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How to Pack a Knife in Your Checked Baggage when Flying

A good knife is a core piece of travel gear — but just how do you fly with one?

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It is perfectly within the bounds of airline regulations to carry a knife in your checked baggage — NOT your carry on bags — as long as it is not going to cut through your bag and be a hazard to airport employees and other passenger’s luggage.

But, for some reason, the airline baggage handlers who screen checked bags behind the scenes seem to have not gotten this message. I have had two jack knives stolen from my checked baggage in the past ten years of travel.

Both knives were in their closed position, they were not going to cut through anything.

Both knives were expensive: one was an antique Spanish jackknife that I picked up in the port of Montevideo, the other was a good Victorinox Swiss Army Knife that I somehow came upon in India.

In point, the baggage attendants, apparently, just wanted to steal them. I can’t say that I blame them, they were good knives. So if you don’t want your pocket knife stolen, be sure to hide it well.


Since I lost the Swiss Army Knife I have just been traveling with cheap-o $10 pocket knives, and no baggage inspector has yet dared to claim one of these.

Though a couple weeks ago I was sent a $50 gift certificate to REI from an archaeology firm that I worked for last summer. I bought a knife with it. What else would I buy?

It is a good knife, a $50 knife, it is forged from a sing piece of steal, is thin enough to carry in my vest, comes with a solid sheath — it is a one of a kind type of knife.

The kind of knife I want to keep. So I do not want to make yet another offering of a good knife to an overzealous airport baggage screener, so I needed to devise a strategy to carry it in my check in baggage that would inhibit theft. I came up with the following strategy:

How to pack a knife in your check in airline baggage travel tip

Cut out two pieces of cardboard

Cut out two pieces of cardboard large enough to cover the knife.

Put knife inside of the cardboard

Place the knife in between the two pieces of cardboard. I wrote, “Not Sharp” on the outside of the cardboard for additional affect.

Wrap cardboard and knife with lots of tape

Wrap up the cardboard with the knife inside with lots of tape.

Wrap it up in tape

Wrap it all up with tape.

Wrap up in pants

Wrap it in a pair of pants for added affect.

This travel tip should not be necessary. The baggage screeners who look through your check-in  baggage at the airport should know that a closed shut jackknife is not sharp, and is therefore unable to cut anything — or a sheathed knife is also effectively impotent. But, under the banner of bullshit safety, perhaps, they justify their theft.

This tip will not prevent theft, it is true, but it is my impression that people are more likely to take what they know is valuable. If it is difficult to get in to the knife to determine its quality, a baggage handler may be a little less likely to place a claim upon it. Also, if it is shown with outright obviousness that the knife which you have in your checked baggage is in no way sharp, the baggage handlers may be more likely to let it pass without further inspection.

This tip is for your CHECKED IN baggage, NOT your carry on bags.


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Filed under: Air Travel, Airports, Travel Gear, Travel Tips

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3722 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

9 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

  • reb146 November 24, 2010, 10:55 pm

    your article made me laugh… how did it work out for you?

    i am thinking of purchasing a leatherman and puting it in checked bag but scared they will take it….esp after your experience.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com November 25, 2010, 11:31 am

      It seems as if only expensive knives have been stolen from me, but wrapping it up real good has always made sure that it arrives at my destination with my bags.

      Just bundle up the leatherman and they will not be able to judge its value.

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  • Sasha July 3, 2011, 4:49 pm

    Great post! And the advice sounds very good — I’m going to do this when packing my snorkeling/dive knife. Thanks!

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  • winpumpwill January 23, 2013, 10:50 pm

    Thanks for posting.Very helpful.Want to bring knife so im not completly vulnrable. Heard the Dominican is a little dangerous.Hopefully they will just rob me not cut my finger off for my wedding ring like someone else was threatened.All inclusive at ocean blue.Do u think ill have any problems? Any tips will be helpfull!  winpumpwill@yahoo.com      Thanks!

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  • Paulo Matos April 25, 2013, 7:05 pm

    I’m buying a cheap knife for my dad and I’ll be taking an international flight from the US to Brazil.

    I’m also buying one for myself.

    I don’t know much about knives, but I’m expecting them to come sharp. Is that okay if they’re sharp? Or should I do something to unsharp them?

    This is a really good post and even if they’re cheap knives, I’ll definitely use your suggestions!


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  • Ryan July 24, 2019, 7:37 pm

    I think it’s more about theft than taking it because it’s hazardous. They are in a good position to steal so they do it.

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    • Wade Shepard July 25, 2019, 10:03 am

      That’s true.

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  • jac noir August 15, 2020, 11:45 pm


    i am flying from england to brazil. i want to backpack around brazil in the wild. i plan to take a few knives and 1 30cm machete in my checked luggage. is this allowed? could i have any issues?


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    • VBJ August 17, 2020, 4:29 pm

      I’ve travelled with a machete in my checked luggage before. It’s not really that big of a del just so it’s legal in the places you travel. I had a slight issue in HK once because of this. However, I’d recommend just buying a machete when you get there. What do you want a machete for anyway?

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