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Can Backpacking Packs Be Carry-Ons When Flying?

Is Your Backpack Acceptable as Carry-On Luggage on an Airline Flight?

Can backpacking packs be carry-ons for airline flights? Many backpackers planning their first long-distance hiking adventures have questions about using a backpack as an airline carry-on bag. Actually, with some planning and savvy packing, you can easily carry your backpack on a plane as stow-away luggage. Just be sure you have not packed any items that have TSA restrictions and must travel in checked luggage.

Both size and weight requirements are the same for backpacks and standard carry-ons. Just remember that carry-on weight limits by the majority of airlines equal 25 to 50 pounds. Some weight restrictions are even lower, so be sure to check with your airline before you travel. The limit on a budget airline may be as low as 22 pounds.

Most airlines will let you carry on a backpack that has a volume that equals 45 liters. The size limit for carry-on bags and backpacks is 22 by 14 by 9 inches, including all pockets, pouches, handles and attachments. By learning to pack wisely, using every corner, nook and cranny of your backpack, you can enjoy traveling light——– and arrive at your destination fully equipped with everything you need during your trip.

Safeguard Your Favorite and Valuable Hiking Gear

When you fly using your hiker’s backpack instead of a carry-on bag, you can safeguard your essential, valuable gear. No need to worry about checked luggage that gets lost along the way. If you need to take extra gear or supplies along, you can pack these replaceable items in a checked bag. This bag can be an old or inexpensive one that you can toss out at your destination, if you like. You can always replace it before your return flight.

If you are an experienced backpacker, you may have favorite or expensive items of gear. You may worry about these items being misplaced or lost in checked luggage. Using your hiking backpack in place of a carry-on bag will alleviate this anxiety, allowing you to enjoy a peaceful flight. Once you know that the question, “Can backpacking packs be carry-ons?” has been answered, “Yes,” you can relax.

Just be watchful as you maneuver your way through crowded airports as you travel. Most backpacks have multiple external pockets, and slots, these handy storage places are often secured only by a zipper, sturdy snaps or Velcro strips. This can enable clever thieves and pick-pockets to open these external storage areas and steal your personal property. To be on the safe side, use cable tie wraps (zip ties) to make the zipper closures secure.

Refrain from Over-Packing to Prevent Extra Checkpoint Attention

To avoid undesired attention at airport checkpoints, make your pack look lightweight.  If you refrain from over-packing, you may escape any extra examination, weighing or measuring of your backpack. Since hiking backpacks generally appear to weigh less than most travel bags, this is to your advantage. If your pack looks heavy or is bulging from an overload of gear, clothing and other items, it may be carefully scrutinized. As a result, you may be required to check it or pay an extra fee.

One solution to problems encountered with too large or over-packed backpacks is carrying a hiking daypack. These packs normally have volumes of from 30 to 45-liter capacity. In addition, their measurements usually meet airline size limits for carry-ons. However, a daypack is not usually adequate for a long hiking excursion. For this reason, carrying your regular backpack and packing light is your best bet.

Pack Your Backpack to Meet TSA Regulations for Carry-On Luggage

The TSA rules for carry-on contents are basically the same as for any carry-on bag. Airlines commonly permit you to pack acceptable liquids in 3.4 ounce bottles or smaller. Other toiletry containers are required to hold 100 milliliters or less. Gear such as firearms, knives, hatchets and other sharp items must be packed in checked luggage. Other hiking equipment that must be checked include trekking poles, potty trowels and pickaxes or arrows. You can carry your hiking stove on the airplane with you, minus the fuel, of course.

How to Win Clearance for Your Carry-on Backpack from Airport Authorities

After you refrain from over-packing your backpack to make it suitable for carry-on luggage, other helpful tips include the following:

1. Choose a Heavy Packed Item as Your Extra Personal Item. If your airline permits carrying an extra item on the plane, remove a heavy item at the check-in point. This item may be your DSLR, laptop or gear. Your pack will then look and weigh-in at a lighter carry-on. Just be sure to check requirements with the airline prior to your flight. Some airlines combine the weight of any extra items with the weight of your backpack, so be prepared.

2. Wear Your Heaviest Shoes and Clothing. You can lighten your backpack’s load by wearing your weightiest hiking shoes and clothing. Another helpful trick is to tie these items around your waist until you board the plane. Then you can easily return them to your carry-on pack.

3. Use Compression Bags. Use stuff sacks or compression bags for packing your gear and personal belongings. This is a clever way to streamline the look of your backpack. Since your pack will look lightweight, the airline staff may not bother to weight it.

4. Carry Only Your Backpack. It is best to travel with your backpack only when traveling by plane. If you carry your backpack plus several other items, airport staff may assume that your backpack is over-stuffed. They may then examine your pack carefully to determine whether or not it is overweight.

There are backpack brands and designs to suit every backpacking hiker’s preferences and needs today. Styles well-suited to different backpackers and excursions, long or short, include the following:

Long Trip Backpackers. When you plan and pack for a long-term trip, you need the largest size of carry-on compliant backpacks. A spacious large backpack with plenty of pockets and compartments can carry everything you need. You will be well-supplied while traveling without the need for any extra luggage.

B07N7M1DVX - Cabin Max Rolling Backpack Hybrid
Cabin Max Rolling Backpack Hybrid

The Cabin Max Rolling Backpack Hybrid, with pop-out wheel cover, is convenient, stylish and practical. It is easy to covert from a trolley carry-on to a hiking backpack for versatile, long-term travelers. This type of backpack design is lightweight and waterproof. It meets the standards for carry-on luggage in the U.S. and Europe.

B01NBWQPOK - Extreme Pak 22-Inch Carry-On Bag-Backpack
Extreme Pak 22-Inch Carry-On Bag-Backpack

Excess-Carrying Backpackers. If you are keen on backpacking, but like to bring along more than the essentials, the Extreme Pak Carry-On Backpack is often a wise choice. This pack is both fashionable and functional and meets the standard size requirements for all major airlines today. It includes two helpful luggage handles and unzips from the front like a regular suitcase.  This pack is a familiar rucksack style frequently used by campers and backpackers.

B079SKKG84 - Extreme Pak 22-inch Carry-on Bag-Backpack with 15-inch tote
Extreme Pak 22-inch Carry-on Bag-Backpack with 15-inch tote

It is also an appealing and useful item of carry-on luggage for domestic or international airline travel. This backpack style offers a spacious interior with streamlined pockets and compartments. Although its design in compact, this pack provides plenty of space for travelers who never travel light.  There is also an optional version with a 15-inch tote as well.

B01JGMWSZ2 - 18 inch Leather Travel Backpack
18 inch Leather Travel Backpack

Souvenir-Collecting Backpackers. You may pack light for backpacking trips, but have a habit of collecting souvenirs while away. If so, you need a roomy, flexible pack design like the 18″ Real Leather Backpack for Hiking and Travel. This durable and attractive backpack style offers four large external pockets is made of strong, eco-friendly goat leather. It is ideal for year-round use in all types of climates and weather conditions.

This bag can carry your favorites items of gear plus clothing, shoes and accessories. There is enough room to include s laptop, files and travel or business documents. With this pack design, you can travel in style and be prepared for rugged hiking trails as well.

B07JCP8BF3 - Dinictis 40L Carry On Backpack
Dinictis 40L Carry On Backpack

Budget-Flying Backpackers. Medium-sized packs are ideal for traveling on budget airlines. For flights offering discount fares to camping and hiking areas a short flight away, a medium-sized pack is perfect. The Dinictis 40L Carry on Flight Approved Travel Backpack is a great example of this size backpack. This lightweight pack is attractive, practical and easy to handle. It offers simplistic design and a well-organized interior for busy travelers with little time to pack. With use of this type of backpack, you can arrive at your camping or hiking destination in style. All of your gear and personal items will be easy to locate for your convenience.

Minimalist Backpackers. For those traveling backpackers who like taking only the bare necessities along, the Solgaard Lifepack Backpack may be ideal. Since minimalist packers often enjoy entertaining extras, this pack features a powerbank, boombox and bluetooth speaker. Its solar panels recharge in sunlight, and four hours of sun can provide one medium-length phone call. This bag is sleek and well-structured. It offers both Lifezone and Workzone compartments to keep the two areas of your life separate. Each compartment is designed with a recycled plastic lining to protect the bag from any liquid spills.

B07XFFNMRB - Solgaard Lifepack with Solarbank Backpack
Solgaard Lifepack with Solarbank Backpack

Can backpacking packs be carry-ons when flying? Yes, they can. There are attractive and functional backpacks of many different styles, materials and brands available today. Regardless of what part of the world you plan to travel in, you can find the ideal backpack design. No matter what type of packer and traveler you are, there is an appealing and practical backpack just for you. You can select the ideal brand and design to satisfy your every travel, camping and hiking need.