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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Can You Take a Camera Tripod as Carry-On on an Airplane?

The first time I took my camera tripod on an airplane as carry-on luggage I was terrified. Was airport security going to confiscate it? What about the airline staff at the boarding gate? Or at the door of the plane? Or the cabin crew member who gave me a hand to lift my bag to the luggage storage?

Not one of them said a thing because—with some caveats—flying with your tripod is okay. Let’s look at the situation.

Is a Tripod Legal Carry On?

The good news is that the TSA doesn’t give a damn about your tripod. Tripods are listed on their website as approved for both carry-on and checked bags.

Now, this comes with one major caveat: everything is at the discretion of the TSA officer you meet at security. They have pretty broad powers to confiscate anything they want, even if it’s technically on the approved list. If you’re bringing your grandad’s ancient two-meter long wooden tripod with you or just act like an ass, then all bets are off.

The TSA is also only the security provider in American airports. Most other airport security setups generally follow their lead, but there is an outside chance that some airport somewhere has specifically banned tripods.

Does a Tripod Fit In Your Baggage?

Just because the TSA has let you through the security screening doesn’t mean your tripod is on the plane yet; the airline still has to let you on. And this step is trickier.

Different airlines have different cabin baggage allowances—Skyscanner has a good summary—and different levels of enforcement of the rules. I’ve been allowed on a plane blatantly carrying two bags that pushed the limits of what the storage bins could hold and also been pulled aside to have my schoolbag-sized backpack weighed and measured.

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