Camp Stoves on Airplanes

My wife saw some reality show on TV, something about “real airline stories”. She got excited because they included a segment about a guy flying off to a camping vacation with a CAMP STOVE in his luggage. Apparently, the stove leaked some fuel, and he and his luggage were pulled aside for further investigation. According to my wife, the disposition was that neither the stove nor the luggage with fuel-contaminated contents was allowed on the plane. The sad passenger flew off to his destination without a big chunk of his gear.

BTW, I love my wife. Otherwise, they’d be some cracks here about too much time and too many channels on TV. Regardless, she was amazed by the story, because it is similar to what happened to me a few weeks ago in Wellington, New Zealand.

My Coleman, Peak 1 stove was surrendered to airport authorities in Wellington because it still had fumes in the tank. If it was inspected by US or New Zealand authorities while en route to Wellington, it must have not had the fumes. It could also be that the stove was never inspected. I had vigorously emptied the fuel (shake it, shake it, and shake it some more, those last few drops are tough to get out) and left the tank open for a few days prior to packing the stove. So if the stove had been inspected, it should have been okay. But leaving Wellington, while I had emptied the fuel out of the stove, there was not time, or a safe place, to let any last drops of fuel evaporate. Therefore, when the luggage inspectors opened the tank, they smelled gas, and that was the end of the trip for my stove.

A guy from Air New Zealand had this advice for traveling with a gas-fueled stove: empty the gas and fill the stove with cooking oil. Let the oil sit in the tank for a few days, empty the oil, then pack the stove. I have no information on how effective that is and whether or not it could affect the performance of the stove. But one thing is for sure, the stoves that get confiscated don’t perform at all! At least, unlike the guy headed out for a camping vacation without stove / luggage, I got to use my stove on destination before I lost it.

A possible advantage of canister-fueled stoves is that they can be packed without the canister, and you can buy the canister at your destination.

Anybody else have experience with stoves and air-travel?

~~Chip Walsh, Gambrills, MD

Alcohol stoves
Never had a problem traveling with alcohol fuel stoves such as the trangia or homemade stoves. I buy the denatured alcohol when I get to my destination.

Prior to 9/11
I traveled with a peak 1 stove, empty without any problems. No I use a Coleman propane stove and just buy the cannisters at my destination.

They’re on the TSA’s prohibited list. If I was going on a trip where I needed one, I’d try to UPS it to a friend or some other place before I left, so I could pick it up when I got there. I think The UPS Store (f/k/a Mail Boxes Etc) could hold it for pickup too. Never done it myself, pre or post 9/11.

No, stoves are not on TSA list

– Last Updated: Apr-04-06 2:56 PM EST –

I don't see stoves on the TSA list.

One should be real careful at not carrying things that the TSA might not be familiar with or might confuse them.

I would think that a small backpacking stove like the MSR whisperlight would not be a problem in checked luggage. I suspect that a stove with an integrated fuel chamber (eg. Coleman Peak 1) would tend to freak the TSA out.

It should be easy to be sure that the stove head did not have any residual fuel. The pump might be a bit harder. The fuel bottle, also, should be easy to clean. I would pack the bottle without the lid and have no labels on it.

Don't carry the stove in your carry-on.

The cooking oil thing will work but it seems it would be a bit messy.

Denatured alcohol might work. Maybe, not as well but good enough.

If TSA noticed it…
I flew out of Baltimore and checked in again in Auckland for the flight to Wellington. If the US TSA noticed the stove while inspecting bags, there was no indication. If stoves are not on the banned list, then it would make sense that TSA did not fuss over it.

In Auckland, the big concern is bio-hazards. They take your tent in a back room for inspection and it is obvious when you get it back that its been opened and repacked. Looking for seeds, spiders, tics, and what have you, I suspect. They also confiscated my home made beef jerky. I felt guilty, like I was trying to contaminate their country or something.

The Kiwi airport luggage inspectors were extremely respectful. They didn’t open the bag themselves (probably smart if you are worried about bomby thingees), but tracked me down and had me open the suitcase. If they follow the same protocol in Auckland, then they must not have noticed the stove, because I was not asked to open the bag in Auckland.


If you got away with it great
they are definitely banned from checked or carry on luggage. You are not supposed to mail them either. UPS will ship them as long as they are empty of fuel. Personally I would rather ship all my gear on UPS than check it on a plane the way checked luggage is lost anymore.

What I do is…
have a stove for travel that uses multiple types of fuel available at the destination. In developing countries all you may get is unleaded, diesel or kerosene. Then I clean the heck out of my oldest fuel bottle or buy a new one for the trip if the old one remotely smells like fuel. You can try and clean it on the way back but that means burning off the fuel and putting fuel somewhere with water and that’s not good. I leave the remaining fuel and bottle with a local who were happy to have it.


The stoves are not an issue neither are motors or other devices. the issue is the flammable material or corrosive material used to maintain or fuel these machines. The airlines have a Hazardous material program that is dictated by the FAA . If the TSA sees hazardous materials in any form they have to hold it and present it to the airlines who prepare a report in writing to the FAA. this is strictly an airline issue. TSA simply contacts the airline to come and dispose of the material appropriately. sometimes the airline doesn’t show up for some time and the appearance is that the TSA has confiscated themselves.

ya, u right
I looked at the regs…stove not the problem. But one drop of fuel, and here they specify, “including cooking fuel”, and you are illegal.


Sources, please…

What source says they are banned?

(Note that we are not talking about fuel.)

You can also be sure
that your tent was sprayed with insecticide, fungicide and a few other icides.


– Last Updated: Apr-04-06 8:32 PM EST –

You guys are right - I guess they're not specifically listed. I do remember seeing a backpacking type stove at an airport recently, it was in a display case full of confiscated items demonstrating what was not acceptable. It could have been Chicago/O'Hare, Atlanta or LaGuardia - not sure which.

It's funny how one day something is OK, the next day it is not. A business associate had a small corkscrew/pocket knife buried in the bottom of his carry on. He forgot it was even there, made it thru security twice on this trip before it was found. Funny thing is that he went thru security, and a few minutes later went back out to the main "unsecure area" to try to change his flight to another airline (due to delays). Coming back thru the same security check point 1/2 hour after coming thru the first time, they found it. Might have been the same person, who knows...

And another thing
The TSA is a US agency, and published the regs for screening in the US.

The Kiwi’s have there own agency and rules that may not be the same.

Any hazardous materials
They have prohibited hazardous materials on planer for a very long time. A company I worked for had a technician who was fined almost $60,000 for bringing a water test kit in his luggage.

“backpacking type stove”

– Last Updated: Apr-05-06 12:40 PM EST –

If the "backpacking type stove" was a cannister type with the cannister(eg, Bluet), then that would make sense.

If the "backpacking type stove" was one that LOOKED like a cannister type (eg, Peak 1), then that would make sense.

I would not carry a stove that looked like a cannister type stove even if it was allowed.

"A business associate had a small corkscrew/pocket knife"

This story isn't surprizing. They could have missed it on the earlier scans or it could have been oriented in a way that looked benign. Just because you "get away" with doing something once or more times, doesn't mean you'll always get away with it.

With the TSA, you don't merely want to do what is allowed. You also want to avoid any "interaction".

"With the TSA, you don’t merely want to do what is allowed. You also want to avoid any “interaction”."

Exactly - that was my point about shipping it ahead of time. If you’re flying across the country, chances are you’re renting a boat from an outfitter or borrowing one from a friend. I’m sure they’d accept the package and hold it for you and probably even ship it back to you after the trip. One less hassle for under $20 in shipping charges? A no-brainer in my book.

I don’t remember what kind of stove it was, to tell you the truth. Caught me by surprise though - hadn’t thought of that before. I can’t see putting cooking oil in the fuel container though, that would be a mess to clean out.

With a MSR Whisperlite…
I’ve not had any problems with either the stove or fuel bottles. I usually check the stove and then I put the fuel bottles in my carry on. I always take the bottles and wash them throughly several times before I pack them. The only reason I put the bottles in my carry on is in case there is a problem I can open my own bag and get rid of them. It’s NEVER been a problem but you can’t be too careful.

This has been what I’ve done on every trip I’ve taken a stove. That includes inside the US and even to Australia and New Zealand. I’ve only had one person in NZ look at the fuel bottles and when I opened the bag and they saw the bottles were empty they handed them right back.


Sigg bottles

– Last Updated: Apr-05-06 5:08 PM EST –


I use a plain Sigg bottle for fuel. It has no scary labels that would disturb the TSA. These bottles can be used for any liquid so they won't be a problem unless they stink of fuel.

If the bottles are not capped, they won't be threatening even in the checked luggage (as long as they are clean). In the X-ray, they'll just look like thin metal.

The whisperlight folds up in such a way that it probably looks like random junk in the X-ray scanner.

The Peak 1 (for example) probably looks big and alarming.

NOT the TSA!
Again, the regulations against flammables are NOT the TSA and are part of the same bureaucracy that has recently banned matches and lighters on planes. It’s part of banning hazardous materials, not terrorist weapons. As someone stated, these are FAA regs, not TSA.

These regs have been in place long before 9/11 and the TSA - we had are luggage thoroughly searched in Seattle when they found we were camping BEFORE checking it. If we had checked it and they THEN search it, we would have been in for fines of up to $10,000 PER HAZARDOUS ITEM, including strike-anywhere matches, solid fuel for a hand warmer, a zigg bottle with trace of fuel and several other items. Fortunately, the stove was free of fumes although we would have had time to arrange ground shipping.

BTW - with TSA regs, they can get away with ALMOST anything and you can’t do much if you want to fly. A friend had his paddle bag sliced open (even though the zipper was right there, and his one piece paddle yanked apart. This even though nothing impeded the x-ray. Amazing how many of our rights have been given up in the name of “safety.”