How To Bring Hiking Poles on a Plane: Tips + TSA Rules

Gearing up for an epic hiking and backpacking trip in one of America’s amazing national parks? You’re probably wondering what hiking gear you can take with you on the plane.

Hiking boots are no problem, but bear spray is a definite no. What about something in between like your trekking poles?

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has rules on what is and isn’t allowed on domestic flights in the United States, whether in your checked luggage or in your carry-on bag.

Sometimes, though, the rules are treated more like guidelines.

Hiking poles are one of those gray areas, despite seemingly clear-cut direction on the TSA website.

Let’s look at all the scenarios and help you decide how to bring hiking poles on a plane.

Can You Bring Trekking Poles in Your Checked Luggage?

✅ Yes, TSA guidelines allow trekking poles in checked luggage without stipulations. It’s the best way to transport them.

On international flights, your checked luggage is the best place for your hiking poles, but keep them in an easy to reach spot.

⚠️ A few different countries, like Australia and New Zealand, require inspection of hiking poles at customs before they let you and the poles into their country.

They’re looking for contaminants and invasive species. Generally, if you keep your poles in good repair and fairly clean, the customs inspection doesn’t take long.

Can You Bring Trekking Poles in Your Carry-On Luggage?

⛔ No, the TSA specifically doesn’t allow hiking poles in carry-on luggage. In fact, most of the world prohibits trekking poles in hand luggage.

However, the official line is the final decision rests with the TSA officer.

Enforcement of this particular rule varies widely.

Non-collapsible hiking poles and long walking sticks will get turned away almost every time.

⚠️ Some airports, usually, but not always, ones near popular hiking destinations, will allow collapsible hiking poles in your carry-on bag, but that’s not guaranteed.

I’ve even read about one guy who was meeting up with friends who had to surrender his hiking poles to airport security, but his friends had no problem bringing their hiking poles through a different security checkpoint at the same airport.

It’s really just the luck of the draw which TSA agent you get that day and whether they consider hiking poles to be a security risk or not.

So, Can You Bring Collapsible Hiking Poles on a Plane?

⚠️ Some hikers have successfully carried on their trekking poles by breaking down the collapsible poles into pieces and storing it all in a bag within their carry-on bag.

There’s some debate on whether trekking poles are prohibited because they’re a potential weapon or because you can conceal things inside of them.

It’s easy to understand why things like scissors have special security rules, but pretty much anything can be a bludgeon, like a hiking pole.

So maybe it’s a problem with the ability to hide things inside the hollow poles?

Either way, you want to keep all sharp tips wrapped up and pieces secured in your luggage.

I’d recommend keeping all the little pieces, like the different feet, in one bag within your carry-on items.

That way, if TSA wants to inspect the item more closely, they don’t have to go emptying all the little pockets of your carry-on bag to find all the tips, feet, handles, and pole pieces.

Deciding to bring collapsible trekking poles in your carry-on is risky because TSA doesn’t have to let it through.

If you get a stickler TSA agent, you’ll have to return to the airline counter and check the bag, or worse, surrender your expensive hiking poles because you don’t have time to go through security again.

Can I Bring Hiking Poles on a Plane as a Mobility Aid?

⚠️ Not necessarily. The TSA rules distinguish between hiking poles and a walking cane. Hiking poles are not allowed in carry-on baggage, but canes are.

That being said, people use a lot of different things as a walking stick or mobility aid, and the TSA can be flexible about what counts as a cane.

Mobility aids like walkers, crutches, and canes are all allowed per TSA rules but are all subject to additional screenings at security.

There’s a whole page on their website about special procedures for those with mobility issues.

They prefer to put aids through the screening machine but will hand inspect larger items that won’t fit.

Before you think you can just fake a mobility issue to get your hiking pole through security, know that TSA can and may ask for medical documentation of your disability that requires the mobility aid.

If you can’t provide medical reasons, the officer is allowed to deny the object in their sole discretion.

It’s also completely unethical to fake a disability. Just put your hiking poles in your checked bag, and move on with your integrity intact.

How to Bring Hiking Poles on a Plane

If you’re feeling risky and want to try to bring your hiking poles on a plane in your carry-on bag, here’s some tips from those that have done it.

  • Completely break down the trekking poles into as small of pieces as you can.
  • Keep the pieces together in a separate, easy-to-remove bag within your carry-on bag.
  • TSA may want to X-ray scan the pole pieces by themselves or even hand search the bag before letting it through security.
  • If they ask, be open and honest about what it is.
  • Faking mobility issues will not convince TSA to let the hiking poles through security and could get you detained for lying and trying to circumvent security.

You may get lucky and have no problems getting your trekking poles through airport security!

If you want to try it, I recommend you get to the airport early to allow yourself time in case you have to go back and check the poles.

Bring a small carry-on piece of luggage, not just a backpack. That way if you do get sent back, you can check the luggage instead of your backpack.

Luggage will fare much better behind the scenes with the baggage handlers than your backpack will.

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The Easiest Way to Bring Hiking Poles on a Plane: Your Checked Bag

Save yourself the hassle and uncertainty of getting your trekking poles through airport security, and just transport them in your checked luggage!

Happy travels!

Headshot of Rachel Means at Clingmans Dome in Smoky Mountains

About the Author: Rachel Means

With six-figure student loan debt and only 10 PTO days per year, Rachel started traveling the world. A decade later, she’s paid off her loans, changed careers, and been to 38 US states and 17 countries. She’s an expert at planning and budgeting for travel and loves to help others do it, too! Read her full story here.

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How To Bring Hiking Poles on a Plane: Tips + TSA Rules