to get it to you.

2:32 p.m. on March 7, 2011 (EST)
171 reviewer rep
223 forum posts

Same here. Duffel everything up and have somebody to keep it for you when you arrive. Unless yo plan on keeping it with you.

4:32 p.m. on March 7, 2011 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
24 forum posts

Thanks for the input.  I totally forgot about the weight of the duffel...I'm fairly sure my pack (with the duffel) should be under 50 pounds for this trip.  I had planned on keeping the duffel with me while we're backpacking in the crater, however, I think I'll just throw it in the trunk of the car instead.  No sense in hauling around 4 extra pounds. 

1:03 p.m. on March 9, 2011 (EST)
36 reviewer rep
13 forum posts

I would actually recommend shipping the pack (double boxed) to where you're going if you can arrange for it. Airlines handlers are brutal to luggage and duffel bags have a tendency to get ripped open along the zipper when traveling on the conveyor belts. It's not just the conveyor belts and handlers either, your bag can end up at the bottom of a very heavy pile of luggage which could easily bend stays and damage equipment.


If you do decide to bring it with you on the plane, I strongly recommend taking some webbing or para-cord or something and tying the handles together so that the duffel doesn't burst open on the conveyor belts. A better bet would be to try and find some sort of hard case to put your pack in (maybe a golf club case?). If you can't find a hard case, you might want to pack things like tent poles, water filters, and pack stays in the center of your pack, with lots of soft stuff wrapped around it.

12:03 a.m. on March 16, 2011 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
153 forum posts

All the time.  Duffel bags are cheap, backpacks are not.  Not to mention, if you're pack is severely damaged, it would put a damper on a trip.  There is also less straps things to get caught on stuff on a duffel bag.

12:16 a.m. on March 16, 2011 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
153 forum posts

Here's the duffel I use. 

Get the big one. 

I've had the duffel for 3 years and have probably put an average of a trip a month on it. I've had to patch a few small holes, but overall it's held up well. REI has a similar bag, but the Cabelas bag is better in every way. The straps much beefier and are also farther apart allowing you to wear the bag like a backpack, the zipper is much more heavy duty than the REI pack and it has a small pocket for any smaller items you may want to keep separate.

When it comes to packing, put you're backpack in the duffel, and surround it with softer items such as coats and cloths. Put more fragile things like cameras and gps's in a carry on. If you are pushing the 50lb limit in the duffel, put the heavy, but not bulky items in you're carry on. Boots are a good example of this assuming you bring a separate pair of shoes to wear on the flight. If you are going some place wet, a pair of shoes is nice to bring for traveling, otherwise it is not an issue. Did a trip to the Aleutians this fall where wet feet are an pretty much guaranteed and one guy only brought his boots. With 9 hours of flying to get home, I'm sure he was regretting that decision.

8:54 a.m. on March 16, 2011 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
80 forum posts

I use a "Hong Kong shopper", the red, white and blue striped numbers, as they are big, cheap and don't draw attention to the gear inside, along with some of the above mentioned comments. 

I travel to some pretty remote places and often my gear is on the roof of a bus, train, etc and not in my sight for some time and I find this to be a good way of keeping a low profile.

It amazes me when people are shocked that their Canon, Vaio, LowePro, etc bags are removed from their possession by unscrupulous people.


12:17 a.m. on March 17, 2011 (EDT)
1,711 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts

I have a Magnum sized duffel from Cabelas. The thing is rediculously huge but its nice and super solid. No problems with it ever. I got it for $25 bucks out of their "bargain cave." Normally its like $60 something. Anyway as far as utilizing a duffel when all means yes. Its better safe than sorry. The above posts pretty much covered what I have seen happen. Not to mention on a previous post of the duffel is alot cheaper to replace than a pack. On a side note check out Osprey online. They have a travel protector for packs. I was thinkin about getting one for my Aether. Might be something that may interest you as an alternative to a duffel.

3:20 p.m. on March 17, 2011 (EDT)
1,711 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts This may be an option for ya. Its the one I mentioned in the previous post. I've seen it for $22 online. Look around if interested. Ya may find it cheaper.

4:22 p.m. on March 17, 2011 (EDT)
280 reviewer rep
1,469 forum posts


2:37 a.m. on March 24, 2011 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
24 forum posts

I appreciate all the replies. :)  I got The Northface Base Camp Duffel for my impending Haleakala Crater trip in May and for future use.  Holy cow that thing is bombproof.  I don't anticipate ever having to buy another duffel for my pack again!

For those of you keeping score, my Gregory Baltoro 70 fits inside the large TNF duffel.

5:28 a.m. on April 6, 2011 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
1,343 forum posts

When traveling anywhere with gear that I need to packup I use old tried and true military/army/navy duffel bag that I usually can pick  up for $5-15. No zippers to break, can lock them if necessary, they have shoulder straps.  I've never been able to wear one out.   I used to check naked backpacks on airlines but soon learned the straps get caught in the auto-baggage equiptment. The plastic bages they would give for free ususally tear.  Even when a full large pack won't fit I just unpack my pack stuff the duffel and carry my backpack on board.  The large ones measure 36x16x16 when stuffed.

2:03 p.m. on April 6, 2011 (EDT)
4,419 reviewer rep
6,010 forum posts

...It amazes me when people are shocked that their Canon, Vaio, LowePro, etc bags are removed from their possession by unscrupulous people.


Oh, man, NO! Never ever under any circumstances let your camera, other electronic gear, or any valuables get out of your possession on a trip. Especially not passports (ok, some countries require the hotel or hostel to hold onto the passport, though I never understood why). I even get nervous in some museums that require you to check your camera at the door - like the Rodin Museum in Paris (at least, they used to require that, don't know if they still do).

Not only will "unscrupulous people" remove stuff from checked bags, but the bags get "handled" by the Baggage Gorillas as if they were indestructible. And on top of the bus?!?!?!!? That's asking for trouble (I was in Mexico once where this was the practice - my bag was ok, but one of my partners' bags was apparently lost in a hard bump or going around a turn too fast - no such thing as "too fast" for some of the 3rd world drivers - they just piled the bags on top in the rack with no tiedowns of any kind).

June 20, 2018
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

More Topics
This forum: Older: Outdoor gear idea Newer: Regional used-gear flea-markets / swap-meets ?
All forums: Older: Wanted: ProLite Sleeping pads Newer: Gear Explained: Down Insulation