When it comes to air travel, questions always seem to come up about what you can and cannot bring through security checkpoints. This is especially true with hiking gear. Not all of it is considered safe for travel. A few times I have had to throw away fuel canisters or small tools that a TSA agent deemed dangerous.
So, what about hiking poles? Can I bring hiking poles on a plane?
When it comes to hiking poles, they are allowed on an airplane as long as they are packed in checked luggage. Bringing hiking poles as a carry-on is explicitly forbidden, according to the rules and regulations of the TSA.
I’ve almost had mine confiscated a few times if it were not for some pleading or sometimes repacking into check-in luggage before departure.
So don’t make the same mistakes that I’ve made in the past. Let’s go over how to transport your hiking poles so they’re there for you on the other end of your destination.
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4 Ways To Get Your Hiking Poles To Your Destination
I don’t know about you, but hiking poles are must haves for any hiking adventure. They are not just hiking poles, they can be used to construct shelter, as a way to hang laundry, as protection from wild animals and even as a selfie stick.
So I’ve come up with 4 ways to ensure my hiking poles are there for me, although the fourth method does come with risks involved.
If you are set on carry on baggage only and have calculated the price of shipping to be less than purchasing or renting a pair at your destination, then mailing your hiking poles may be the option for you.
The drawbacks of this method are finding a box of the appropriate size, the time needed to package and ship the poles as well as the costs. However, you can be virtually guaranteed that your hiking poles will arrive at your destination safely.
Buy or Rent New Ones Upon Arrival
Depending on your destination, it may be cheaper to buy a new pair of hiking poles upon arrival than by having them sent through the mail. In fact, if you are heading to a popular hiking destination, there may be hiking poles available to rent for very reasonable prices.
The best thing to do would be to call a few sporting good stores at your destination to see what their policies and rates are in regards to hiking poles. This may be a little more difficult for international travel, so perhaps a google search for hiking poles at your destination might be better in this case.
Compare the price of the poles to what it might cost for you just to pay for check in bags for your flight. But be warned, maybe your destination is so remote that a store selling hiking poles sounds like a far off dream. With all this hassle you may just find it worth getting rid of all the stress and just pay to check your baggage.
Remember, if you are travelling with checked bags then you should probably just try and find room for your hiking pole in there. But I understand that when you are on a big trip, carry on only is the most economical way to go.
Pack Them Into Check On Baggage
This is the easiest way to get your hiking poles to your destination, just check your bags in, forget about all of the hassle. The TSA explicitly says that hiking poles are not allowed in carry ons, so its either this or the other 2 methods previously mentioned.
When packing hiking poles into checked baggage, it is important to pack them safely to minimize the chance of breaking. I like to break them down or collapse them and place them at an angle in the bag away from the sides, preferably surrounded by clothes for extra padding.
Do not pack the poles so that they fit tightly into the bag to the point that either end of the poles are pushing against the walls of the luggage. I did this once and came back with one section of my hiking pole shattered.
Apparently they are strong enough to support the weight of a 240lb man, but one trip handled by a baggage handler and they are no match.
Break Them Down Before Packing In Carry On (Risks Involved)
Once again, the TSA explicitly says in their rules and regulations that hiking sticks are not allowed in carry-on luggage, except at the discretion of a TSA agent. They do say, however, that walking sticks and canes are allowed.
In certain airports, ones mostly located in outdoorsy towns, TSA agents have been known to allow hiking poles in carry-on baggage. But do know that you stand the chance of having them refused at any time.
If that happens you could always go back to ticketing and check in your bag, otherwise, they will confiscate them.
To ensure the likelihood of a TSA agent turning a blind eye, do not store them on the outside of your pack, instead break them down into your carry-on completely. Remove the pole sections, take the tips off, put tip guards on to any pointed tips. Do whatever you can to make your hiking poles look innocuous.
Best Hiking Poles For Traveling
Not every hiking pole is suited for traveling. Some don’t break down for travel very much at all, while others were designed for this.
I have had a few that I have liked over the years. Here are my 3 favorite hiking poles to make for easy traveling while also performing well in the field.
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z Z-Poles
This is a great pair of hiking poles that break down to a really small size. They are the most affordable on this list, but at a $170 MSRP they aren’t that cheap.
Constructed out of carbon fiber, the poles are strong yet lightweight. Overall I really liked this pair of Hiking poles except for the fact that it was only able to adjust its height to one of 4 different positions thanks to its push button lock design.
I like to have more flexibility with my pole height while hiking.
Leki Micro Vario Carbon
This has been my favorite hiking pole ever! Super lightweight that I barely even know it is there, but strong enough to hold my full weight when over relying on them during a large descent.
The Leki Poles have the ability to adjust to any length you desire thanks to its flip lock system. Normally I find the flip lock system to give a little under my weight, but I have had no problems with these as long as I tighten them down properly.
When it comes to packing, these poles break down to 15” in length, making them perfect for carry-on travel. I have never had a TSA agent ask me about these poles.
Black Diamond Distance FLZ – Women’s
Jen swears by these poles. I’m not quite sure why, they are a bit heavier than the other two mentioned here thanks to the aluminum frame construction, but I think its their durability and indestructibility that has won her over.
With a knee injury plaguing her, she relies heavily on her hiking poles and while a few of them snapped on her in the past, these poles have been able to withstand the rigors she puts them through.
Sporting a flip lock system, these poles also give the versatility of being able to be adjusted to a wide range of heights, allowing her to use them in almost any situation.
My wife can be pretty particular in the gear she decides to use, if she gives her nod of approval on something, it must be worth it.