If your backpacking travels require the use of commercial airlines, your travel planning and packing will become much more complicated. This is especially true in the modern era or increased airline security measures and the increased use of roll-on carry-on luggage used by so many travelers these days. Because of this, airport screeners will be much more vigorous at screening out unauthorized items and making sure your luggage meets size and weight limits. You may also need to get to the airport much earlier to get through the screening process.
Like most types of traveling, trekking and backpacking, you will want to limit what you carry to just what you need. Sifting out what is not need not only makes your load lighter, but also makes airline traveling more manageable and perhaps even more economic. And if you can get away with just a carry-on pack, you will save countless headaches caused by go through customs, waiting for your bags, checking bags and having your check-in luggage end up at a different destination than you.
Going with check-in luggage only means that you will need to limit gear to a small to medium sized backpack, sometime an additional small bag and whatever you are willing to wear on the plane. Your main bag should be smaller than 22" x 14" x 9" (55.5 x 35.5 x 22.5cm) and you will need to avoid packing and banned items.
Since most airlines allow you to carry on a small personal item, you can often get away with one of the following items:
If you just have too much gear to pack as a carry on or have items that must be checked (knife, liquids, bulking items, potential weapons, etc), then you will need to check at least one item. If you do so, you may wish to pad anything that may break if you bag is dropped or thrown - which it will be. You will also want to protect any exposed straps if possible and pack away any gear you may have hanging the outside of your pack. If you don't have a travel pack that allows you to stow your suspension, than you might want to throw your pack in a duffle bag, pack it in a durable cardboard box or figure out a way to protect your straps that can get caught up the miles of conveyor belts which can lead to significant damage to your gear, delays in recovering luggage or luggage that just gets lost altogether.
You will also need to familiarize yourself with the latest in contrabanded items and avoid packing these or plan on potentially having them confiscated (along with anything else that might be in your bag when security officers rummage through it).
See our Carry-on Luggage Limits and Check-In Luggage Limits page for more information.
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