Gear Guy

Q:

What's the best system for taking a stove on an airplane?

I have logged many air miles with my MSR Whisperlite AND empty fuel bottles. I have never been given any problems (including post 9-11 from New York area airports) having them packed in my luggage. I do, however, take a couple of precautions. These include calling the airline before hand and getting the name and customer service ID of the person I talked to, keeping the fuel bottle clean and uncapped (leave some soap residue inside so it will smell clean), and always checking in at the counter so you can tell the attendant that that the thing that looks like a bomb is a stove and bottles. Most of the time the attendant checks the equipment and that is all (sometimes they mark my luggage with a weird tag). I have on other occasions had an attendant repackage the stove in the airline's special box. I feel that if you are up front about it and take a little care, things will go smoother. However be prepared for the guy who is a hard nose as you may still lose your stove. Jonathan Cushing New York, New York

A:I think that's a good approach, Jonathan. The airlines' main concern, now as always, is allowing something into the baggage compartment that could turn into an inadvertent bomb. So they tend to have blanket rules to simply eliminate the problems with making case-by-case decisions.

But by being pro-active, as you are, you greatly increase the odds of getting a stove on board. And you do exactly what I would do: call ahead of time (and get name of person who says "OK!"); keep the fuel bottle clean (the soap is a nice touch); and have it in hand or very handy at the counter so the baggage clerks can see what it is and feel at ease. And, as you note, all of this may go for naught.

We've had another suggestion on the Gear Guy Forum—that you mail the stove ahead of time via UPS ground or some other shipping service. That can work, too, but may necessitate some fooling around on the pickup end. I'd suggest as well that if you know that butane/propane canisters are available at your destination, you simply purchase an inexpensive stove such as the Gaz Twister HPZ ($30). Without a canister attached, this stove looks pretty innocuous, and even if it gets confiscated, the loss is not large.

If anybody else out there has had some illuminating experience with this issue in recent months, please share your wisdom in the Gear Guy Forum!

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