How to Pack a Hiking Backpack for Air Travel [You Should Know]

When we are planning to go on a long journey, hiking or trip, many of us are first busy packing and start thinking about which one to take and which are not. Moreover, if you are traveling on a plane, you have to be a little more concerned with the backpack. Especially if you are a beginner in air traveling, then before traveling, you must know how to pack a hiking backpack for air travel.

If you pack the backpack properly, you will not have to face any problems during the journey. Be sure to try to carry as few things as possible. It will give you less fatigue while hiking.

How to Pack a Hiking Backpack for Air Travel

Depending on your destination, you need to prepare your hiking backpack’s clothes, footwear, and other essential accessories. Because if you pack extra and unnecessary things than you need, you will have a lot of trouble carrying them. You can also use vacuum compression storage bags to easily pack your clothes and blankets and save some space.

Roll Your Clothes

Try to make the t-shirts, vests, tops, and other clothing items you take with you as small as possible by rolling them out. And try to save space by pressing them and filling the corners of the bag. If you’re going to hike in the summer season, then refrain from packing heavy clothes.

Try to Avoid Luggage

As we have said before, refrain from carrying extra bags with you while you’re going on any hiking trip, pack everything you need in your backpack, and try to avoid luggage. It is one of the biggest hassles for any hiker in the field of hiking. Also, a massive disadvantage of carrying extra weight is that you may have to pay extra costs at the airport.

Wear Your Hiking Clothes

When you are on a flight, you can wear all the heavy clothes to avoid the extra packing weight, and you can take off inside the plane later if you want. In addition, if you have too many clothes, you can wear a few clothes, which will require less space in your backpack.

Ship Large and Heavy Weight Gear to Your Destination

Even if you can’t take heavy and oversized items like a boat, a large tent with you on plane travel, you can send them to your hiking destination by courier in advance; it will reduce the hassle of carrying them. If you want, you can easily send from FedEx, DHL, UPS to safely deliver your goods to the post office anywhere in any international country.

Buy Small Items When You Arrive

Many times for security purposes, you may not be allowed to enter the airport with various hiking items, including knives, scissors, oil, so you can’t carry these things. You can buy them later from the place you are going for hiking. It will reduce the number of things you have not to carry on the one hand, which is a plus point.

Backpack Packing Techniques

In this section, we will share some easy packing techniques, which will help you organize your backpack perfectly.

Backpack Packing Techniques

Bottom: Pack Your Unessential Things

First of all, take the unnecessary things in your backpack. Those are the things that you will not need to take out again and again on the journey. Also, try to keep the lightweight items as below as possible. It will assemble the weight of the backpack, will be much easier to carry.

Center: All Gadgets

Laptop, camera, charger, torchlight, power bank, headphones and other electronic and other gadgets items should be placed in the middle. They will be much safer in the center. If there are sensitive gadgets, you can wrap them with protective sleeves to avoid scratches, wear and tear.

Top: Essential Items

Try to keep at the top the passports, flight tickets, wallets and other essential things you need as much as possible, and you may need to take them out regularly. This way, you don’t have to face any hassles to find them. You will get it at hand in a quick time.

Things You Should Never Pack in Carrying On.

In this section, we will discuss which things you must try to avoid while packing to go air traveling. Because to avoid any kind of problem, you must try to avoid the things shared below.


Smelly or Wet Snacks

Almost everyone makes this mistake; many of us take snacks or many kinds of wet food with us on the flight or in the field of any kind of long journey, which often leaks from the packaging and damages the bag. As well as being in the packaging for a long time, the odor starts to spread far away, which will make you feel annoyed, and the passengers around you will feel a lot of annoyance in it.

So if you need to take any snacks with you, then you must package well. However, we recommend taking dry snacks and food, and it is much more convenient to carry.

Liquids Over 3.4 Ounces

You can’t carry perfume, shampoo and other oversized liquids with you. The liquid you carry cannot be more than 3.4 ounces. So be careful in carrying liquid.

Sports Items

You may be surprised to know that sports items are completely banned at airports. Because cricket, baseball bat, and hockey sticks, these sports equipment are often used as very dangerous tools. So refrain from carrying these things.

Battery Operated Items

Though you don’t always have to deal with this type of problem, but many airport’s security will check the battery-operated items. So to avoid all these problems, you have to separate the battery from the battery operated razor, toothbrush, and other gadgets. As well as those that do not like to separate the battery, switch them off.

Cheeses, Meats and Chocolate Items

It is best not to carry things like meat or cheese. Because when you are packing these things, the security will unpack them to recheck, which is a lot of hassle and annoyances. They also have chances to be spoiled by being on a long journey and chances to stink. So try to avoid these.

Final Thought

The backpack is a necessary thing for easily carrying all the essential things on any hiking trip. If you prepare your backpack in the right way, your hiking experience can be much better. Hopefully, our how to pack a hiking backpack for air travel guides will help you a lot to travel safely in the field of air traveling. We have shared all the main things; you must try to maintain these during plane travel.

You will need to do a lot more than properly packing for flying. Here are our tips!

Properly packing your hiking backpack before flying is crucial, but you have to follow as many tips as possible to ensure you get it on the plane as a carry-on. Here are our recommendations.

properly packing for flying

Try your best to take it as a carry-on

When we think of hiking backpacks, cumbersome packs come to mind most of the time. However, it doesn’t need to be that way and we encourage you to check your load as a carry-on whenever possible.

Even if most companies are responsible, they still lose luggage all the time. Having the pack with you on the plane is the best way to ensure you can have the planned hiking trip.

Some companies aren’t that strict regarding the luggage’s size, while others sit on the rigid side. There’s also the category of companies changing their regulations from time to time. Either way, you have to be informed and know the air company’s specifications. You don’t want to pack your backpack only to take out items in front of the check-in. Repeatedly removing and weighing your backpack is both stressful and time-consuming for you, the people in line, and the company’s representative.

It goes without saying that you cannot take your hiking backpack as a carry-on all the time. Moreover, some hiking items are difficult to travel with. Sending such items ahead (express shipping) is one solution. Consider getting travel insurance for such situations to make sure you get your money back if the company loses your hiking gear. Make sure you check out the coverage span because many travel insurances will cover loss times up to a limited level.

Always weigh before you leave home

If you’ve been flying with your hiking backpack as a carry-on before, you might know that weight is more important than size. Buying a luggage scale (the market gives you plenty of models) will eliminate the stress and embarrassment at check-in from having an overweight backpack.

A luggage scale has around 0.2lb of precision and the airport’s scales are less accurate. You can allow yourself a margin of error. Experienced hikers pack light and stick to the essential items. What do you do if your pack still goes over the max accepted weight? What do you do next?

One trick is to leave the items that require replacement anyway. Reduce the weight of your pack by wearing some of your heaviest items. If you’re flying to a cold destination, wearing the heaviest things will make a difference in the backpack’s weight.

Mark your backpack

Whether it’s your hiking backpack or regular luggage, always mark it before you fly so that you don’t take the wrong one. A confusion may happen, especially if you’re wrapping the backpack. We recommend you opt for an anti-theft backpack if you pack valuable items. As for marking, it can be anything from a tie cord with an easy-to-spot color or an accessory.

Some items are forbidden in your carry-on

Make sure you do due diligence and learn all about the forbidden items list that the T.S.A. has for backpackers. The list is tricky, especially if you’re an entry-level hiker. For example, you’re allowed to pack your camp stove, but not camp stove fuels. Camping fuel, propane-based fuel, gel fire starters, and burning paste are forbidden on a plane.

One tip you might find weird is to replace the fuel with…vodka. If it has proper seal wrapping and it’s checked-in vodka, you can take it to the place. We recommend you use a special travel pouch for safety concerns to protect the seal and the bottle.

Even if animal repellents are helpful when hiking, keep in mind that you cannot pack them (not even in the checked-in luggage). Insecticides are also forbidden. As long as you pay attention to the liquid limitations, you can pack insect repellents in your carry-on backpack.

Make sure to properly protect your pack when check it as luggage

With all due respect, we all know that the airport&airline staff isn’t meticulous when handling luggage and packs. Additionally, the conveyor belts can cause severe damage to your backpack, especially to zippers, straps, buckles, and belts.

The straps

Make sure you protect the backpack’s straps by covering and tying them together. Continue with pulling the waist strap backward and buckling it around the pack on its other side. You can also try securing the shoulder straps together to get just one luggage handler and protect the straps. Some backpacks come with a stow-away harness which is excellent when traveling by plane.

The zippers

Remember to secure the zippers as they’re crucial for keeping the items inside the backpack. You can be extra-careful and pack a zipper repair kit anyway.

The buckles

Many hikers overlook buckles when protecting their backpacks. However, these small pieces of equipment are also exposed and they can alter the external compression straps and the hip belt when damaged. It’s not a bad idea to buy a field repair buckle to make sure you can still use your backpack.

Wrap the backpack

Wrapping the hiking backpack will eliminate most problems when flying. The reputed airlines and airports ensure such service and we recommend you use it. Another solution to extra-protect your backpack is to use a hiking backpack airport cover. It covers the pack and you don’t need to do any wrapping whatsoever.

Reliable manufacturers make backpack covers that come with a top carry handle for effortless transportation. They’re strong, durable, and easy to fold when not in use. Make sure that the cover comes with adjustable shoulder straps, lockable zippers and an I.D. cardholder. A reinforced base will protect excellent your backpack.

Protect the pack on the inside too

Some items inside your backpack can cause damage and tear. Make sure that you cover the sharp objects inside the pack with clothes, scarves, hats, so they don’t rip through. It’s the same for the hard items with non-rounded edges. Fold these items in clothes to protect them and reduce the risk of damage from loading/unloading the pack to and from the plane.

Have you considered the alternatives?

Sometimes, you will simply not be able to check the backpack for the flight. Here are some alternatives that can work for you:

Ship the gear ahead

If you’re determined to take the backpack as carry-on baggage, you can ship gear ahead to avoid losing or being taken away at the airport. For example, triangle tubes are great for trekking poles and miscellaneous items, so you must properly secure them to avoid damage. Check out your budget for the hiking trip, as shipping the gear can get expensive.

Rent or purchase gear at your destination

Sometimes, it will be more affordable to rent or purchase the gear at your hiking location. You can always rent stoves, trekking poles, or bear canisters, especially if your traveling destination is popular. It’s a great tip to try, especially when you don’t own such items and are looking to try them before buying.

Avoid flying

It all depends on your comfort and distance, but you should consider hitching a ride from a friend, renting a car, or traveling by bus or train to your hiking destination. Any of these options are less demanding than flying. However, they are a lot slower and can get more expensive than flying.

Don’t pack it

If it’s not possible to transport your gear via checked baggage, nor to buy or rent locally, you should consider not using them at all. Don’t pack the trekking poles if you don’t need them for tent and pack meals that don’t require heating up. It’s not ideal, but it’s a solution when hiking is more important than anything else.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to take your hiking backpack as a carry-on?

Traveling on a plane with your backpack as a carry-on is possible. However, it requires planning. Your hiking backpack has to meet size and weight limitations just like any other carry-on luggage. 35 to 50-pound are the weight restrictions for most airlines.

How do you travel on a plane with your hiking gear?

The T.S.A. has strict regulations about carrying outdoor gear such as fuel canisters, trekking poles, ice axes, stoves, climbing tools, and bear repellents on U.S. airplanes. Even back in the days when regulations for air traveling weren’t as strict as today, items like trekking poles, ski poles, and hiking sticks were problematic.

You have a 60L backpack. Will it pass as a carry-on?

If your hiking backpack is cumbersome and bulging, the chances for you to take it on a plane are rather slim. Most airlines do have size restrictions for personal items and the hiking backpack doesn’t make an exception. As long as you don’t pack full your 60L bag and stay within the size limitations of the air company you’re flying with, you can take it as a carry-on.

How big can your backpack be as a carry-on?

Most airlines allow travelers to bring carry-on luggage up to a maximum of 22x14x9 inches. When it comes to volume, 40-45L backpacks are excellent choices as carry-on. If your backpack is more extensive than that, you risk having it checked in.

How much will you pay for a hiking backpack?

The market is generous and gives you models covering budgets of all sizes. You can find hiking backpacks for anything between $30 and $350, with store-brand day bags as the most affordable models. If you’re determined to buy a hiking backpack that lasts for many hiking trips, make sure you open your wallet big. High-end backpacks come with prices ranging from $400 to $600.


Robert Dwayne

Robert Dwayne

To say that I am an outdoors enthusiast is probably an understatement. I am hyper passionate about everything outdoors: hiking, survival, hunting. On this website I am sharing my stories and experiences, and I hope you'll find inspiration to take up your own adventures!