Traveling with Climbing Gear

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Traveling with Climbing Gear

by RyderS » Thu Dec 30, 2010 11:57 pm

So, I'm sure this is a perennial dilemma facing many climbers, but I've never had to travel with so much gear. I'm headed out for the Sierras on January 3rd and I'm bringing a 60m rope, a full alpine rack, and a lot of winter mountaineering equipment in a big duffell bag. Any advice on how to adequately protect the gear in transit and keep track of it? I'm mostly concerned about the rack and the rope, since those are two very critical pieces of equipment, and the rack has so many pieces. I'm guessing some TSA officials might get suspicious of a lot of metal and odd-looking objects packed in a large, single bag.

Thanks, for the help.

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Re: Traveling with Climbing Gear

by rgg » Fri Dec 31, 2010 5:23 am

Whenever I fly, I'm always slightly worried that my climbing gear doesn't arrive, but apart from that, last time I traveled, which was a few days ago, it was still perfectly fine to bring everything I need in my checked luggage. I've never doubted that items like ice tools, crampons, ice screws, carabiners and so on are easily recognized for what they are using X-ray machines. To be precise, my last flight was directly from Ecuador to the Netherlands, but previously I've flown via the USA as well.

To get it all transported safely, I stuff all my climbing gear in a medium to large backpack, together with my other luggage, and the pack always ends up completely full so nothing could possibly shift around and get damaged. After that, I stuff the pack in an even larger duffel bag. First of all, the duffel prevents the straps from the pack from being hung up on anything while in transit, but it also protects my backpack. After arriving on my destination, I use the duffel bag separately.

The most important exception I make is for my mountaineering boots, which I take into the cabin - it could be time consuming to find suitable ones to rent or buy some on the spot, should my stuff be delayed or go missing. That is, I just carry them, while walking on sandals, but if anybody would complain about exceeding my carry-on limit, I would put on the boots and put the sandals in my carry-on bag - problem solved. Never had to do that though.

By the way, my carry-on tends to be on the big side. It's the medium sized backpack that I like to use when I'm climbing, and I fill it up with expensive or hard to replace things like a down jacket, mittens, rain gear, plus whatever didn't fit in the big pack anymore. If I would ever be called on it being too big (usually, it does exceed the official size limits), I could always wear some of the stuff (I'll just suffer being really warm for a while) after which I could easily compress the pack into an acceptable size.

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Re: Traveling with Climbing Gear

by Jerry L » Fri Dec 31, 2010 12:02 pm

Depending on the length of the trip, I use (1) or (2) large canvas duffel bags. I stuffed the crap in there, leave the bag(s) unlocked,and have never had any issues.

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Re: Traveling with Climbing Gear

by Grampahawk » Fri Dec 31, 2010 3:29 pm

Good advice on using the large duffels for the checked baggage. I put my partially full pack inside one, and other gear goes into the other. I also recommend bringing your boots and few small, expensive, or not easy to replace items like altimiter, GPS, glacier glasses (mine are prescription) onto the plane in your carry-on. I've also been able to hook up with other SP'ers who live in various areas to do the climbs with them and they can provide a lot of the group gear, like ropes, so that I don't have to schlep them on the plane.

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Re: Traveling with Climbing Gear

by PAROFES » Fri Dec 31, 2010 4:27 pm

In my case i don't have much choice...
All i can do is to get some thing with inside a smaller backpack (such as my camera, my gps, some gloves, goggles and helmet), but the big one with 22kg of gear and food is already locked...
My flight leaves Brazil tomorrow, i hope everything goes alright...

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Re: Traveling with Climbing Gear

by phydeux » Fri Dec 31, 2010 4:52 pm

I've traveled a few times with climbing gear and it wasn't a problem as long as its in checked luggage. The only climbing-related item they don't want is fuel canisters (don't want an explosion at 30,000 ft!). If carrying a liquid fuel stove make sure you empty it, air it out, then clean it out with a light solvent to remove fuel residue (alcohol or acetone), let those fumes air-out, then pack it. Might be a good idea to inform the airline at check-in and let them know there's no fuel in your kit. Also cover up the 'pointy' things (ice tools, crampon points) so they don't puncture anything.

FWIW: If you're concerned about bringing a stove, you might want to post in the 'California' forum to see if anywhere near the area you're going to rents stoves. Wilson's Sporting Goods (Bishop) or Mammoth Mountaineering (Mammoth Lakes) might rent them (eastside, Owens Valley area).

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Re: Traveling with Climbing Gear

by DukeJH » Mon Jan 03, 2011 9:51 pm

Lots of good info here. I usually load my pack and then put it in a duffel making sure it's less than the maximum allowable weight. I tend to pack my sharps (axe with guards and crampons in bag) in a second duffel if I can otherwise I pack the crampons tightly and wrap them in something that won't be a big dealif the puncture it. Expensive gear goes into the carry on for sure.

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Re: Traveling with Climbing Gear

by kheegster » Tue Jan 04, 2011 11:33 pm

I've never had trouble travelling with climbing gear. Just make sure that anything sharp is in your checked luggage, and wait till you arrive at the destination to purchase the fuel for your stove.

In fact I often carry my rock rack in my carryon luggage (minus chalkbag and nut tool), and I've only been pulled aside for secondary screening once, and even then once the TSA people took a look at what was inside I had no trouble with them

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