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How to Fly With Camping Gear (And A Minimalist’s Travel Guide)

How to Fly With Camping Gear (And A Minimalist’s Travel Guide)

Flying to your camping destination gives you increased exposure to the great outdoors and can save on driving time. But it can be challenging to strategize how to bring all of your gear on the plane. Are you unsure about how to fly with camping gear, be it carry on check in?

Luckily, you can carry on or check most camping equipment, but there are some restrictions. The most important thing to do is to research the airport security guidelines before flying. These rules can change quickly, so it’s best to check the official security websites often.

Read on to learn more about flying with camping equipment.


Can I Bring Camping Gear on a Plane?


Yes, there are many camping items that you can bring on a plane, but there are some important rules to keep in mind.

Every airline will have different requirements for luggage weight and size restrictions, so it’s best to check with your specific carrier ahead of time. In general, though, most camping equipment is allowed through security if the items meet all guidelines from TSA (Transportation Security Administration).


What Camping Items Can I Carry On a Plane?


Most of your camping items can technically be carried onto a flight. However, the first restriction you’ll come up against is size. Most airlines will have maximum dimensions for carry-on luggage that is between 22 and 24 inches long, 14 to 16 inches wide, and up to ten inches high.

Camping items like tents are often too large to fit in the overhead bins on a plane. Instead, you’ll want to check your tent with your other camping gear or ship

Anything that can be seen as a weapon, such as knives or axes, is not allowed. You’ll want to think carefully about any “sharp” items you may have in your luggage. For example, if you are able to bring a tent onto the plane, you’ll still have to check your stakes and poles.

Camping equipment that falls into the liquid category must be under a certain volume limit. This includes drinks, toiletries, bug spray, cooking fuel, and sunscreen. You’ll need to make sure that the containers are under 1.4 fluid ounces or 100 millilitres.

Prohibited Camping Items for Carry-On

  • Knives
  • Axes
  • Stakes
  • Poles
  • Flares
  • Trekking poles
  • Bear spray
  • Camping fuel
  • Torch lighters
  • Safety matches
  • Strike anywhere matches
  • Liquids over 1.4 ounces/100 millilitres

You can also carry on items like backpacks, cameras, and binoculars as long as they are not too large for the plane’s overhead bins. Anything that is considered an electronic device ( laptops, tablets, etc.) must fit into your personal item space under the seat in front of you. These items may need to be taken out at security or gate checkpoints.


Can I Check Camping Equipment?


Yes, you can check almost all camping equipment with your luggage. This is probably the best way to transport your gear, especially if you’re worried about large dimensions.

Here is a list of some items that are not allowed in a checked bag. You’ll need to find these items at your final destination or go without!

Prohibited Camping Items For Check-In or Carry-On

  • Torch lighters
  • Flares
  • Bear Spray
  • Strike anywhere matches
  • Safety matches
  • Camping Fuel
  • Batteries

As you can see, the primary concern for airlines is that there aren’t any combustible or explosive materials being transported on the plane. Batteries are a unique item. They’re allowed in your carry-on, but not in your checked luggage. If you’re bringing batteries for headlamps, lanterns, or any other camping devices, make sure to keep them in your carry-on.


Can I Fly With Camping Stove?


Many people are concerned about whether or not they can bring a camping stove with them, because it’s such an integral part of some camping trips and can be tricky to find in rural stores.

Most camping stoves are allowed through security as long as they meet the liquid requirements and have no fuel inside of them. The only exceptions would include ones that exceed the weight or dimensions of carry-on luggage. If there are any sharp or dangerous pieces on the stove, you’ll need to check them with your camping gear or ship it separately.

You may want to invest in an ultralight backpacking stove if you want to maximize your luggage space. These are easy to use and won’t raise any suspicion from airport security as long as it isn’t attached to a fuel source.


Can You Check In a Tent as Luggage?


Yes, nearly all tents can be checked on a flight. The only limitations you may encounter are the tent’s dimensions and weight, which you will likely have to pay extra for.

Most tent manufacturers include carrying cases with your purchase, which are made to fit the dimensions of your tent for maximum ease. This could further protect your tent from damage or dirt while in transit.

Remember, you will need to pay for the extra weight of your tent if it exceeds 50 pounds. The average weight of a 2 person tent is 2 to 3 lbs, so it’s unlikely that you’ll need to pay for extra weight unless you’re bringing a gigantic canvas tent or multiple tents.


What About Camping Sleeping Bags?


You can check in any camping sleeping bags that you like, as long as they are not considered hazardous materials. Sleeping bags are great for creating extra padding for your other camping supplies as well.

Many sleeping bags are compressible and can be easily folded or rolled up, making them easy to stuff into the spaces in your luggage. If you’re packing a bulky sleeping bag that doesn’t fit nicely in your luggage, consider carrying it on the plane.


Other Ways to Get Camping Gear While Travelling


It may be a hassle to check your camping gear, and there are other ways that you can get camping supplies when traveling. If you really don’t want to check any of your gear, consider these alternatives:

Rent Camping Gear

Most people don’t want to travel, re-purchase all of their camping equipment, and have to deal with two sets of supplies. If you’re traveling domestically, it’s possible to rent some camping gear for your trip.

Many cities have rental services that provide tents, sleeping bags, and other useful items for travellers who don’t want to worry about buying or transporting extra equipment when they get there. Just make sure that the place where you plan on renting from has a wide selection of gear before traveling.

Many companies offer kits that will include everything that you need for a camping trip, restoring the convenience of home without forcing you to buy your own equipment. These are usually more suitable for shorter trips or people who aren’t very familiar with backpacking gear.

You may be charged for a daily, weekly, or flat rate. The price of this service can add up quickly, but there are many affordable options as well.

Ship Camping Gear to Your Destination

There are many shipping services that you can use to ship your camping supplies. The most common method for this by using a company like UPS or FedEx, which will deliver your camping supplies to the nearest pickup location at your arrival destination.

This is called parcel shipping and is a great idea for those who have under 100 lbs of supplies. Keep in mind that any combustible materials must be noted and that these will need to travel by ground for safety.

Talk to your shipping provider to see if they can hold your materials for you to pick up when your plane lands. Most companies have a window of time that they will hold your items that can be extended for an additional fee.

If it’s available in your area, airline shipping is a great way to deliver your items to your destination as well. This option tends to be the priciest. You may also experience some limitations with items such as propane tanks or sharp objects.

Freight shipping is another option that is usually very cheap, but it will take longer to get your camping supplies. Most freight shipping companies are designed for larger orders, so if you’re looking for something small and personal, this may not be the best option.

Borrow from Your Camping Neighbours

This method may be a bit too spontaneous for most. However, if you’re camping in a big campground and know many people will be there, you can ask your camping neighbours to borrow some supplies.

You can unofficially “rent” supplies from them, barter, or just ask if you can borrow a few things. This is a good idea for last-minute trips or emergencies, and it will save you from buying new supplies that may not be the right size anyway.

Buy Used Camping Gear

You could try to find people selling used equipment on sites like eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace. This can be about the same price as shipping or renting your camping gear if you shop smartly or get a good deal.

A drawback to this method is that you won’t know the quality of these items beforehand, or if they even work at all. Most people selling this type of gear are looking for a quick sale and aren’t going to offer refunds, so make sure that you have a plan B if the gear doesn’t work.

Buy and Resell Your Camping Gear

If you must buy all of your camping gear after getting off the plane, worry not – you can sell it after you use it. This is the most expensive way to get your camping supplies, but it will be more convenient than renting.

Many camping and outdoor stores also buy used camping equipment. They will usually offer you a fraction of retail value or a gift certificate for your items. Reselling camping equipment can be a challenge, so make sure that you carefully research the going rate before selling anything.


What to Pack When Going Camping on a Plane?


Now that we’ve discussed what you can and can’t bring on an airplane as well as some alternatives for getting your gear sent to a distant location, it’s time to talk about what you should actually bring.

The key to packing camping gear for a flight is to pack light. While there are many things that could be considered “essentials” for camping, we’ve narrowed this list down to what’s most practical and will fit in s checked bag:

Minimalist Travel Camping Gear List:

  • Backpack: Make sure your bag can hold all the items you’ll need for your trip. You’ll want to make sure that it’s a comfortable size and weight so you can carry it easily through the airport and during your camping trip.
  • Collapsible day bag: This bag provides a way to have more carrying space without being stuck with more than one backpack. It can be folded into a wallet-sized rectangle that can easily be fitted into your larger bag or pocket. This is a great back for carrying any food you may purchase after you arrive.
  • Tent: While a tent seems like a standard for a camping trip, you can even consider even more lightweight alternatives such as a hammock or a tarp.
  • Sleeping bag: Many sleeping bags work well for travel. You’ll want to look for a sleeping bag that can be compressed into its own small stuff sack, or at least one with compression straps.
  • Water bottle: You’ll need a water bottle on you during your trip and it’s best to get one that is leak-proof and collapsible to make the most out of your space.
  • Multi-tool: This is one of those things that can be incredibly useful on a camping trip. Choose one that is lightweight and has the necessary tools for your trip.
  • Cooking supplies: Consider purchasing a cookware mess kit that contains all of your kitchen basics in a perfectly portable set. If you don’t want the hassle of carrying a mess kit, minimize your kitchen tools to one pot and one pan that can fit inside each other for easy storage.
  • First Aid Items: Grab a small first aid kit or put a few items from your medicine cabinet into a ziplock bag.
  • Flashlight: If you’re only bringing one light, a headlamp is your best choice. These are great for hands-free use and can also be hung up in your shelter or above your food prep area.
  • Matches or Lighter: This will be useful for lighting your stove or campfire.
  • Toiletries: Bring smaller toiletries on your trip and consider using concentrated supplies that can last you a long time without taking up lots of space in your luggage.
  • Clothes: You certainly can’t go camping without these! Bring a good variety without overpacking. Consider bringing some soap so that you can wash your own clothes and bring less overall.


How To Pack Camping Gear For a Flight


Here are a couple of tips for packing your camping gear in a smart and efficient way:

Pack Light

The key to flying with camping gear is to travel lightly! This means bringing only what you need to have a successful trip. When purchasing your equipment, look for the words “lightweight” or “ultra-lightweight” on the packaging.

You can also get familiar with the different tent and sleeping bag materials to determine which ones are the most lightweight.

Protect Everything

A lot can happen to your camping gear as you transport it on a plane and then into the woods. One of the best ways to protect your gear is by protecting your bag. Many airports have plastic bags for check-in purposes, so ask for one when you drop off your bag. You can bring a garbage bag of your own if you don’t get one from the airport.

Make sure that any liquids you have in your checked bag are reinforced with Ziploc bags so that they don’t leak. You can also purchase a waterproof bag to keep your clothes dry and safe from any leaks throughout the trip.

Use Locks and Tags

For added security, use locks on all zippers of your backpack and tent as well as identification tags for easy location when coming home or going camping again in the future. This won’t prevent theft entirely, but it may be enough to deter thieves who are looking for quick opportunities.

Pack It Professional-Style

When packing your camping gear, consider professional travel techniques like rolling and interlocking pieces to prevent them from shifting around in transit. This will keep everything organized during transport as well as when it’s time to set up camp at your destination!

Bring Items With Multiple Uses

Consider bringing items that have more than one use for an even lighter load. For example, you can bring a single multi-tool or cooking utensil instead of three smaller ones to save on weight and space in your camping gear bag.

You can bring soap that can be used for your dishes, clothes, body, and hair to avoid bringing several separate items.

Think About Your Transportation Situation

Be realistic about how much you’ll be lugging around your bags. If you have a car ride from the airport to your campsite, then it’s probably not necessary to bring a heavy-duty wheeled backpack.

Get Insurance For Your Bags

There’s nothing worse than realizing all of your gear has been lost by the airport once you arrive at your destination. Plan ahead and get insurance on your flight and bags. This way, at least you’ll be reimbursed if you need to purchase everything again.

You should also insure your gear if you ship it to your destination. This will protect you from any damage or losses that may occur during shipping.


Final Thoughts


Flying with camping gear can be a breeze if you plan ahead and pack smartly. Don’t forget to double-check what items are prohibited from flying before your trip, and always check with the airline ahead of time to ask any questions.

Happy flying and happy camping!