This question comes up on the Camino forum(s) again and again. With so many cheap tickets and steep checked bag fees it is tempting to pack light and take your Camino pack on the flight as hand luggage. But can you take your collapsible hiking poles too?
No, you can’t. You need to put them in a bag that goes in the hold.
Yes I know, there are loads of stories out there about people who have got their poles past security on this, that or the other airport or airline, but for every one of them there is a story about someone who had them confiscated or had to pay an exorbitant fee to check them at the airport. Especially for those of us who have a strong attachment to our poles (like Pacerpoles) because we can’t just replace them with a cheap and cheerful pair at the other end, or who paid too much for them to let them go in the bin, there is no point in taking a chance!
The rule of thumb is that you are not allowed to take anything into the cabin as hand luggage if it can be perceived as a potential weapon of any kind, and hiking or trekking poles do have a metal shaft and a potentially damaging tip though they are sold with a rubber cover. However feel free to call and ask the relevant airline or airport before leaving if you want to be completely sure.
This is what Ryanair’s website classes as Prohibited articles for cabin bags:
18.104.22.168 Pointed/edged Weapons & Sharp Objects; pointed or bladed articles capable of causing injury, including axes & hatchets, cleavers, arrows and darts, crampons (grappling iron, hooked bar of iron, or plate with iron spikes used in mountaineering), harpoons & spears, ice axes & ice picks, ice skates, knives with blades of more than 6 cms including lockable or flick knives, ceremonial, religious and hunting knives, made of metal or any other material strong enough to be used as a potential weapon, meat cleavers, machetes, open razors and blades (excluding safety or disposable razors with blades enclosed in cartridge), sabres, swords and swordsticks, scalpels, scissors with blades more than 6 cms as measured from the fulcrum, ski and walking/hiking poles, throwing stars, tradesman’s tools with a blade or a shaft of more than 6 cms that have the potential to be used as a pointed or edged weapon, e.g.drills and drill bits, box cutters, utility knives, all saws, screwdrivers, chisels, crowbars, hammers, pliers, wrenches/spanners, blow torches.
Note that you can only take scissors with a maximum blade length of 6 cms, which means anything bigger than your normal nail scissors (a favourite kit item of mine) can and probably will be confiscated. And really – would you want other people to take any of those things into the plane you are flying with?
If you want to take your walking poles with you, you can either check your bag or just the poles (and any other sharp stuff), which you’ll have to pay for on many low cost airlines, but at least they will be there as soon as you step off the plane. If you check the poles only (you might want to keep the rest of your kit close at all times) you might need to wrap them in a tube or some bubble wrap because they can get thrown about a bit. Better safe than sorry.
My top tip is to ship them to your pre-booked accommodation at your starting point. If you do, it is also a good idea to let them know before you send them so they know to expect them and keep them safe until you arrive. I have never had a problem with this and the people at hotels and other accommodation along the Camino(s) are usually happy to help pilgrims and have done it before. If you want to bring a knife or anything else sharp, then just put that in the same parcel to avoid trouble at security.
Or if you land in or start from Santiago you can send them to Ivar’s luggage storage and pick them up from his office in the city centre before you go on to Fisterra or get a bus to Ferrol, Astorga etc.
A third option, if you haven’t booked or can’t book accommodation (like in municipal albergues) or if for some reason they won’t accept your parcel, is to send them to yourself Poste Restante to be picked up at a post office near where you start. Check opening hours though!
All you need to do is wrap your poles up carefully and send them with normal post, which in most cases will work out cheaper than the checked luggage fee or special delivery. Just make sure you send them in plenty of time so they don’t arrive after you have left.
Also it can be a good idea to print out your own name and address (to avoid misread handwriting) and put that in the parcel. If the worst happens and it gets lost and opened, any postal workers will have your name and address to return it to. More importantly you now have packing materials and an address label ready for when you have to send them home again. Carrying some bubble wrap and a small plastic sheet won’t weigh you down (though a cardboard tube might). Then when you have arrived at your goal, use the same stuff, ask at the post office for some sturdy tape, attach your own address on it and ship your poles back home again. It really isn’t worth risking having them confiscated.