Checking Packs For Air Travel

4:36 p.m. on October 7, 2013 (EDT)
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In the past, I have shrink-wrapped my backpack & gear for airline travel, any good methods you might use as a tip? I've considered backpack travel bags for supreme protection, but haven't taken the plunge. I also fear TSA might cut open the shrink-wrap for inspection, and then the pack can subsequently get damaged after. 

Any thoughts?

5:10 p.m. on October 7, 2013 (EDT)
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I bought a bag for my pack when I went to Nepal. It had 4 flight changes there and back and it worked well. The locks were appealing given all the gear in there. AND I could add stuff like boots in teh bag, but outside my pack. I paid about 30 buckx and was pretty happy with it.

9:00 p.m. on October 7, 2013 (EDT)
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I have used duffels to put my gear in to protect the packs for over 20 years for air travel to Europe, South America, Antarctica, Africa, and Australia, as well as in the US from coast to coast and to Alaska, and to Mexico and various parts of Canada. In recent years, we have gone to roll-around duffels (mostly Eagle Creek), especially when we have 40-50 pounds (15-20 kg, the maximum airline limit) of climbing and camping gear. The roll-arounds generally have a hard back, so putting the "sharpies" (ice tools, ice axes, crampons, trekking poles and the like) against the back, under the pack, provides a lot of protection. The main idea is to protect the pack straps, pockets, and cinch-down straps on the pack itself from snagging on conveyor belts and luggage slide ramps. The baggage gorillas are less likely to cause damage to the actual pack when it is in a duffel than when it is out in the open, even with the shrinkwrap (and cheaper, too, after just a few flights).

Even when I used soft OR and Eagle Creek duffels, I never had problems with the packs and contents, though the soft duffels wear out or get small holes more quickly than the roll-arounds (which are much easier to schlep through airport checkin and baggage areas, plus Customs and Immigrations). I do have a Patagonia climber's duffle, which is waterproof and very strong, coated heavy fabric (got it at the Patagonia Outlet on a 60% off sale). North Face has similar bags, as do Kelty and Eagle Creek.

Important thing is to make sure the zipper sliders have real lock holes for your TSA-approved locks, and that you tighten both the internal and external cinch straps fully.

Also, look closely at the airline and TSA rules about what you can and cannot put in your checked (and carry-on) luggage. Stoves are a particularly sensitive thing. No fuel is obvious, but the airlines have been known to confiscate even new stoves in their original shrink wrap (Alaska Airlines was nototious for this), though usually if the stove passes the "sniff" test, you are ok.

2:51 p.m. on October 9, 2013 (EDT)
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suggestions for travel - pretty similar to what Bill said:

-any large duffel bag is the best way to protect your backpack - better than shrink wrap or the thick plastic bags some airlines have.  means your external strapping or pack material can't get caught in a conveyer and that only the worst puncture will affect your backpack.  i tend to go with something relatively inexpensive, LL Bean or Coleman both make very large duffels.  if i were to spend more, i would look for something that (a) has really robust material, like the ones available from The North Face or Wild Things Gear, and (b) i would opt for one with a "D" shaped zipper (like on the North Face bag) because it's easier to put your backpack in and take it out with the wide mouth opening.  i tend not to use wheel duffels, but it's a personal preference. 

-anything sharp gets rubber point protectors, and i additionally tape cardboard around the spiky parts. 

-absolutely no fuel, and no bear spray. 

-it's worth insuring, given the price of backpacks and gear.  better safe than sorry. 

6:28 p.m. on October 9, 2013 (EDT)
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Andrew reminded Pack Bag had shoulder straps so I could wear it while carrying the other things I was bringing as well. I just believe the cost was round $30.00 from Amazon.

10:46 p.m. on October 16, 2013 (EDT)
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202 forum posts

Some of the best oversized duffle bags can be found at any specialty store selling hockey gear. The hockey gear bags are very durable and HUGE.

April 7, 2020
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