One of the greatest things about being a climber or skier is the opportunity to see beautiful new places while doing what you love. Climbing trips keep us motivated to train hard, inspired to learn new skills, and grateful for the variety of peaks and crags that each offer something different.
But flying anywhere with your climbing gear can be an enormous pain.
Jesse Mattner is the man in charge of CAMP USA, but between working 70-hour weeks in our Colorado office, Jesse is always ready for the next climb. He recently snuck out of work for a couple days and caught a Spirit Airlines "discount" flight from Denver to Las Vegas. The plan was a quick ascent of The Rainbow Wall in Red Rock. And apart from the extreme weather advisory and intermittent snow squalls, there was only one hitch in the plan.
The $100 carry-on.
That's right, Spirit Airlines charges between $35-$50 each way even for a carry-on bag, as long as it is reserved in advanced. But if you assume that it's free to carry on a small bag, and arrive at the gate without reserving it, you will be charged $100 each-way! That makes even the casinos near Red Rock seem like a pretty good deal.
Facebook fans of CAMP USA suggested flying on Southwest Airlines (free checked bags, in addition to free carry-on) as well as flying enough (or having the right credit card) to earn free first checked bags on major carriers. Here are a few other tips to flying with your mountain gear, and not paying an extra arm and a leg.
- Wear your climbing or ski boots onto the flight, in order to save room in your pack and not have to check an additional bag.
- Don't forget the "personal item" allowed by most airlines is in addition to a large carry-on. CAMP USA athlete Blake Herrington swears he has consistently used a fully-stuffed 35L pack, filled with two ropes, as his "personal item" even though it was probably 40lbs and larger than the carry-on bags of most folks.
- If you are worried about a weight penalty on a checked bag, move the small and heavy items into your carry-on, which wont get weighed.
- Use a sharpie and write your name, email, phone number, and address clearly on the outside of any backpacks. When an airline inevitably loses your checked bag, you wont have to be worried about the flimsy paper tag having been torn off.
- Cinch up all the straps, tighten down the buckles, wrap the waist belt around the pack in reverse, and generally make your bag look and feel as small and compact as possible. If you've got a removeable lid to your pack, take it off in order to make your backpack meet the carry-on requirements.
And don't forget to read all the fine print when it comes to baggage fees, no matter which airline you choose.