Hiking sticks come in handy when completing hikes on rough terrain, but what happens when you need to travel via airplane to get to your desired hiking location? There are a few rules about bringing hiking sticks onto the airplane.
Technically, TSA does not allow hiking sticks to be in a carry-on bag and taken onto the plane. However, they are allowed in a checked bag. It also depends on the TSA agent. Some travelers have been able to sneak them into their carry-on, but it’s a risky move to make.
Continue reading to learn about the best way to transport your hiking stick.
TSA Rules for Hiking Sticks
What you are allowed to bring and not bring onto the plane with you all comes down to the transportation security administration, otherwise known as TSA. TSA has official rules on several different objects and if they can go in your carry-on or not, hiking sticks being one of them. TSA says that hiking sticks, otherwise known as hiking poles, are not allowed in your carry-on.
The main reason they are not allowed is that they could be used to hurt someone on the plane. No tool longer than seven inches is allowed on the plane. This can get very annoying and inconvenient when certain items aren’t allowed in a carry-on, but the rules are in place for your own safety. If you don’t want your sticks to get officially confiscated, respect the rules and the TSA workers. (Source)
However, they are allowed in your checked bag. You may have planned on only having a carry on to save luggage room in your rental car and air BnB, or save costs if your airline charges you extra for checked bags. This now adds a whole new letter to the equation, but it’s not the end of the world.
However, it is very convenient to have your hiking poles with you on the plane, because there is a much lower chance that they will get damaged in your own care. Checking luggage can be very scary and nerve-wracking as airport workers are known to toss luggage around when storing it on the plane. Don’t fret yet, there are still a few more options. (Source)
So, there are a few solutions. TSA admits that what is allowed in your carry on all comes down to the individual TSA worker who scans your luggage. Some travelers say that other countries are not as strict, since their security rules aren’t set in stone as they are in the United States. You may get lucky and get to take your hiking sticks with you on the planes, but you could also risk losing your hiking sticks. Don’t take any chances based on someone else’s luck with a considerate TSA worker. Some enforce the rules more than others, and there is no way to know beforehand. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Exceptions for Hiking Sticks
As mentioned before, there are a few exceptions when it comes to carry-ons and hiking poles. Some people have been able to get away with folding hiking poles, as they are easier to store among other items in the carry-on. The TSA worker may then not notice the hiking poles if they are shorter than the normal length. This is one very risky option.
Some people also duct tape the sharp ends and are able to get it through security this way. If the hiking pole is short enough, it could get passed off as a cane. Canes are always allowed onto planes, so this could be your best bet. Another option is getting medical approval to take your hiking poles with you. The ‘cane’ will still have to be x-rayed. (Source) (Source)
Once again, it comes down to the TSA agent. Some people have been able to easily take them on the plane, but others have had their hiking poles confiscated. Even if you try calling your airport or airline beforehand, they are going to refer back to the official TSA rules. They have no control over what goes through security before it gets to the plane. So be prepared to not have your hiking sticks with you on the flight if you tend to use them for walking assistance. (Source)
Risks of Packing Hiking Sticks
Sneaking your hiking sticks in your carry-on is a big risk, but it will make traveling much easier if it all works out. You need to be prepared for either outcome.
If TSA doesn’t allow your hiking poles on the plane with you, they could either confiscate them or force you to check or mail them, which takes more time out of your day and could cause you to miss your flight. Is that a risk you are willing to take? If they are confiscated you will need to buy new ones. Some backpackers use their hiking poles to pitch their tent, so if that is you, you wouldn’t have anything to pitch your tent with.
Other Options for Transporting Hiking Sticks
Your best bet and final option is to mail your hiking sticks to your final destination. This may be nerve-wracking as the poles could get damaged, but not as damaged as in a checked bag. When mailing the poles you can wrap them in several layers of bubble wrap and soft material, making them as safe as possible. It also costs money to ship items, but the cost of mailing your hiking sticks is nothing compared to the cost of buying new sticks or checking a bag last minute. Everything is more expensive at the airport. (Source)
If you do choose to sneak them into your carry-on, make sure your final destination has a store where you can buy hiking poles. Ultimately the choice is up to you and the risks you are willing to take. Think about your budget, how necessary the sticks are, and how your trip will go without them. Some travelers love to be prepared for any outcome, and others like to live life as it happens. Hiking poles are not allowed on airplanes, but there are other ways to get them to your final destination. Happy Hiking!