I have been living out a gear bag for more than half my life. No matter how glorious it seems, it gets old really fast.
Learn the Rules
I’m traveling this weekend for our first class of 2019 down in Florida. I get asked this all the time; what do you do when you travel? Well, it is really not complicated. What I have learned over the years continues to guide me moving forward. Most of these tricks are not really tricks, but experience. The next most often asked question is how do I travel with firearms and ammunition. Simple, know and follow the rules. If you haven’t visited the TSA’s website for transporting firearms and ammunition, stop reading my article and go read up on their regulations. You cannot be surprised if you have an unpleasant experience when you are ignorant. However, you can do everything by the book and still get jammed up. My best advice is to be nice. Be nice, if you studied the regulations, packed smart and arrived early to the airport then smile. I’m almost positive I’m the smartest person on this subject at the airport. I don’t flaunt it, I just smile.
Ounces to Pounds
Everyone has probably had a travel horror story to share about a bad airport experience. I have plenty and if I was smart I’d switch professions to be a paid consultant for the airlines. When it comes to packing, my game is strong. I invest in quality and rugged luggage. The days of having the super sized “dead hooker bags” are over for me. All they do is attract unwanted attention and extra fees. You are restricted to 50 pounds on just about every air carrier. If your bag or box weighs 20 pounds or more empty you end up not packing the gear you really need. When it comes to my travel bags and cases I’m a particular. What you are looking for is something with comfortable handles, big wheels and a sturdy frame with heavy lockable zippers or in the case of a hard sided case sturdy hasps. Also, you should expect about a two year shelf life no matter the manufacture. On my first trip with my current roller bag with the tags still attached, I lost a buckle. So, don’t get too attached.
One of One is None
When it comes to your firearms they will need to be secured in a lockable hard sided case. There are a lot to consider, but you have to remember their weight mentioned above. I have two different load-out methods; one for handguns only and the other for rifles and handguns. For my handguns only I take a smaller hard sided case and lock it in my checked luggage. This case is just large enough to secure both of my handguns. Then save yourself the hassles and use TSA approved locks. I recently started using a small hard sided case with bio-metric locks and what a great decision. The case is just big enough to secure two handguns. I can secure the case in my hotel room with the supplied cables and the bio-metric locks mean I don’t have to worry about forgetting combinations or giving the combination to the TSA agents. I still suggest you pack a spare set of locks for your checked bag and consider them to be consumable. The worse case scenario is on your outbound flight your locks get lost. Don’t ask, it happens more than you think. This will save you time and money trying to find a set for your return flight.
OCD to the Rescue
When it comes to training gear my suggestion is to pack them in individual smaller bags. For this task I have come to rely on the Daka bags from Magpul. I have an assorted collection of sizes and colors. One bag for my holsters, one for my magazines and box of defensive ammunition, one for my medical gear and my junk bag. I like to be as discrete as possible. Keeping all this other stuff under wraps helps. Then there is my compulsive need to be organized. Keeping gear separate in different bags makes it super easy to throw stuff into my larger roller bag. For those times I have to go heavy on my gear I get pretty technical, like a game of Tetris.
Pack Smart and Go Lite
I’m big on weight because I am done paying extra fees. Part of my experience has helped me to pack smart. Bring quality gear that is rugged and light. Think about items that can fulfill multiple roles and choose them over specialized items. In the beginning I suggest you invest in a hanging scale. I’m usually lighter coming home because I burn ammunition at the course. Going out I am spot on to a pound. Partly because I’m a creature of habit, but also because I weighed my bags every trip. In the off chance I screw up, I pack a small duffel bag I can quickly use as a second carry on to avoid overweight fees. Remember, the bigger the bag…the more stuff you will pack. After a couple of trips ask yourself if you really needed all the items. Eventually you will find the sweet spot. As for packing my carrying on bag, I have the bare essentials to teach. My schedules, rosters and supporting classroom material. Fortunately, most are digital. Then the minimum personal safety equipment such as eye/ear protection and a small medical kit. I can get by for a few days while my luggage catches up to me.
I enjoy traveling, don’t let the sour opening fool you. Give some thought to these lessons learned, because I had to learn the lessons.