LA Times, link to original post
Question: My husband and I are planning a walking holiday in Ireland along the Dingle Way. Are we permitted to bring our hiking poles as carry-on items along with our day packs on our flights, or must they be checked? If they are to be checked, any recommendations on how best to package them?
Answer: You’ll find an amazingly long list of things you cannot take on a plane as carry-on at the Transportation Security Administration’s website, http://www.tsa.gov (click on “Prohibited Items”). Some never-ever items are just common sense — loaded guns, for instance, although Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Republican from San Bernardino, recently tried to get on a flight to Sacramento with a .45-caliber handgun and ammo. (An “unfortunate mistake,” he said later.)
Other items may surprise you as carry-on no-can-do’s: gel shoe inserts, gel candles and snow globes. Oh, and don’t forget drills and drill bits for all of you do-it-yourselfers who just can’t leave them at home.
A hiking pole also is a nonstarter as a carry-on. A regular cane, when used as an assistive device, is OK, but “hiking sticks, like ski poles, are not permitted,” said Nico Melendez, a TSA rep.
They are fine as checked baggage, Melendez notes. Brown’s stick collapses to 28 inches so she may be able to fit it in her luggage if her luggage is large enough. (Some wheeled duffels measure as much as 29 inches long and could accommodate a stick.) Otherwise, the pole will have to be packaged according to the airline’s specifications for sporting equipment. Best to check with the individual airline because policies may differ. Note, too, that if you check the stick, you may be stuck with extra baggage fees.
My suggestion would be to leave the stick at home and buy one at your destination. James Byrne of Hillwalk, Ireland (http://www.hillwalkireland.com), which arranges self-guided tours, told me that the Mountain Man Outdoor Shop (http://www.themountainmanshop.com) on Strand Street in Dingle “stocks a range of high-quality hiking sticks” from $38-$55. They’re made by Mountain King (http://www.mountainking.co.uk), “a reputed hiking outfitter on this side of the Atlantic,” Byrne said. That way, you worry about transporting your stick only one way. Plus you have a nice souvenir from the trip.
But hold the phone, friends. By suggesting this, I may be taking a walk on the riled side. An avid hiker tells me that some poles have gone uptown and that some hikers have quite an investment in them. “There has been an explosion of upscale hiking poles ($100 and up) that collapse, are made of titanium, have external or internal fittings, etc.,” said Mary Forgione, an avid outdoorswoman who worked on the staff of the Times Outdoors section and now is the daily Travel and Deals blogger for http://www.mountainking.co.uk. “Gone are the carefully culled tree limbs of yore you would find along the trail…I favor Leki and Black Diamond with external fittings.”
But why? “They really, really do save wear and tear on your knees — whether you’re 20 or 80,” said Forgione, who is somewhere between 20 and 80. A little less wear and tear on any traveler? Now that’s a path we’d all like to take.