Can a Backpack Be Checked Luggage?

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We’ve learned that backpacks can be used as carry-ons or personal items (depending on the size). This is especially helpful if you’re going on a short trip and don’t want to have to check in additional luggage.

Let’s say, however, you’ve been planning a camping trip with friends for the longest time and after months of careful planning, it’s’ finally about to happen. Nevertheless, it seems pretty absurd to lug around a suitcase on some pretty rough terrain where you need your hands and feet free to climb. You might be wondering now: can backpacks be used as checked luggage?

This article will address the option of using a backpack as checked luggage. For those who are going on hiking trips and want to check in a backpack, you will also see some tips for checking and securing your backpack before you check it in at the airport.

Can a Backpack Be Used as Checked Luggage?

Yes – backpacks can be used as checked luggage, provided that they comply with the rules of the airlines.

What Are the Restrictions for Using Backpacks as Checked Luggage?

Most airlines will allow you one piece of checked luggage. Most airlines also have a limit where the size and weight of the checked luggage are concerned. In general, the maximum size allowed is 62 inches and the weight limit is 50 pounds, but sometimes the weight limit can be upwards of 70 pounds.

Before you travel—or even start packing your bag—it’s important to check first with the airlines you will be flying with as some of them might have stricter rules. You also want to avoid the surprises and unnecessary fees you might encounter if your backpack does not meet the luggage restrictions. And airline fees can be quite expensive too, especially if your bag is overweight!

Read next: Can Checked Luggage Fly Without a Passenger?

Tips on Checking in Your Backpack

1. Use Your Rain Cover and Tighten All of the Straps

Two internal frame backpacks with rain covers

The challenge with traveling with a backpack as check-in luggage is that they have additional straps which might get the backpack stuck on the luggage conveyor belts. Or your backpack might even get stuck somewhere and end up getting torn when someone pulls it in an attempt to free it.

That’s why it’s important to tighten all the straps and use the rain cover. That way, the backpack is as secure as possible. If you can, tie your backpack straps together so they aren’t hanging around loosely. You also need to use your rain cover so it won’t get wet in case it’s left in rain when loading the airplane.

2. Wrap Your Backpack in Plastic Wrap

If you want to make sure that your checked backpack is really secure, wrap it in plastic wrap. That way, everything—including your straps, handles, belts, and other things that might contribute to a backpack getting stuck on the luggage belt—is safely secured and tucked away. This also protects your zippers from accidentally being opened.

In case you don’t know where to find plastic wrap, you should check with the airlines or the airport you’ll be flying from. Some of them are able to have that service so you don’t have to worry about it and can just have it wrapped before you drop it off at the check-in counter.

3. Pack All the Fragiles, Electronics, and Valuables in Your Hand Luggage

Fragiles, electronics, and other valuables should never be packed in your checked baggage. When you are packing for the trip, make sure that they are packed in your carry-on luggage, not your checked-in luggage. This is so you don’t accidentally leave some of these things in your checked-in luggage and don’t have to scramble to rearrange everything when you are at the airport.

These items are safer in your carry-on luggage because they will be with you all the time. There’s no guarantee that your things won’t fall out of your checked-in baggage during the handling—from checking them in to loading them onto the plane to when you will claim them again in the luggage belt. Zippers get loose, pockets open, accidents happen. Just to be on the safe side, you should put your valuables, electronics, and fragile items with you all the time.

Tip: If you don’t have hand luggage, get a dry-sack that you can use for organizing your items and keeping them dry inside your backpack, and before your flight, use that dry sack as your hand luggage.

4. Sharp Things, Alcohol, and Liquids Over 100ml Are Okay in Checked Luggage

On the other hand, there are other items that you cannot place into your carry-on bags. Some of these would be sharp things, alcohol, and liquids. It is absolutely prohibited to bring them in your carry-on bag, so if you’re thinking of taking them with you, make sure you have them stashed safely and securely in your checked luggage.

Make sure to seal and wrap your liquids carefully so they don’t accidentally spill out. You might even want to seal them with an extra plastic wrap or zip lock just to be sure they won’t damage the other things you will be bringing, especially if you have clothes there as well. As for your sharp objects, make sure they are also wrapped up well or placed in appropriate bags before you place them in your backpack so they don’t end up poking and destroying something else.

5. Fuel for Camping Stoves and Insect Repellants Are Banned From Checked Luggage

Hiking gear laid out next to a large hiking backpack

Going on a backpacking adventure is lots of fun, but it requires careful planning and equally careful packing. If you’re about to jump on a plane with your camping equipment, it’s best to research first what TSA allows and doesn’t allow for backpackers.
You can bring a camping stove in your checked luggage, but you can’t bring any form of camp fuel. Insect repellents are also banned from the checked luggage, but you can take them in your carry-on bags. Just be sure to check the liquid limitations of your carry-on bags. Some airlines require that each bottle be a certain size only (around 3.4 ounces or less).

6. Pack the Most Important Stuff Deeper Inside the Pack in Case a Zipper Bursts Open

Backpacks are made of less sturdy material as compared to cloth and hard-case luggage. Thus, you need to be careful when you pack, placing the most important stuff inside the pack. This is to be sure that your important items remain safe in case your bag accidentally rips or in case a zipper bursts open.

If you’re bringing items that are valuable or important, don’t place them on the top pouch of your backpack, but place them deep inside your backpack and surround them with your other items. They will be safer there in case someone tries to remove them and they won’t fall out of your backpack easily in case an accident occurs. If you aren’t sure how safe they are and you are allowed to place them in your carry-on luggage, then it’s best to take them with you instead of having them checked in.

Final Words

Backpacks can be used as checked-in luggage, but you need to check with the airlines what size is allowed. You also need to be careful when packing it, making sure you secure all straps and even wrapping it with plastic.

It might seem like a big deal, but there is a reason for all the extra precautions. Securing your backpack—and its contents—in such a way will ensure that your backpack arrives at your next destination in one piece so you can go on that camping trip without having to worry about anything.

This post is also available in: English

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