We’ve all been there.
You’re excitedly getting ready for your next hiking trip – abroad or in a different state – and eagerly packing everything you’ll need for the flight ahead.
Just like the 59 million Americans that went hiking in 2021, you can’t wait to get closer to nature, improve your fitness levels, and explore new trails.
There’s just one catch.
Your trekking poles are a must-have for your hiking trip, but where exactly should you pack them? Are trekking poles allowed in your hand luggage, or must they be checked in? How can you pack them to avoid damage?
We’ll answer these questions and more in our ultimate guide to packing trekking poles for your flight. But first, let’s explore why these handy accessories are so useful in the first place.
Reasons to Use Trekking Poles
Some hikers are die-hard trekking pole enthusiasts, while others are less keen. But I’m a believer in the power of the trekking pole – here’s why.
⚖️ Better balance
Trekking poles can help you improve your balance during a hike, which is particularly useful for hikers that are less mobile or nervous beginners.
Interestingly, according to studies, two poles are needed to balance you when you’re carrying a heavy load, but you can improve balance with only one when you’re unloaded.
💪 You take the load off your joints and muscles
Anybody who has hiked for long periods of time knows you can come away from your trip with seriously sore muscles and joints. Joint pain is a particular concern for senior and overweight hikers, who tend to want to keep activities as low-impact as possible.
When you’re walking downhill, in particular, poles take some of the load off your joints, leaving a smaller force on your knees and ankles. Poles can allow you to manage your descent more easily by braking to reduce the muscle contractions that leave you feeling sore afterward.
🔥 Burn more calories
Naturally, burning calories isn’t the goal for every hiker, but it’s helpful if fat loss is one of your objectives. Most research seems to point to the use of trekking poles burning more calories, which is great if that’s one of your motivations for hiking in the first place.
Unfortunately, there’s no cheating allowed here, you actually have to drive the trekking poles into the ground – simply carrying them won’t burn those extra calories!
✅ It feels easier
The most straightforward reason for using trekking poles is simply that they make your hike feel easier! While some hardcore hiking fans like to challenge their abilities without support, if you’re trying a particularly demanding route, you’re new to hiking or simply want to make the trip easier, trekking poles can be invaluable.
❤️ If you’re looking for recommendations on trekking poles, but sure to checkout my comparison between Black Diamond vs Leki Trekking Poles.
Are You Allowed to Take Hiking Poles in Your Hand Luggage?
⚠️ According to the TSA’s official website, trekking poles aren’t allowed in hand luggage, but they are allowed in checked luggage. It also says in the guidelines that the final decision rests with the TSA agent whether they allow you to take your hiking poles onboard or not.
Despite some anecdotal reports online of hikers being allowed through with trekking poles, in my opinion, it’s simply not worth the risk. If you try to take something through airport security that isn’t allowed, at best, you’ll get it taken off you, and at worst, you’ll be fined thousands of dollars. You may even be prevented from boarding the flight itself.
In other countries, the rules are slightly different. Both the UK and Canada explicitly say trekking poles aren’t allowed in hand luggage.
While Australia and the EU don’t mention trekking poles specifically in their guidelines, they do say that sporting goods or goods that could cause injury due to sharp edges should be brought onboard in checked-in bags.
New Zealand’s rules around trekking poles are slightly more lenient. The government says lightweight hiking poles are allowed in your carry-on case if they’re made of aluminum or carbon fiber and can fit in the overhead lockers. Hiking poles made of heavier materials, however, must be in your checked luggage.
The best thing to do when traveling is to check the luggage restrictions not just for the country you’re traveling to/from but the airline, too. That way, you’ll have peace of mind that you won’t have your items confiscated or receive a fine at the airport.
You might think collapsing or dismantling your stick is a savvy way to get it through airport security, but, unfortunately, it still counts as a trekking pole, so you won’t get it through.
What about walking sticks for mobility?
The rules tend to be more flexible for mobility aids, but there’s no definitive answer for all countries and airlines. If you need to take sticks or poles with you for mobility, the best course of action is to contact your airline in advance and ask about their policy.
Reasons Why Trekking Poles May Not Be Allowed in the Cabin
🚫 Although it might seem unfair that you’re not allowed to take your hiking poles on a flight, there are genuine reasons why trekking poles aren’t allowed in your hand luggage and why they’re better placed in your checked-in bag.
They’re too long
The average hiking pole is at least 40 inches long. This is typically longer than the size of the suitcase or backpack you’re allowed in the overhead lockers. Naturally, the size of the overhead lockers varies from airline to airline, but most don’t fit a typical trekking pole.
They can be used as weapons
As frustrating as it can be when you know you only intend to use your trekking pole for, well, trekking, the point is, they can be used as weapons. Sharp objects in general tend to be banned from hand luggage, and since trekking poles have a sharp tip, they’re no exception.
You could conceal substances within them
Most trekking sticks are hollow. While this makes them lighter to walk with, the hollow interior could be used to smuggle illegal substances.
How to Take Your Trekking Poles on a Flight
So, you can’t take your trekking poles on the flight in your hand luggage. What now?
✅ The safest course of action is to pack your trekking poles into the checked luggage in the hold. If your poles are a little too long to fit into the suitcase, you can always dismantle them before packing them. Collapsible poles are even more convenient for fitting into smaller suitcases.
Alpin Loacker Foldable Trekking Poles
For Both Men & Women
- Ultra Light Weight
- Cork Grip
- High Quality 3k Carbon
- Suitable For All Genders & Body Heights
- Assemble in Seconds
Even if you collapse or dismantle your sticks, bear in mind they might still have sharp edges. In this case, it’s better to wrap them in paper, plastic, or fabric – just not fabric that rips easily!
To keep them clean and safe from potential damage, you can also invest in a hiking stick case, which will ensure your poles aren’t damaged by anything else in your case (no leaking shower gel disasters!). Carry cases for trekking poles are typically bags or tubes in which two hiking poles fit. They tend to be waterproof, and most can be attached to a backpack.
As with any suitcase, keep your items safe with security measures such as a lock or get your bag wrapped in cling film at the airport.
If you’re checking in a backpack with loops, you can attach the hiking poles through the loops and secure them with straps. This will secure your poles and keep them from falling out. While we’re on the topic of backpacks – here’s a handy blog post to help you keep your backpack as light as possible for your next hiking trip.
Naturally, you might want to only carry hand luggage on your trip to save costs or if you’re only going away for a short period of time. In this case, the best course of action is to buy or even rent hiking poles when you reach your destination. Otherwise, you risk losing your equipment or paying a fine at airport security.
Alternatively, if you’re visiting friends or family, you can send your hiking poles to your destination via a courier ahead of time. That way, they’ll be there waiting by the time you arrive, and you won’t have to buy a new set of equipment.
The Easiest Way to Take Trekking Poles on Your Flight
✈️ Just because trekking poles aren’t allowed in your hand luggage, this doesn’t mean your travel plans are entirely scuppered. The easiest way to take trekking poles on your flight is to pack them in your checked-in luggage.
Just remember to protect them from damage however possible, whether that’s by wrapping them in thick clothing, buying a case, or attaching them to the side of your backpack.
If you’re set on taking hand luggage only, your next best option is to simply buy the poles upon arrival or ship them to your destination in advance. In fact, many popular hiking destinations will allow you to hire trekking sticks during the duration of your visit, so it’s worth checking in advance where this is an option for you.
However you end up getting your trusted trekking accessories to your destination, remember to enjoy taking in the sights and sounds of your trip.