Flying with Mountain Gear: 7 Expert Tips


Flying with your mountain climbing gear will obviously be an issue, but you can get through it with minimal problems by being prepared beforehand.

How do you fly with mountain climbing gear? First off, you will want to pack as light as possible to avoid extra charges on your baggage. You also want to be selective about what goes into your carry-on luggage and what will need to be checked in. Naturally, anything sharp like an ice ax will need to be declared and included in the checked-in bag.

There can be a lot of things that could go wrong with carrying your mountain climbing gear around when you are traveling internationally, so it’s best to avoid unnecessary troubles.

Tips for Travelling with Your Mountain Climbing Gear

If you are going to be traveling while bringing your mountain climbing gear with you, you are going to want to make sure that you keep a few things in mind. Remember that not you are no longer in your backyard and in some places, the rules trump your rights. With that in mind, always remember to:

·         Respect local laws

·         Conduct the necessary research

·         Not to act like you own the place

·         Always take the safe approach

·         Obey the authorities as much as reasonably possible

With that out of the way, let’s talk about some of the tips that you can put to good use when you are planning on going on international climbs. Assuming that you have already done the pre-requisite research on the rules and regulations, let’s talk about the packing itself. The table below contains details on that front:

TipsDescription
Pack LightYou should only have a maximum of two bags with you; one for carry-on and the other for check-in
Separate your items in appropriate bagsSeparate your items based on what you want in the carry on and what to check-in
PrioritizeOnly bring the items that you simply cannot live without and leave the rest for local purchase
Fragile equipmentEquipment that is prone to breaking or bending should be in the carry on back
Sharp objectsAlways declare sharp objects such as ice ax and ice shoes
Inspection issuesIf inspection occurs, comply as necessary
Expecting the worstExpect for your items to be withheld or confiscated and prepare a backup plan

It would be great if you can manage to fly without any trouble as you go to the place that you will be climbing. However, there is never any guarantee that there will be no issues. More than that, different airports and airlines have different methods of dealing with unfamiliar developments. As such, you might find employees that will react badly to your gear.

After all, even though mountain climbing has become a relatively well-known activity, this doesn’t mean that everything about it is familiar to all people. There will inevitably be those who will see your various ropes, clasps, rings, anchors, and more as strangely threatening simply because they are alien to them.

Pack Light – You absolutely need to pack as light as possible if you are going to fly and for a few very good reasons. To start with, you are much more mobile when you only have a few things to carry with you, which is useful from start to finish. You won’t have to pack that much when you are preparing for your flight and you won’t need help carrying your stuff to the car or cab.

Once you do get to the airport, you will be able to carry your stuff with you wherever you go. It will be a hassle, but that’s just something that you will need to deal with. More than that, you will also be able to create better circumstances for your stuff not to be lost, as so many international flights tend to involve. Less baggage simply means less to worry about.

However, the most important point that needs to be made here is the matter of your expenses. When you are climbing internationally, it would be prudent to try and save as much money as possible. As such, sticking to the luggage weight limit would be highly advised. Differing airlines and airports can have varying policies with regard to these kinds of things and you don’t need a headache.

Of course, this would mean being rather careful with what you are going to bring so that you can only fit them in two bags. However, you should already be doing that, in the first place. Speaking of which;

Separate – You absolutely have to make time to separate the items that you are going to be carrying with you and those that you will be checking in. Make no mistake about this; you will run into issues if you simply stuff your gear every which way without putting in an ounce of thought on what should go where and why.

The first step here is to lay out everything that you will be bringing with you on the flight on the floor. Once the items are there, you can sort them out to see which will be placed in your carry-on bag and which will be placed in the check-in luggage. You can switch and swap as you like during this process since you can’t really do this in one go if you are honest about it.

Once you have made your choice, though, it’s time for you to pack them in backs that you might want to choose specifically for this purpose. That is to say, you might want to choose a duffle bag that doesn’t look to sturdy so that it won’t be treated as roughly as bags that look like they can take some punishment. You are not flying as vacationers but as climbers, after all.

Prioritize – When you are sorting your stuff out and deciding what you are going to be bringing with you, it is important to prioritize while making your choice. That is to say, you have to make sure that the items that you are bringing with you will be ones that will have a purpose the moment you land. You don’t have time or space for frivolous junk that will only get in the way.

Even when you have made your choice on which items will be needed once you get to wherever you are going, you will need to make additional sorting by thinking about which items you will carry with you. You have to put a lot of thought into this because you will be deciding which items will absolutely change the experience if they suddenly disappear.

As already mentioned, luggage is often misplaced during flights and there are always times when your baggage ends up on another plane going to another place entirely. This is just one of the most common problems of traveling. However, if this happens, you need to make sure that you can still make your climb with as few issues as possible.

This is why you have to bring the bare minimum of necessary items with you for the climb in the carry-on. Of course, there are some objects that you will have no choice but to check-in. However, for everything else, you need to make a concerted effort to keep with you as much as possible.

Fragile – Another set of items that will need your attention when you are packing are your carabiners, your clasps, your zippers, and more are the fragile ones. No, not items that are going to shatter when handled roughly or electronics that will malfunction when treated badly. You should not be bringing things like those, in the first place.

Rather, these are the items that will need to do things like open at the hinge and close properly. These are the items that will need to maintain their structural integrity during the climb. Basically, these are your most fragile pieces of equipment that you absolutely have to keep safe while you are flying. This means putting them in your carry-on bag.

Naturally, there are going to be some questions as to why you would be bringing such things with you while you are sitting with other passengers on the plane. A great way to avoid trouble on this front is to have pictures of your items and to have your climbing permit at the ready if you have it. This is usually enough to allay the concerns of inspectors.

If you don’t take precautions against the rough treatment of your luggage where you placed these fragile items in, you might find them bent or broken when you arrive. Just because they are made of tough materials, this does not mean that they can withstand being thrown around by bag handlers and then crushed under tons of other bags.

Sharp Objects – Then there are concerns about sharp objects, which is something that you will really want to pay some special considerations towards. Obviously, not all climbing excursions are going to involve the ice of ice axes. In many cases, you will only really need to bring the minimum necessary number of items related to mountain climbing.

However, you still need to take into account the times when you are going to bring such items with you on a plane. What, are you just never going to go climbing with ice walls and snowy mountain caps as the natural features just because you will be riding a plane? Unless you are ready to make this concession, you are going to have to think about it.

To start with, you will never be able to bring this kind of item with you as carry-on luggage. No airport personnel will ever allow such a thing and if ever there was one, you would get in trouble if it is discovered that you have such objects once you are on the plane. It’s just not worth the risk, so don’t even try it.

As such, you will need to store such items in your bag that you will be checking in. However, even if you have to do so, the packing will need to be done carefully and with precision. You may even want to wrap the ice axes with a cloth or with tape. There are even some special bags that you can put them in so that they don’t get all over the place and their sharp edges can be protected.

Inspection – It is inevitable that you will be facing some scrutiny the moment you get to the airport and you might as well accept this as a fact of life. You might be able to get away with it if the security measures in a particular airport you are in are quite lax, but you can’t on this being the case every time. If you are going to be called to the side because of your gear, you might as well resign yourself.

You will want to cooperate as much as possible, at this point, and you really don’t want to create a fuss. Instead, you will want to put on a friendly smile even if the people you are talking to are looking at you with suspicion. Your first instinct must not be to complain or to argue because this has the potential to backfire and ruin your plans.

Just explain to the folks asking you questions about what your items are for and to satisfying their inspection. Remember that they are just doing their job and even if it costs you a little time, it’s better than being held back because you made a fuss. You won’t be able to make it to your flight if you start acting like a spoiled traveler, after all. So it’s best to just cooperate.

Expecting the Worst – On that note, even if you do cooperate, there is a chance that your stuff will still be confiscated for one reason or another. When that happens, you will generally have two options to choose from. One is to argue with the personnel and make a fuss about it, hoping that if you are loud and obnoxious enough, they will give in.

This is usually a bad idea, especially when you are in places where the discipline among the airport employees is not that good. There have been many cases in which travelers were detained just because they raised their voices at the personnel and you do not want to spend upwards of 48 hours locked up in a room.

The other option that you can take when faced with such a dilemma is to simply accept it as a fact and give up on getting your items now. What you should have done, to begin with, is to make contingency plans for things like that happened. That is to say, you should have been preparing for it to happen by looking up places where you can buy those items when you arrive.

By doing so, you will be able to let go of the items that are being confiscated without a fuss, safe in the knowledge that you already have other moves in play. You will still be able to make your flight and once you land, you will still be able to do the climb. Once you’re done there, you can then make all the fuss that you want since you have already achieved your initial goals.

Can You Take Climbing Gear On a Plane?

You absolutely can take your climbing gear on a plane if you want to bring it with you. However, as already pointed out in the items above, there are just quite a few things that you will need to keep in mind. One is that there are going to be a lot of ignorant people among the airport staff and not all of them are going to take kindly to seeing ropes stuffed in your bags.

They are going to want to inspect them, if only out of curiosity, and while this can be quite the inconvenience, you really don’t want to be fussy about it. You just have to put up with it, especially if you are in another country where you don’t speak the language and the local attitudes and points of view are still alien to you.

Remember that what you are going to a place that is not your turf so you have to make as little trouble as possible when you are bringing your climbing gear on the plane. This means that you will want to bring proper documentation with you when you board and to make sure that no issues crop up as far as your sorted luggage goes.

Obviously, things would be far better for you if you simply placed all the risk items in the bag that you will be checking in. However, this is not always the best option, especially with an airline or an airport that is notorious for losing luggage. If all of your climbing gear is in a bag that got sent somewhere else, you will not be able to climb without replacing them.

Granted, you can always rent your gear if the mountain you are going to is surrounded by the appropriate stores. However, it would just be far better if you didn’t have to deal with an issue like this, to begin with. So just be careful when packing your back and when presenting them.

How to Avoid Trouble with Your Climbing Gear?

If you are intent on avoiding trouble with the climbing gear that you are going to be bringing with you when you are boarding a plane, there are a few tricks that you can employ. To start with, you need to organize your items in such a way that it conveys their purposes while you are packing your bag. This means not just haphazardly throwing them in.

By having your ropes, your harnesses, your climbing shoes and the like neatly organized as you pack them, there is a good chance that the airport personnel will be able to recognize them right away. This will then increase the chances of you being spared from an inspection since the person doing scanning can just tell their colleagues what the items are.

In the event that you are called for an inspection, having all of your items organized will also make for a better impression once you open your luggage. The inspector will be able to see all of the neat stuff that you are bringing and if they have any kind of capacity to think at all, you won’t be there for that long. This goes for both your carry-on and your check-in bags.

Preparing a list of the things that you are bringing with you, along with any licenses and permits that you may have gotten for the climb would be useful, as well. By presenting them directly to the folks that are trying to ascertain your intention, you will be able to allay their concerns much faster. After all, folks in a position of authority seem to respond to paperwork quite well.

More than that, though, you will also want to adopt the demeanor of a cooperative traveler without being a brownnoser. This means that when you are explaining what you are doing, you should not be giving out excessive flattery or any flattery, whatsoever. Things like that only work in the movies and the real authorities will only find it either suspicious or weird.

Above all else, you need to understand that what you are doing is completely legal and as long as you followed all of the proper procedures in preparing for your climb, there should be no reason for you to get in trouble. So you don’t have to be excessively nervous when you are being asked questions and all you can really do is be as honest as possible.

Related Questions

Can I Carry a Rope on a Plane?

Yes, you can carry a rope on a plane as long as you can justify its purpose and usage. You can carry it both in your check-in bag and your carry-on bag, but you might need to satisfy some questions first before you are allowed to bring it with you with other passengers.

Are Crampons Allowed on Planes?

Crampons can sometimes be allowed as carry-on luggage, but there are times when the airport personnel will ask you to just place it your check-in bag. If you are asked to do so, you have no choice but to comply, but if there is no fuss raised about it then you are fine.

What to Pack When Climbing Internationally

So, what exactly can you pack with you when you are traveling internationally for a climbing expedition and what should you just get when you are already on the ground? If we are talking about purely the conversation of convenience here, it would be better if you simply got everything that you needed for the climb at your destination.

If the climbing industry in that area is big enough, you are likely to find stores that are selling the items that you are going to need for the climb. However, you will be giving up on a lot of things, such as the extensive choices that you can get back home. Still, it is a more convenient option.

However, it’s understandable that you might not want to accept that, so let’s talk about what you can do about packing for climbing internationally. Well, you can actually bring pretty much everything that you want to bring with you, as long as you know that most of them will need to be checked in. You will only be able to bring a few items as a carry-on.

What to Do When in Trouble?

All right, so assuming that you did get in trouble for bringing your climbing gear on the plane for whatever reason, you will need to know how you can remedy the situation. Fortunately, there are some options that are available to you, but they would all depend on the situation. In fact, you might need to resort to legal measures if things take a turn for the worse.

However, all of this will depend on the type of trouble that you will get into, so let’s talk about some of the more common scenarios. When you are being inspected and the suspicion about your intentions is increasing, the best thing that you can really do is to speak to their superiors. It is likely that someone of higher authority will be more familiar with mountain climbing gear and sort the trouble out.

Once you are on the plane and someone discovers your gear for whatever reason, they might freak out. Your best bet here is to call one of the flight attendants, explain to them what your gear is for, and have them explain to the passengers that there is no need to worry. Don’t even try to explain it yourself because the other passengers are not liable to listen. 

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