What can I take on the plane?

5:59 p.m. on October 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Planning a trip to Europe, and I might have to take some gear with pointy bits, like an ice axe, crampons, poles, etc.

Obviously, I can't pack knives or axes in a carry-on bag anymore, but I worry about stuffing them in a backpack to ride around with everybody else's bags. I've thought about wrapping them in cardboard to stop them from cutting through the bag. The axe has tip protectors, and the crampons are in a Kevlar bag

Does anybody know what the latest rules are? I don't want to pack a bunch of stuff and wind up losing it to some airport security guard. I don't worry about getting out of Canada, but if the plane stops in the US en route, I don't want to get pulled off the plane, either.

8:02 p.m. on October 22, 2012 (EDT)
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You are flying out of Canada and not having to pass through the dreaded TSA screening correct?  What specific airline are you flying? I have searched and only located the domestic rules: http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/prohibited-items

It looks like the pointy objects can be carried in checked luggage.  I would check with your security administration and the actual airline you are flying on.

8:31 p.m. on October 22, 2012 (EDT)
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No sharpies in your carry-on.

For expeditions where I have to get to the gathering point by commercial plane, I pack my "Must have, can't replace locally" stuff like my down gear (parka, down pants, expedition sleeping bag, double boots) in my carry-on pack (or sometimes wear them). I just put the climbing pack in a big duffel in the past. I have been using a large rollaround that has a hard back for the last 7 or 8 years. Some of my friends use something like the large TNF duffels that are made for transporting your climbing gear, though they are heavy enough you have to check your bag weights carefully (I carry a small baggage scale to check the packing on the way back).

Crampons, ice tools, knives, etc, along with the expedition pack with clothes that could be replaced locally go in a roll-around duffel that gets checked.

I have done this for Alaska, Chile, Peru, Antarctica, the Alpine countries of Europe (Italy, France, Switzerland,...), etc. I have never had a problem. A couple of times, someone in the group had a bag delayed by a day or two, and once, one of the group had to borrow a sleeping bag from the logistics company.

For your ice tools, I would suggest wrapping duct tape around to keep the tip/point/adze protectors in place. The kevlar bag for the crampons is fine, though you may want to add point protectors.

Stoves are another question. No fuel, obviously. Some airlines do not permit stoves, even new in the shrinkwrap. Others just do the "sniff test" and will allow stoves and empty fuel bottles that do not smell of fuel in your checked luggage.

Some countries will let you past the security area with an empty water bottle. But in Peru, I could pass the first inspection with a new bottle of bottled water, but could not board the plane with it. And the gate inspection people (on the ramp leading into the plane) were confiscating baby bottles full of formula over the protests of the rather upset parents.

Some countries will not allow you to bring food into the country. Your Canada doesn't allow more than a day or so worth of food into the country - we had our month's supply of freezedry in the packs in the car and the Mounties confiscated it. So we had to stop at MEC. Chile is even stricter - basically the rule is NO food, including the roll from the inflight breakfast you didn't finish - so much for my bag of gorp. At least they didn't fine me, though they did fine one woman passenger a pretty substantial amount for "attempting" to bring some in. You can always smile at the Customs people and say "no comprende" or just deny having food (I don't recommend this approach, though.

What it comes down to is check with the airline in advance and find out what the country you are going to and from allows.

Funny thing in Anchorage - there are shops in the airport that sell ulu knives. People all the time buy one in the airport, then get to the security checkpoint, the ulu gets confiscated, and there is no recourse. There are signs all over the airport, but who reads the signs?

1:02 p.m. on October 23, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks for the great advice. One route I might be able to take is Edmonton to Seattle, then to Iceland, then to Scotland. That's three different customs operations!

I want to travel with just one backpack and use my Cierzo as a carry-on. That's going to be a tight fit in a 65 l pack!

1:12 a.m. on October 24, 2012 (EDT)
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Peter, Bill is spot on. Protect the pointy bits and you'll be fine. Cardboard and duct tape work well.

Bill, I'm surprised about the Canadian food experience. On my canoe expeditions, I take weeks of food into Canada with no problem. So do others. Which crossing?

The rules crossing into Canada are pretty straight forward. Take only Canadian bear spray into Canada, and only American bear spray into the US. Same product but labeled differently. Do I bother? No, so I don't worry and if it's confiscated, so be it. I have been crossing the border with the same bear spray now for eight years. Food is not a problem, unless it is fresh. I can't even cross the Oregon/California border with fresh food!

As far as getting into places like Chile, it is a process. Deny at your own risk, but a "personal fine" in many countries will let you pass. There is a gray area between countries that are more Western in approach, and those that still use the barter system.


10:02 p.m. on October 24, 2012 (EDT)
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I've had similar concerns about a few items to be packed on the plane for my upcoming trip to Bogota.  I make various items from shed elk antlers and have been worried about their possible prohibition due to the points (tines) on the antlers.  Should I be concerned and are there any ways to keep them from appearing as lethal weapons?

3:22 a.m. on October 25, 2012 (EDT)
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I had a rope, carabiners, and harness in my carry on when I went to board a plane in Geneva. I was just trying to keep the weight of my checked luggage under the limit and figured there was nothing too pointy so it would be OK. Nope! They shunted my carry on pack into checked luggage for free, and it showed up at the other end no prob. All's well that ends well. 

2:11 p.m. on October 25, 2012 (EDT)
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We have flown several times with pointy climbing gear in the checked luggage. We put the backpack and all the gear into tough duffle bags. We tried Army first but access from the end of the bag is a pain -- we found ourselves taking everything out over and over again. Best is a duffle that zips along the side for easy access. We wrapped the ice axe tip inside foam, like the egg carton foam that is used to ship electronics equipment, and tied it with a couple of rubber bands. We still had the plastic tips for our trekking poles from when we bought them, and we just taped those on (and brought a little tape for the return trip). For extra protection, we also packed pointy items so that the points went into the waistbelt of the pack or inside of the helmet or inside of a boot, not into the side of the duffle.

Now that I am older, I bought a duffle with wheels for the last trip to make the trip thru the airport easier, but even with the above precautions, I have to report that my brand new NorthFace wheeled duffle got a hole from just 3 commercial flights (to New Zealand, within NZ, and home); REI agreed that the bag shouldn't have been so fragile and took it back.

12:57 a.m. on October 29, 2012 (EDT)
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Trailsprinter, the issue of antlers came up last year when flying from Toronto to Seattle. They were shed antlers, so my son, coming back from a Nunavut canoe trip did not "hunt" them. We first had to pass US customs saying they were not a hunted and processed caribou rack. Next, we had to pass the pilot who advocated they could be used as a weapon. Finally he passed them and labeled them a "stroller". Twenty years ago, none of this would have been an issue. Now, the regulations and the lack of knowledge(caribou shed their antlers naturally) has become an issue.

May 26, 2018
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