The "Tent as Carry-on" Question

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Old Jul 12, 10, 4:00 am
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Question The "Tent as Carry-on" Question

This question has been asked before on here, but it never got answered. The thread got a LITTLE off topic. Anyway----->

I will be traveling to Oshkosh later this month for AirVenture. I want to take my tent as a carry-on but have yet to find a straight answer. Its been either: Yes, I do it all the time to No, the poles can be used a clubs, whips, spears etc.... Its the ONE thing would rather keep with me then to ship or check it. As it will be my only shelter for the week. I know that the stakes will be an issue so those will be left checked.

So does anyone have an answer to this gray area? I have a feeling the TSA in LIT will be more trouble then ATW. Since there will be 1000s of us, EAAers going by airline through ATW.
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Old Jul 12, 10, 6:12 am
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The short answer is...there is no answer.

The TSA website has a "camping section", and they leave out one of the most important pieces of camping equipment.

If you ask the MyTSA application, you get a generic "check it in to avoid the chance" answer.

You won't find it on their prohibited items list, and you won't find it on their definitely allowed list either. It all depends on the whims of TSA, if they find it. If you decided to chance it as carryon, I would bring it along (sans stakes, as you said), and not bring any attention to it. If they have an issue with it, they can inspect it to notice the poles are thin, light, and connected. They'd be no more of a flight hazard than fishing poles, which are allowed. The safe answer would be to swing by the checkpoint first thing and ask the supervisor if he has a problem with it.
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Old Jul 12, 10, 6:49 am
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When I was looking around for an answer to this for a friend last fall, I found three answers.
  • Yes you can do it
  • No, the poles and stakes will not be allowed
  • I pack it so I can check it, sometimes they let it through and sometimes they do not

There seems to be as many answers as there are people answering. There was very little actual experience from people doing it, just mostly people guessing. In the end my friend added enough stuff to end up having to check a bag and asked when he was going through and was pretty much told "it depends" if he would have been allowed to carry it on or not.

My advice to him was to try to pack it in something you could check if you were denied and leave plenty of time to go back to the counter and check it if you have to.

I think they left it off the list for a reason, there are just too many types of stakes, poles, etc for them to give a yes or no answer.
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Old Jul 12, 10, 7:05 am
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Yet another example of why TSA is a failure on a massive scale. If fishing poles can be carried on board, it makes no sense whatsoever for tent poles to be prohibited.

Every time I think TSA can't get any more ridiculous and stupid, they prove me wrong.
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Old Jul 12, 10, 10:54 pm
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I started to have a feeling this would be a very are question to get answered. Do any of the forum TSO (i.e. SATTSO) have any input?
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Old Jul 12, 10, 11:09 pm
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Originally Posted by Kanis91 View Post
I started to have a feeling this would be a very are question to get answered. Do any of the forum TSO (i.e. SATTSO) have any input?
Haven't run into this on the checkpoint but I would say so long as the stakes aren't in there, shouldn't be a problem. It may get a second look because of how I think it might look on the x-ray but once it get's that second look, shouldn't be an issue.
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Old Jul 12, 10, 11:19 pm
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Originally Posted by Kanis91 View Post
I started to have a feeling this would be a very are question to get answered. Do any of the forum TSO (i.e. SATTSO) have any input?
It sort of depends on the tent, to be honest. Of course, no yard spikes. But how large is the tent, how many poles, how thick are the poles, etc. Though I haven't camped in years I have 2 tents - a larger family sized tent and a smaller personal pop-up tent. I know that the larger would not be allowed through the checkpoint, but a smaller one most likely would be.

Another poster suggested a good idea, which I see people do often. Arrive a bit early and prepare to check-in the tent. Goto the checkpoint and ask to speak to a checkpoint STSO. Be preparred to show the tent - they will want to see the poles of the tent. The poles fall under club-like objects, perhaps.

As pointed out there is no policy that specifically deals with tents, perhaps because tents can vary so much, I would guess. All I can say is that I and others have allowed smaller tents (no spikes ) yet not larger ones. Know this doesn't help you much, sorry.
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Old Jul 12, 10, 11:39 pm
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Originally Posted by SATTSO View Post
But how large is the tent, how many poles, how thick are the poles, etc.
The tent is a small backpacking tent in a compression sack. The poles are 1/4ish in size and each are about a foot long. They are slightly magnetic and connected with bungee cord. The poles are in a separate bag.

Originally Posted by SATTSO View Post
Another poster suggested a good idea, which I see people do often. Arrive a bit early and prepare to check-in the tent. Goto the checkpoint and ask to speak to a checkpoint STSO. Be preparred to show the tent - they will want to see the poles of the tent. The poles fall under club-like objects, perhaps.
How would you go about this? Without the TSOs thinking it was suspicious. Just walk up to the first TSO I see and ask to see the STSO? All I need is my TSA pilot clearance to revoked.
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Old Jul 12, 10, 11:54 pm
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Originally Posted by Kanis91 View Post
The tent is a small backpacking tent in a compression sack. The poles are 1/4ish in size and each are about a foot long. They are slightly magnetic and connected with bungee cord. The poles are in a separate bag.



How would you go about this? Without the TSOs thinking it was suspicious. Just walk up to the first TSO I see and ask to see the STSO? All I need is my TSA pilot clearance to revoked.
Tent poles seem small enough to me.

As to approaching TSA, it's not that difficult. There is usually a PEO TSO (before TDC) and if not approach the TDC and ask them to call for a STSO because you have a question if some of your property is allowed through the checkpoint.
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Old Jul 12, 10, 11:59 pm
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Ok, well thanks for the help. I will try that when I get to the airport that day. I will just keep a spot on the backpack in case I have to check it.
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Old Jul 13, 10, 5:53 pm
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I would think the nature of the poles would also matter.

I've owned a tent with rigid poles that I wouldn't think would pass TSA muster. While they were too light to be meaningful clubs they were basically club-like.

On the other hand, springy poles are obviously useless as clubs, they would just bend out of the way if you tried to whap someone with one.
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Old Jul 14, 10, 7:38 am
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If you do get it on board...

I recommend you erect the tent in the aisle, unroll your sleeping bag, crawl inside and have a nap. Just don't try to start a camp fire and brew some coffee when you wake up, this would probably not be in compliance with FAA regs.
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Old Jul 14, 10, 7:51 am
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I do a lot of backpacking and don't like the possibility of being refused carry on or having people with no clue touching my expensive equipment if I check it. At this point I am sending most of my gear ahead in a box. The replacement value of my stuff is just too great to risk it.
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