Is it allowed to bring a climbing rope bag on a plane, maybe even as a carry-on item? Since I want to go on a trip overseas and want to bring my climbing gear, I was thinking of carrying my rope inside a backpack. Along with a laptop and other stuff. With all the weird regulations regarding carry-on items, I was not sure if this is actually allowed. And I did some research on Reddit and some climbing forums.
Can You Bring Climbing Rope as Carry-On Luggage in an Airplane? Yes, you can. According to current TSA regulations in 2019, climbing rope and carabiners as well as quickdraw slings and chalk can be carried along on a plane.
Climbing Rope Is Allowed as Carry-On Gear in Airplanes
There is no TSA regulation against climbing rope! You can bring as many feet of rope as you want. Some other climbing gears. TSA regulations usually only forbid items that can be used as weapons. Or somehow can be used to damage the airplane or passengers. A rope is just not dangerous, and there is not much else you can do with it. Except trying to tie someone down – which is unlikely and won’t put the airplane’s safety in jeopardy. It doesn’t matter that the climbing rope is a bit unusual as a carry-on. Sure it will earn you some weird looks from the TSA personnel and maybe even the cabin crew, but that’s not a dealbreaker, right? If you want, go ahead and check the TSAs exact rules, you can find them here.
I once traveled with an oversized hiking backpack and a skateboard as carry-on, and while the cabin crew had a good laugh, there are no regulations or restrictions against this. So go ahead, pack your rope into your cabin bag, it’s allowed, and you’re good to go!
What other gear can you bring on a plane as cabin luggage or carry on?
When we talk about allowed gear as carry on, let’s have a look at some other climbing gear. Climbing rope is okay, as I explained above. But what about other things like crampons, carabiners, chalk and maybe even crash pads? Well, let’s go through the list:
Chalk is one of these funny items: It’s perfectly allowed to bring on a plane, but it’s dusty, and usually, I have it in a Ziploc bag. There is no law against it, but make sure to bring the time when you go security: A Ziploc bag full of white powder WILL draw attention to your backpack that you might not want ;-).
Be prepared to do some explaining, but know that you are not doing anything wrong. TSA will be suspicious, but ultimately, they will let you pass as there is no rule against chalk.
Crash Pad / Bouldering Mat as Carry-On or Baggage
Like I said before, if you carry oversized or heavy stuff with you on a plane, costs quickly pile up higher than you can count. A bouldering mat can easily cost you 300$ to carry it two ways, and for that money, it’s usually smarter to buy a bouldering mat or crash pad at your destination, and then sell it when you’re going home.
Example: Buy a decent pad in the shop for 300$, use it for two weeks, sell it for 240$, which is a very fair price for an almost new bouldering pad. That way, two weeks of bouldering with a brand new pad cost you $60, vs. $300 when you bring your own pad from home. That’s a 5x difference, and well worth the hassle to buy a pad and then sell it again if you ask me. You can easily sell a used pad in most climbing stores that sell used gear!
Quickdraws and Carabiners, Nuts, Belay Devices as Carry-On
Hardware that is not sharp, like belaying devices or nuts and cams, but also quickdraws, are allowed as a carry-on and also in your checked baggage. However, keep in mind, most TSA personnel doesn’t know anything about rock climbing or mountaineering and expect them to be suspicious and give you an extra pad down.
As soon as they don’t know an item, they will single you out and give you some extra “love,” after all it’s their job to be suspicious!
Soft Goods – Slings, Ropes, Harness, Shoes, Clothes
All these items are fine to carry inside your cabin luggage or checked baggage. Most airlines will even allow you to stow these items in the overhead compartments. You’re free to bring as many shoes and harnesses etc. as you want, but keep in mind that you have a maximum capacity for cabin luggage. Weight and size are limited to most around 10 kg (22 pounds) and the size of a small suitcase or backpack.
Personal Protection like Helmets
Helmets are no problem. You can even wear them when you board the plane, that way you save weight in your luggage – sure it looks funny, but there is no rule against it!
What climbing or mountaineering gear is not allowed as carry-on in an airplane?
So, all the stuff above is unproblematic, if not a bit heavy to bring as carry on or baggage in a plane. But some items for rock climbers and mountaineers can be a problem. Sharp tools usually are a bad idea to bring as carry on.
White Gas, Stoves, Propane Gas and Fuel Canisters
If you want to bring a stove, you need to bring one that separates the fuel from the stove. You can bring a cleaned and non-smelling stove with you, but you are not allowed to pack propane gas or white gas canisters. Neither in your checked baggage and not in your cabin luggage. So make sure to check that your destination has stores that sell fuel for your stove if you bring it!
Be careful with ice climbing gear. Things like screws, crampons, and other tools often have very sharp edges and are made from steel or metal, which means they need to be checked as luggage. You cannot bring these things with you as carry-on gear! But they are allowed in checked baggage, which means you might need to pay extra for this bag. The extra amount varies from airline to airline, but you can usually assume to pay somewhere between $25 and $50 per checked bag. Bags that are heavier than 50 pounds (or ca 25 kg) will usually cost even more, expect to pay around $100 each way
Cooking Knives, Knives, Axes, Saws
If you plan to spend time outdoors, and you bring knives and an ax with you, you need to check these items. It’s not allowed to carry them inside your cabin luggage, and when you go through security, you will either need to throw them in the trash or have them confiscated!
Pro Tip: If you forgot about your knife and security wants to confiscate it, tell them you need to store it somewhere. Most airports have lockers for these situations. You can rent them, pay a little fee of around $10 to $20 and retrieve the item when you come home. Better than throwing your beloved Kershaw Knife into the bin!
5 Tips to Make Life Easier When Traveling With Climbing Gear on an Airplane
Here are some handy tips to make your life easier when you travel with rock climbing gear.
Find out Rules of the Airport
Airports have their own rules, and while there might not be TSA regulations against an item, some airports may have extra strict rules. Especially when you fly overseas, it might be smart to inform before you go! A security officer in India might not be really keen to hear why you think you should be allowed to carry gear. Even if it’s according to TSA regulations in the U.S:!
Be Polite and Calm
Always be polite and calm. Don’t get angry with nosy TSA officers; they’re just doing their jobs. Sure they might seem annoying and sometimes even harsh. But if they give you a hard time, try to be the better person, defuse the situation and ask to talk to their supervisor! TSA rules are standardized, so there is not much room for scrutiny and arbitrariness!
Explain the TSA That You Are a Climber and Show Them Your Gear Upfront
If you want to save some time, just put all the climbing stuff in an extra tray when you go through the scanner. Then tell the TSA officers upfront about it: You’re a climber and on your way to a climbing destination, and this is your gear. It might save you some time!
Wear Your Jacket, Helmets and Even the Rope to Save Weight in Your Bag
If you have a lot of baggage, wear your rope around your shoulder, and maybe the helmet while you go through security. You might look funny, but it can save you from paying extra money for overweight luggage! And there is no rule against carrying a rope around your shoulder.
Buy Some Gear at Your Destination
If you have very heavy gear that you need to bring or fuel, consider buying it at the destination. It might be cheaper than bringing it. Especially consumable products like fuel, you cannot bring them anyways due to regulations!. You can also buy things like a crash pad, use it for two weeks and then sell it for a high fraction of the original price!
I hope this post was informative and helps you when you fly to your next climbing or bouldering destination. Know what you can or cannot bring on a plane!
If you want some more gear recommendations for your next trip, check out some of our gear recommendations and reviews: