Rules for Flights in the USA
In the United States, most climbing gear is permitted in hand and cargo baggage with certain restrictions.
Carabiners, helmets, climbing ropes, climbing tape, climbing chalk, and chalk bags are welcome both in hand and in cargo baggage. Although harnesses, belay devices, gloves, quickdraws, alpine draws, brushes, cams, and headlamps aren’t listed by TSA, they are, for the most part, allowed in cabin baggage too.
Liquid chalk is permitted in both hand and checked baggage but it’s subject to the 3-1-1 liquids rule when traveling in hand baggage. It should be in 3.4 ounces / 100 milliliters containers or smaller and fit with other liquids in a 1-quart plastic, resealable bag.
Though not listed by United States authorities, bouldering crash pads are usually permitted on planes as checked baggage. However, travelers should consult with their airline before traveling as there is usually a size limit for sports equipment, and for bouldering crash pads you’re likely to pay an extra handling or oversize item fee.
Ice picks, ice axes, spikes, trekking and hiking poles, multi-tools with knives, and hand saws are permitted in checked baggage exclusively as they are considered potential weapons.
Chainsaw screnches, nut tools, climbing gaffs, and sheers (both EMT and pruning), stick clips, screws, pitons, and whippets, aren’t mentioned specifically by TSA but are generally considered potential weapons and therefore should travel only in checked baggage.
Crampons are generally allowed in hand and cargo baggage in the United States. Still, it’s recommended to pack them in checked baggage as security agents might deem them dangerous.
Rules for Flights in Other Countries
In Canada, authorities allow non-sharp climbing gear on planes, but some airlines prohibit it entirely in cabin baggage. Passengers must contact their airline beforehand to learn their policy about climbing gear.
Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, China, and India
On European, United Kingdom, Australian, New Zealand, Chinese, and Indian flights, the rules aren’t specified for all climbing gear, but they are pretty much the same as the US. Climbing gear that isn’t sharp nor can be used as a weapon is allowed in cabin baggage. Sharp climbing gear like ice picks, axes, pitons, and spikes is permitted in checked baggage only and should be packed safely to avoid injuries.
Sources: For writing this article, we took information only from official sources, like airline regulators, government websites, and major airlines. If you want to confirm that our information is accurate and up to date, click on any of the links mentioned above. We linked out to where we found this information for each country.
Disclaimer: The final decision of whether you can bring climbing gear on planes always rests on the security officer. Some airlines also have additional rules that may be different.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bringing Climbing Gear on Planes
Which climbing gear is allowed in hand and checked luggage?
Generally, most climbing gear is permitted in hand and checked baggage in the United States. In hand baggage, passengers can carry rope, helmets, carabiners, crampons, harnesses, belay devices, quickdraws, alpine draws, brushes, climbing shoes, chalk, chalk bag, cams, climbing tape, and headlamps. In checked baggage, passengers should pack stick clips, nuts, nut tools, trekking poles, screws, ice picks, and axes. Bouldering crash pads must also travel in cargo baggage since they’re too large to fit the carry-on size requirements. Liquid chalk is allowed in hand baggage, but it must be under 3.4 ounces / 100 milliliters and it should fit with other liquids in a 1-quart clear resealable bag.
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Which climbing gear is banned from hand luggage?
Sharp and heavy climbing gear that can be used as a weapon is banned from hand luggage in the United States. Banned sharp items include ice picks, ice axes, pitons, screws, spikes, hand saws, nut tools, and multi-tools with knives and sharp edges. Trekking and hiking poles are banned from hand baggage too as they might be used as a bludgeoning weapon. Ropes, crampons, and harnesses are usually permitted onboard, but depending on the TSA agent’s judgment they might also be considered dangerous to take on a plane. A crash pad is solely accepted as checked baggage for its dimensions and weight.
Is packing climbing gear in checked luggage safe?
Most sharp and heavy climbing gear isn’t allowed in hand baggage, so it should travel in checked bags instead. Generally, it’s safe to pack climbing gear in checked bags, but the TSA requires it to be packed securely. Passengers should use an ice pick cover or other means for protecting sharp edges to prevent accidental injuries during luggage inspection.
However, with checked luggage, there’s always the risk that the bag might get lost or things could get stolen from it. That’s why climbers should keep their belay devices, carabiners, quickdraws, helmets, cams, and other lightweight, non-sharp climbing gear in hand baggage to prevent that from happening.
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How do I pack climbing gear in my luggage?
Most climbing gear is allowed aboard planes in the United States, but passengers have to distribute it between hand and cargo baggage wisely to prevent triggering any airport security alarms. In general, you should pack non-sharp climbing gear in hand baggage (harnesses, helmets, carabiners, etc.) and sharp objects in checked baggage (ice picks, axes, pitons, screws, etc). In your checked bag, you can use a pouch to store together smaller sharp items like nut tools, pocket knives, pitons, stick clips, and screws. You should always use a protection cover for larger sharper items, like ice picks and axes.
What climbing gear should I travel with?
You should at least carry the basic climbing gear when traveling, including ropes, harnesses, helmets, belay devices, chalk, climbing shoes, carabiners, cams, and quickdraws. However, the climbing gear you travel with will depend greatly on your skills, what type of climbing you are doing and how much luggage you plan on traveling with. If you’re traveling with ice picks, axes, whippets, pocket knives, nut tools, or any gear that might be get considered a weapon, you will need a piece of checked baggage. Generally, climbers try to limit their climbing gear to one carry-on baggage and one checked baggage to avoid paying extra fees. You can also rent part of your climbing equipment at your final destination to avoid bringing checked baggage.