It’s that time of year again. School's almost out, the summer is just about here, around the country there are going to be countless kids begging to be let out of the way way back of the Griswold mobile, inconsiderate passengers pacing the aisles of airlines and crowded lines at seasonal tourist traps. That’s right, it’s going to be travel season very soon.At the beginning of next month, all sorts of knife enthusiasts will descend upon Atlanta, GA for BLADE Show too. If you’re like me, you don’t travel without a knife. It’s bad enough traveling to places where I can’t carry a handgun, I really don’t want to be without one of my blades. What amazes me is speaking to people, in my travels and around many campfires, who are under the impression you cannot fly with knives or the idea flying with knives is a major inconvenience. For them, I present the following guide to traveling bladed. It’s easier than you think.
1. Consult the Legal Blade App
Knife industry friend, Doug Ritter of Knife Rights fame (http://www.kniferights.org/), has created an app for your phone called legal blade. This app allows you to check the laws of travel destination jurisdiction. Simply select the state and you’ll be able to check specific city laws if applicable or the state law. I’ve used this many times and this has prevented me from accidentally carrying a folding knife with a 3.5” blade in states where blades “3.5” and longer” are illegal. That’s right, a knife with a blade 3.4999” long is legal but 3.5” exactly is not. This app will save you trouble if your exotic handle Fiddleback Forge Knife, legal in your own state, is not legal elsewhere. Andy’s knives are head turners. Don’t let one turn you into a felon! A bonus tip is to print out the state law and keep it on you while you’re traveling. Knowledge is power.
2. Check Every Pocket
Before you fly, check every single pocket of the clothes you’re wearing as well as every single pocket and sleeve of the packs you’re carrying through security. Knives have a tendency to get tucked in places easily forgotten and overlooked. I make it a point to fully remove everything from my “go-to” suitcase and make sure I didn’t temporarily stow something in a place I would not easily pat down. This will save you the trouble I experienced in the Birmingham, England airport when one of two foam training knives was discovered by security. Being foam and not aluminum, I missed it checking my bag. Luckily I was told by a polite Brit I could mail it to myself at the airport post office. It wasn’t until I got to my hotel room in Sweden did I discover they found one of TWO knives I accidentally had in the bag. Where there is one, there can be two!
3. Pack them in your Checked Bag Only
Knives of every size can fit inside your checked baggage. It is on you to secure them to your comfort level. A small locking box or Pelican case will ensure security need not remove anything as TSA security has stolen from luggage in the past. If they need to see inside the locked box, they can X-ray it. I like to include a personalized note to security saying, “Thank you for doing a great job keeping air travel safe”. I find my gear is much more neatly repacked when I get to my location and discover the friendly note it was given a once over. Traveling around the country for martial arts training as well as to teach survival courses, I travel with a whole suitcase of sharps and many times locked boxes of handguns and other fun stuff. I don’t stress out as long as I’ve done my homework and I use a TSA lock on the outside of my luggage. Knock on wood, I haven’t had anything disappear on me...yet.
4. Ensure They’re There When You Get There!
As soon as I land and retrieve my bags, I always ALWAYS open up the bag with my blades and take out my Swiss Army Knife or small pocket fixed blade. If you’ve read the Legal Blade App, you’ll find possessing a knife in an airport is, most of the time, legal as long as the knife falls within the city or state law. I don’t just get my knife out because I miss it (It’s O.K. to miss a knife right?) I get my knife to make sure it is still there after transit (See #3). Everywhere in the airport is under video surveillance and you can make a stronger case for TSA stealing your knife if you don’t take it out of the airport and out of their camera view. Be smart, don’t brandish your knife inside an airport and take it out carefully. We live in an age when folks with knives acting foolishly are shot. Don’t be that guy. Don’t give anyone a reason to shoot you.
5. Have a Great Trip!
If you’ve done everything right, you have nothing to worry about. Imagine the adventure of a diving trip without a BCD knife. Imagine an epic rainforest adventure without a machete. Imagine a backpacking trip without a KE Bushie. Imagine life without a KE Bushie. Get yourself a KE Bushie! Enough with the blatant product promotion. If this article resonates with you, please share it. If you find the Legal Blade App useful, let Doug know and consider helping the cause to preserve your knife rights. Above all, this summer, think ahead, do your research and don’t leave your knife at home!
Thank you for the good advice on traveling with knives. Have been wondering how I will be doing it (first time to Blade Show) so at least I have an idea of where to start.
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Kevin Estela is a Survival Instructor at Estela Wilderness Education. Kevin is a frequent contributing writer for publications such as RECOIL, Athlon Outdoors, and Beckett Media. He is a Sayoc Kali Associate Instructor Level 5, as well as a BJJ Purple Belt.