Can You Take Climbing Gear On Planes ? 2024

climbing rope, carabiners and Ascenders
image Unsplash

Traveling with climbing gear can be a bit tricky, especially if you want to bring along all the equipment on your climbing checklist.

You can generally fly with small climbing gear (like carabiners, cams etc..) in your carry-on bag without any trouble. But larger and bulky climbing gear like Axes need to be transported in checked baggage.

In this post, I will explain all that you need to understand about taking your climbing gear with you on a plane, icovering both carry-on and checked baggage.

I’ll also share some helpful hints I figured out from my own experience and research.

Let’s dive right in.

Can You Take Climbing Gear In Hand Luggage?

TSA Climbing Gear

The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) are the clerks that takes charge of searching bags and belongings when traveling within and from the U.S airports.

Unlike the airline companies they don’t really care about the size and the weight of your, all what they care is that the items you are taking are not a threat to the safety of the passengers and the airplane.

They have a list of prohibited and allowed items on their website, but they do not cover every single items.

That’s why I did some research to find out more about what climbing gear you can take on planes, carry-on and checked luggage.

Climbing Gear You Can Take On a Plane carry-on and checked baggage

These climbing items are small and safe to bring on board the airplanes and checked baggage.

Climbing gear / accessories Carry-on baggage Checked baggage
Carabiners✅ allowed ✅ allowed
Belay devices✅ allowed ✅ allowed
Gloves✅ allowed ✅ allowed
Quick draws✅ allowed ✅ allowed
Alpine draws✅ allowed ✅ allowed
Brushes✅ allowed ✅ allowed
Crash Pads✅ allowed ( might not meet the size for carry-on baggage )✅ allowed but contact your airline for additional info
Cams✅ allowed ✅ allowed
Climbing Harness✅ allowed ✅ allowed
Headlamps✅ allowed ✅ allowed
Liquid chalk✅ allowed but only 3.4 oz / 100 for a single container✅ allowed
Helmets✅ allowed ✅ allowed
Climbing ropes / Paracord✅ allowed ✅ allowed
Climbing tape✅ allowed ✅ allowed
Climbing Shoes✅ allowed ✅ allowed
Belay Glasses✅ allowed ✅ allowed
Slings ✅ allowed ✅ allowed
Hexes✅ allowed ✅ allowed
Nuts✅ allowed ✅ allowed
Ascenders✅ allowed ✅ allowed
Any other small and non sharp item that I don’t mention in this table ✅ allowed ✅ allowed
This table covers different climbing gear items that are permitted in both carry-on and checked baggage.

Climbing Gear You Can’t Take On a Plane carry-on

onboard an aircraft or beyond the security screening checkpoint

These items can be used as potential weapons or sharp objects that could harm passengers or threaten the airplane’s safety.

So you can’t take them onboard an aircraft or through the security screening, you need to a pack them in checked baggage.

Climbing gear Carry-on baggage Checked Baggage
Axes❌ Not Allowed ✅ allowed
Crampons❌ Not Allowed ( You may pack small crampons but the final decision rests with TSA checkpoint officers.)✅ allowed
Pitons❌ Not Allowed ✅ allowed
Climbing Spikes❌ Not Allowed ✅ allowed
Clip-up Stick❌ Not Allowed ✅ allowed
This table covers different climbing gear items that are not permitted in carry-on baggage but allowed in checked baggage.

Make sure to wrap them well to prevent any possible damage for your bag, or hurt luggage handlers and inspectors.

Use a hard-sided case, duffel bag or backpack with padding to store your gear.

Airlines Rules And Policies For Climbing Gear

Even though the TSA and most airport securities do allow climbing gear in both carry-on and checked luggage, you still need to consider your airline luggage weight and size limits.

For example on American Airlines a backpack containing one pair of crampons, one Axe and equipment such as ropes, harnesses, helmets etc .. will be counted as one piece of checked luggage.

The maximum linear size (length + width + height) is 126 in / 320 cm, and the maximum weight is 70 lbs / 32 kgs.

The backpack will be charged a standard checked bag fee, as long as it is within the size and weight limits, if it is oversized or above the weight additional charges will be applied.

I can’t list all the airline policies, but you can browse the sports equipment section on your airline website and you will get all the info you will need.

You can also call their customer service before you book your flight and pack your bags.

How Do You Pack Climbing Gear For a Flight?

Packing your climbing gear for a plane can be challenge, especially if you want to bring all your gear and to avoid paying those hefty luggage fees.

Here are some tips to pack smartly and efficiently:

  • When taking small gear in carry-on, put all sharp and hard items into the middle of the backpack and wrap them with bubble wrap or foam.
  • You can also use organizing boxes to separate your gear by category and make it easier to find what you need.
  • Use bright colors or luggage tags to identify your bag or backpack and make them stand out from others.
  • Use a TSA approved lock or a luggage strap to secure your bag and prevent it from opening during transit.
  • Use duct tape or electrical tape to cover any exposed metal parts or edges that could cause damage or injury to luggage handles and inspectors.
  • Use plastic bags or containers to store any liquids or gels that could leak or spill like liquid chalk.
  • Weigh your bags and make sure they are within the weight limits of your airline.
  • Consider renting some of the climbing gear at your destination if your airline charges ridiculous fees for sports gear.

Be Prepared For Security Checks At The Airport

When you travel with climbing gear, you may encounter some security checks and inspections at the airport.

Here are some tips to be prepared for them:

  1. Arrive early and allow enough time for the security screening process and check in your bags and gear .
  2. Have your boarding pass and ID ready and accessible.
  3. Follow the instructions of the security clerks and be polite and cooperative.
  4. Be ready to open your bags and show your gear if asked by the security officers.
  5. Place your carry-on items in the bins provided and follow the 3-1-1 rule for liquids, gels and aerosols (chalk liquid as example).
  6. Declare any items that could be considered as hazardous or prohibited, such as axes, crampons, etc.
  7. Keep an eye on your bags and gear and don’t leave them alone at the airport.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you bring climbing gear through TSA?

Yes, you can bring most small climbing gear through TSA, but there are some exceptions and restrictions. here are some of the items that you can bring through TSA:
Climbing shoes, harness, helmet, carabiners, Quick draws, GriGri, ATC, belay devices, ascenders, shunts, trad gear (nuts, cams), climbing rope, paracords, and slings.
You cannot bring axes, Hexes, Pitons, and any item that could be used as a bludgeon in carry-on bags. You will be able to bring these items in checked bags.

Are carabiners allowed in carry on?

Most small carabiners are good to go in carry-on luggage. However, some large carabiners may not be allowed and it will mostly depend on the TSA officer at the scuts checkpoint, so If you already have a checked bag, it is advised to pack all your climbing gear there, just ensure that it is neatly protected.

Will the airline damage my climbing gear?

Whether the airline will damage your climbing gear or not depends on how careful the baggage handlers are, and how well you pack your gear.
As a precaution pack your gear in a sturdy, padded bag or case that can withstand bumps and drops. You can use a duffel bag, a backpack, or a hard-shell case designed for climb gin gear. Make sure the bag or case is not too big or above your airline luggage limits.

Can you take powder rock climbing chalk on a plane?

Yes, you can take powdered rock climbing chalk on a plane, powdered products are allowed in both carry-on and checked baggage. However, liquid chalk need to follow the TSA liquid rule and If you have more than 3.4 oz / 100 ml container, you will need to consider rebottling them or place them in your checked bag.

Can you take climbing gear on an international flight?

Yes, most climbing gear are allowed on international flights, on Canadian, European, UK, New Zealand, and Australian flights, the rules for traveling with climbing gear are almost the same to the US however, you will need to do some research first about the country of your destination, or contact your airline to confirm with them that you have your climbing gear with you.