It can be challenging to travel with backpacking gear. It’s not easy to figure out how to pack your gear because most airlines restrict what you can and can’t bring in both your checked and hiking backpack as carry-on luggage.
There are clear no-nos on planes for certain equipment, such as stove fuel, but figuring out if you can take other items can be tricky. In fact, we are often asked “can I take a backpacking backpack on a flight?”
The majority of backpacking packs do not meet carry-on luggage requirements by most airlines, but there are some that do. To determine whether you can carry your backpack on your flight, you should check the size limits of the airline you’re flying with:
As backpackers ourselves, we know how challenging flying with gear can be, so we compiled a guide to help answer your gear-related travel questions. We will discuss how you can best prepare for your upcoming travels by learning how to take a backpacking hiking backpack as carry on.
Also Read: Best Sling Bag for Everyday Carry
How To Use a Backpacking Backpack as a Carry-On Bag
A backpacking backpack can be used as a carry-on as long as it meets the airline’s size limits. There are many different backpacks and airlines out there, so we can’t give you a blanket answer. If you fly low-cost or budget airlines, you may find that carry-on luggage size and weight restrictions are extremely strict.
Consider some of the biggest airlines’ carry-on bag sizes to see what we mean. Remember that airlines (not TSA) determine these carryon size limits and they can change at any time. You should always check with your airline about the current baggage restrictions before starting to pack.
The size requirements for most airlines in the US are around 22 x 14 x 9 in (56 x 35 x 22 cm). There are similar limits overseas as well, with a few inches difference. Most backpacking packs larger than about 60L exceed these size limits.
An Osprey Aether Plus 60, for example, measures 31 x 15 x 13 inches (79 x 38 x 33 cm) in a size small/medium. A size medium Gregory Baltoro 75 measures approximately 30 x 14 x 14 in (76 x 36 x 36 cm).
Most backpacking backpacks do not meet the size requirements for hiking backpacks as carry-on luggage at major airlines unless they are small or ultralight. It might be possible to get away with using your pack for your luggage if the airline never asks to measure your carry-on during boarding. This, however, could result in an unexpected trip cost and hassle if your bag is checked at the gate.
Can I Check a Hiking Backpack as Luggage?
Almost all major airlines accept hiking backpacks as checked luggage (but check your airline’s requirements first). Watch out for your gear’s weight, since going even half a pound over an airline’s checked bag weight limit could result in an oversized bag fee.
As a result, we recommend that you check your hiking backpack as checked luggage. Packs can get damaged if they’re placed in the cargo hold of a plane since bags are prone to get beat up in transit.
Several of our packs’ buckles and straps have broken during our travels, which is problematic if you’re heading straight to the trailhead from the airport. Before dropping off your checked bag at the collection point, place your pack in a duffel for extra protection.
If you’re interested, Osprey makes lightweight pack covers for this purpose (check out the Osprey Airporter LZ Pack Duffel). It will work with pretty much any duffel that is large enough to hold your package.
What Size Backpack is Allowed on a Plane?
As luggage sizes vary from airline to airline, you must double-check the requirements for your specific flight when selecting the backpack you will use.
Generally, US-based airlines allow backpacks up to 22 x 14 x 9 in (56 x 35 x 22 cm) in size as carry-on bags. Most airlines also allow personal items up to 18 x 14 x 8 in (46 x 36 x 20 cm), which is good for many backpacks.
The size of a backpack is usually not an issue when it comes to checked bags. Most airlines do not charge oversized baggage fees for bags up to 62 in (157 cm) in length.
You should be fine with most backpacks since this number represents the combined length, width, and height of the bag. Avoid overweight luggage charges by keeping your pack under the weight limit of your airline.
Depending on the airline, you may be able to hike your backpack as a carry-on your backpacking pack, but most backpacks need to be checked. Your backpack will probably be too big for use as a carry-on unless it’s a very small one.
A backpacking backpack might be acceptable as a hiking backpack as carry-on, but doing so may result in your bag being checked at the gate. In order to get through your travels with as little stress as possible, you’d be better off packing your backpack into a duffel and checking it.