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23” tall technical hiking backpack as a carry-on…

I am curious if anyone here has had problems with being forced to check a true day hiking backpack due to height.

I will be doing the Tour du Mont Blanc next summer hiking from town to town while my luggage is shuttled every day. On one night I will extra clothes to stay at a hut where the luggage transfer service cannot access.

I normally use a 18-25 liter backpack hiking here in Colorado. The over night stay and normal weather in the Alps may require more protective rain gear and layers than we typically need for day hiking here so I hope to bring a 30 liter bag on this trip. This will also accommodate food and possibly a bottle of wine from time to time.

Problem is that most packs this size (that fit my torso) range from 23-25” tall - over the max stated 22” limit United states but never seems to impose on domestic flights. I have found one pack that seems to measure 22.5” that will work if I mash it in.

I have had issues on BA once where I had to gate check a bag because I had to work to compress the width. $50 later I watched as the last passengers walked on with bags that looked more like steamer trunks than my pack. Aarrgghhh.

Posted by
2004 posts

Jason, I truly do not know, but this could explain (MAYBE) why the airline was a bit stricter with the backpack:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/backpacks-flights-passenger-behavior-11666118529

EDIT:
Ooops....I just clicked on the link after I posted, to see if it would open for you, and it might not. If it does not, just simply Google: backpacks on airline Wall Street Journal
................and it should pop right up for you to read.

And, of course, not implying in any way that you have been a whacker, just that airlines (via their passengers) experience lots of whackers.

Posted by
6647 posts

As someone said in another post: "there's no law against cheking a bag". I don't know what you're looking at $wise to check it ahead of time vs being forced to gate check, but might be worth it if you don't want to risk the latter.

Posted by
1468 posts

I flew with my 40L Deuter ,but I went up to the gate and offered to gate check it, since it looked like a full flight. I had wrapped my hip belt twice around itself and buckled it, as well as compressed all the straps (including the shoulder ones down so they didn't stick out) and buckled the chest strap. It was packed for a two night 40 mile trip, so full. They said "Great, thanks!" and checked it there at the gate. (Free, but of course, this was a couple years ago) I regularly fly with a Osprey 40L to Europe but it's not a tall backpack, it's the Fairview, because on those trips I'm not hiking or backpacking. Nor have I flown BA recently, but these were Lufthansa, Delta, United, AA, FinnAir, Iceland Air and some smaller airlines like Olympic, Aegean and SkyExpress

Of course, if you're unwilling to check, then who knows. But we flew to Iceland with lots of gear for overnight backpacking trips of over a week each, and so we put our gear (including boots and trekking poles) into a 100L Patagonia Black Hole Duffel each, so our gear (including packs) were protected.

Posted by
217 posts

The Wall Street Journal article definitely explains a prior experience, although I am definitely not a whacker.

I plan on checking in a 70 liter duffel for my hiking and city gear (including poles) and hope to use the backpack as a carry on lightly loaded. My wife will be carrying on a 22 liter pack (no size issues there) and another 40 liter duffel as well.

Between our check on bags I think we would be covered but I just do not want to get dinged for a gate check fee. I would rather upgrade to a 90 liter duffel and pack the hiking pack in the carry on but this violates every midnight I have developed as an ultralight one bag traveler. A bag Inside a bag????

Posted by
1468 posts

Yes, it seemed weird for me too, but I got over it fast. :)

Posted by
7352 posts

So if it will fit the sizer if you don't fill it full and smash it down? Sounds like a solution.

The real answer to your question is, you might get lucky, you might not, regardless of your justification. There's the rules, what some people get away with, and what you might get away with. If I'm another passenger on that flight and your oversized bag is taking up more than fair bin space because you have to put it in sideways instead of tail first, then I will curse you, but cant do much about it.

Posted by
747 posts

Over several years of travel in Europe I routinely carried a Deuter 30L Trail model as my carry-on. Never a question asked. But I always also had a 10-15L lightweight duffle as my personal item (everything would fit in the 30L bag on the ground) but both bags always looked half empty.

Posted by
814 posts

Jason, you are already checking in another big piece of luggage and want to carry on the slightly tall technical hiking bag so that the straps and hipbelt etc. don't get damaged by check-in. Can you see if your hiking bag has a removable internal frame? My hiking/carryon bag has 2 removable aluminum stays. If so, you can remove the stays and store them in your checked luggage. Your hiking bag will then be totally squishable vertically.

Posted by
217 posts

My pack is a suspended mesh panel design with a perimeter frame that cannot be removed.

My usual carry-on backpack is an Osprey Farpoint 40 liter but it is two inches shorter so never gets a second look for some reason even when it is on my back.

My pack is about 1" shorter than the Deuter Trail 30 (which is a great bag BTW) so if the previous poster had no problems on European flights, I feel a lot better about taking this new bag.

Thanks for all the input folks.

Posted by
1190 posts

REcent trip to Colorado USA flying Southwest. A small group of five hikers scrambled onto the plane. Dressed in their trail clothing, they looked like experiencedd ultralighters, maybe heading for the Divide Trail, carrying diminutive 30L bags. I could not see their backpacks as each was carrying them enclosed in transit/rain covers from Osprey or North Face.

https://www.osprey.com/us/en/product/aircover-medium-AIRCOVERM_514.html

Posted by
14446 posts

1/ Follow the rules (height, width and length) and you will have no problems; and if you can smash it down to the required size that is following the rules.
2/ Ignore #1 if its a full flight and the agents are scouting the waiting area for people to make gate check (my guess is they look for the borderline illegal bags first --- that would be you).
3/ No matter how many posts you read saying that they got away with it doesn't make it right or eliminate the odds of you being the one to get caught (do you really want to start the trip that way?)
4/ Take it off before you get in line and carry it on.

Posted by
2262 posts

It does not matter what anyone else's experience has been. If your bag is over the size limit they can ask you to check it, saying "well they told me on RickSteves.com that they got away with it" has NO impact.

Oh and you probably could get away with it on SouthWest. Their carryon size is larger than most other airlines.

Posted by
217 posts

I am well aware that we are all subject to the baggage dimensions.

My desire is not to flaunt that as I am confident I could get it to fit.

My concern is the erratic enforcement of this when my previous backpack could fit in the bin but I was not allowed to carry it on and then watch 20-30 people with bigger roller bags allowed to carry those on with no problems.

Posted by
2262 posts

From your last post it becomes very apparent that you’ve already decided what you’re going to do, so I’m not sure what the purpose of this post is?

Posted by
7352 posts

jasonindenver, yes, there are many of us who would agree that life would be better if the airlines only enforced their own rules consistently.

Posted by
14446 posts

1/ Rules and laws would not need enforcement if people were honest and ethical
2/ Someone else breaking the rules should have no impact on one's behavior
3/ The RS Forum members could be an example for others.
4/ jasonindenver, absolutely nothing directed at you; just mouthing off.