How To Pack Camping Gear For A Flight – And Some Hard And Fast Rules

Pack camping gear for a flight featured image

I was planning a camping trip on the other side of the country and wanted to fly. It made me wonder about taking camping gear on the plane. Here is what I found.

Can I bring a tent in my carry on?

According to the TSA, you can bring the tent as carry on (but without poles and stakes which must be checked in).

However, the tent must meet individual airline rules as to size and should fit in the overhead bin or the under-seat space.

If you attempt to carry tent stakes and poles into hand luggage, they will more than likely be confiscated, and that will make things a bit tricky setting up your tent.

What camping gear can I fly with?

You have to sets of people deciding what you can and cannot bring on a plane. First, you have the TSA who have their own set of regulations.

Then, you have to meet the various airlines’ rules about the dimensions and weight of luggage. First of all, we will look at the TSA Regulations:

  • YES Tent in Carry On
  • YES Tent in Checked Luggage
  • NO Tent stakes in Carry On
  • YES Tent Stakes in Checked Luggage
  • NO Knives in Carry On
  • YES Knives in Checked Luggage (Must be sheathed)
  • YES Stove in Carry On (must have no fumes)
  • YES Stove in Checked Luggage (must have no fumes)
  • NO Fuel & Firelighters in Carry On
  • NO Stove fuel & Firelighters in Checked Luggage
  • YES Safety Matches (one book only)
  • NO Safety Matches
  • NO Bear Spray
  • NO Trekking Poles in Carry On (do not put them in your luggage)
Pack camping gear for a flight featured image

How do you fly with backpacking gear?

Learn to pack small and tight for your hiking trip so that you can get everything inside the airline’s luggage size and weight specifications for Carry On Luggage.

By keeping your rucksack with you, there is far less chance of it becoming lost on route than if you place it with checked luggage.

You can also avoid the delays waiting for the luggage at the destination or national park. Remember also that there are several extra items you can carry onboard in addition to your designated Carry On bag.

  1. A Coat or Jacket (take it off once onboard)
  2. Cardigan (tie it around your waist)
  3. Neck pillow (useful in your tent as well)
  4. Camera Bag
  5. Hat
  6. A Book

Airlines all have different policies and often further exclusions for various types of tickets.

How do you pack camping gear?

If you can pack your bag tight and keep everything within the permitted guidelines of the airline you are traveling with. To help you, I have given the dimensions for most major domestic airlines below.

Remember to take advantage of extra items that you are permitted to carry on in addition to your carry on bag.

Alaska Airlines

  • Carry-on: 9”x14”x22”
  • No Max weight specified
  • Personal gear: such as a purse, work case, or computer bag

Allegiant Air

  • Carry-on: 9’x14”x22”’; cost ($10-$75)
  • No Max weight specified
  • Personal gear: 16”x15”x7”

American Airlines

  • Carry on: 10”x14”x22”
  • No Max weight specified
  • Personal gear: 18” x 14” x 8”; must fit under the seat in front of you

Delta Air Lines

  • Carry on: 9”x14”x22”
  • No Max weight specified
  • Personal gear: a purse, work case, photography bag, or baby bag

Frontier Airlines

  • Carry on: 10”x16”x24”
  • Carry-on: 35 pounds
  • Personal item: 14”x18”x8”

Hawaiian Airlines

  • Carry on 45 inches
  • Carry on-on luggage weight maximum: 25 pounds
  • Personal item: one handbag, work case, computer case, bag, or similar piece; must fit under the seat in front of you


  • Carry on: 9”x14”x22”
  • No Max weight specified
  • Personal item: 8”x13″ x17″

Southwest Airlines

  • Carry on: 10”x16”x24”
  • No Max weight specified
  • Personal item: 18.5” x 8.5” x 13.5”; must fit under the seat in front of you

Spirit Airlines

  • Carry on: 10”x18”x22”
  • No Max weight specified
  • Personal: 18” x 14” x 8”

United Airlines

  • Carry on: 9”x14”x22”
  • No Max weight specified
  • Personal: 17″ x 10″ x 9″; must fit under the seat in front of you

Packing Tips for Flying with Camping Gear

Use compression packs to help reduce the size of the sleeping bag. If taking water filters, make sure they are dry before packing as if they freeze, they will get ruined. Lighters are permitted in Carry-On luggage (one) but not in checked baggage.

Strike anywhere matches are not allowed in checked or Carry-On luggage. Place all tickets and documents in a folder which you keep in your Carry-On luggage.

Place all your pockets’ contents in a plastic bag inside your Carry-On luggage before you reach security.

Fly in and Camp: Packing Considerations

Rather than spending a day or two driving to your camping destination or trying to minimize what you will take into a small bag, some people bring their items and rent camping gear when they get there.

Large camping companies like Eastern Mountain Sports and REI may have a store located between the airport and the campground.

Make sure that you book these items in advance. It makes it so simple, land, pick up the hire car, and head off to the camping store to collect the gear, a food store to gather supplies, and you are off.

All Your Camping Gear You Can Fly With

Camping gear that is suitable for flying means you need to think carefully about what you take. If you want to avoid the cost and delays with checked-in luggage, you need to choose gear that can fit your Carry-On luggage.

Since you cannot take tent stakes, and in some cases, trekking poles in Carry-On luggage, it means you need to think about your tent.

Have you thought about Hammock camping? No tent poles are required, and the hammock and cover will fold up nice and tight inside your backpack, and if you get the right dimensions, you can use that backpack as Carry On luggage.

Hammock camping is easy and safe. In fact, in some cases, it is much safer than using a traditional ground tent. It will fit nicely into a 30-liter rucksack together with all the other essentials.

If you are creative and select space-saving items like microfiber towels and less bulky clothes, you can get a lot into that rucksack.

One extra tip is that if you bring a blanket, do not put it into the rucksack; you are allowed to carry a blanket onto a plane for use during the flight, so just take it aboard with all the other allowed items and when you leave the plane just roll it up and tie it on top of the rucksack.

Camping Gear to Put in Your Carry-on Bag

So, what should you bring when space is an issue?

  1. Hammock tent
  2. Sleeping-bag designed for packing inside a rucksack; they are less bulky
  3. One cooking pot, bowl, and mug, strong plastic cutlery
  4. First aid kit
  5. Flashlight
  6. Lighter or matches
  7. Cooking camping stove, no stove fuel, no fumes

When you arrive at your destination or national park, purchase food, gas, a knife, water, and any other items you require. This way, you do not have to check luggage in the hold of the plane.

Shipping Camping Gear to Your Destination

Some campers avoid all the hassle of worrying about what they can and cannot fly, weight and size constraints, etc. by shipping their carrier’s camping gear.

They stay at a hotel when they arrive at the destination for one night. Nice to have a chance to recover from the flight before you head out backpacking.

They ship their camping gear to arrive at the hotel the day before (obviously check with the hotel this is ok when you book).

On return, they drop off the gear at the shipping office to be sent to their home and fly home without any problem.

Camping Gear to Put in Your Checked Luggage

All liquids of volume greater the 3.4 ozs must be placed in your checked bag. Remember, though, bottles of juice are heavy, and you may be better buying at the destination.

Know what you can take onboard

What you can take on board

You can also take alcohol on board (checked bags). You can take knives onboard (checked).

The TSA will allow you to carry ammo in your checked bag, together with guns (however, check with the airline as they may have a different policy).

What you cannot take on board:

Note that even if flying between two states where medical Marijuana is legal when you pass through security, you are on federal land where Marijuana is illegal.

The same applies to CBD Oil products.

Flying with camping gear

Camping gear has got to be packed either in checked luggage or may be permitted in Carry-On luggage.

You will have requirements for both size and weight for your checked baggage set by the airlines, so if you are buying new equipment, try to get the lightest, most compact equipment you can. Tents and Sleeping bags are the heaviest items.

Hammock tents and compact sleeping bags can save a lot of space and weight.

If you are going to check your rucksack, it is a wise idea to place it inside a sturdy disposable laundry bag so that straps are not left hanging (they can get caught in the carousel and other machinery).

Earlier on in this article, I have covered what should go in checked bags and what should go in Carry-on bags. Make sure you have packed everything in the right bag.

Wrapping up

So now you know How To Pack Camping Gear For Your Next Flight. Do not allow the stress of flying to spoil your vacation.

If you bring the right equipment and pack it in the correct places, you should have no problems but you should try contact the airline via phone or email address if you have any concerns.

What you don’t want is to pack all your important valuable camping trip gear and get to the check in and told you have to leave it there or pay hefty baggage fees.

But sometimes you’ll need to think outside the box (or rucksack) and consider renting camping gear where you’re going, or shipping your items by courier.