Top pilgrim tip: Nail scissors

The humble nail scissors are among my staple kit items. I know many would rather bring nail clippers because they are more precise, less fiddly, and there is no risk of having them confiscated at security if you travel with hand luggage only, like I do. In fact, scissors are on the list of things you’re not supposed to take into the cabin.

But according to general rules on cabin luggage, you should be able to take them as long as the blades are 6 centimetres or less. Any longer and it will be considered a weapon, and in a manicure set I suppose a metal nail file is more weapon-like than a pair of small (curved) nail scissors. This is why I always bring a cardboard based nail file, or my glass one which has rounded edges. The most damage I can do with that is to file a nail too close to the skin …

I keep my tiny nail scissors in my hanging toiletry bag for general travel and move them into the tiny first aid kit for caminos and other out-of-town adventures.


The blades on my scissors are 3 centimetre long. The X-ray at security sometimes picks up on them because they look like a longer, pointy metal object, so I keep them handy in my pack so I can take them out and show security personnel that they really are scissors. They are never confiscated.

As you can see from the pic above, I also bring clippers. That’s because they are sometimes better for just that, cutting nails on the road with maximum control. So why bring the scissors as well? I take them because they can cut things the clippers can’t:

  • webbing from packs – you might need to cut some off somewhere to fix something elsewhere or just because they dangle and drive you crazy
  • clothing alterations en route, when something chafes or needs changing in some way, like cutting off belt loops that rub, an elastic that’s too tight or making one buff into two headbands
  • thread for your general sewing and fixing (and blisters if you do that puncture and leave thread to drain it thing)
  • tags and labels off new clothing or other new purchases
  • packaging such as juice cartons, cheese and ham packets, a new toothbrush etc
  • roadside surgery – sometimes you have to get rid of hard skin, corns or even the skin off a burst blister in order to treat and bandage properly. The scissors can be cleaned with alcohol wipes, iodine or burning before and after and are more precise than ripping (ouch!).
  • cutting bandages to size and customising plasters to specific injuries
  • splitting and sharing blister packs of tablets: painkillers, antihistamines, tummy tabs etc rather than popping them out
  • hair which gets annoying and needs a trim – I advise caution here though, and no vino beforehand!
  • nails …

Nail scissors cost peanuts and are practically invaluable when out and about, I never leave home without them. If you can think of more uses for them, I’ll happily add to the list!

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