If you're going to be flying with your backpacking gear, you need to put your trekking poles in your checked luggage.
Hiking poles are not allowed in carry on bags and must be stored in checked luggage per TSA rules. Here it is straight from their site:
So what's the best way to pack your hiking poles in your checked luggage? It's easy.
But if you do it wrong, they could get smashed or destroy your backpack. Here's how you do it.
How To Safely Pack Your Trekking Poles
Since hiking poles (these are the ones I use btw, my favorites) are lightweight and mostly used while you're walking, they're usually kept on the outside of the backpack when you're hiking.
But if you put your trekking poles in your checked luggage the same way that you carry them when you're hiking, you'll either end up with some broken trekking poles or a destroyed backpack.
If you want to make sure your trekking poles don't break, you should wrap them in bubble wrap and duct tape.
You'll also want to make sure the tips of your trekking poles have the rubber covers attached to prevent them from stabbing through your backpack.
This might sound like overkill but watch this video of what your luggage goes through in this video created by an airline that shows the process in the most gentle way possible.
Then remember in real life that you always see the guys loading the bags on the airplane throw them around and cram them in.
That's why you need to protect your trekking poles...
Alternatives To Storing Your Trekking Poles In Checked Luggage
If you're still worried about something happening to your trekking poles because of stuff like this, you can also mail your trekking poles to yourself.
There are 2 ways to do this. Method #1 is the easiest if you're going to be staying somewhere like a hotel, AirBnB or relatives house at your destination. Method #2 is the back up.
Method #1 - Mail Your Trekking Poles To Your Destination
If you're staying at a place with an address (like a hotel or an AirBnB), you can check with them and see if it's OK for you to mail your stuff to yourself. Most places will be pretty accommodating and will usually let you mail your entire backpack to yourself with your trekking poles inside.
Hotels are used to holding on to luggage for people if they arrive before check in so they're usually cool with this.
If your hotel won't let you do this or you're staying in a campsite in the middle of nowhere like I did in Colorado, then you'll have to go with the next option.
Method #2 - Use The USPS General Delivery Option
You can actually mail stuff to the post office and pick it up yourself. Not many people know about this little trick but it's pretty handy and convenient if the first option won't work.
There are a few simple steps to using this delivery option.
- Pack your stuff and find the most convenient post office to pick up your stuff.
- On the address label write "General Delivery", then your name and the post office's address.
- Don't forget to buy another package/label to send it back home at the end of your trip.
The post office will hold on to your stuff for up to 4 weeks so don't send it out there until about 1-2 weeks before you're planning to leave on your trip.
Why Aren't Trekking Poles Allowed To Be In Carry On Luggage?
If you ask whether or not trekking poles can be carried on to a flight, you'll get a lot of different answers. Most of the people who say it's OK to bring trekking poles in their carry on luggage just got lucky.
The official rule book from the TSA is crystal clear on not allowing trekking poles in your carry on. The TSA considers trekking poles to be a weapon similar to an ice pick which is also not allowed to be carried on.
If you do get stopped at the security checkpoint with trekking poles in your bag, you'll be sent back to your airlines service counter to check them. Expect to pay a fee and waste more time waiting in line only to go through security again.
Your best bet is to avoid all the hassle the first time and just check your trekking poles or mail them. You'll be happy you did.
Great article! Just happened to me yesterday. Had no trouble with them in my roller bag from BWI, but got stopped with them in my backpack in Denver. Had to go all the way back and check them. I did get a pass that let me go to the front of the line on returning. Luckily, Southwest doesn’t charge for checked bags.
Since I’m determined to not check any bags this year, I’ve folded up a HurryCane into my carry-on bag as a proxy for my hiking pole. I know its base differs from the pole’s carbide tip, and for $60 savings plus time savings not waiting for checked luggage, I’ll live with this tradeoff.