Can I bring rock climbing gear such as

in my carry-on luggage in flights departing from Europe?

The internet refers mostly to US TSA rules, without a real consensus. While official rules seem to allow it, some suggest your bag will get additional attention and others report of items being refused, also in Europe.

In the extreme case of a complete climbing equipment, figure 1 or 2 ropes of 70m each, 15 quickdraws, harness, shoes, chalkbag, some carabiners and other tools plus nuts, hexes and friends.

Why would this be a problem (besides size and weight restrictions)? - Honestly I would look twice if I had 10kg of metal go through the scanner. Also the nut tool is somewhat similar to a blade and chalk is a white powder like cocaine.

Why am I asking this here? - On my next climbing vacation I might fly Ryanair and want to be a cheapo who does not check his stuff. Other persons have concerns about leaving equipment worth hundreds of $/€s in their checked luggage and prefer having it with them.

I am looking for answers that either base on personal experience or sources that can be checked.

(All images from wikimedia. Apologies for being the latest to ask a "can I bring [insert obscure item here] on a plane?")

  • 4
    The weight limit for cabin baggage is 10kg, so it would be risky to bring 10kg of equipment in addition to clothing, toiletries, the bag itself, and so on. – phoog Mar 23 '16 at 18:00
  • 1
    I've carried carabiners in my hand luggage. I use them as keychains. IMHO the nut tool could be construed as a sharp/weapon, and the nuts and hexes as sharps. Chalk and ropes should be fine. As always: go for checked-in luggage if you're unsure and, most importantly, not prepared to have all the gear thrown away by security agents. P.S. Excellent tagging work on this question by the way. :) – JoErNanO Mar 23 '16 at 18:20
  • 1
    @mts Only real-size for me. :D – JoErNanO Mar 23 '16 at 18:37
  • 3
    Larger cam devices, larger nuts (especially if you carry them clipped together with a biner like your photo) would fall into the same category as hammers, brass knuckles, etc - blunt force weapons. Not sure how you would get all the hardware plus two ropes in under Ryan Air's carry on limits. – user13044 Mar 24 '16 at 2:45
  • 1
    As a lay person, the only thing that can be immediately used as a weapon is the nut tool and I would be surprised if that were allowed in your carry-on. Everything else I have seen attached to many a backpack before. – Burhan Khalid Apr 7 '16 at 12:12
up vote 10 down vote accepted
+50

A year or two ago I worked on a project in Amsterdam and flew weekly between London and Schipol. There's a half decent indoor climbing centre in the city and I regularly took indoor climbing gear in my carry on;

  • harness
  • rope
  • quickdraws
  • karabinas

I didn't carry any trad gear such as nuts, hexes or keys. Only once did I get asked to open my luggage when the gear showed up on the X-ray, but after I explained what it was then I was let through. In total I probably took between 20 and 30 flights.

I didn't carry chalk as I thought it would be problematic at security, and it was always easy to beg or borrow from someone at the centre.

  • +1 Great answer, I was hoping someone could report from experience. Honestly I don't think chalk would be a problem either but I can't remember having taken it as carry-on before. – mts Apr 7 '16 at 12:36

Is Climbing Gear Allowed in Carry-On Luggage?

My answer is based on personal anecdotes and common sense. I'm using TSA as a reference because its prohibited item search tool is quite simply awesome, as opposed to the EU list of prohibited items which is (IMHO purposefully) generic and vague.

Carabiners / Quick-Draws

I have carried carabiners in hand luggage before. I never had problems with them. Usually security staff don't even look at them. I use full size carabiners as keychains, and always have an extra one hanging from my backpack in case I need to hang something there. However, a luggage full of quick-draws might raise a few eyebrows. As an authoritative reference, TSA says that carabiners can be carried in both hand and hold luggage:

TSA Carabiners tsa OK in hold or hand luggage.

Climbing Rope

Climbing rope should be fine in hand luggage. I fail to see how it could be construed as a sharp, dangerous object. TSA seems to agree with me:

TSA climbing rope OK in hold or hand luggage

Nuts, Wires, Hexes, Cams, Friends, and Nut Tools

IMHO all of these could be construed as blunt/dangerous items by a zealous security officer. The nut tool itself could even be considered a blunt weapon. I can't find mention of any of these items on the TSA search tool so I'll go with EU regulations this time:

c. objects with a sharp point or sharp edge (objects with a sharp point or sharp edge capable of being used to cause serious injury)

[...]

d. workmen’s tools (tools capable of being used either to cause serious injury or to threaten the safety of aircraft), including:

[...]

  • tools with a blade or a shaft of more than 6 cm capable of use as a weapon, such as screwdrivers and chisels,

Climbing Chalk

This is just plain old chalk so it should be fine in hand luggage. Climbing chalk is made primarily of magnesium carbonate which is non-toxic and non-flammable.

A Final Recommendation

As always: go for checked-in luggage if you're unsure and, most importantly, not prepared to have all the gear thrown away by security agents. Personally I would not risk losing all my carabiners, quick-draws, nuts, hexes, cams, and tools the day I'm leaving for a rock-climbing trip.

So I contacted Munich airport and they were quick to reply:

  • climbing equipment in general is no problem
  • also large cams and friends are ok
  • the only exception being: no sharp or pointed objects i.e. no nut tools

These answers were from the responsible department of the airport and the person in charge also absolutely knew what they were talking about in terms of climbing gear so I would be willing to trust this info. In theory the rules should also be the same throughout Europe.
However YMMV and at another airport and other staff might see things differently so as has been pointed out by JoErNanO it would be sensible to have a back-up option (i.e. checking your stuff in hold luggage or leaving it with a friend).
Finally, of course you have to be careful to respect the size/weight limit of your airline.

  • Have you thought about contacting your destination airport? After all you'll have to go through security checks on your way back, won't you? :) – JoErNanO Apr 6 '16 at 12:55
  • I'm actually trying to find out for all airports in Europe and just contacted Munich since proximity to the alps seemed promising in terms of getting an answer from someone who has seen climbing gear before (and it paid off). @JoErNanO – mts Apr 6 '16 at 12:57

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