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Old 09-14-12, 11:31 PM   #1
shipwreck
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advice needed for flying with camping gear, compression bags.

planning a trip to Florida for some light touring and such, and am really wondering about how the TSA goes through checked bags. In order to get everything I need in one bag I was going to use some Event compression sacks. Then I realized that if an inspector unpacks everything, there is no way it will ever get back in the compression sack, or my bag(I was going to use my swiss army engineers bag http://www.keepshooting.com/blog/swi...neer-rucksack/ Its what I always flew with, but things have changed since my last flight fifteen years ago ) Back when, I just flung this thing on the trolley and no problems.

I figure that as I will also have a hammock, pad, tarp, silk liner and sleeping bag in tightly wrapped and finickly packed bags, things could get messy.

I am not flying with a bike, it is waiting for me at a friends house.

So how likely is it that they will unpack a backback on a domestic flight from Fayettville AR to Sarasota Fl, with one stop in Charlotte NC? I was thinking about how my bike pump, trecking poles, and some tools might look funny in an xray

I would use a duffle or suitcase, but I am wanting to take the pack because I will be doing some swamp hiking/airboating/camping as well, and its indestructable and water proof.

I know that the obvious advice is to suck up an extra checked bag, leaving the gear and clothing packed looser, but would like to avoid that extra fee if possible. And as I am hiking ten or so miles from the airport, I wanted to keep it simple. Packing it all back up into the one bag at the airport does not sound like fun.

The reason I need so much stuff that it has to be compacted is that after all the swamp/everglade/beach stuff, I am road tripping to New York, and will need a couple of warmer things.

So, how do you pack your gear for flying to a tour? Do they unpack tents and everything? Any thoughts on what I can expect? Yes, I did try a search, but it did not seem to come up with much.

Last edited by shipwreck; 09-15-12 at 08:43 AM. Reason: more details
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Old 09-15-12, 03:04 AM   #2
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There are no guarantees or expectations about how the inspectors at any airport will react to your or anyone else's luggage.

We've found that at airports, the luggage is scanned by X-ray equipment, and a sensor wand for detecting explosives is waved over and around things. Most of my interaction has been at LA Airport on four or five occasions in the past four or five years.

In the US, I am uncertain of what happens if they want to unpack a backpack of stuff. Usually, the staff checks your luggage tags and ticket, then your luggage disappears into the scanning machine and you are sent on your way.

But they would have had to have an alarm from the X-ray inspection to initiate the sort of unpack and analyse inspection you are contemplating. You probably would have to have knife or a cookset packed into a compression bag with, say, a sleeping bag around it, you might find it undone.

My strong advice if you are a gasoline user for cooking is don't under any circumstances carry a fuel bottle in your checked or carry-on luggage, even though it might be empty. Trangia burners seem to be OK and I haven't had any problems with them. But I know of others who've had fuel bottles confiscated.

At other airports outside the US, I've been asked to undo the bike box (but not our other checked luggage), and I've had to pull out the tent, say, and explain what it is. In Canada, for example, I stay with the box and luggage until after it clears scanning. In Japan, I had to undo the Trangia cookset and hand over a cigarette lighter (which is odd, because a lighter is allowed on board with hand luggage); it was picked up on the X-ray scan.

I can remember several other occasions when I have had to undo the bike box in front of inspectors, but again that wasn't in the US. Otherwise, I don't recall the seals on the box ever being interfered with on flights out of the US.

The one thing with the personal, walk-through checks in the US is to remove your shoes (which I think you have to do anyway, but this is not necessarily so at airports outside the US). If you have cleats, I' ve found turning the shoes sole up might help, and I think those security staff monitoring the screens on the X-ray machines are more aware of cycling cleats than they used to be.

Just a question? I presume you are taking your bike with you in a box or bag... is it possible to sort all the hardware stuff and put it in with the bike, and take the backpack on board as hand luggage. That method has served me quite well over the years in reducing the number of items I have to check.

And get to the airport early. People -- the staff and you -- react much better when they aren't under a great deal of pressure, and if there are issues, they can be resolved in an pleasant atmosphere. I know the TSA gets a lot of bad press, but in some ways I can see they are under-resourced for the number of people they have to deal with at any one time, and patience (which means have good time reserved) really is the key to getting through the process.

Last edited by Rowan; 09-15-12 at 03:09 AM.
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Old 09-15-12, 07:52 AM   #3
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Thanks Rowan

I will be using a bike that I have stored on location. But I am taking my pump, lights, and multi tools. Thinking about it, I will probably mail all that to the friends house where my bike is. Also my pocket knife/multi tool. USPS has flat rate boxes so it won't matter how much weight goes in. That way there would be less to show on the scan, and less to disapear on route(I have lost some stuff on flights a long time ago.
There will be no stove or lighter, this will be a billy can stove or made on site alcohol stove trip. No special bike shoes on this trip. Might leave the trecking poles home as well.( this multi adventure trip really calls for a lot of gear, so being a minimalist is hard, but could be fun)

The only thing in the compression bag made from metal might be a zipper handle, so hopefully it won't ring any bells. I have a couple of weeks to experiment with packing.

As I will be visiting friends for two weeks as well, I was packing a few street clothes, which I will need in NY as well. One thought I had was to go to a thrift store and see what I could find for shirts.
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Old 09-15-12, 08:29 AM   #4
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I've never had a problem with that and I often have had stuff packed super tight. I have never had an extra bag charge beyond the charge for the bike. I have approached this a few ways:
  • Packing really light I have put everything in the soft case with the bike, except a few items in a very small carry on, That is usually an 18 liter backpack (REI Flash 18 at 10 ounces).
  • I have put the bike in a box and everthing else in a thrift store $7 suitcase and disposed of the suitcase at the end. If I can't find another thrift store suitcase at the end I pick up a cheap duffle bag.
  • I have used a Walmart collapsable duffle along with the bike box and either carried it along or mailed it home.

I usually fly Southwest because of their bike and baggage policies. Reportedly Frontier is good too. Do check on any carriers bike policy before buying a ticket or you might find yourself forking over an extra $200 each way for the bike.
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Old 09-15-12, 09:43 AM   #5
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No problem with compression sacks. They won't even try to open and unpack them. That's what x-ray is for. Hiking poles and most anything you can think of they've already seen and know about. No lighters is the main thing. Super clean stove, no smell at all, and vinegar in the fuel bottles if you have that stuff.
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Old 09-15-12, 12:40 PM   #6
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My experience over multiple flights is approximately 1 of 3 flights the bike box gets opened and re-taped. My luggage gets opened approximately 1 of 4 time and left with little tag in it. This is flights starting and/or ending in US.
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Old 09-15-12, 02:26 PM   #7
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No lighters is the main thing.
Yeah no lighters in your checked baggage. You can carry them on, but I think you are limited to two.
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Old 09-15-12, 07:20 PM   #8
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Yeah no lighters in your checked baggage. You can carry them on, but I think you are limited to two.
I'd be extremely surprised if you could carry on any lighters or matches today. Remember the shoe and underwear bomber?

That stuff you can buy at location anyway. Not really worth taking on the plane.
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Old 09-16-12, 07:18 AM   #9
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I'd be extremely surprised if you could carry on any lighters or matches today. Remember the shoe and underwear bomber?

That stuff you can buy at location anyway. Not really worth taking on the plane.
Well be surprised then. The TSA didn't allow lighters for a while but reversed that policy about 5 years ago. They are still banned from checked baggage. Those mini blowtorch lighters are banned, but a regular Bic is fine..

I have carried a lighter on numerous flights in recent years and as recently as last month. I forget but I think one or maybe two books of matches are OK as well. Check on the matches before carrying because I am less sure about them.
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Old 09-16-12, 07:32 AM   #10
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you are trying to use the swiss army bag as a carryon or a checked bag?

i sure wouldn't carry a metal framed rucksack as a carryon stuffed to the gills with camping, biking gear and trekking poles. sheesh.

I also wouldn't suggest sending a backpack thru as checked luggage. too many straps to catch and rip.

I'd suggest a large duffel for your pack and gear.

I've always left my packs unpacked inside a larger duffel with all the camping/outdoor gear, without trying to keep it all super-compressed.

sending in a tightly packed bag or backpack into the maws of TSA's luggage behemoth is a recipe for disaster.

get a little bag for a magazine, water bottle and some snacks. enjoy the flight.
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Old 09-16-12, 08:23 AM   #11
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you are trying to use the swiss army bag as a carryon or a checked bag?

i sure wouldn't carry a metal framed rucksack as a carryon stuffed to the gills with camping, biking gear and trekking poles. sheesh.

I also wouldn't suggest sending a backpack thru as checked luggage. too many straps to catch and rip. .
The Swiss are genuis at design, the straps are completely removable, and a small handle clips to the top. The straps fit into the pack. And no, I am not goofy enough to use it as a carry on, its to large. I have another small bag, and a small fanny pack as a personal item. the bag(that is to the airlines carry on regs) will have socks and shirts, the fanny pack phone, charger, GPS, a book, and toothbrush. I have been told by a buddy that those look ok to him, and he flys a lot. To save all hassle, there will be no lighter.

Good point about the metal frame though, but at this point as I said I am thinking about mailing all the metal camping gear in a flat rate box and leaving the trecking poles.(everything will fit into a five dollar box without the poles, even my two tent stakes) I will miss the poles in the swamps, but can live without or find a stick.

Looking into a duffle for everthing that will not be be over sized, 62" total, thats something that I had thought of, but its been hard to find so far. Good suggestion.

The bag is an interesting choice I know, but it will stand up to the rigors of the backpacking trip I am taking. This route, the trail breaking, and being passed from boat to boat in the wet has destroyed a Marmot, and really torn up an Osprey pack.

At this point I have been messing around, and have figured out how to get away from the actual compression sack. Gotten everything into regular rolltop bags.
Its full, but conceivably a TSA agent could repack it. The only thing other than fabric at this point is an unopened tube of foot cream, as my feet will be really abused and wet for long periods of time.

And for what its worth, I will not be useing the swiss bag to do the bike tour portion. My bike bags are going empty inside the big bag.

And I also figure on getting to the airport two hours early or so to deal with everything.

Last edited by shipwreck; 09-16-12 at 10:43 AM. Reason: adverbs needed
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Old 09-16-12, 06:06 PM   #12
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No problem with compression sacks. They won't even try to open and unpack them. That's what x-ray is for. Hiking poles and most anything you can think of they've already seen and know about. No lighters is the main thing. Super clean stove, no smell at all, and vinegar in the fuel bottles if you have that stuff.
+1. Just flew back from Cycle Oregon today. Out sleeping bags and a pillow were in compression sacks and our mattresses were rolled and bagged. Nothing was messed with.

I have a Dragon Fly. Didn't need it for this trip, but it's expensive and I don't want it confiscated so when I do travel with it I ship it, which usually is no big thing since I usually ship my bike rather than fly with it.
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