How to Bring a Tent on a Plane

As long as you follow their guidelines, the TSA won't give you trouble
As long as you follow their guidelines, the TSA won’t give you trouble

Several campers think they can only use their tents in their area or bring them to new spots by car and that, if camping in a different country, need to buy a new tent there. This is wrong (and also very costly!). As long as you’re following the rules, you can bring your tent on a plane! Take a look how

Things To Consider Before Packing Your Tent

Going through airport security with your tent doesn't have to be hard
Going through airport security with your tent doesn’t have to be hard

Before you actually start packing your tent and getting ready to take it on a plane, you need to consider the following things: 

TSA Guidelines

The first thing you need to think about are the guidelines issued by the TSA (an abbreviation for the “Transportation Security Administration”).

According to the guidelines that the TSA issues, you can carry the tent in your checked luggage, but not in a carry on bag. 

This looks a bit random – why is that? Very simple. The Government (via the TSA) believes that tent pegs, poles, or tent stakes can be used as weapons. So, to minimize any incidents, the TSA restricts you from bringing tents on the plane, instead making you pack them in your checked luggage (that does not travel with you on the plane).   

The Airline Guidelines

The second thing that you need to think about before you pack your stuff is the guidelines or standards of the airline in which you are traveling.

Every airline has its own policies and regulations, so always check them every time you’re flying to avoid misunderstandings. 

As a rule of thumb, some airlines let you carry a tent as a carry-on item only if you fulfill the weight and size restrictions (which we’ll talk a bit about below). If that’s the case, you’ll need to strictly follow the size limitations given by the same airline.

Other airlines take a different approach: they require you to place any tents (or other tent gear) in checked baggage regardless of their size or weight.

Again, always check the airline guidelines first before you start packing. 

Weight and Size Restrictions

Like we wrote up there, any weight and size restrictions on tents (in carry-on bags or in checked luggage) vary from airline to airline. Never assume you know the requirements by memory; just check them quickly online before your trip – it takes 2 minutes and will save you a big headache.

Even though the requirements change depending on the airline, we generally follow this rule of thumb: if you’re using your carry-on luggage to pack your tent, aim for 22x14x9 inches in terms of size. On weight, aim for around 50 pounds. 

If you’re packing your tent in checked luggage, in the majority of cases the size and weight allowed are 62 inches and 50 pounds. 

One more time: please always check the requirements online before you plan on bringing your tent on a plane.

Packing the Tent Properly

Whether you’re taking a flight or a train, or simply driving to the campsite, you need to know how to properly pack your tent.

We recommend you try to pack as light as possible to spare additional space for other camping gear (e.g. to take a sleeping bag or tent poles) and to make your life easier when carrying your checked bags. 

You should remember these important things while packing your tent: 

  • If you’re finishing a camping trip, takedown your tent following the manufacturer’s guidelines

  • Clean and dry it properly

  • Fold your tent and relevant accessories like tent poles, and tent pegs, properly to avoid any damage during your travel

  • Consider using a compression bag to pack things efficiently and save space. These bags are great to compress your tent to a smaller and manageable size and allow you to fit them easily in your luggage. These bags also safeguard the tents from moisture and any other damage

  • Finally, label and tag your tent properly with the help of a permanent marker. You should write your name, phone number, or email address so that it does not get lost

Security Screening and Tent Inspection

Don't bring inflammable materials with you
Don’t bring inflammable materials with you

The last important thing you need to be aware of when traveling with a tent is the security screening and tent inspection.

TSA has strict regulations regarding these procedures, and according to them, all camping equipment like tents must be screened before entering a plane. Therefore, if you are carrying a tent in a carry-on bag, you will have to take it out and place it in the bin for screening. Naturally, this is not the case if you placed your tent in the checked luggage (as this won’t go with you when you’re boarding the plane).

The officer can inspect your tent in a detailed manner to guarantee that the tent is not made of any inflammable material and that the stakes and tent poles are placed separately. 

To facilitate this process and make things easier for you, you should pack your tent in a way that is easy to remove and pack it again without moving around other items in your checked bag. 

Final Tips

The tips below can make your life easier if you’re bringing a tent with you to the plane – check them out:

  • Choose the tent you want to bring to your camping trip keeping in mind the size and weight requirements of the airline you’re taking

  • Consider other factors like the material of the tent, its durability, and how easy it is to set up and take down

  • Pack the tent and other camping gear properly by following all the points discussed above

  • Do not use a heavy-duty trash bag to pack your tents as these are not allowed in planes

  • Be prepared for the checking system and pack your stuff in a way that makes everyone’s lives easier

Conclusion

As you can see, the fact that you’ll need to take a plane to go on your next camping trip abroad is not a valid excuse to skip that trip. As long as you follow the TSA’s and airline’s guidelines and regulations, you’re good to go.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Take a Tent on a Plane?

Yes. As long as you follow the TSA guidelines and the regulations of each airline, you can carry your tent on a plane.

What Are The Benefits of Traveling With a Tent?

Traveling with a tent has amazing benefits:

  1. Cost-saving

  2. Enables you to explore new destinations

  3. Gives you memorable experiences in different countries

What Camping Gear Is Allowed in Planes?

Some items that are allowed in your luggage are:

  1. Sleeping bags

  2. Potable stoves

  3. Flashlights

What Camping Gear Is Not Allowed in Planes?

Some items that are not allowed in planes are:

  1. Bear spray

  2. Stove fuel

  3. Firelighters 

Are Tents Damaged While In Planes?

This entirely depends on how you pack and store your tent. If you do it properly, it won’t get damaged. 

Does A Sleeping Bag Count as a Carry On?

Yes it will, so make sure that your folded sleeping bag has the right size and weight.

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