If you want to go far away and backpack when you get there, this is no faster way than to fly. Of course, flying brings a whole new backpacking checklist and skillset. Here are the things we have learned over the last two years.
Checked baggage only:
Sharp objects (knives, axes, saws)
Liquids outside of the 3-1-1 rule (For those of you who like a little sip now and again on the trail, packing alcohol in your checked baggage is a-okay as long as it is in a seal-able container.)
Lighters-one per person, no lighter fuel (per regulation)
Safety or waterproof matches-one book only, cannot be checked (per regulation)
Water filter-Your checked baggage may be exposed to below freezing temperatures, which is bad news for the filter.
Compass-We packed ours in our checked baggage on our first flight, and now north moves as if by magic!
Do not pack:
Bear spray-Most bear spray exceeds the 4 oz limit for self-defense spray.
Fuel for your camp stove-Your stove itself can travel either in your checked bag or your carry-on, provided it is completely empty.
Note: If you will need either of these items, be sure to research where you can purchase them at your destination and check the store hours. On a recent trip, we ended up spending our first day in town instead of on the trail because the quaint hardware store where we planned on buying fuel didn’t open until noon.
Protect your pack!
While you could just check your pack as is, it would be easy for a strap to get caught on something in transit. Backpack material could be punctured or torn by the luggage processing equipment (its not as heavy as suitcase material) all of which can leave you scrambling to repair a damaged pack.
We pack ours in large duffel bags (these are ours) to keep them protected. Because there is always a chance the luggage will be searched, we place our empty packs in the duffel first, put our trekking poles on top of the pack, and then arrange our stuff sacks around them.
Make things easily searchable. We’re careful to put anything likely to trigger a search right on top, so airport security doesn’t have to dig through all our gear to get to the suspicious-looking object, such as a homemade stove tucked into a dented pot and then wrapped in reflectix. (The object is to reduce the number of the things the TSA is going to have to remove from your bag to get what they are after – the less they remove, the less they have to put back, the less likely something gets left behind.)
We’ve had our gear searched only once, and we lost nothing in the process. Hopefully making our bags easily searchable lessens the likelihood of anything being damaged or misplaced.
Easy Backpacking Checklist:
1. Look up the regulations, familiarize yourself with how the airports and really heavy bags (filled with weird stuff you need on a backpacking trip) work.
2.Pack your bag in a bag – keeps it clean, undamaged (hopefully) and lets those who need to search thing, do so more easily.
3. Make sure your trip takes into account that you are going to an airport, flying, and then driving to the trailhead – that’s a lot of travel and hassle, you might be better served by staying in town one night and launching the next day. Stress and hurry are no fun on a trail – don’t learn that the hard way like we did.
4. Relax, you’re going backpacking.