A good knife is a core piece of travel gear — but just how do you fly with one?
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 large enough to cover the knife.
Place the knife in between the two pieces of cardboard. I wrote, “Not Sharp” on the outside of the cardboard for additional affect.
Wrap up the cardboard with the knife inside with lots of tape.
Wrap it all up with tape.
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.
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 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. VBJ has written 3679 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Papa Bay, Hawaii
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.
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!
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! firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks!
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!
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.
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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