We’ve written a lot about trekking poles for their versatility and functionality. They’re great tools for novice and experienced hikers alike, providing you extra stability and endurance to carry you through tougher hikes.
However, trekking poles are also sharp, pointy objects of particular concern in some circumstances, one in particular. That’s right, we’re talking about bringing your trekking poles on a plane. We’re going to tell you whether it’s doable and what you can do to decrease your chances of having your poles seized by the TSA (or equivalent authority).
Am I Allowed to Bring Trekking Poles on a Plane?
As with many objects and tools, trekking poles fall into a nice little grey area in terms of how they are treated by the TSA.
Technically, the TSA does not allow hiking poles as carry-on luggage but does allow them in checked luggage. However, the TSA does allow “walking poles” or canes as carry-on items. The result is that these poles might receive different treatment depending on the TSA agent that inspects your carry on bag and depending on their interpretation of the rules.
Of course, all of this is no problem if you are checking bags. But if you were hoping to avoid baggage fees, then you might be out of luck, or you might at least be risking it.
Because of this, our official recommendation is that you not risk bringing hiking poles if you are not checking any bags. Because they are against the TSA’s official guidelines, you may end up having them seized or causing yourself an unnecessary complication before boarding your flight.
All that said, if you still want to risk it, here are some ways to increase your chances:
Be Up Front About What You Have Packed
If you have hiking poles in your carry-on luggage, they will get noticed. There’s no chance of you “sneaking them past” TSA.
Therefore, the best way to increase your chances of successfully bringing your poles on a plane is to be up-front about what you have packed. Because, ultimately, the TSA agent is going to decide whether you can bring your poles on the plane.
If you are honest, up-front, and kind, then you have a better chance of benefiting from TSA’s discretion, especially given they technically permit walking poles on planes. So if you are kind and polite, they may let you keep your trekking poles.
This method is certainly not a guarantee, but there’s a decent chance based on the stories we have heard. We have heard plenty of anecdotal evidence from people who were allowed to bring hiking poles on planes. We have also heard the opposite. It is most definitely a risk. But if you have an inexpensive pair of poles, the risk might be worth it.
Some hikers have told us that they’ve had more luck getting their poles through security by disassembling the poles ahead of time. Of course, this only applies if you have a pair of poles that can be disassembled (such as the one we look at below).
Disassembling poles can work because some TSA agents might be concerned that you are stashing something inside the poles. Disassemble the poles so the agent can more easily inspect them if they want to.
Once again, this isn’t a guaranteed method of success because they still may be concerned with the pointy tip on the end of your poles, and they may not allow them regardless.
It Might Depend on Where You Are
Some hikers have also told us that TSA agents are more lenient depending on where you are. If you’re in an airport that has higher traffic of hikers, outdoor enthusiasts, or skiers, then you might have more luck. TSA agents are likely to be familiar with the poles or more likely to be hikers themselves. Either way, there is a higher chance of them showing you leniency.
Once again, not a guarantee, but we’d expect that you’d have more luck in an area with a higher concentration of outdoor activities.
The Bottom Line – Either Check or Be Prepared to Lose Your Poles
Above, we showed you a few ways that you might find more success getting your trekking poles through security in a carry-on bag, but there is no guaranteed method of success, especially given that it is technically against TSA guidelines. And, let’s face it, TSA isn’t exactly known for its leniency.
So, if you’re intent on risking it, be prepared to lose your poles. If you have checked luggage, we’d recommend packing your poles there. Otherwise, we hope you don’t value your poles particularly highly because there’s a chance you won’t see them again!
And if you don’t want to pack poles at all, maybe just buy them at your destination!
Good Detachable Trekking Pole – Trek-Z
Above, we mentioned that you can slightly increase your chances of getting hiking poles on a plane if you fully detach them and pack them in their components. So we thought we’d end this article with a good option for you to consider.
These poles from Trek-Z are a solid option and are fully detachable, so you can pack them down inside a bag. But we didn’t recommend them just because they’re detachable, as they’re a quality pair of hiking poles.
The poles are made from aircraft-grade aluminum, meaning they are lightweight and durable. Strong enough to support you through a tough hike and light enough not to cause any unnecessary fatigue.
The poles are ergonomic and comfortable. The handles are well-shaped and have cork grips which provide a great grip even with sweaty hands. They can also be adjusted to find the perfect fit. That said, we do wish there was a wider range of adjustment – as they only range from 43 to 51 in/110 to 130cm. Maybe not ideal for taller hikers.
Another advantage of these poles is that they’re not that expensive. So if they do get seized, at least you aren’t out too much money! But, once again, you should check your poles if possible!
Thanks for checking out our guide to trekking poles and airplanes. As you can see, it’s your risk to take. You might be okay, but do keep in mind that trekking poles are technically not allowed in carry-on luggage according to the TSA. Check them with your luggage if possible!