Tips for Flying with Camping Gear
Already own a tent, air mattress, backpacking stove or other gear? Know what you can and cannot carry on and make sure you save room in your carry-on for essential items.
“Your carry-on item should include necessities that you can not easily replace,” Bekah stresses. “These are things that could ruin your trip if you find yourself without them, like your beloved hiking boots, sunglasses or a camera.”
You may group your tent into this category, but not all airlines will permit you to carry it on. Check with your carrier before flying. Another approach is to put all sleep-related items — like your tent, tent spikes (wrapped well), sleeping bags and air mattress — in one large duffel bag that you plan to check. Doing this not only frees up space in your carry-on bag, but also allows you to avoid storing a large suitcase; after you unpack the duffel, fold it up and put it back in your rental car.
Download and print the checklist on the right to help you remember everything you need while packing.
Food and Supplies
Don’t assume you have to pack and fly with all of your food — or toiletries, for that matter. Make life easier by picking these up when you arrive.
Meal Prep and Purchases. Bekah recommends roughly planning your meals before your trip. “Take into consideration items that may need to be in a cooler, and plan those meals for your first one to three days,” she says. “If you will not be able to purchase ice within your camping vicinity, limit perishables past the first day.”
Check to see if any area grocery or big-box stores have the option to order online and pick up in store. Doing this allows you to plan ahead and saves you time: “You won’t have to worry about forgetting an item last minute or struggling to locate goods in an unfamiliar store,” Bekah says. If you plan to spend your first night at a hotel, services like Shipt or Instacart will deliver supplies to you.
Food Storage. Make sure you add zip-lock bags and foil to your shopping list to pick up upon arrival. The bags will keep your sandwiches fresh and from getting too smashed in your backpack when hiking, and the foil will allow you to cook over an open fire. Use trash bags or grocery sacks for your food waste. Dispose in one of the many bear-safe dumpsters located throughout national park campgrounds. If you’re backpacking, remember to pack out your trash and leave the area as you found it.
The National Park Service advises drinking at least two liters of water per day. You’ll also need water to clean and cook. Pack a large collapsible water jug, which will save you space in your luggage while maximizing the amount of water you can keep with you at your campsite.
In parks that bears frequent, food storage rules are strict. For example, at Yosemite National Park, you may store your food in your car during daylight hours as long as it’s out of sight and all the windows are up; however, all food must be stored in one of the park’s food storage lockers overnight. Bear canisters are required only for overnight hikers in Yosemite. Wherever you're headed, make sure to check with the park in advance for other specifics related to food storage and safety.
Food Worth Packing. Freeze-dried meals. If you want a hot, home-cooked-style meal and no cleanup, bring these with you on your trip. “All you have to do is boil water and they taste amazing,” says Bekah. “Try the lasagna — it’s cheesy!”
Coffee addicts need not forgo a cup of morning joe. If you enjoy it, have it — you’re on vacation, after all! Plan ahead and order an instant coffee that doesn’t trade its flavor for the time it saves brewing. Try Voila’s wide variety of full-bodied roasts, or sip around five of its most flavorful with an order of the Discovery Box.
Toiletries. Depending on the length of your trip, travel-size bottles may be a bigger hassle than they’re worth. Purchase these items when you land to save yourself the extra packing and to avoid possible leaks or running out of shampoo midtrip. Don’t forget sunscreen, either.