I touched a little on my packing strategy in the last post, on paperwork when we looked at a packing list.
In my case, I have some pretty beefy and heavy full plate armor and I’m a fairly pudgy 6 feet and about 230 lbs so my armor is too heavy to place in a single checked bag. Most airlines only allow a maximum of about 50 pounds per checked bag, so we will need to be careful how we pack.
First, you’ll need bags. Check with your airline what the max bag weight is! This is extremely important. What you are looking for on their website is “baggage allowance” or something similar.
One lesson I learned is I need to balance the convenience of a hard case with wheels vs the added weight of the case itself. Even the super expensive “ultralight” hard suitcases weigh around 6 pounds. If you’re cutting it close this might not work. Here’s the label on my hard case last time I flew with it. It shows what’s inside as well as my contact info and the total weight my luggage scale gave me for it:
Some fighters I know, who sport light armor, can fit their entire kit in a single checked bag and a carry-on. The usual strategy here is to put the helmet and gauntlets in carry-on and the rest in a backpack or duffel for checked luggage. If you can do that, great!! More power to you. The only caveat here is that some places consider steel gauntlets “weapons” along the lines of brass knuckles, so you might still need to put them in checked luggage.
Another possibility, especially if you are of somewhat smaller stature, is to wear some of your armor on the flight. In 2017, Daniel Jaquet went viral doing just that. He blogged about it here. Essentially, he was able to travel with a single checked bag by wearing several parts for the trip. He says if you try this, you should leave a VERY large amount of time for getting through security. Apparently many of the airport security people wanted selfies with him or wanted to try on his armor. It sounds like fun, but is likely also pretty exhausting.
For my own heavy armor, my strategy is to break my armor and weapons into two checked items. It costs a little more but it costs less than paying for over-sized or over-weight luggage at the airport. I split my full gear into:
Here’s how that breaks down:
Most airlines allow each passenger a “personal item”. This is a small bag, like a handbag, that will fit under the seat in front of you. For this, I use a small laptop bag that holds my Chromebook (I use a Chromebook to travel because it is relatively replaceable.), accessories, all my electronics (including international power converter), and the paperwork I talk about in the 3rd part of this series.
Basically, my personal item is everything I want to have in reach during the flight.
My carry-on bag contains my clothes and whatever toiletries I am bringing.
One thing I learned about this is to include a plastic trash bag for dirty clothes on your return trip. You likely are not going to do laundry before your return flight. Trust me on this.
More importantly, if you’re traveling to fight, you’re probably going to have a sweaty gambeson or arming cote. Air it our as much as you can (pack it last) and pack it inside a plastic trash bag. The bag takes almost no space and weight and you’ll be glad your carry-on isn’t stinking up everything around you.
Side Tip: They make a convertible garment bag that zips up into a duffel that fits nicely into the carry-on category. You can put your nice clothes on hangers in it and it rolls and zips up to be a regular duffel bag shape. I really love mine. You can zip it up and stuff your trash bag with smelly arming clothes inside the center.
Checked Bag #1
For my first checked bag, I no longer use a hard case. When I did, it was convenient to balance everything else on the hard case when going between the car and bag check the bag claim to the car. Now I just grab a hand cart.
I am currently using a CCM hockey gear duffel bag. Any really tough duffel bag should do as long as it is big and light. Expect it to be damaged in transit. Expect to patch it after three or four trips.
When packing I begin by adding my cuirass (plate torso armor) to the bag, then my helmet. Around the helmet, I add my pauldrons and buckler or punch shield.
This will get the weight pretty close to just under 50 pounds (or close to 25 KG). If you’ve got room to spare, great. You may need to balance the weight with the other checked bag. Make a list of the contents and weight but don’t close it up just yet.
Checked Bag #2
My second checked bag is a really long, un-padded bag made for downhill skis. I had gotten a padded one with wheels, but it weighed over 6 pounds….
Like the hockey duffel, the idea here is a light weight bag that can hold your gear.
In this go my weapons (The bag is plenty long for many polearms), arm armor, leg armor, and gauntlets.
I begin by sliding the weapons inside the arms and legs, with the sword tips inside a gauntlet. It takes a little sliding around to make it work, but this system seems to work OK.
Balancing Weight & Final Preps
Use a good luggage scale to weigh each bag. Check their weights against the airline’s luggage allowances and move smaller items back and forth to get everything under weight.
If you need, you can put small items in your carry-on with your clothes. While there is a max weight for carry-ons, they usually don’t check. Just don’t make it so heavy they start asking questions…
Once the weights are figured out, write out labels for each bag. (These will also help when you’re re-packing to fly home.) Place one paper copy inside each bag. If you can, write out the list on some colored duct tape to stick to the outside and include your name, phone number, and flight numbers. This will help in case the bag opens in transit or if it gets manually searched. The security people will know what to put back inside.
If your bag gets damaged, you can use some packing tape (available at most stationary shops or post offices) to keep the contents together.
Next, you can use a lock if you like. If you do, make sure it is TSA compliant.
For every bag, including the personal item and carry-on, I add two things: a brightly colored and durable luggage tag and a tracking device.
I use a metal luggage tag with a steel cable connecting it and I run it through the handles and zipper pull if I can. Security can unscrew it to open if needed and if they do, they probably won’t connect it the same way again, so you’ll know. These tags make it easier to find your bags at the baggage claim carousel.
For a tracking device there are really two kinds that I can recommend: Apple Air Tags and Tile trackers. I’ve used Tile for a long time and now use the Pro tags for the added range. With either, you can set an alert to tell you when yours come into range or if the bags get lost or stolen, you can trace their locations.
I use my Tile tags to alert me when they are in range which means they are about to be put on the carousel. This tells me when I should go look, so I’m not standing there like everyone else. Also, the long ski bag is often placed in “Oversized” baggage handling, so it might come out somewhere else. If I can connect to the tags, I can turn on their alarm function and find them by sound. Once, I even identified my bag to security by telling them “Mine’s the one making the alarm noise.”
In general, if you have light armor or are fairly small, you might be able to get away with a single checked bag and/or wearing some of your kit. The rest of us will use two checked bags.
If you’re traveling with a non-fighter, you might be able to use their baggage allowance for your second checked bag and save some cash.
Is there anything I missed? Got anything to say about this series? Comment below or send me a message.
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