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  • Jack Seemer

Technically, You Can Still Fly with a Pocket Knife. Here’s How

Want to bring your favorite knife on vacation, too? You can! Just follow this advice.

For many everyday carry enthusiasts, a pocket knife is an essential part of their loadout — so much so that some won’t go anywhere without one. While incredibly useful for numerous everyday tasks, knives do come with some baggage. After all, they’re not just tools. They can also be used as weapons.

There are some occasions and activities in which you might want to reconsider bringing a knife at all — or at least be careful of how you choose to bring your knife along.

One of the major ones is air travel. And while the USA’s TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has brought the hammer down on safety ever since 9/11, you can technically bring a knife on a plane. Here’s how.

1. Don’t try packing in your carry-on

First off: under no circumstances should you try to bring a knife through any TSA security checkpoint on your person. End of story.

The TSA has very strict guidelines regarding any and all sharp objects, and not for no reason. Essentially, it boils down to this: if it’s sharp, you’re not allowed to pack it in your carry-on.

At the very least, trying to bring a knife through a TSA security checkpoint will get that knife confiscated. However, the surrounding circumstances and the appraisal of the agents (and potentially law enforcement personnel involved) could lead to detainment — and you could even be arrested and charged.

2. What about multi-tools?

“But multi-tools aren’t knives,” you might say. Yes, that’s technically true. But the TSA’s guidelines apply to anything with a sharp edge, and that includes any blade (or sharp implement) that might be attached to, you guessed it, a multi-tool.

Furthermore, the rules are up to the interpretation of whatever TSA officer you happen to be dealing with. If your multi-tool (or any other implement) has an awl (a pointed tool traditionally used to pierce holes in leather), a saw, large scissors (those under four inches long are considered okay) or a gut hook (used for fishing purposes), it’s going to be at risk of confiscation.

If the TSA is playing a game of better-safe-than-sorry, so should you.

3. So how then? Just check it

There’s a very simple means of bringing your favorite bladed tools along with you whenever you fly: stashing them in a checked bag.

Because the bags are taken by airline agents and put through separate TSA security checks and not returned to you again until you reach your destination, the rules for what you can stash are different.''

For instance, you can’t bring alcohol with you through a TSA security checkpoint on your person or in a carry-on. You can, however, put a bottle of booze in your checked luggage. The same goes for knives, tools, and anything other everyday carry implements with sharp edges on them. This includes corkscrews and box cutters, even ice axes, meat cleavers, swords and throwing stars.

Even if you do bring your knife along with you to wherever you travel, you’re also still at the mercy of the laws local to that area.

You might successfully fly with your favorite automatic OTF knife to California. But if you’re carrying it around with you are breaking the law, and running the risk of escalating whatever interactions you may have with the local police.

Make sure you know the local laws before trying to bring your knife on a trip.

4. International travel is especially tricky

Just as you should know the local laws when traveling between states, that’s doubly true for international travel. Customs, both in the US and when entering other countries, functions much like an extra layer of security.

When traveling into other countries and returning home, you’re required to make certain declarations — ranging from foodstuffs to automobiles and tons in-between. Generally, the rules for what you can bring in and out are even stricter than those upheld by the TSA.

This is all to say that, not only should you know what you can and can’t bring with you, but it may just be better not to try and bring your knife along with you on international travel at all, even in a checked bag — unless you’re absolutely certain that no trouble will come of it.

Just like local travel between states, the risk of being caught with a bladed tool when going through customs can be as light as a slap on the wrist or as severe as indefinite detainment. And that’s a pretty hefty risk vs. reward situation.

5. Buy a TSA-friendly EDC tool

We’ve got one last piece of advice: skip the sneakiness, rule-bending and potentially extensive research and instead pick up some everyday carry gear that was made specifically with travel in mind.


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