Keeping up with the TSA rules can be a challenge when packing camping gear for a cross country flight. Some items need to go in your carry on (lithium batteries) and others can only be stored in checked luggage (knives, trekking poles, tents). Camping stoves and camping fuel are one of the biggest sources of confusion for most backpackers/campers. Can you bring fuel with your stove or will you have to buy it once you get there?
Can I Fly With Camping Fuel? You can not fly with any type of camping fuel. Most items that use camping fuel are allowed in checked luggage, but you will have to follow special cleaning instructions. The fuel needs to be drained and tanks need to be cleaned out and dried before they’re inspected by the TSA. If there’s moisture inside the fuel tank or the smell of gas vapors the item will be confiscated.
So what options do I have if you can’t fly with camping fuel? You will have to buy fuel when you’re at the destination. Any type of fuel is easy to find if you’re camping in a North America, but some fuels will be hard to find in remote areas. I recommend switching to a liquid fuel stove that can run off kerosene or diesel of you’re traveling to remote areas or under-developed nations without Walmarts and Camping stores.
You can’t fly with camping fuel, but the rest of your gear should be fine to go on the plane. Keep reading to learn how to clean out your fuel canisters and I’ll give a few tips for finding fuel once you’ve reached your destination.
Why Can’t I Fly With Camping Fuel?
It’s unfortunate that you can’t take camping fuel on a plane, but it wouldn’t be safe to store fuel in the cargo area. A fire in the cargo compartment is rare, but they do happen. There are fire retardant devices in the cargo hold, but the crew can’t get down to extinguish the flames. Camp fuel would add to the flames and possibly cause a catastrophic explosion.
Leave your fuel canisters at home, but you should be able to bring the rest of your gear. According to the TSA fuel bottles and camping stoves can go in checked and carry on luggage. Just make sure the fuel reservoirs are empty and cleaned out cleaned out with dish soap and hot water. Make sure there’s enough time to dry out the reservoir because there can’t be any liquid or fuel vapors when going through airport security.
If you can smell fuel in the fuel bottle or reservoir you need to repeat the cleaning process until the fuel vapors are gone. Remove the fuel cap and valve so the TSA can inspect your gear and I recommend printing out the TSA travel documents saying camping stoves are allowed in your luggage.
I tape the TSA rules to my camping stove and wrap my fuel bottles so less experienced employees won’t confiscate them. Leave another copy of the document in your luggage with a summary of the stove, bottle and parts so the employees know what they’re looking at.
There’s no guarantee your stove and fuel bottles will make it on the plane with you, but they should be allowed on the plane based on TSA rules. Make sure you have a backup plan before you fly just in case they get confiscated. Figure out where you can buy replacements at your destination, or where you can rent gear from. There should be outdoor gear stores near most popular camping/backpacking destinations.
Buy Camping Fuel Once You Reach The Destination
You should be able to find camping fuel once you reach the destination. There might not be a camping store nearby, but you can find portable propane bottles, white gas, kerosene, and butane at any Walmart and most home improvement stores.
There’s a Walmart within 14.3 miles of almost every town in America and hardware stores everywhere I’ve been. I guarantee there’s somewhere to find camping fuel within a 10-20 minute drive of most airports in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and any other developed country
The only time you might have an issue is in remote areas and underdeveloped countries. I recommend bringing a liquid fuel stove if you’re traveling to South America, Africa, etc. You can almost always find kerosene, and gasoline or diesel will work in a pinch.
Diesel is extremely dirty clogging fuel lines, and gasoline (petrol) can damage the seals in fuel lines with regular use so only use them in an emergency. Make sure you have a way to unclog your lines and clean out the fuel tanks when you’re done camping. Clear out your fuel lines, and use hot water and dish soap to clean out your fuel reservoir. Go back to white gas through when you get home.
There Are 5 Common Pieces Of Camping Gear That May Get Confiscated By The TSA
Most of your camping gear can go into either your checked/carryon luggage, but there are 4 common pieces of camping gear that can’t go into your luggage. You can’t bring on bear spray, camp stove fuel, or strike anywhere matches. Lighters can only go in your carry on bags or in your pocket.
- Camping Stove Fuel: You can’t bring any type of camping fuel in your checked or carry on luggage. Take special precautions with any item that requires camping fuel as well. Camping stoves, fuel bottles, heaters, lanterns, etc. need to be drained of fuel and cleaned out so there’s no flammable vapors of any kind leftover. Use soap a brush and hot water to remove the smell of fuel. If there’s any water left in the fuel reservoir or it smells like gas the TSA will confiscate the item. I recommend printing off and taping the TSA rules about camping stoves to any piece of gear that could cause problems so inexperienced employees don’t confiscate it for no reason.
- Bear Spray: Bear spray is a very powerful long range pepper spray (also not allowed). It can’t go in carry on luggage for obvious reasons, but it’s also not allowed in checked baggage since it’s an aerosol. Aerosol cans can explode at high altitudes causing fires and catastrophic damage to the plane.
- Refillable Lighters: Cheap disposable lighters like Bics are fine in your carry on or on your body, but not allowed in checked baggage. Refillable butane cigar lighters are completely banned, but zippos can go in either checked or carry on if they’ve been drained and cleaned of fuel.
- Strike Anywhere Matches: Strike anywhere matches cannot be carried on a plane, but you can bring safety matches that need to strike on the side of the box. Safety matches need to go in your carry on bag so a fire can be extinguished in an emergency.
- TSA Compliant Multitools: There are TSA Compliant multitools without knives that can go in your carry on bag, but they will get flagged and probably confiscated. Multitools are constantly being added and removed from the list and nobody seems to know which ones are allowed. Pack any multitool with a foldout knife in your checked baggage and I recommend checking TSA compliant models as well.