Get away from the grind of daily life by picking up and flying away to a woodsy destination. Backpack hikers know how to keep everything they need in one small space. However, getting your backpack and gear to your destination on an airplane requires a bit of forethought and preplanning.
Hopping on and off the plane without having to worry about checked baggage can maximize your time on the trail. Check baggage size requirements of the airline for carry-on luggage to make sure your hiking backpack works. GoRuck and other companies make internal frame backpacks with interior frames that have ample interior storage spaces, including places for hydration packs or water bottles (remember to empty them before going through security checkpoints).
Packing a Carry-On Backpack
Like any carry-on luggage, liquids carried in the cabin of a plane in a backpack are subject to the 3-1-1 rule. That means you can take as many 3.4-ounce or smaller bottles that fit inside a single clear 1-quart baggie. Substituting dry versions of sundries like deodorant, soap, tooth powder and sunblock not only make more room in the baggie, it lightens your pack considerably. Insect repellent in spray or roll-on forms must be in 3.4-ounce (100 milliliters) or smaller containers. A lighter or safety matches, dry ice and many types of food are appropriate to carry in your backpack when you board the plane.
Having a single carry-on only works if you're not planning to bring sharp or hazardous objects like a large hunting knife, hatchet or firearm. Bring a backpacking stove; just make sure to thoroughly clean and air it out so there is no residue or fumes. Stove fuel can't travel on a plane, so plan to pick it up at a local sporting goods store before heading out on the trail.
Checking a Hiking Backpack as Luggage
Check larger backpacks as luggage, but take precautions to make sure straps don't get caught in conveyor belts. Call ahead to see if the airline has a container to place your backpack in, or buy a large duffel bag or backpack airport cover that it will fit inside – you can lay it on the bottom and pack your gear on top. At the trailhead, fold the duffel and put it in your backpack with the rest of your gear. If using airport-provided plastic, buckle the hip-belt back behind your pack, cinch it tight, and shorten all the shoulder straps before placing it inside the bag to make it as streamlined as possible.
Backpack Gear to Check-in Baggage
TSA requires some gear to ride in checked baggage. Knives, hatchets and firearms can be carried in your bag as long as you store them in a hard case or sheath that meets TSA requirements. If not packed correctly, they'll be gone at the other end of the flight, and you could face criminal charges. A checked backpack is also the correct place for pickaxes, trekking poles, arrows or other pointy objects – just make sure they are padded or sheathed so there's no way they could poke through and hurt someone.
Go to the Store
Besides camp stove fuel, there are a few other things to put on the list to pick up at a sporting goods store before hitting the trail at your destination. Bear repellent with more than 2 percent CS or CN or bear bangers are also forbidden anywhere on a plane, so make a side trip to the store before embarking on the trail in bear country.